Special events are considered activities that are generally outside of the normal visitor experience or intended use of the park. They are often organized and take many forms, including festivals, sporting events, historical reenactments, performances, parades, and more. These types of events require a permit and discussions with a permits specialist to determine the best location for the event based on available areas, number of participants, and many other factors.
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 and a minimum of two days from the first day of setup.
A non-refundable application processing fee 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.
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
Special events may take place throughout National Mall & Memorial Parks; however, there may be special requirements or restrictions for different areas, such as crowd capacity, equipment requirements, turf protection considerations
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)
Special events include basically any type of activity not classified as a first amendment demonstration. Special events include sports events, pageants, celebrations, historical reenactments, regattas, entertainments, exhibitions, parades, fairs, festivals, and similar events; are engaged in by one or more persons; and have the intent or propensity to draw a crowd of onlookers.
Corporate sponsors can be recognized on signage throughout the event as long as the National Park Service 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. The lettering or design identifying the sponsor must be no larger than one-third the size of the lettering or design identifying the special event.
Nonprofits can have signs without restrictions.
Merchandise may not be sold during the event. However, as part of a special event or demonstration permit, they may sell books, newspapers, leaflets, pamphlets, buttons, and bumper stickers containing a message related to the activity.
Events cannot charge admission fees on parkland.
Insurance is required for most special events however some small scale events like wreath laying events, band performances and reenlistment ceremonies may not require insurance. 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: March 6, 2020