Washington DC – The National Mall and Memorial Parks

This was not our first trip to DC, but it was the most amount of time we spent in the city to date, exploring the monuments, memorials, and museums on the National Mall.

According to the National Park Service website, “This is where the nation comes to remember and where history is made. As America’s Front Yard, the National Mall and Memorial Parks is home to many of our country’s most iconic memorials telling the story of people and events that shaped us as a nation. Each year, millions of people come to recreate, commemorate presidential legacies, honor our veterans, and make their voices heard.”

It was wonderfully walkable. The National Mall includes a wide grassy lawn and pedestrian parkway that runs a mile from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument in the center. It also includes the marvelous museums of the Smithsonian which I’ll save for another time.

I wish all Americans could visit our nation’s capital at least once, but if you can’t, hopefully this post will give you a good taste.

I’ll start with a bird’s eye view. In the first photo you can see the Lincoln Memorial in the foreground, with the Capitol in the distance far behind the Washington Monument. The second photo shows the Tidal Basin, including Jefferson Memorial.

Pictures in the galleries can be enlarged by clicking on them.

We walked this area again and again, under sunshine and blue skies; from the Capitol to the monuments, with stops by the wonderful art galleries and museums.

I’ll share the monuments and memorials in the order in which we found them on our first day’s walk around the National Mall.

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument honors George Washington, hero of the American Revolution and first president of the United States. When this stunning obelisk was completed in 1884, it was the tallest building in the world.” National Park Service

Lincoln Memorial

“In this temple…as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”

Beneath these words, the 16th president of the United States sits immortalized in marble as an enduring symbol of unity, strength, and wisdom. Here a grateful nation honors a martyred president who guided the country through civil war and freed 4 million enslaved persons.” National Park Service website

Even the steps of the Lincoln Memorial are historic. It was here that Marian Anderson performed in 1939 after being denied the right to sing at Constitution Hall, and where Martin Luther King gave his speech, ‘I Have a Dream.’

Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the most important and inspirational leaders of the modern civil rights movement, Dr. King’s memorial was established more than 50 years after his death. The man and his statue are indeed larger than life.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“President Bill Clinton dedicated the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial on May 2, 1997. Different from the previous presidential memorials, the FDR Memorial uses elements of stone, water, and landscaping to tell the story of FDR’s presidency in a more approachable way. Quotes are at eye level and the statues are at or close to ground level and were meant to be touched. The memorial consists of five outdoor rooms- one as a prologue and four for the unprecedented four terms of FDR. The fountains and pools placed throughout the memorial represent the important role water played in FDR’s life. The water features and the stones also help set the tone during different times in his presidency, from the reflection to chaos.” National Park Service website

Jefferson Memorial

Thomas Jefferson, our third President, was also a political philosopher, scientist, diplomat, horticulturist and inventor. The memorial was dedicated on April 13, 1943, on the 200th anniversary of his birth. Jefferson had this inscribed on his own tombstone, “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.”

The War Memorials

As we walked on the National Mall, we also stopped by several moving memorials, dedicated to the veterans of World War 2, Vietnam, and Korea.

I can’t tell you how many times I had tears in my eyes as I read the many inscriptions at the memorials and when considering the thousands of young men who gave their lives for our country. It was powerful, sobering, and inspiring. Yes, war is sometimes necessary, but that doesn’t change the harsh reality of its ugliness; the words below are from FDR.

I know this ran long but I hope you enjoyed this tour of the monuments and memorials of Washington DC. I’ll be back another time with highlights from the museums.

And because this city belongs to all Americans, I am sharing #OurTown for Sunday Stills.

~ Susanne

28 Comments on “Washington DC – The National Mall and Memorial Parks

    • My first trip was back in the 70’s but I honestly don’t remember much, except I think we went into the White House. Unfortunately, no pictures.

  1. I have actually been there one time in 2010. 🙂

  2. Not only an incredible walk through out nations history – but all of the national museums are free to the people!

    • Yes! Some of the best museums in the world, and free to all! I’ll be sharing some highlights from those in a coming post! 🙂 🙂

  3. It always looks impressive to a foreigner, Susanne. Much like London appeals to tourists and residents alike.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Yes, it truly is an international city just like London is! Even though I’ve been before, I was most impressed on this trip since we spent several days exploring the Mall.

  4. Pingback: Sunday Stills: In My Little #Town – Second Wind Leisure Perspectives

  5. Well your trip and the SS theme were good timing for you to participate, Susanne! I love your shots from the airplane(?) to see the mall from the air. I was there in October 2008 for a few days in Baltimore to present for a recreation and parks conference–I took the train to DC on one day and rode around on the Red, White and Blue bus system. I got to see WA memorial but I didn’t have enough time to see the Lincoln. I did see the Smithsonian complex, Arlington Nat’l Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Kennedy eternal flame. I also had lunch within spitting distance of the capitol complex. Thanks for the tour and sharing the images of MLK and FDR memorials! I look forward to seeing more of yours.

    • Thanks Terri, I wondered if DC would fit the theme since it’s not my hometown, but then I thought, ‘hey wait, it’s America’s town!’ Yes, I took those 2 shots from above while we were circling to land. We were up there longer than normal as some VIP activity closed the airport for a while and it gave me more opportunities, though I only had my phone. There’s so much to see in DC it’s hard to fit it all in no matter how long you have, so you did well. 🙂 We covered a lot of ground on this trip with the memorials, museums and art galleries, all on foot. We didn’t make it to Arlington this time but did on earlier trips. I hope to do highlights from the museums in a coming post.

      • I covered a lot of ground, mostly by bus, that would drop off people then another pickup in 20 minutes. It worked for me. It was a good overview, but you definitely need to spend a few days. I would love to wander the Smithsonian! Great post to show America’s town!

  6. Wonderful tour Susanne. I’ve never been to ‘The other Washington’ but this is as good as being there.

  7. What a great set of photos this is to inspire anyone to visit DC! I’m not an American but I would really like to do so one day. I’ve seen images of most of these memorials before but the Martin Luther King one is new to me and looks amazing. I love the light in your birds eye view shots too 🙂

  8. Very late commenting from last week….lol. I’ve always wanted to visit DC. These are great

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