photo courtesy of Zambelli Fireworks
Theres something innately magical about fireworks. Shoot them off over the water, and the magic doubles. This Fourth plus the third and fifth the magic shines all over Chesapeake Country.
What is the connection between the Bay, specifically the water, and fireworks? Why does every little town along the Bay stage its own fireworks show from out in the harbors? Solomons, Chesapeake Beach, Galesville, Baltimore and Annapolis all do The Works on the water rather than on land.
I guess it makes sense, if you think about it. Theres less chance for a fire. Its not as hot out on the water. More people can attend by land and by sea. It means less traffic in town. You dont need to have all the trappings that come with a stadium event vendors, security, parking attendants. Plus, its free.
But theres more to it than that. Theres something innately magical about shooting fireworks off over the water. When the fireworks explode, they light up not only the sky but also the water and all the boats at anchor nearby. Its like a painting that suddenly comes to life in moonlit wonder as silhouettes are repeatedly caught in a strange, freeze-frame exposure. The silvery light switches on like magic, bathing the harbor in an incandescent glow that brightens in intensity as each firework detonates into multiple patterns and colors.
My house sits up on a high cliff above the Severn River, and last year I found myself watching the reflective interplay of light upon the water more than the aerial show. Like a snapshot taking shape, the boats and the people standing on the surrounding docks blinked eerily into view for a few brief seconds, only to fade into darkness like a mirage.
I dont know who came up with the idea of combining water and fireworks, but whoever did deserves our hearty thanks. Its a real winner.
Setting the Stage
The Fourth of July fireworks show in Annapolis Harbor draws hundreds of boats boats of all shapes and sizes. But preparations begin long before any spectators cue up. Its funny to watch it all come together.
The skyrockets are delivered to the Naval Academy seawall in yellow rental vans a few days before the show. They appear with little fanfare but much security especially after 9/11. The two fireworks barges arrive soon thereafter, and the Italian blast masters begin carefully loading the floating platforms.
On the day of the big event, another barge, this one with a giant crane, arrives, carefully towing the fireworks barges out to the middle of Annapolis Harbor, dodging rubbernecking boaters. This is usually accompanied by periodic explosions, as the pyros test their handiwork and serve notice to the town that theres something big afoot. By noon, the barges are anchored in the harbor and the water dance begins.
Boats, especially big boats, begin anchoring around the fireworks barges. As with any good show, the idea is to get as close to the action as possible. I always find this a bit amusing because being close to something that gets fired high into the sky is obviously a relative concept when youre viewing from the ground. In addition, coming nine hours early so you can be right next to a barge laden with explosives has always struck me as a bit loony. And if thats not crazy enough, theres all that burning debris falling onto your boat. I am amazed each year when a boat doesnt catch fire. There seems to be a constant drizzle of fiery jetsam raining down during the show, yet nothing ever goes up in flames.
Better not to think about it
Joining the Celebration
Nope, what I want to remember are all of the other things that make a Chesapeake Bay Fourth of July such a joyous occasion.
There are the goofy little parades in Severna Park, Galesville and Annapolis where small, bayside communities let their imaginations run wild, decorating dogs and bicycles, and almost anything imaginable, so they can stroll down Main Street and express their inherent silliness while celebrating the freedom we all hold so dear. While little towns all over America are strutting their patriotic style with similar abandon, it is only along the Bay where you will find people dressed up like dancing Diamondback terrapins and pickup truck floats adorned with crab pots and Chessie the sea monster.
Then there is that unmistakable smell of backyard barbecues working overtime to cook all those hotdogs and hamburgers, along with fresh corn from the Eastern Shore. Most years I hope this one wont be the exception from Dundalk to Lusby, the familiar sound of wooden mallets breaking open crabs claws also accompanies the holiday grilling frenzy. Around here, the Fourth of July is the most popular day of the year to eat steamed crabs, and many families spend the hours leading up to the fireworks sitting at newspaper-covered picnic tables, eating blue crabs and partying with friends.
