Celebrate the Fourth with festive events that go beyond the same old barbecue and parade.
By Halle Kaplan-Allen
One of the greatest challenges of the Fourth of July is finding an activity that will appeal to audiences of all ages. For 45 years, the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival has been a highlight of Washington summers. The air-conditioned tents and icy lemonades have offered a perfect escape from the summer heat, and the workshops and demonstrations have entertained and educated children and adults alike. Every year, the festival falls near the fourth but, this summer, the festival is set to take place on Independence Day itself. Instead of forking up an entrance fee at a rooftop bar or patio, head downtown to explore the festival — for free.
This year, the festival focuses on three themes: Campus and Community; Citified: Arts and Creativity East of the Anacostia River; and Creativity and Crisis: Unfolding The AIDS Memorial Quilt. Some events not to be missed: a Vermont maple syrup demonstration at 3 p.m., a quilting workshop at 3:30 p.m., and a go-go dance performance at 4:30 p.m. Another reason the Folklife Festival is such a perfect Independence Day activity: it’s located right on the National Mall, the perfect place to view Washington’s famous Capitol Fourth fireworks.
Parades are an integral part of the day, but not all parades were created equal. Since 1967, the Palisades’ Annual Independence Day Parade has invited Washingtonians of all ages to join in the fun as spectators or even as part of the parade. Participating is easy: just show up at the parade’s launch point on Whitehaven Avenue between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Participants are encouraged to get creative by decorating floats, cars, bikes or even just putting on a festive outfit and walking along the parade route. Many paraders also bring bags of candy to throw to the hundreds of spectators who line the parade route. As always, the parade ends at the Palisades Recreation Center, where the Palisades Citizens Association will host their annual picnic, complete with free hot dogs, watermelon slices, beverages, live music, moon bounces and pony rides.
While the Palisades might not have an unlimited number of dining options, the quality of restaurants makes up for the lack of quantity. Salt and Pepper, an American bistro located on MacArthur Avenue right along the Palisades Parade route, is the perfect place to spend the 4th of July. The restaurant will be hosting their first annual Independence Day cookout from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. For $10, enjoy a barbecue platter from Executive Chef Russell Braitch, who is also a participant in the upcoming Mason Dixon Master Chef competition. Guests can choose between hot dogs, burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, or any of the other regular menu items, including new favorites such as the summer gazpacho, the red and yellow watermelon salad or the strawberry shortcake. Beers, including PBR, Budweiser, Bud Light, Shock Top and Stella Artois, will be on tap for $4. The bar will also be serving up watermelon sangria, as well as bottomless Bloody Marys and mimosas for $14. There will also be live music on Salt and Pepper’s dog-friendly patio, the perfect spot to enjoy the summer weather.
Another one of Washington’s best Fourth of July cookouts is set to take place at Alan Popovsky’s Lincoln Restaurant on Vermont Avenue. Lincoln’s Second Annual American Dream BBQ Cookout will be held on the fourth from 2 p.m. until 11 p.m. and features all-you-can-eat BBQ chicken, pulled pork, brisket and burgers, all of which are made from locally farm-raised meat. American beers from DC Brau Public Ale to Port City Porter will also be on hand for $3 to $5. For $34, guests can gain all-night, unlimited access to Lincoln’s Emancipation Punch Bowl. For those who want to kick off the festivities early, Lincoln will also be hosting their Second Annual Patriotic Brunch on Sunday, July 1st from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. featuring a special menu by Executive Chef Demetrio Zavala and music by DJ Adrian Loving.
Z Burger provides another way to start the celebrations early. On July 3rd at noon, the burger joint is hosting its 4th Annual Independence Day Burger Eating Contest at the chain’s Tenleytown location. The challenge is simple: how many hamburgers can you finish in 10 minutes? In the past, champions have eaten up to 23 burgers within the time limit. The winner will receive $1,000 in cash as well as a $1,000 Z Burger gift certificate.
What Fourth of July is complete without a visit to some of the area’s best bars? Pub Crawl, creator of some of the largest pub-crawls in the country, is hosting the Red, White and Brew Pub Crawl in Washington, a three-day event on June 30th, July 3rd and the 4th. The event is co-hosted by local bar DC Bread & Brew, located on 20th Street, right outside of Dupont Circle. Participants are encouraged to dress up in red, white and blue as they tour some of the city’s best watering holes. For those who are interested, you can buy a one-day ticket for $10 or a three-day pass for $20, which provides access to drink specials such as $2 American drafts, $3 American bottled beers and $4 Liberty Cocktails. Larger groups can also purchase tickets at a discounted rate.