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Independence Day is a federal holiday in the United States. It is celebrated on July 4, the day the wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress (the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution) in 1776. The Declaration announced that the thirteen American colonies were now independent states and no longer a part of the British Empire. The signed and most famous copy of the document regarded as the Declaration of Independence, is on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C (its Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, Public Vaults and other locations are open for visitors). With years, the significance of the Declaration of Independence outgrew its immediate purpose and became the source and inspiration for universal and higher moral standards for which the American republic should aspire. The most important in this regard is its second paragraph:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Sometimes referred as "one of the best-known sentences in the English language", it has never lost its relevance. Because of the tremendous and never ending importance of the Declaration of Independence for the United States,
Independence Day is a national holiday (a date marking the nationhood of a nation).
John Adams (a statesman, a leading champion of independence in 1776 and the second President of the United States) wrote a day before the Declaration was approved: "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more." Indeed, this prediction has turned out to be very close to how Independence Day is celebrated now. American families usually host or attend a picnic or barbecue and often take a day off to enjoy a long weekend and spend time with relatives. Public events include concerts, parades, political ceremonies and other festivities commemorating traditions of the United States as well as local customs. Patriotic symbols, decorations and colors (red, blue and white), displaying of the American flag are very popular in the United States. Parades are often organized in the morning with extremely popular fireworks taking place in the evening in parks, squares or neighborhoods.
Although Independence Day is celebrated in each and every corner of the United States, in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, the public aspect of the holiday is most visible. The 4th of July celebrations in Washington, DC are among the most attended events of the year. If you are in the city during the holiday, you have a good opportunity to experience the great American tradition at first hand. Most holiday events take place on or near the National Mall, an open-area national park in the downtown of the capital. See Useful Visitor Information and Tips section below for more details.
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What Makes It Special
Independence Day is one of the most important days in the history of the United States commemorating the event that laid the foundation for the statehood of the United States, one of the greatest free countries in the world. But this day has tremendous significance for the people from other countries - especially those where the example of the United States has provided guidance, inspiration and hope for the better future. Besides, it is a fun holiday of the year, and a good time to celebrate summer. Parades, music, food and, of course, the fireworks are part of what make this nationwide celebration so special. Washington, D.C. as the capital of the United States provides the best opportunity to get familiar with this important American tradition for domestic and international travelers alike.
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Directions To Destination
The Washington, DC metropolitan area has three major airports: (1) Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), (2) Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) and (3) Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). Below is some useful information regarding each of those airports. For destinations, scheduling of flights or checking arrivals and departures to and from the first two airports you can visit the Web site of Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. This site can be also useful for information on ground transportation to/from the airports.
Washington Dulles International Airport
Dulles Airport is located in Chantilly, Virginia, 26 miles (41.6 km) from downtown Washington, DC. It operates direct international and domestic flights all over the world. One the biggest advantages of this airport is its relative proximity to the US capital. The catch is that all airlines are aware of this and usually charge more for both, international and domestic destinations. The airport is very well equipped with ground transportation including flyer taxi, couch service, super shuttle. Unfortunately, there is not Metro station nearby the airport (Metrorail is the regional subway system, often referred to simply as Metro; the Metro connection to Dulles Airport is planned to complete in 2017).
For ground transportation prices on taxi, bus and Super Shuttle as well as scheduling and distances the Washington Flyer Ground Transportation website can be very helpful. Current taxi prices (2011) from Dulles Airport to National Mall in DC are about $60; for comparison, super shuttle would be around $30. If you want use Metro, you need to get first to the West Falls Church station on the Orange Line - the closest Metro station to the airport. Direct transportation to this station is available from the Washington Flyer Coach Service. Travel time between Washington Dulles International Airport and the Metro West Falls Church Station averages 20 to 30 minutes with the cost of $10 one-way. Buses depart every 25 minutes.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Reagan National Airport is located in Arlington, Virginia just across the Potomac River from the U.S. Capitol with 4.5 miles of driving distance to the National Mall. Because of this proximity to the central business district of Washington, DC, it is the best airport to use to fly domestically (it does not operate international routes) to the US capital. In addition to taxi, ground transportation includes Metro as the most convenient way of getting to and from the airport - the Metro station for the airport is called Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (Blue and Yellow Lines) and is connected to the Terminals B and C. For terminal A you need to use airport shuttle bus.
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport
This airport (often called BWI Airport) is located 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Washington, D.C.. Although there are international flights to and from the airport, most of them require a connection. From major airline, only British Airways offers currently non-stop transatlantic flights. Other non-stop international flights are to/from Bahamas, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, Bermuda. All usual ground transportation is available at the airport. If you need to rent a car, take a free Shuttle bus to the rental car center (15-minute ride). The driving distance to National Mall in Washington, DC is 36 miles (58 km), and it takes 1 - 1.5 hours to get there depending on traffic. The current cost of a taxi ride is about $70. Not an expensive way to get to downtown Washington is to use trains Amtrak or MARC train which stop at Union Station in the center of DC. MARC train is cheaper - about $6 one way, Amtrak one way ticket is about $12. The trip takes 30 - 40 minutes. To get to the railway station from the airport take free BWI Airport shuttle. Another ground transportation option is to use BWI Express Metro bus service (No. B30) between BWI and the Greenbelt Metro station (35-minute ride, runs every 40 minutes, currently $6, SmartCard is needed) located near Capital Beltway (64 mile (103 km) highway that surrounds Washington, D.C.). From Greenbelt Metro station you can easily reach most of DC areas.