Then there are the boats. If you own a boat, you are out on the Bay for the nations birthday. Starting at dawn, the water games begin, culminating at the end of the day when all of the boats converge on places like Annapolis Harbor or Kent Narrows to settle in for the fireworks show. And whats really comical is when the fireworks are over, nearly every boat quickly pulls anchor and heads off into the starry night the last parade of the day. It looks like a beltway traffic jam at evening rush hour except, of course, the drivers somehow manage to avoid running into one another. By midnight, the boats are all home, tucked safely into their docks, and the Bay is once again at peace.
Anne Arundel County
Get back to your patriotic roots this Independence Day with the patriots who set these colonies on the road to Independence. The Historical Annapolis Foundation hosts its Red, White and Blue Fourth of July Celebration at the William Paca House, where the 1st Maryland Regiment turns the grounds into a military encampment. Festivities run from noon-5pm, but be sure not to miss the reading of the Declaration of Independence at 1pm and 3pm, followed by four volleys. Take tours, spoil your dinner, blow bubbles and make drums this July Fourth with one of the original signers of the Declaration: 186 Prince George St.: 410/267-7619 x 2 www.annapolis.org.
As the day cools, stand along West Street, Church Circle, Main Street or Randall Street as the Annapolis City Parade takes a new route this year. In between the parade and fireworks, the United States Naval Academy Band plays at Susan C. Campbell Park at the water end of City Dock. Parade 6:30pm sharp; music 8pm; fireworks, 9:15pm: 410/263-7996.
The U.S. Naval Academy offers a competing concert as the Electric Brigade plays a rock concert from 8 to 9:15pm at Farragut Field. Dont forget your photo ID (for guests 16 and over) or blankets, but leave your backpacks, coolers, picnic baskets and alcohol at home. Raindate: July 5.
The Naval Academy Band concert series on City Dock is a good runner up to the July Fourth festivities, if you couldnt make it downtown or if the rain came: www.usna.edu.
How to Get There: Park at the USNA stadium off Rowe Blvd. to avoid getting stuck in traffic for the big show and catch the shuttle to downtown. Parking and shuttle are free.
If youre coming by boat, come before dark. Theres a huge area of visibility, but Spa Creek, Back Creek, Annapolis Harbor, Severn River and its entrance to the Bay are all crowded and can be competitive.
Best Viewpoint: The best place to view the parade is along Main Street and Market Space. The top spots for fireworks are the Academys Farragut Field, the Eastport Bridge or on your boat in the harbor.
In the long shadow of September 11, Fort Meade broke with tradition in 2002. Its four-day carnival in celebration of Independence Day, Meadefest, was cut back to one and limited to the base.
This year, it has returned full force. Its a community tradition. Were trying to get a lot of people back, say organizer Beth Havlik, who hopes the community will return now that new security measures are in place.
2003s Fourth at Fort Meade Federal Campus is a festival of food, patriotic sing-alongs at 6pm and a thrilling fireworks display at 9:30pm.
Families armed with blankets and picnics assemble on the McGlachin Parade Field as early as 6pm and quickly fill it. Some 40,000 patriots came out in 2001 for the 25-minute display of lights.
Both children and adults can come early for the carnival, and carnival food, from 11am. The official welcome comes at 1:45pm. Local talent finds an audience at the Youth Talent Showcase from 2 to 4pm.
Meadefest returns not only for the present but for the future. As a kid my parents brought me here, says Havlik, whos now organizing memories for new generations.
How to get there: All three gates the main gate (Mapes Rd. off Rt. 32), Reece Rd. (off of route 175) and Mapes Rd. (off Rt. 175) are open to all. Bring identification.
Best Viewpoint: Anywhere on McGlachlin Parade Field, where the fireworks fire directly overhead. But come early to stake out your spot.
Why should I go anywhere else, wonders West River local Annette Najjar, when Galesville wrote the book on July 4.
Some 5,000 people turn out for the annual town parade and fireworks show. Located on the West River off Rt. 468 in Southern Anne Arundel County, this village holds nothing back on July Fourth. Laden with picnic baskets of savory summer foods they walk to the parade with cool drinks, blankets and lawn chairs.
They are all heading to a favorite viewing spot before the parade, which assembles at the Anchors Way community at 6pm for its 7pm departure. Lining up is an exhilarating confusion of fire trucks, lawnmowers, classic cars, horses and red, white and blue floats. Kids on bikes weave through it all. Politicians love the parade. You see people who live here, people from your district, says Del. Virginia Clagett, who says she wouldnt miss it. She and her District 30 colleagues House Speaker Mike Busch and Sen. John Astle ride in a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere provided and driven by Mike Varner of Shady Side. Its the absolute image of small-town America, says Clagett.
