July Fourth is finally here. Three days of fun, friends and fireworks await you no matter where you live in the United States, but the celebrations will be particularly joyous in the nation's capital. Washington, D.C. is the place to be for Independence Day, when history and modern culture collide with events of all kinds.
The city was already preparing for the crowds: On Friday, the Metro Police Department set up security checkpoints inside subway stations, stopping people to conduct random inspections as visitors and residents entered the stations. Transportation Security Administration agents were also present, so you can celebrate safely. Here are 11 things to do in D.C. this weekend:
1. Take the 16th annual Midtown Liberty Bar Tour starting at 5 p.m. Thursday. Grab a $20 ticket from Mother's Parking Lot or Mackey's Public House and then get going -- more than a dozen bars are serving discounted beers and cocktails. Enjoy responsibly.
2. Go to a Washington Nationals baseball game. They're playing the San Francisco Giants all weekend -- Friday at 6:05 p.m., Saturday at 11:05 a.m. and Sunday at 8:08 p.m. Tickets start at $28.
3. Check out the actual star-spangled banner that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem. It's on display at the National Museum of American History, which opens all weekend at 10 a.m. It has late hours on Friday and Sunday, so it closes at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.
4. Celebrate July Fourth with a smile at 'MURRICA, which organizers describe as part theme party, part comedy show. Tickets are $10 here for the Friday night event. Wear red, white and blue and hear from comedians like Dana Fleitman and Chris Milner. The show is 18 and up.
5. Stop by the National Archives Museum, where from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Saturday you can sign a faux Declaration of Independence and then hear it read aloud at 10 a.m. Stick around to taste-test chocolate or participate in other July Fourth activities at the Boeing Learning Center.
6. Attend the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall, an event designed to strengthen and preserve old and new traditions, according to its website. This year's focus is Peru, and there are tons of sessions you can attend between Thursday and Sunday. July Fourth's schedule kicks off with a dance workshop, archery lesson and cooking demonstration at 11 a.m.
7. Watch the Independence Day Parade, which starts at 11:45 a.m. Saturday and runs along Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Street. You'll see bands, drum corps, floats and balloons in this official parade sponsored by the National Park Service. Get there early to get a good spot, and bring food and water to avoid long lines at vendors.
8. Hang out at the Freedom Fest, an outdoor barbecue on Saturday at Takoma Park. $70 gets you all-day VIP access to food, beer and merchandise. Tickets here.
9. On Saturday, kick back and listen to A Capitol Fourth, the traditional concert on the West Lawn. Admission starts at 3 p.m. for the 8 p.m. concert, during which you'll hear the National Symphony Orchestra as well as legendary musician Barry Manilow, country singer Hunter Hayes and former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger. Bringing food and drink is OK, but leave the alcohol at home. The show will also be broadcast live on PBS.
10. Head to NoMa's July Fourth Bash at Storey Park from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. It's a neighborhood party with free hamburgers, hotdogs and watermelon for the first 200 people to show up. There will also be face painting, games and live music.
11. Go to the Iwo Jima Monument to watch the fireworks Saturday night. Avoid the crowds on the National Mall and head to the Marine Corps War Memorial for a great view. There's a security checkpoint there, so don't bring alcohol. Fireworks start just after 9 p.m. and last about 20 minutes.