Probably the most quintessential Washington, D.C. experience is visiting the National Mall. Not surprising, since half of America’s top 12 favorite architectural spots—the Monuments—are within walking distance. To make the most out of your experience, here’s our favorite way to experience these American gems.
There really isn’t a bad time to visit the monuments, but they are particularly spectacular in the early morning, 1-2 hours before sunset, or at night when they are lit up.
First off, you must get there. If you’re taking the metro, there are several stops right off the National Mall: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, L’Enfant Plaza, McPherson Square, and Capitol South just to name a few. If you’re driving or taking a taxi, we recommend parking or getting dropped off over by the Jefferson Memorial. This is our favorite place to start since it’s a bit of an outlier, and it gives you a good starting point to walk around the Tidal Basin.
As you make your way around the Tidal Basin towards the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll run right into the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. All are must-sees on any monument tour.
From the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll get a stunning view of the Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument. As you continue east along Constitution Avenue NW, you’ll come across the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Constitution Gardens. When you get to 17th Street NW, there’s an option to turn north to see The Ellipse and the White House.
If you turn south on 17th Street NW, you’ll find yourself between the World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument. The World War II Memorial is beautiful during the day, but it’s absolutely stunning at night. From here, you can also catch the iconic view of the Lincoln Memorial behind the Reflecting Pool. It doesn’t get more Washington than that.
Tips and Tricks:
- It’s probably best to save the Smithsonian Row and the Capitol for a different day, unless you aren’t afraid of breaking out your walking shoes.
- Public restrooms and small food kiosks are scattered along the National Mall, but it’s recommended to bring snacks and your own water.