The float of the year is likely to be the brainchild of Charlie Kidd of Cumberstone, whose intricacies are top secret until unveiled at the parade. Last year, he replicated the steamboat Emma Giles, down to smoke coming out of the smokestack. That float is on display at the Galesville Heritage Museum.
Galesvilles African American community parades a float celebrating black history. Last years float commemorated the freeing of the slaves.
Not to be outdone, the kids of West River Sailing School brought their fleet of Optis to the streets of Galesville.
The town cheers as all together this train of homespun patriotism chugs down Main Street. Passing the post office and the firehouse, for 45 minutes the parade makes its way back by East and West Benning Road.
The evening is not yet through. Celebrants seek their favorite viewing spots on land and water; places are grabbed early for this show. The fireworks go up above the West River from a barge that is Coast Guard approved. Still, community organizer Peter Bell confesses, sometimes the wind rather than the global positioning satellite dictates where the barge anchors.
Fireworks shoot into the sky at 9:15pm.
How to Get There: Remember, Main Street closes at 6pm and stays closed until after the fireworks, so youll have to come early and leave late. Follow the signs to parking and prepare to walk.
If youre coming by boat, come before dark. Your West River destination will be crowded with boats whose captains may or may not know their way around.
Best viewpoint: Watch the parade anywhere along Main Street. From land, you get the best view of the fireworks at the community park between Pirates Cove and Steamboat Landing. From water, the view is wide open.
For those nestled in northern Anne Arundel County or those who want something different and wholesome this July 4, try Horizon Organics first annual A Star Spangled Fourth: Family Celebration ($10 w/advance discounts: www.horizonorganic.com).
The ease in getting here and having a good time not having to fight with the crowds makes this a manageable and relaxing experience, says Horizons Cindy Edson. We offer a daytime component and a nighttime component so theres something for everyone.
This family affair continues into July 5. Activities abound for both kids and adults. On July Fourth, a celebration parade begins at 1pm. Movies are shown drive-in style both nights, Grease on the fourth and American Graffiti on the fifth. Horizon Organic also unveils its new line of frozen vanilla custards during the holiday.
Fireworks begin at sunset on the Fourth, followed by Grease.
How To Get There: From Annapolis: Rt. 97 north to Rt. 3 south. Turn right at first light onto Rt. 175 west. After about one mile, turn left onto Dairy Lane.
Best Viewpoint: The farm offers unobstructed viewing from just about everywhere.
Independence Day continues into July 5 at Herrington Harbour South Marina and Herring Bay.
Celebrations begin at 4pm with a waterfront picnic with hot dogs, hamburgers and drinks on sale on Herringtons Bayfront yard, which you enter on foot through the gates of the Inn at Herring Bay. For entertainment, theres a sandy beach, waterside games and the Bay itself. Childrens games and petting zoo continue throughout the day.
At 7pm, Surfside South restaurant opens the pool for a Splashy Pool Party with water sports and dancing to the music of DJ Brian McDaniel: $10.
At 9:30pm, the fireworks go up. The celebration continues long past the fading of the last rocket.
For a quieter display, see the show by kayak. Bay Paddlers come north from Chesapeake Beach to guide a sunset fireworks kayak cruise with life jackets, paddles and kayaks, as well as basic kayak instruction and safety guidelines before the 8:30pm departure from Herrington Harbor South: Two and half hours w/snack: $53. No children under nine. rsvp: 410/286-3663.
How to get there: Follow Rt. 2 into deep Southern Anne Arundel County, turning left on Rt. 261 to Rose Haven. It gets crowded early; park only in the free restaurant lot or risk towing.
Best viewpoint: By land, Herrington Harbour Souths beachside lawn; by water, anywhere in Herring Bay.
Severna Park celebrates the Fourth with a very family-oriented event, a parade and festival. The parade starts at 10am on the Fourth and follows this years theme, Proud to be an American. At parades end, the 28th annual festival begins, with all sorts of entertainment for the family, including games, rock wall, moon bounce and, of course, food.
