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June 30, 2011 / Arlington Unwrapped

Baby You’re a Firework…. Independence Day in Arlington County

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine / Just own the night like the 4th of July

Yes, yes, it’s the inevitable “where to go in Arlington to see fireworks on the 4th” post (along with the equally inevitable in 2011 Katy Perry quote!).

Arlington County’s Department of Parks and Recreation no longer provides a public fireworks show – which is a shame. It used to be held (until approximately 2004) at Barcroft Park along Four Mile Run and was a terrific family-oriented event. They halted it because of ongoing construction at Barcroft, and it’s my impression that the fireworks display never resumed, presumably based on budget cuts.

Of course, it seems silly to complain about not having our own fireworks when Arlington has one of the best seats in the house to watch the *NATIONAL* Washington DC 4th of July Fireworks Display! If fighting the crowds, traffic, and security on the mall isn’t your cup of tea, Arlington provides several terrific alternative views!

  • Gateway Park – Key Bridge  Gateway Park, at Lee Highway just across from Key Bridge is a great spot to watch the fireworks – but its one of the many that will fill up early and fast. If you can’t find a place to picnic, you can see the display from the sidewalks on either side of Key Bridge, then afterwards walk into Georgetown for a bite or a beverage!
  • Gravelly Point – At the north end of National Airport, this is a local favorite for watching the fireworks – its positioned so that it has amazing views. Parking is at a premium (and the lot is only accessible via the GW Parkway northbound) so you may think about biking, or taking the metro and walking from National Airport, Crystal City, or even Rosslyn
  • Iwo Jima – US Marine Corp War Memorial – Only a quarter mile walk from Rosslyn Metro and an easy trek from various surrounding neighborhoods, this is probably the most popular firework destination for visitors or locals. Iwo Jima gets crowded QUICKLY so get there early for a prime spot.  Early as in mid-afternoon.  No joke.
  • Air Force Memorial – Just off Columbia Pike, by the Navy Annex this hill also has a pretty nice view. The bonus is it’s accessible via metro-bus or a quick (although uphill) walk from Pentagon City Metro.
  • Rooftops! – Ask around – some apartments, condos, and hotels closer to Courthouse and Rosslyn have pretty stellar views of the city!

Waiting for the fireworks to start!

Another terrific option (the true best seat in the house) is watching the fireworks from the Potomac. If you have a boat or you organize a group to rent one out privately this is an amazing view of the celebration.  Boats make their way on the Potomac from a variety of different launch locations (I’ve left out of Old Town Alexandria before and then gone out afterwards on King Street) and then anchor near the Washington Monument or the Capitol around dusk to watch the celebration.

My friends and I celebrating the 4th on a boat in 2008

The private Washington Golf and Country Club opens its gates to non-members for a 4th of July fireworks celebration as well. You can sit on the periphery of the golf course, enjoy the beautiful grounds. It’s a popular destination for North Arlington families, particularly in neighborhoods near the golf course, like Country Club Hills and Donaldson Run. Its my understanding that food and drink are not permitted at this event, but double check (I haven’t been since the mid-90s!).

Arlington Communities Hosting Neighborhood Parades or celebrations during the day on July 4th:

  • Barcroft – 23rd Annual Parade begins at 10am at The Barcroft Community House (800 S. Buchanan Street)
  • Fairlington  – Parade starts at 10am near the Fairlington Fire Station and works its way to the North Fairlington Community Center (3005 S. Abingdon)
  • Lyon Village Parade and Picnic – Independence Parade goes down Key Boulevard, followed by a picnic in Lyon Village Park (1800 N. Highland)
  •  Douglas Park – Parade starts at 10 am in Monroe Park (S. Monroe & S. 14th St) and works its way to Douglas Park (S. Quincy & S. 16th St), followed by a picnic at Douglas Park w/ Moonbounce and Dunk Tank

Another great way to celebrate is a cookout or BBQ with family and friends! If you decide to host or attend one and want a private light show, temporary fireworks stands are open. Firework stands are located at S. Glebe Road and Columbia Pike as well as at N. Lee Highway and N. Harrison St. As of July 2nd, the stand at S. George Mason and Columbia Pike was up, but empty! Keep in mind, Arlington County law only allows sparklers and so-called consumer grade fireworks. Objects that are projectiles, explode, emit flames or sparks to a distance greater than twelve (12) feet are prohibited by Arlington County.  More information on Arlington County Code Compliance and firework safety can be found here

Because of Arlington’s proximity to DC, and the huge influx of tourists and visitors over the holiday, it’s not generally a terrific weekend for traffic. Plan accordingly – allow extra time to get wherever you need to go and take public transportation when possible (although expect huge crowds on the metro as well!). The following roads in Arlington will be closed for holiday events:

From 6:00 a.m. to midnight: 
• Memorial Bridge/Memorial Circle

From 3:00 p.m. to midnight:
• Eastbound Washington Blvd. between I-395 (exit 8B) and Memorial Bridge • N. Meade Street from Marshall Drive to Route 50 • Marshall Drive from Route 110 to N. Meade Street • Eastbound N. Fairfax Drive from N. Pierce Street to N. Fort Myer Drive • Exit ramp from westbound Route 50 to N. Lynn Street (Rosslyn exit) • Exit ramp from eastbound Route 50 to N. Meade Street (Rosslyn exit)

From 7:00 p.m. to midnight:
• Eastbound Route 50 at N. Pershing Drive (detour at N. Barton Street or Washington Blvd.)

From 7:00 p.m. to midnight:
• Columbia Pike between S. Orme Street and the Pentagon • S. Joyce Street from Army Navy Drive to Columbia Pike • Ramp from westbound Washington Blvd. to westbound Columbia Pike • Ramp from westbound Washington Blvd. to eastbound Columbia Pike

From 8:30 p.m. to midnight:
• Ft. Myer Drive from Wilson Blvd. to the Meade St. bridge (access to the Ft. Myer Heights neighborhood will be from the Rhodes Street bridge)

Employees requiring access to the Pentagon should enter South Parking from Army-Navy Drive or North Parking from Boundary Channel Drive.


And of course, the obligatory reminder that alcoholic beverages are prohibited on county and federal parkland during 4th of July celebrations!


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