There’s something ridiculously exciting about spending the Fourth of July in the nation’s capital city. As someone who had never experienced it before, I wasn’t sure what to look forward to, and as a UC Berkeley student with moral qualms about everything, I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to look forward to it. But look forward to it I did, and when the day came, I ended up having one of the most sweaty and stressful, but fun, holidays of my life. As a first-timer, I had no idea what I was doing, so in that regard, it was messy, but I still had a ridiculously fun time. Luckily for all you readers, you can experience my first Fourth in Washington, D.C., as your first time too, so when you finally go, you won’t make the same mistakes I did. So listen to me, a longtime Washington resident of five weeks, and you’ll be guaranteed to have an incredible Fourth of July.
You can’t be lazy the week before the Fourth here in Washington. Last-minute plans won’t fly, so make sure to have the group of people you’ll be hanging out with relatively set, have a list of food you’ll need and have a plan for what you want to do. If you’re planning on picnicking, we’d highly recommend going to Trader Joe’s for some delicious summer snacks! A big hit was a French baguette with bruschetta toppings, as well as watermelon and the blood orange Italian soda. Don’t forget napkins, plates and utensils as well!
People in Washington, D.C., take their brunches very seriously. Think about the wait for Berkeley Social Club and multiply that by 10. Rather than go to the parade on Constitution Avenue Northwest, you can opt for the most important meal of the day instead! One of the best places to get brunch is at Ted’s Bulletin on 14th Street Northwest, where you can get some crazy good eggs Benedict, corned beef hash, homemade Pop-Tarts and milkshakes. To avoid the super long wait, call a few hours before you plan on being there, and they’ll put your name on the list.
The National Mall
Picnicking on the National Mall is just as cool as it sounds. By cool, I don’t mean the weather. It’s actually terribly humid, so bring lots of sunscreen and an umbrella if you can! You can pretty much sit anywhere on the National Mall, but you have to choose between sitting close to the Lincoln Memorial, where the best view of the fireworks is, and the Capitol building, where the concert happens. In between them, there’s the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which is a free event with food, art and performances throughout the day. We found an amazing spot on the lawn in front of the Washington Monument, with a great view of the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. There’s a bunch of other families and groups on the lawn, decked out in red, white and blue attire, so there’s a happy and carefree feeling that fills the air. It’s the perfect spot to picnic, throw a Frisbee, talk and play card games while you wait for the fireworks. There is a security checkpoint before you go in, though, so try to get there early to beat the crowds and lines.
Now we get to the most stressful part of my day. Little did we know, the concert that happens at the Capitol building has limited capacity, so you need to show up to it earlier than the start time to get a spot. My friends and I didn’t know this, so we walked over (which takes quite a long time — the Mall is big!) just to be denied entrance in. So we walked back to the Washington Monument checkpoint to go to our spot on the grass, past millions of people, church groups and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. But little did we know, the security checkpoint closes at 9:00 sharp, right before the fireworks start, so we weren’t allowed back in there, either. We had to sit behind a chain-link fence to watch the fireworks, which was disappointing. But the show was still incredible, and despite being a little upset at losing our prime spot in front of Washington Monument, we felt the same awe we would have felt if there had not been a fence slightly blocking our view.
The moral of the story: Be back to your viewing spot by 9:00 p.m. Kidding! To me, the Fourth of July has been a lot more than celebrating the United States; it’s been a chance to spend a summer day with my friends and family. And despite the craziness that ensued under the hot, muggy Washington air, spending it with people I care about made it all worth the while. It’s all about having a good attitude and preparing yourself for everything, whether it be a sunburn or a tough security guard. There are millions of other things to do around the city that I didn’t have time to get to, such as a few of the Smithsonian museums being open late, and I hope to go back and see them one day. There’s something pretty special about having the day off of work and spending it eating food under the hot sun with your friends, but it’s on another level when you’re in Washington, D.C.
Contact Sunny Sichi at [email protected].