With monuments, memorials, gardens and more, the National Mall and Memorial Parks cover over 1,000 acres. Take a walk through “America’s Front Yard” and discover just a small sample of the national park sites there!Less
Starting on the west side of the Mall on the Potomac River, the Lincoln Memorial looks out on the iconic Reflecting Pool. A tribute to America’s 16th president, the memorial has served as the backdrop for countless milestones in our nation’s history, including a 1939 concert from African American opera singer Marion Anderson. Make sure to find the inscription on the steps where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.
Heading slightly north as you amble around the Reflecting Pool eastward, make sure to stop by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Designed by Maya Lin, the simple, elegant, and powerful design of the memorial allows “everyone to respond and remember.” Close by, you’ll find the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, honoring the women who served many different roles in the Vietnam War, and Frederick Hart’s statue of Three Servicemen, honoring those who fought and returned from the war.
Continuing down the length of the Reflecting Pool towards the Washington Monument, take a moment to stop and smell the flowers nestled in Constitution Gardens. A living legacy to the founding of the republic, an artificial lake hosts a memorial island with stones bearing the names and signatures of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence. Fun fact: the 50 acres of the park were originally beneath the Potomac River!
Just past the Constitution Gardens, at the east end of the Reflecting Pool, lies the World War II Memorial. Honoring the millions who served during World War II, the home front support, and 400,000 American’s ultimate sacrifice, the memorial features 56 granite pillars surrounding a pool. Bronze bas-relief panels tell the story of America’s experience in the war, and “Atlantic” and “Pacific” arches climb toward the sky. A wall of stars reminds visitors of the price Americans paid to win the war.
Moving east towards the Capitol building, you can’t miss the centerpiece of the National Mall – the Washington Monument. Honoring America’s first president, the monument is the tallest structure in Washington, D.C. and offers unparalleled views of the area. Just head on up to the top of the obelisk in an elevator and take in the sights of the nation’s capital. Pro tip: get your reservations for the elevator in advance!
Looking north from the Washington Monument, you’ll spot President’s Park and the White House. Home to every president except George Washington, the White House is significant for its Federal architecture and as a symbol of the presidency. The surrounding President’s Park has served many purposes and seen many famous figures – from women’s suffragists, freedom riders, and anti-war protesters to celebratory audiences around the lighting of the National Christmas Tree and Easter egg roll.
South of the Washington Monument, around the Tidal Basin that is home to the city’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival, you’ll come across the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. The first president to be inaugurated at the nearby Capitol, Jefferson was an avid student of architecture, and elements of his influential designs appear in the memorial. A circular colonnade of Ionic columns supports a shallow dome, and in the center stands a bronze statue of Jefferson clutching the Declaration of Independence.
Following along the rim of the Tidal Basin, looping back northwest towards the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll encounter the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. A memorial to both Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and Eleanor Roosevelt, the memorial traces major elements of FDR’s four terms of office through a sequence of outdoor “rooms.” The memorial features sculptures of FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, and even the Roosevelt’s dog, Fala.
Continuing along the edge of the Tidal Basin north, you’ll find the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The first memorial on the National Mall to honor an African American, the memorial honors the legacy of Dr. King and the struggle for freedom, equality, and justice. Featuring a striking likeness of Dr. King carved in a “Stone of Hope,” opposite a “Mountain of Despair,” the memorial references Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and symbolizes a victory borne from disappointment.
Finishing the loop you’ve made around the National Mall, heading back west towards the Lincoln Memorial you’ll encounter the Korean War Veterans Memorial. At the end of the war, a million and a half American veterans returned to a peacetime world in a country long reluctant to view the Korean War as something to memorialize. This memorial honors those who worked and fought under the trying circumstances of the Korean War and those who gave their lives for the cause of freedom.