The Marine Barracks at 8th and I Streets, SE is known as “The Oldest Post in the Corps”. Attending a Friday Evening parade here in the summertime is a chance to witness the history of the Barracks and the pomp and circumstance of the Ceremonial Companies housed here.
The Friday Evening Parades are a long-standing summer tradition for the Marine Corps dating back to 1957. Friday Evening Parades are held weekly from May 1st through August 28th, weather permitting. Admission for the parades is free but advanced reservations are recommended through their website. There is free parking for the parade at Maritime Plaza and free shuttle service provided to the Barracks. 8th and I is also easily accessible via the Eastern Market metro station on the orange, blue and silver lines.
Gates for ticket holders open at 7 p.m. and you must arrive to your seat by 7:45 p.m. At 8 p.m. any remaining seats are filled by non-ticketed guests from a stand-by line. The parade itself does not begin until 8:45 p.m. but you can walk around and talk to the Marines to pass the time. The Marines we met were very willing to answer questions and pose for photos. No food or drink is allowed into the Parade Grounds but they do provide free water and restrooms on the grounds.
Prior to the parade beginning, a few Marines come out to speak. They give background information on themselves, the buildings, the history of the parade and the Marine Corps. Once the parade begins you are in for a real treat. The Evening Parade features “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, “The Commandant’s Own” The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Marine Corps Color Guard, the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, Ceremonial Marchers, and Lance Corporal Chesty XIII, a bulldog who is the official mascot of Marine Barracks Washington. The action can be a little slow moving at times but the precision and ceremony of it all is really a sight to see. We particularly liked watching the Silent Drill Platoon. The parade wrapped up around 10 p.m.
Families with younger children looking for an earlier option to see a parade can look into the Tuesday night Sunset Parades at Arlington National Cemetery which feature many of the same bands and companies performing from 7 to 8 p.m. weekly. No reservations are necessary for the Arlington Sunset Parades. You must provide your own blankets or lawn chairs. Plan ahead for next year though, since August 11 was the last scheduled date for these parades in 2015.
For the Friday evening parades you have many options of family friendly restaurants nearby the Barracks if you want to grab a bite to eat beforehand. We ate at Cava Mezze on 8th Street and had a great meal of small plates to share. Matchbox, Ted’s Bulletin and Molly Malone’s are just a few of the other choices located along Barracks Row.
Make a reservation to attend one of the final parades this summer at 8th and I. You will not be disappointed in the pageantry and history on display by the United States Marine Corps.