How to get there: Follow Rt. 2 into Northern Anne Arundel County, then west on Benfield Rd.
Best Viewpoint: The parade begins on Benfield Rd., at the St. Martins-in-the-Field Episcopal Church, passes by the high school and B&A Blvd. and ends at Park Plaza. Watch at any point along the way.
Its very much a family affair, says 2002 marshal Terry Nyman of Shady Sides Fourth of July Parade, when town members celebrate the Independence Day holiday with friends and family.
A tradition is being returned to its former glory in the small town of Shady Side.
The featured event a two-hour parade with more than 240 paraders commences at 10am. It will be a very big event. Weve been working on it since January, says Sharon Sudduth of the Kiwanis. The club has resumed sponsorship of the parade after a 10-year break.
The parade starts at Richies Restaurant on Shady Side Road and concludes at the Kiwanis Club on Snug Harbor Road. All roads in between are closed.
The R.O.T.C. from the Annapolis Division of the Naval Sea Cadet Corps starts off the parade. The Washington, D.C. National Guard with full colors will have with them an exhibition model B-14 bomber on a flatbed truck. If youre wondering how theyll get it through the parade route, the wings fold up. States Attorney Frank Weathersbee will ride in the parade, and local floatmaker Eddie Boarman promises to surprise the town with his latest creation.
Stationed on a platform in front of the Shady Side Fire Department are the judges: District 33A Del. Bob Costa, whos a fireman in Shady Side; Channel Four newswoman Wendy Reiger; County Councilman Big Ed Reilly. Theyll choose winners to receive ribbons and trophies at parades end at the Kiwanis Club.
The town has been dressed for the occasion, as well. A 10-foot banner welcomes you to the Fourth of July parade. Flags hang on every utility pole.
Were all pumped, says Sudduth. Its going to be something to remember.
How to get there: Shady Side is a peninsula with only one way in and one way out Rt. 468 and traffic is a problem. Veteran fans of the parade pour from their homes early, crowding the road by 9am. They find parking where they can, often in local businesses lots.
Best viewpoint: Anywhere along the route you can find parking.
Independence Day and the crowd comes early to Rod n Reel, where some 8,000 celebrants will crowd in for a carnival, live entertainment and food starting at 5pm July 3 for a beach party that continues through July 5.
While the kids play, adults have the music of DJ Paul Grace to sweeten their time at the beach. Other options for the evening include a holiday buffet from 5-9pm or, for mystery lovers, try a Murder Mystery Dinner Theater at 6:30 and 9:30pm on July 3.
But the biggest show is the fireworks, which occur July 3. Its the best Ive ever seen, says Rod n Reels Terri Hayes. The ones here are the best because they use specialty fireworks that explode in the shape of a smiley face and they last a long time. Check them out for yourself.
Bay Paddlers launches a sunset fireworks kayak cruise from Fishing Creek Landings Marina across Rt. 261 from Rod n Reel at 8:30pm. Away from the crowds, kayakers ride the shallows for what owner Josh Larsen calls the best view.
Theres even parking, but it may be too late. This is, Larsen says, our fastest filling trip. $65 for ages nine and up: 410/286-3663.
Twin Beach businesses are celebrating the Fourth of July, too, with First Friday patriotic on July 4 in North Beach.
Were staying open later on First Fridays so that everyone can come and try something new, explains business association president Joanne Fayette.
From 5-9pm, businesses fly balloons, host live music and offer food.
How to Get There: Just south of the intersection of Rt. 260 and Rt. 261 in Chesapeake Beach, where parking is tight. Come early and be prepared to stay late as leaving is just as hard.
Best Viewpoint: Rod n Reels beach and jetty. The boardwalk of next-door North Beach gives a slightly less crowded view.
By water, the Bay is wide open except for crabpots.
In Solomon, the Fourth stretches into a week-long July Carnival. From Monday to Saturday, there are rides, games and fun food, laid on by the Lusby Optimist Club.
On Friday, July 4, the tiny isle goes all out for freedom. From Calvert Marine Museum, the historic buyboat Wm. B. Tennison paces its way easily down the Patuxent River on Independence Day cruises at 12:30, 2, and 3:10pm: $22 w/child discounts ages 5-12.
