The DC area sees a lot of military ceremonies and performances. Whether it’s a somber, private funeral at Arlington Cemetery, the inspiring show of respect at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, one of the several parades and performance downtown featuring military bands, or the precision of the US Marine Corps Silent Drill Team at the Sunset Parades, military ceremonies and performances are a staple of DC.
The Army Twilight Tattoo just might be the most exuberant. It runs on Wednesday and (some) Thursday evenings in the summer on a military base near Arlington Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
The Army bills it as a “live-action military pageant,” which is as good a description of it as any. It is part history lesson, part recruiting pitch, and part broadway musical. Throw in firing cannons and other pyrotechnics, galloping horses, singing, historical military uniforms, and the US Army Blues band rocking out live, and you have quite a show. Overall, it’s far more theatrical than the Marine Corps Sunset Parade, which is held nearby on Tuesday evenings.
The Twilight Tattoo is free and open to the public, but it’s also held on an active military base, which means that you’ll need to bring valid ID. You can find detailed information on directions and logistics here. And while the area can handle quite a large crowd, there are occasions when large groups can fill the place to capacity, so it’s worth confirming specific performances here for any “at capacity” notes.
And in a nice touch, the soldiers stay on the field after the show to pose for photos and answer questions.
The grand finale features a battery of live-firing cannons. So if you’re taking kids or others who don’t like loud noises, you might want to prepare them for that.
2019 Army Twilight Tattoo Schedule
The main show begins at 7pm, with pre-ceremony entertainment starting at 6:30pm. The primary location is a Summerall Field, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. In the event of inclement weather, it moves indoors to Conmy Hall.
- Wednesday, May 1
- Wednesday, May 8
- Thursday, May 9
- Wednesday, May 15
- Thursday, May 16
- Wednesday, May 22
- Thursday, May 23
- Wednesday, May 29
- Thursday, May 30
- Wednesday, June 5
- Thursday, June 6
- Wednesday, June 12
- Thursday, June 13
- Wednesday, June 19
- Wednesday, June 26
- Wednesday, July 17
- Wednesday, July 24
- Wednesday, July 31
Photos of the Army Twilight Tattoo
How to Get Here
The Twilight Tattoo is on the grounds of Fort Myer, and active military base. Pedestrians will need photo ID to get onto the base, and there are bag searches and a security checkpoint to get to the event. There’s no on-site parking, but you can usually find street parking in the neighborhood with a short walk. Alternatively, there are several public transportation options–you can find more details here.
The event is free, and there are no tickets. There’s some stadium seating that’s first-come-first-served. There’s also plenty of grass to sit on. But it can still fill up. Large groups hoping to attend should contact the organizers directly in advance.
In the event of inclement weather, the event moves indoors to Conmy Hall.
The Army Twilight Tattoo is unusually photographer-friendly. As the event’s official information puts it:
Twilight Tattoo offers ample opportunities for still photographers and videographers. Patrons are welcome to photograph our Soldiers before, during and after performances.
Be aware that your bags will be searched, so allow time for that.
Washington DC Visitor Guides
If you're coming in from out of town, here are some of the most popular guidebooks that can help you make the most of your visit.
- Elise Hartman Ford
- Publisher: FrommerMedia
- DK Eyewitness
- Publisher: DK Eyewitness Travel
- Lonely Planet, Karla Zimmerman, Virginia Maxwell, Amy C Balfour
- Publisher: Lonely Planet
- Van Dam Stephan
- Publisher: VanDam, Inc.
And here are some interesting options for less traditional guidesbooks if you'd like an emphasis on exploring DC on foot or diving into some of the region's rich history.
- NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
- Barbara Noe Kennedy