The National Mall is home to many of the Smithsonian Museums, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and several memorials and monuments.
A walk on the National Mall on a crisp cool day is such a great experience! Strolling past the Tidal Basin, reflecting on all of those historical events and people who influenced our country ... well, it's a walk like no other!
Some of my favorite include:
The Lincoln Memorial: Climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and wind up at the feet of our 16th president. The 19ft marble statute sits inside a Parthenon inspired structure that also contains text from Lincoln's 2nd inaugural speech and the Gettysburg Address. It's a majestic presence. Sit on the steps outside the memorial and you can almost picture the scene in Forest Gump where Forest and Kelly reunite here.
The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial: A stark and stunning sight, this striking black wall etched with 58,000 names of the fallen presents an emotional and touching remembrance of the sacrifices of this war.
The Korean War Memorial: One of the most stirring of the monuments, it consists of 19 statutes depicting a squad on patrol. They are so life like, you half expect them to stop and question where they've wound up on their hike.
The FDR Memorial: The way this memorial is set up gives visitors a walk through of FDR's presidency and legacy giving nods to his amazing wife Eleanor and their beloved family dog along the way.
The MLK Memorial: What a stunning sight! MLK breaking free and showing that he was a force to be reckoned with!
The WWII Memorial: Consisting of 56 pillars and a pair of small triumphal arches surrounding a plaza and fountain, it sitsbetween the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Lit up at night, it is quite a stately sight!
There is so much to see on the Mall, one could concentrate solely on this area during a 5-day vacation in DC and probably still leave things unseen. Museums, gardens, parks, and memorials. It was an amazing sight and it belongs to all of us! How lucky we are!
My absolute favorite memory of our trip to DC took place on the National Mall. We were taking a break from our morning at the Air and Space Museum and were eating freeze-dried ice cream (a space treat!) My 4 kids and their cousins were running around on the grass and I gathered them all in for a game of duck duck goose. We sat in a circle and as I watched them running and giggling with a view of the Capitol behind them, I just tried to take it all in. I took a picture and instagramed it too! Kids, green grass, blue sky, and the symbol of freedom. So thankful for our country!
There was just so much to see and do on the Mall that we had to really pick and choose what we did. We ended our trip not seeing everything we had actually planned or wanted to do! Guess that means we'll just have to go back.
Apart from the museums, etc, that surround the mall, just walking around enjoying the weather is nice. After spending a good part of our day at the Air & Space Museum we walked outside and sat on a bench. I was cleaning my camera lens as the kids ran around on the grass. Since we went in the Spring time it was chilly and windy, making it perfect for kites! We didn't have any to fly, but we liked watching other people fly theirs. It was the perfect day for it.
When you come to DC make a trip around the mall, whether you enter the buildings or not. Also, try to come with a gameplan if you do want to venture indoors, and remember to give yourself enough time at each as you may be surprised at the amount of time you spend there!
I wouldn't recommend taking your infants or toddlers to visit DC, but it's a very good experience for your older children. It's truly educational, but still enjoyable. So much can be covered in a single day, and a lot is in walking distance. Choose a Spring or Fall visit and take your time!
I love walking around the National Mall, there is so much to see, lots of interesting people to watch, and a lot of open space to play and run in the big city. My husband is a marathon runner and so spent a lot of time running around the Mall, I just mostly walked :) We took almost daily evening walks as we lived not far and it became a really lovely family routine. DC is one of my favorite big cities, I would love to move back there someday!
The truth is, you could spend weeks touring these sites and still not see everything. However, if you are on a short vacation, plan at least one or two days to visit the National Mall and Memorials. Start at the Park Ranger office at the base of the hill where the Washington Monument stands (not the Monument visitors center/gift shop; the park ranger office is on the opposite side, a dark grey stone building). The park rangers are on duty from 9:30am to 11:30pm. They will provide a map and other brochures that will guide you to each monument or memorial that you would like to see. At each location, additional park rangers and volunteers will be available to answer questions. To see if there are special events or guided tours available, visit the National Park Service website for information on their events calendar.
For families interested in the Junior Ranger program, try to print off the Jr Ranger booklet from the internet. It may cost you some money, however it is a big challenge to find a monument/memorial location that actually has the booklets in stock (they will have them at the Washington Monument NPS location because this is the ONLY location where they award the badge) If your child wants to complete this booklet, plan for at least 7 hours of walking and talking to park rangers. Not all the answers are in the museums or exhibit halls. Wear really comfortable shoes and plan to bring lots of water/snacks. Plan to park in ONE location and walk at least 5-6 miles. It is not practical to drive from location to location because a) finding a parking spot is next to impossible and b) you have to pay lots of $ to park each time. When we completed the Jr Ranger booklet, it was like we had run a marathon, but it was a lot of fun and a great sense of accomplishment.