At the Riverwalk gazebo, live music begins at 4pm with dancing to big-band music at 8pm. Children buy sparklers and lighted headbands throughout the night, but the big show begins at dusk as fireworks rise to the booming sky and fall to the water.
How to Get There: Rt. 2-4 south almost to the Patuxent River. Park at the field across from Calvert Marine Museum: Free till July 3; $5 July 4 and 5. Or park at the Navy Recreation Center above the island and ride shuttles to the carnival.
By boat, the water is big and broad with room for all.
Best Viewpoint: Riverwalk and the lawn of Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church. The Tennison offers a fireworks cruise, too, but tickets are sold out for this year. Plan ahead for next.
Allen Pond Park kicks the citys official July Fourth celebration into gear while the sun is riding high and doesnt let up until the sun disappears behind the crackle of fireworks.
Entertainment begins at 3:30pm with kickboxing, step aerobics and music. At 5:15pm, Mayor G. Frederick Robinson welcomes the crowd.
The Bowie High School cheerleaders and poms step up to share some hometown spirit at 5:30pm, followed by oldies and beach country tunes.
Let your patriotism fly at 9pm with the introduction of the towns elected officials and the flag ceremony. The Bowie Memorial Post 8065, a division of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, leads the official recognition of both the Maryland and American flags.
Even the fireworks extravaganza at 9:15pm is choreographed to patriotic selections.
Dont rush home after the last firework because Randy Lee and The Saltwater Cowboys return to help you let loose.
Vendors sell BBQ, hotdogs, hamburgers, pizza, ice cream, cotton candy and more. Coolers packed with your own goodies are fine, but no alcohol, please.
How to get there: Rt. 301/3 to Rt. 197 (Collington Rd.). Reach Northview Drive after one mile and turn left; follow to park, on the right.
Parking within the park is reserved for the handicapped and VIPs, which leaves side streets and the Mitchellville Road soccer field for the rest of you Yankee Doodle Dandys. free: 301/262-6200.
Best Viewpoint: The amphitheater lawn.
Bowie Baysox: If, by the time July 3 rolls around, youre itching to sow your patriotic oats, step up to the plate as the Bowie Baysox defend their home turf against the Akron Aeros starting at 7:05pm.
Were a pretty good option for the Fourth, says spokesman Andy Frankel, because it doesnt get much more American than baseball, fireworks and hotdogs.
This may be the one show where the crowd has more to let loose than fireworks. Join an expected full-capacity crowd of 10,000 to break the Guinness Books world record for the most people simultaneously slamming their bums on whoopie cushions.
No need to visit the gag store before game time. The game sponsor, B & M Baked Beans, provides free whoopie cushions for you to flaunt your flatulence during the fifth inning world record attempt.
Fireworks, choreographed to patriotic music, follow the game, probably between 10 and 10:30pm.
How to get there: Take Rt. 301 to Ballpark Drive; additional parking off of Governors Bridge Rd.
Admission starts @ $9 w/discounts: 301/805-6000 www.baysox.com.
Best Viewpoint: Just so long youre seated in the stadium, youll have a great view of the larger-than-usual Baysox fireworks and the usual is good.
At Six Flags Amusement Park, Smooth Jazz 105.9 kicks off Independence Day with its annual Fourth of Jazz concert. The music of saxophonist Kim Waters, guitarist Steve Oliver and the U.S. Air Force Band Airmen of Note is included in the days ticket ($39.59). Whats more, the musics on the Paradise Island Wave Pool stage.
You can ride all the rides and make your way over to the water because it will be hot, says the radio stations Kelly Cooper.
Fireworks heat up the sky at 9pm.
How to get there: Rt. 214 just west of Chesapeake Country.
Best Viewpoint: Right there.
Lord Baltimore would be proud of his citys July Fourth festivities, which usually draw a crowd topping 100,000 to the Inner Harbor at the amphitheater and Constellation Dock from 11am to 10pm.
Besides the show itself, theres the atmosphere of being downtown, of community and the sense of pride in the city that goes on that you cant get from other shows, said Tracy Baskerville of the Baltimore Office of Promotions
The celebration begins with music. At the amphitheater, rock on with the group Living Proof from 11am to 5pm, and keep your dancing spirit alive as the Part Harmonys à cappella musical group takes over until 9:30pm.
