HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!
This year, I was lucky enough to live 15 miles north of Washington D.C. and check one adventure off my bucket list by attending the 4th of July festivities in our nation’s capital.
My day began with the Independence Day Parade down Constitution Avenue at noon.
It lasted little over an hour and hundreds, probably thousands, of people lined the streets. The parade features marching bands from all around the nation, from high schoolers to the military;
floats highlighting various cultural aspects in America, including the National Park Service and Taiwanese Americans, and Miss USA (who is not pictured here);
giant balloons of characters like Uncle Sam and Smurfs;
dancers from cultures throughout America;
as well as unique displays of patriotism like a series of semi trucks with murals of the different military branches and every state flag;
and every branch of our nation’s military, including old colonial military (note: not every military branch is pictured here).
Tips for the parade: Wear sunscreen, bring a hat, use an umbrella for shade. There isn’t much shade unless you scout out a tree to sit under in advance. I got so sunburnt in the two hours I was outside for the parade.
After the parade, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do but I headed down to the National Mall to see if there was anything interesting happening. As it turns out, on the 4th the Smithsonian Folklife Festival was at the Mall. The festival on this particular day was split on each side of the central grassy lawn, where Catalonia was on one side and Armenia was on the other. I walked through the Armenian side since I was closest to it and bought a strawberry chardonnay gelato pop. It was so delicious! It had actual strawberry chunks in it, and there wasn’t enough chardonnay in the popsicle to make me drunk. I sat in the grass under a tree and people-watched in front of the Natural History Museum.
When I finished my popsicle, I wandered around the Mall for a bit before deciding to walk to the Library of Congress. Big mistake. The Library of Congress is located on the opposite side of the Capitol Building, which I figured wasn’t too far, and theoretically it’s not. But when it’s 90+ degrees outside with over 50% humidity, it was not a fun walk. On my walk, I saw all of the crazy people waiting in line to get front row seats for the free evening concert on the lawn in front of the Capitol. It was about 1:30pm at this time, and it was so hot that I couldn’t imagine sitting out in the heat all day.
Eventually I made it to the backside of the Capitol Building. Of course I stopped for pictures and to get a 4th of July selfie in front of our nation’s capital.
Across the street, finally, was the Library of Congress. I was never so thankful to get inside air conditioning. I had to go through security and fill up my water bottle (I brought a reusable bottle for the day – highly recommend bringing one whenever you’re traveling to downtown DC. There are drinking fountains throughout the government buildings, and they even had a water bottle fill-up station on the National Mall for the 4th celebrations), and luckily the Library of Congress wasn’t too busy. Pretty much all of the museums along the National Mall were filled with people, but since the Library is farther away, not as many people visited.
I love books. I love libraries. I love learning. I appreciate architecture. I loved the Library of Congress. It’s so rich in history, and there are so many things to learn about it and from all of the information held within it. If I was staying in DC on a more permanent basis, I would have loved to get a library card there.
Eventually I got hungry and, having learned my lesson, I wanted to ride the metro back to the Mall. One of the closest metro stations was Union Square (which is still a 20 minute walk) and I wanted to visit the historic Union Station. It did not disappoint. I found Union Station beautiful and, thankfully, inside the station is a food court! There are traditional fast food joints like Subway and Taco Bell, but I wanted to take my time to sit in the air conditioning and I also wanted good old traditional American BBQ food (vegetarian style). So I went to Johnny Rocket’s and ordered a black bean burger, fries, and a Dr. Pepper. To me, it was a perfect 4th of July meal.
Back on the National Mall, I stopped at the other side of the Folklife Festival, which featured Catalonia. Right as I walked up, there was a parade with folk dancers, people in costumes, and… these giant people! They were dancing while a band played behind them. See image below to see what I mean by “giant people”:
By this time, it was 6pm and I walked to the opposite side of the Washington Monument, the side closer to the Lincoln Memorial. I heard that the fireworks would shoot over the Lincoln Memorial and I didn’t want the Washington Monument to obstruct my view. I found my patch of grass and sat down to rest for a bit. Little did I know that my butt would be parked there until after the fireworks.
Fast forward until 7pm and pre-recorded music started playing over the giant large speakers found throughout the National Mall and parks. I had thought that they would play the music from the live concert at the Capitol, but they only played prerecorded music the entire evening.
Finally, it was 9pm! Fireworks began promptly at 9:07pm and they did not disappoint! The fireworks were shot off right at the Lincoln Memorial’s reflecting pool, so when they exploded they were right over my head. The fireworks lasted for 17 minutes and 30 seconds, about 6 songs. The song list included “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons, “This is Me” from the movie “The Greatest Showman,” the traditional American overtures, and several other patriotic and non-patriotic songs. Fireworks featured were the traditional waterfalls, sparkles, and colors, as well as hearts, smiley faces, and the letters “USA.”
It was honestly the best fireworks show that I have ever seen, and I don’t think that anything else will ever be able to top it. It was so surreal to be at the nation capital for the 4th of July and watching the fireworks display that I’ve only ever seen on TV. People flocked from all around the country to see the fireworks and take part in the festivities, and there were hundreds of international visitors and I’m so glad that they were able to see the pride that American citizens have for their country.
Leaving the fireworks display, it was a madhouse. I knew better than to try to get on any metro near the National Mall so I walked north until eventually I reached the Farragut West station. Before going home, I stalled even longer by going to Jimmy John’s for a late night sub sandwich and to cool down — it was still hot outside, even after 9:30pm. When I first arrived the shop wasn’t busy but by the time I left, other people discovered my hiding spot. Walking by a nearby McDonalds, the line was insanely long and I was glad that I found Jimmy John’s on a side street.
Thankfully, I was able to just walked onto the metro car. I had stalled long enough that there were no large crowds at the stop. Throughout my journey home, it seemed like everyone was heading in the opposite direction as me. I was traveling northwest, while the rest of the crowd traveled southeast. Some of those train cars were so full that people were literally packed like sardines and physically, no one else could fit in the car. I had a comfortable place to sit or stand throughout my journey until I finally got to my stop and drove home.
As I mentioned before — being in Washington D.C. for the 4th of July was a dream come true. No matter what’s happening in politics or whatever other horrible things are happening in this nation and around the world, I am still proud to be an American. Happy Birthday America!
Thanks for reading! Have you ever been to the 4th of July celebrations in Washington D.C.? Where is your favorite place to celebrate America’s Independence Day? Let me know in the comments and like this post!