Being in the nation’s capital for the Fourth of July is one of those experiences that you never forget. Something about watching the fireworks with the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Capitol as the backdrop is thrilling.
My favorite spot to watch is directly beneath the show. I tell everyone I know to bring a blanket and grab some room underneath the Washington Monument facing the Lincoln Memorial. The fireworks are shot from the reflecting pool so from there you feel every loud “boom” in the bottom of your gut as they’re set off. At the same time, music from the National Symphony Orchestra plays over loudspeakers in time with the fireworks display. It’s always packed, but there’s a buzz of excitement that emanates from the massive crowd, who naturally are all adorned in red, white and blue paraphernalia. The Washington Post put together a great map that shows other places to sit and watch the fireworks.
Everyone has a different place that they think is great, so I asked some of the staff at National Geographic Traveler to share their favorite spot to watch, whether it be in D.C. or elsewhere in the United States. Read on to get some new ideas for you and your family and friends, and share your own favorite spots in the comments.
Marilyn Terrell: My favorite place is on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial — you get a perfect lineup of the fireworks, the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument. Being Virginia residents, my family and I take the Orange Line Metro to the Arlington Cemetery station and walk over Memorial Bridge, which is blocked off to vehicle traffic. This is much better than driving (don’t even try!) or taking the Metro to the overcrowded Smithsonian station, and avoids the mad crush on the Mall itself. And it’s fun walking back over the bridge afterwards.
Susanne Hackett: Roche Harbor on San Juan Island in Washington state. There’s a marina there, and I have a childhood memory of being with my family on a boat in the harbor while fireworks went off overhead. Out there on the water, surrounded by other boats full of revelers — to my 8-year-old eyes it was spectacular!
Amy Alipio: I like sitting west of the Ellipse (in Washington D.C.) near the Organization of American States building/DAR/Corcoran, which are all along 17th St., because you don’t have to deal with the hassle of security to get into the Mall. Plus, you’re near interesting museums to visit if you happen to come early to stake out a spot. We usually bring a picnic and sit on the lawn, but there are also coffee shops/fast food spots along this stretch (McDonalds included) in case you want to buy something to eat or use their toilets. And the view of the fireworks is just as fine as anywhere else.
Janelle Nanos: I once watched the fireworks from the tip of Roosevelt Island in New York City, which feels a bit like you’re suspended out in the middle of the harbor. To get to the tip, you have to walk past an abandoned smallpox hospital that’s covered in ivy and both incredibly creepy and fascinating. From where we sat, we had a completely unobstructed view, and the sparks seemed to shower down on us. It was fantastic. This year, to commemorate the arrival of Henry Hudson’s fleet, the fireworks are being launched from the east side of the river, so Roosevelt Island isn’t the ideal spot to see them. But that leaves you more time to prepare for 2010.
Margaret Nepomuceno: In Philadelphia I love to watch the fireworks from Boathouse Row.
It’s on the river and there are a bunch of old houses covered with Christmas lights all year long, which is really pretty. But really, any historic place in Philadelphia, like Independence Hall, is a good place to be to watch fireworks. (For more information on places to watch the fireworks in Philadelphia, check out: http://www.gophila.com/campaign/july4th/).
Sarah Aldrich: My favorite 4th of July firework experience happened on a night when we didn’t know if there were going to be fireworks at all, because it had been storming on and off all day. Usually you have to get to Grand Haven, Michigan, early to get a seat on the bleachers next to the channel that leads to Lake Michigan–where people sit to watch the (super cheesy) Grand Haven Musical Fountain on less eventful Saturday nights. But due to the rain, the bleachers were sparsely filled. We were about to chalk the night up to a disappointment when the first explosions startled me; there was something about that unexpected entrance that set the mood for the show. The fireworks went off right over my head–I felt so small. In an attempt to keep from getting a sore neck, I watched some of the fireworks in reflection in the water. It didn’t work for long.
Christina Stockamore: I’m from Florida
and I grew up across from the beach. Every Fourth my friends and family would grill out and then at night we’d watch the fireworks from the Sea Ranch Beach Club.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Ann Nygard: My favorite place to celebrate the Fourth of July is in Peacham, Vermont.
There’s a tractor parade in the morning, where all the farmers decorate their tractors and drive down the street. The route’s short so they get to the end and then turn around and come by again. Then there’s a barbecue in the afternoon and I watch the fireworks show that is launched from over Harvey’s Lake.
What about you? Is there a special place you love to celebrate the fourth of July?
More from National Geographic: Naked Science: Secret World of Fireworks airs Sunday at 10 a.m. on the National Geographic Channel; Celebrate a green July 4th from the Green Guide; tune into a July 4th playlist from Nat Geo Music; and test your Independence Day facts from National Geographic News.