On the Constellation Dock, dance and watch all at once as the U.S.A. Dancers showcase their rhythmic aptitude from 6pm until 9:30pm.
When your ears need a reprieve, stroll to the harbors west shore where youll find yourself transported to the past at the 23rd Annual Antique Car Rally from noon till 5pm in the Sam Smith Light Street parking lot.
The fireworks choreographed to patriotic tunes such as Yankee Doodle Dandy, 76 Trombones and Strike Up the Band crash and boom overhead starting at 9:30pm. By land or water, downtown Baltimore provides a stunning backdrop while the waters of the Inner Harbor mirror the dancing colors penetrating the sky.
Bring your radio to enjoy Mix 106.5s simulcast of the accompanying music.
Theres plenty of free viewing, but you can pay for the pride of position at Top of the World Observation Level or on board the USS Constellation.
Youll feel like youre on top of the world on the 27th floor of Baltimores World Trade Center at 401 E. Pratt Street. This 423-foot tall air-conditioned tower offers unobstructed views of the show through ceiling-high windows. Only the first 200 will be admitted until 9:15pm, so arrive when tickets go on sale at 8pm. The party lasts until 10pm with music and refreshments. $7 w/discounts: 410/837-VIEW www.promotionandarts.com.
If being on the water is more your style, then come on board the historic USS Constellation from 7-10pm for a fireworks picnic on deck of the only surviving Civil War-era and the last all-sail warship built by the U.S. Navy. rsvp: 410/539-1797.
How to get there: By land, from the south take I-97 to I-695 west to I-95 north to Pratt Street, gateway to the Inner Harbor.
Arrive early before nearby parking garages fill up, as street parking is scarce. The underground garage beneath The Gallery mall across Pratt has entrances on Calvert and South streets and offers the closest parking to the festivities. Expect to pay a garage fee.
From water, youll find Fourth of July anchorage between the Constellation Pier and Pier 3. Stay behind the bouys and avoid anchoring in the channel. No docking is allowed by red cleats and where no docking signs are posted: $5 for 4 hrs.; $1/overnight; $4/line for electricity; 410/396-3174.
Best Viewpoint: Inner Harbor, which offers the best views, or nearby Federal Hill, Rash Field, Canton and Fells Point. Or pay to join the party at the top of the World Observation Level or on board the USS Constellation.
Dont forget your chairs and blankets if you opt for grassy Federal Hill, Rash Field and Canton: free: 877/225-9679 www.baltimore.org.
There is simply no grander place to be for the Fourth than our nations capital. The city, itself an American icon, is full of enough fervent celebration to make Joe America blush bright with national pride. Where better to mark 227 years?
Celebrate the diversity that makes a nation great at the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife. Now through July 6, you can experience anothers culture through song, storytelling, crafts, demos, celebrations, workshops and much more. This years highlights are Appalachia: Heritage and Harmony; Mali: From Timbuktu to Washington; Scotland at the Smithsonian.
11-5:30pm; dance parties 5:30-9pm @ National Mall, between 7th and 14th streets, near the Smithsonian museums. Free: 202/357-2700 www.folklife.si.edu.
Naturally, July 4 is the day things really get going. First up is the 2003 National Independence Day Parade, making a beeline along Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th streets. Marching begins at 11:45am with more than 60 units including celebs, floats, marching bands, giant helium balloons, mascots and more.
Music surrounds visitors all day, though the biggest concert arrives in the form of A Capitol Fourth 2003. There are two concert areas to choose from: The Sylvan Theater and the U.S. Capitol.
Country singer Aaron Tippin and the U.S. Navy Band play on the grounds of the Washington Monument from 4:30-9:10pm, ending before the fireworks commence.
The National Symphony Orchestra performs tunes to stir your patriotism. Barry Bostwick hosts the annual concert, which includes performers Dolly Parton, James Ingram, The Chieftains, Kristin Chenoweth, Earl Scruggs, Jerry Douglas, Craig Bierko with a tribute to composer John Williams in this 22nd annual 90-minute concert 8pm @ West Lawn, U.S. Capitol.
Finally, the granddaddy of grand finales lights up D.C.s night. 9:10pm @ Washington Monument Grounds.
Everyone entering the Mall area will go through checkpoints. No alcohol is allowed on the Mall. You can bring coolers, but no glass containers.
