All off the National Memorials are free to visit (the only place on this blog that requires a fee to tour is the Washington National Cathedral), and most are easy to see in less than a full day. The circulator bus is $1/person/ride and provides easy access to all of the monuments around the Tidal Basin and Reflecting Pool. Use the National Parks Jr. Ranger Program as a tool to guide kids through each monument.
Monuments Tour- The Tidal Basin
Our preferred route is to take the Circulator bus to Thomas Jefferson Memorial, located on a small peninsula in the Tidal Basin, and continue back toward the National Mall.
From the Jefferson Memorial we continue along the Tidal Basin to walk through the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, a series of outdoor rooms that tell the story of his presidency, including the Great Depression, the New Deal, and World War II. The monument was dedicated in 1997, but it wasn’t until 2001 that a sculpture was added of FDR in a wheelchair, after advocation from the National Organization on Disability.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is usually our next stop, and we take time to read the quotes on the walls behind the monument. The National Parks website provides a good overview of the history, construction, and symbolism of the Memorial.
Monument Tour- The Reflecting Pool
From there, we cross Independence Avenue to walk through the Korean War Veterans Memorial and to the Lincoln Memorial.
On each side of the nearly 20-foot sculpture of Abraham Lincoln are inscribed his two most important speeches, the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address. From the steps of the memorial visitors see the iconic view of the reflecting pool and the Washington Monument.
Just along the walk on the Reflecting Pool is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where the inscriptions of the 58,319 Americans names who were declared dead or Missing in Action are inscribed. Between the end of the reflecting pool and the Washington Monument is the World War II Memorial. Each US state or territory is represented by a column, with a fountain in the center.
You can preview an experience at the the Washington Monument by watching Spiderman: Homecoming. The viewing area at the top of the Monument has been closed frequently since 2011 after it suffered damage from an earthquake. Since then it has undergone additional construction and closed due to security concerns and COVID. It reopened in July of 2021, but tickets can only be purchased in advance online or by telephone.
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery is directly across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial, and can be reached by DC Metro on the Blue line. The visitor center and grounds are currently open 9am-5pm, with the Changing of the Guard every hour or every thirty minutes, depending on the season. Many Monuments and Memorials throughout the cemetary reflect on the lives lost in our Nation’s tragedies and recognizing the heroism of those who have served.
Washington National Cathedral
The National Cathedral is a non-denominational spiritual worship space. Construction began over 80 years ago. Ticketed entry (prior to COVID) allowed visitors to explore the museum at their own pace, or meet for guided tours at designated times. The website has an excellent description of the areas of interest in the cathedral. The bookshop is one of my favorites in Washington DC, with selections ranging from spirituality to recipes and crafts to promote wellness. On our last visit in 2019, we were able to donate to purchase one of the LEGO® bricks to add to their ongoing 500,000 piece replication of the Cathedral.
Let me help plan your trip to Washington DC
american history tour
Library of Congress, National Archives, Lincoln Memorial, War Memorials, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
American Culture Tour
National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle), Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, National Cathedral.
Smithsonian Art Museums: The Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, The National Museum of African Art, National Museum of Asian Art, Portrait Gallery , American Art Museum Renwick Gallery, The National Gallery of Art
In & Around Waschington DC
Cherry Blossom Festival (Spring), Chinatown, Georgetown, Arlington, Mount Vernon, Alexandria