There are a number of public events and activities that occur throughout the year on the Capitol Grounds. The following are just a few that are free and open to the public. Please visit the USCP Media Center for more details, including a list of prohibited items, prior to each event.
- National Peace Officers Memorial Service
- National Memorial Day Concert
- July Fourth Concert
- U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
- Presidential Inaugurations
- U.S. Military Bands Summer Concert Series
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15th as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which May 15th falls as National Police Week. Each year, on May 15th, special recognition is given to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty in an effort to protect others.
A memorial service is held on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol that draws law enforcement officers from across the United States. The Memorial Service began in 1982, and is one of many events held in Washington, D.C., during National Police Week. The event is sponsored by the Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.
The Presidential Proclamation for Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week 2016, stated, “In moments of danger and desperation, the first people we turn to are law enforcement officers. These often unsung heroes risk their lives and sacrifice precious time with loved ones so their fellow Americans can live in peace and security. But more than that, they are leaders in their communities, serving as mentors, coaches, friends, and neighbors -- working tirelessly each day to ensure that the people they serve have the opportunities that should be afforded to all Americans. In honor of all they do, we must give these dedicated professionals the support and appreciation they deserve.”
For more than 25 years, the National Memorial Day Concert has taken place on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol to honor our military veterans, active service members, and their families, as well as to remember our fallen soldiers.
Through musical performances, historic photos and news footage, and moving, personal narratives, the concert pays tribute to all those who have served or are currently serving their country by putting on a military uniform.
The concert is open to the public and no tickets are required. Additional details about how to attend the annual concert may be found in the USCP Media Center here. For more information about the National Memorial Day Concert, please visit https://www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert/home/.
This annual Independence Day celebration includes a concert and fireworks from the picturesque vantage point of the West Front lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
Top musical talents and U.S. military bands are the featured entertainment, followed by one of the largest fireworks displays in the United States.
The concert is open to the public and no tickets are required. Additional details about how to attend the annual concert may be found in the USCP Media Center here.
For more information about the A Capitol Fourth concert, please visit https://www.pbs.org/a-capitol-fourth/home/.
The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is held in early December on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on a date selected by the Speaker of the House, who, by tradition, lights the tree. The tree is the “People’s Tree” since it originates from a different state each year, and it stands before the “People’s House.”
The tree is selected from a national forest by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the Architect of the Capitol, Capitol Grounds Superintendent. Once it arrives at the U.S. Capitol, it is decorated with thousands of ornaments handcrafted by the people from the tree’s home state.
The lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree has been a tradition at the U.S. Capitol since 1964. Then-Speaker of the House John McCormack recommended to Architect of the Capitol George Stewart that a tree be placed on Capitol Grounds. A live 24-foot Douglas fir was purchased and planted on the West Front Lawn. In 1968, the tree was damaged in a wind storm and was replaced. Since 1970, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service has provided the cut trees that grace the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.
For more information about the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, please visit https://www.aoc.gov/nations-stage/capitol-christmas-tree.
Every four years, the President of the United States is sworn into office during the Presidential Inaugural ceremony. The first Inauguration of George Washington was held in New York City on April 30, 1789. On January 20, 2017, President Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. Much planning and preparation goes into each Inaugural event, which includes the swearing-in ceremonies and a lunch honoring the President and Vice President. The arrangements for the Inauguration are overseen by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
The U.S. Capitol Police play an important role in ensuring that the event is carried out safely and securely on the Capitol Grounds. This is especially important as the event has continued to grow from a small, indoor gathering to the late 1820s when the ceremony was moved outdoors, allowing more people to be part of the event. (https://www.inaugural.senate.gov/about)
For more information, please visit the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies’ website at https://www.inaugural.senate.gov/.
The Act of July 31, 1946, first allowed “a band in the service of the Federal Government” to provide concerts on Capitol Grounds. However, the practice of holding military band concerts on Capitol Grounds is documented as going back to at least 1863 when the United States Marine Corps band held concerts on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.
Throughout the summer months, the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Marine, and Army bands perform most weekday evenings on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. The event is free to the public and no tickets are required.
Military Bands Concert Series
All concerts begin at 8 p.m. on the West Front steps of the U.S. Capitol. The summer schedule is subject to change and concerts may be canceled due to inclement weather. A determination will be made at 3 p.m. each weekday if the concert is canceled. Guests may set up lawn chairs on the Lower West Terrace steps in front of the band and on the West lawn, unless it is in use for another event. Food is allowed. Alcohol and glass containers are prohibited.