The main festivities on the 4th of July take place at the National Mall. The best way to reach the Mall is to use Metro (especially on July, 4th when the city center will be closed to car traffic). There are following stations near the Mall: L'Enfant Plaza, Metro Center, Judiciary Square, Gallery Place-Chinatown, Federal Triangle. The Smithsonian Metro station is closed during festivities for security reasons.
For all ground transportation options in Washington, DC visit CommuterPage.com. All information regarding using Metro in Washington DC can be found on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Web site.
This site may be helpful with public transportation related to BMW Airport (located in Maryland): Maryland Transit Administration.
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Best Time To Go
Beginning of July is the obvious time if you want to take part in the Independence Day festivities (your specific dates may depend on the day of the week the 4th of July falls on). Washington is located on the Potomac River between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean and is known for its hot, humid summers, especially in the city with asphalted streets and concrete buildings. July average high temperature is 89 ºF (32 ºC). The highest registered temperature in July was 102 ºF (39 ºC) in 1966. Average precipitation in July is 3.66 inches (93 mm).
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Where To Stay
There are plenty of hotels in the area; we recommend:
The Hay - Adams (16th and H Streets, Northwest, Downtown, DC 20006 Washington), a five star hotel with rates from $330 to $2100 (per room/night, taxes 14.5% and fees are not included). The hotel has a vantage location in downtown Washington overlooking the White House, Lafayette Square and St. John's Episcopal Church (also known as the Church of the Presidents). The hotel has 145 rooms.
The Fairfax at Embassy Row (2100 Massachusetts Ave, N.W, Embassy Row, DC 20008 Washington), a five star hotel with rates from $180 (per room/night, taxes are not included). Hotel is located close to Dupont Circle, near Connecticut Avenue and other popular Washington, D.C. areas and has 207 rooms.
Research and book hotels in or near Washington, United States
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Please see Useful Visitor Information and Tips section below for the list of things to visit, see and participate.
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Useful Visitor Information and Tips
While the official observance of Independence Day is fixed and always falls on July 4th (which my be not true for other federal holidays), participation levels may vary depending on the day of the week the 4th of July falls on. If it's in the middle of the week, some celebrations may take place during the weekend depending on the region.
National Mall is located between 7th and 14th streets in Washington, DC. Metro is the best way to get to the Mall. Parking is scares and difficult to find, many roads will be closed. The closest Metro stations to the Mall are L'Enfant Plaza, Metro Center, Judiciary Square, Gallery Place-Chinatown, Federal Triangle. The Smithsonian Metro station is closed during festivities for security reasons. Public access to the National Mall on July, 4th begins at 10:00 AM. The visitors should go through checkpoints for security reasons. For access points and road closures in Washington, D.C. Independence Day celebration visit the National Park Service (U.S. Department of the Interior) Web site dedicated to National Mall Independence Day Celebration.
Have a light cotton clothes on. Hats, sunglasses, sunscreen are advisable. Have bottled water with you and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
What to see on July, 4th:
Independence Day Parade - the parade stars at 11:45 AM and goes along Constitution Avenue beginning from 7th St., NW and ending at 17th St., NW. It consists of bands, fife and drum corps, military units, various teams, VIP's, dignitaries and celebrities.
Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival - it continues for several days before during and after Independence Day and features different cultures in the Americas. It includes daily and evening music and dance performances, crafts and cooking events, as well as debates on social and cultural issues. Most of events take place on National Mall; for more information on related events and their schedule consult Smithsonian Folklife Festival website.
4th of July at the National Archives - The National Archives organizes special program commemorating the historic day. Various activities are offered including the ceremony reading of Declaration of Independence. The National Archives Building is located on the Constitution Ave between 7th and 9th Streets. The program starts usually at 8:30 AM and ends at 2 PM.
White House Visitor Center Family Events
From 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM the White House Visitor Center organizes games, crafts and other activities commemorating the 4th of July. White House Visitor Center address is 1450 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC (The Center is located inside the Commerce Building and not the White House itself).
Independence Day Organ Concert - Washington National Cathedral hosts an annual Great Organ concert. Event starts at 11:00 AM; the Cathedral is located on Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues, NW Washington, DC 20016-5098.
Washington Monument Concert - the U.S. Navy Band performs the concert on the Washington Monument southwest grounds. The performance starts at 6 PM and is followed by fireworks.
A Capitol Fourth Concert - a free live public concert performed by the National Symphony Orchestra held on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. which usually starts at 8 PM (access to the grounds is open from 3 PM). Space is limited; however, the performance is broadcasted live by PBS TV.
4th of July Fireworks on the National Mall - fireworks start at dark, around 9:15 PM. The fireworks are launched from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and light the sky over the Washington Monument. Good locations to view fireworks are near U.S. Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, East Potomac Park, Rooftop Bars in Washington DC, Rooftop of the W Hotel (tickets required), National Mall locations between 14th St. and the Capitol, Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, observation points along the Virginia side of the Potomac River along George Washington Memorial Parkway. However, you can find plenty of places in Washington and near it to see fireworks without the crowd of people.
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