Best Fireworks Viewing: The D.C. fireworks can be seen for miles. For those intrepid enough to challenge the masses, grab a blanket and head to the National Mall. If you stay close to the West Lawn of the Capitol, youll have a great view of the fireworks and be able to hear some of the music played by the National Symphony Orchestra.
Great views outside the city are found in the greenspace along George Washington Parkway in Virginia; arrive very early and be ready to park along shoulders or in the median strip. Also, in Virginia, the Iwo Jima Memorial and the upper parking level at the Pentagon City Mall offer terrific views from higher elevations.
Terry Adams, public affairs specialist for the National Park Service concurs, The Iwo Jima Memorial area provides the best view of the fireworks. It allows for easy access, easy-on and easy-off at the Rosslyn Metro stop. Thats where I photograph for the fireworks, because the river reflects the colors of the fireworks and makes the entire city look beautiful. More information: www.nps.gov/nama/events/july4/july4.htm.
A different view is from the water. Boats are allowed up the Potomac for the fireworks show.
How To Get There: Parking around the National Mall is extremely limited. Its better not to try. There are many street closures that will complicate even the best intentions for driving into and around our capital city. 17th Street between Independence and Constitution Avenues is closed all day. To be safe, check the National Park Service website. Visitors are advised to use Metro. The Smithsonian Station (Mall exit) will be closed on the Fourth. It will be open for the Folklife Festival. Use the Federal Triangle, National Archives and Metro Center stations, as they are close to the Mall. For more information about the Metro go to its website (www.wmata.com/).
While there is much to see and do, remember to dress for very hot and humid weather. The National Park Service strongly recommends that you bring food and drink to eat throughout the day.
Worth the Trip
Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg
Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg the fighting ground bloodied during the Civil War by the battle that kept our nation from dividing and The Maryland Symphony Orchestra unite on July 5 to commemorate our nations founding.
For an expected crowd of 35,000, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra performs its 18th annual Salute to Independence in a two-hour concert. After such patriotic favorites as the Star Spangled Banner and Maryland My Maryland, the musicians honor both sides with Battle Hymn of the Republic and International Dixie Jamboree. The music concludes with Tschaikovskys 1812 Overture.
The observance moves from stage to sky with fireworks around 9pm.
Bring your own cooler with snacks, but no alcohol, please. The Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Dept. and EMS sell food and drinks. Dont forget a blanket and flashlight, too.
Best Viewpoint: The hill behind the visitor center provides stadium-like seating and also the best views.
How to get there: From the Baltimore-Washington area, take I-70 to Rt. 65 to Sharpsburg. Continue south 10 miles to the visitor center on your left.
Parking on the battlefield grounds, directed by park rangers, begins at 3:30pm. You may also park along Rts. 65 and 34. From Rt. 34, a shuttle bus service ($1 roundtrip) will take you within 300 yards.
Expect a one-hour to 90-minute delay when leaving the show: 7:30pm @ Sharpsburg: free: 301/797-4000 www.nps.gov/anti/salute.htm.
Ocean City celebrates our nations independence by combining park festivities and fireworks. And, to top it off, youre at the beach!
At the northern end, Jamboree in the Park provides an arts and crafts show, childrens games and live music for revelers of all ages. This all takes place at Northside Park, located at 127th and Bay streets. Captain Quint, the ultimate Jimmy Buffett tribute band, Georgia Lea and Stone Cold Country and John Breslin Dixieland Jazz Band play throughout the day.
At the southern end of Ocean City, peruse the stores and restaurants up and down the boardwalk. The U.S. Army Band Pershings Own and Chorus salute this Fourth of July celebration.
Fireworks commence promptly at 9:30pm so get there early to stake out a good parking spot for the craft show. Otherwise, use the Park & Ride on South Division Street to get to and fro. Its free to park, and then ride the bus to the beach for $1.
For more information: 800/OC-OCEAN.
Best Viewpoint: Along the boardwalk, and you cant go wrong just so long as you dont mind the huge crowd.
How To Get There: Follow Rt. 50 east from Annapolis and across the Eastern Shore all the way to Ocean City.
James Clemenko, Lauren Silver, Stephanie Chizik and Theresa M. Troescher contributed to this story.