Events on the National Mall and Memorial Parks are generally open to the public; however, private receptions can be held at Henry Bacon Ball Field Private Reception Area and West Potomac Park Private Reception Area with a permit.
Applying for a Permit
Submit an Application for a Permit to Conduct a Demonstration or Special Event in Park Areas (Special Event Permit Application) to the Division of Permits Management in person or mail:
National Mall and Memorial Parks
Applications can be delivered Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm, except federal holidays or other National Mall & Memorial Parks office closures. Special Event Permit Applications are not accepted via fax or email. Applications are accepted up to one year in advance inclusive of the first day of setup.
Application Processing Cost
A non-refundable application processing cost of $120 is required with the submission of the Special Event Permit Application. Follow the instructions on the application form for submitting a payment by credit card, check, or money order. Credit Card Form (not accepted via email).
A permits specialist will contact you if additional meetings, discussions, or documents are required and continue to walk you through the permit process. A permit must be issued prior to holding the activity in the park.
Things to Know Before Applying
A permits specialist will guide applicants through the permitting process and can also be contacted before applying to answer any questions. Please also review the Permits Resources related to your proposed activity.
Additional Required Documents and Steps
Depending on the size and scope of the event, the permits specialist may require additional meetings and more in-depth event plans prior to approving the permit, such as site layout, setup/cleanup schedule, equipment lists, etc.
Location and Location-Specific Requirements
Private events are only permitted at two locations on the National Mall and Memorial Parks and must be well-defined with fencing or tents to distinguish the private event to the regular park visitation. No collection of money is allowed on parkland, including selling tickets to the event which must be done outside of the park.
Henry Bacon Ball Field
A private reception area is located on the Henry Bacon Ball Field on 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue NE near the Lincoln Memorial. Equipment and setup must adhere to rules for Level 2 turf management.
West Potomac Park
A private reception area is located in West Potomac Park along Ohio Drive. Equipment and setup must adhere to rules for Level 3 turf management.
Food and Beverages
Catering and food preparation are allowed at the private reception areas and must meet the rules outlined in the National Capital Area Events Guidelines. Applicants are not required to fill out Temporary food establishment application but are encouraged to hire a licensed caterer or food establishment and follow basic food sanitation, Federal Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code and recommendation the NCR Public Health Service Officer. Food Trucks are permitted but must adhere to National Park Service sales regulations and resource protection guidelines.
Additional Associated Costs
A refundable cost recovery deposit may be required to pay for costs incurred by the National Park Service resulting from the activity, such as administrative cost (permit monitoring, utilities, management of activity), restoration and/or rehabilitation, or cleanup of parkland. Cost recovery is based on the size and scope of the event and can range from $500 to $500,000 or more.
Additional Planning Resources
A permits specialist will guide applicants through the permitting process and assist with event-specific details. Please also consult Permits Resources, including:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
All ticket sales must take place off parkland.
As part of a special event or demonstration permit you may sell books, newspapers, leaflets, pamphlets, buttons, and bumper stickers containing a message related to the activity.
Yes, soliciting donations on park land for a charity or for other types of organizations is allowed only with a valid permit for a special event or demonstration. Organizations or individuals engaging in onsite donation collection cannot
(a) Mislead or give false information regarding the purpose of the donation
(b) Require a donation in exchange for an item, if the item is available for free
(c) Require a donation for t-shirts, CDs, pens, art, food or any other item that is prohibited by the National Park Service sales regulation.
Food sales are not permitted at private receptions. All food and drink items must be prepaid or free of charge on parkland.
All parking spaces in the park are metered.
Corporate sponsors cannot advertise at events or sell merchandise other than books, newspapers, leaflets,pamphlets, buttons and bumper stickers. In addition corporate sponsors can be recognized on signage throughout the event as long as the NPS determines that the size and form of the recognition is consistent with the special nature and sanctity of the National Mall or any other requested park area, and if the lettering or design identifying the sponsor is no larger than one-third the size of the lettering or design identifying the special event. Nonprofits can have signs without restrictions.
Yes, insurance is required for all cultural food events and you can discuss the details with your permit specialist. More information about insurance can be found in the National Capital Area Events Guide.
Last updated: April 6, 2021