Jul 2

July 3rd (Capitol Fourth) Dress Rehearsal Concert Free in DC

Just about every year for the past 10+ years my family has enjoyed going to the dress rehearsal of the Capitol Fourth on the West Lawn at the US Capitol building. It’s the concert that airs on PBS stations across the nation each July 4th and includes many great musical acts and DC’s awesome fireworks. Concert starts around 8 PM, but be sure to show up earlier (a few hours if you can) to get a decent seat. Even if you’re not in “prime” seating area there are multiple jumbo-trons so you can get a closer look at the performance.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the concert/event and actor Jimmy Smits is hosting (for the 2nd or 3rd year in a row, I think). The concert portion for 2010 includes: country music superstar Reba McEntire, legendary R & B artist Gladys Knight, country music sensation Darius Rucker (Hootie & the Blowfish), singer David Archuleta (American Idol), and actor and singer John Schneider, as well as world-renowned classical pianist Lang Lang with the National Symphony Orchestra.

The fun part about attending the dress rehearsal on July 3rd:

  • It’s not as crowded as it is on the actual 4th of July (although there’s still a good number of people)
  • You can bring blankets or lawn chairs to sit in and enjoy the concert
  • You get to hear the “bloopers” live… some of those actors and singers are darn-right hilarious!
  • You can arrive early and bring a picnic-style dinner
  • The DC Park service provides free bottled waters
  • It’s a family friendly concert
  • It’s FREE entertainment

The only “negatives” on attending the dress rehearsal instead of the live event on the 4th, in my opinion:

  • There are no fireworks at the end… because they’re saving them up for the actual event, of course.
  • In more recent years some of the main musical acts have *sadly* not shown up for the dress rehearsal. Instead they play a recording of them and have actors pretending to be them on stage. This happened a few years ago with the Beach Boys. It was a disappointment :-(

Some of my favorite memories from the Capitol Fourth dress rehearsals include:

  • Time spent with my parents and good family friends.
  • My son’s face lighting up when Sesame Street characters appeared in last year’s concert.
  • How funny the O’Jays were (the musical group that sang “People All Over the World, Join Hands, Start A Love Train, Love Train” song that was featured in Gap ads a few years ago around Christmas time). I don’t remember if there was an issue with the sound equipment or having to start over and over again, but they were joking around on stage and making the whole crowd burst into laughter.
  • Enjoying the National Symphony Orchestra’s traditional finale of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” – featuring the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets and complete with live cannon fire provided by the United States Army Presidential Salute Battery (yes, they do it on the dress rehearsal!).
  • Enjoying a great musical line-up year-after-year and enjoying lounging on the lawn with family and friends.

Do any of you readers attend the July 3rd dress rehearsal or any other special concerts or events in the DC area on July 4th? Leave a comment and let me know what’s your favorite way to spend the holiday (ie. avoid the crowds or join in?). Hope you have a happy Independence Day everyone!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob July 4, 2010 at 7:50 am

We love the fourth on the third as well.
Great Free National Concert at the Capitol steps.
Great singers and music.
God blessed wonderful weather last night for July.
Get to be with me family and friends :-]


Joan June 1, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Have been saving $$$$ for several years to take 50th wedding Anniversary celebration to Washinton DC…Husband, self, 3 children and spouses and 6
GRANDchildren & would like to attend July 3rd ‘Dress Rehearsal” for the July 4th Celebration at the US Capitol…do we need tickets??? …how do we get in and where??? Holiday scheduled for June 25 through July 4 (travel home day!!)


Laura June 8, 2011 at 10:07 am

Hi Joan,
You don’t need tickets, just show up! You’ll want to arrive a few hours early if you want a good view of the stage. You have to go through security, which can have long lines, but typically moves quickly. My family and I like to pack a picnic dinner and bring beach towels and lawn chairs to set up on the West Lawn at the US Capitol building. Just to warn you, the past few years the real musical acts have not all been showing up for the dress rehearsals, so they have their stage crew stand on-stage and play a recording of the song.
Here is the link for the Google Map of the West Lawn, U.S. Capitol
The closest Metro stations are Union Station and Capitol South. We usually drive and park on a nearby street (with parking meters). Hope that helps! Enjoy your trip to DC!


frugalfriends July 14, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Wow! Honored to hit #97 for Most read Blog posts of the day out of ALL Wordpress.com blogs for July 4th, 2010.


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