It is really worth allocating time on your itinerary to do the full National Mall walk. You can do parts of the walk on your way to other sites, but I’d recommend planning the Mall walk as a ‘to do’ item on its own because it does take some time. The monuments might look close together on a map, but the walk is about 2.5 miles and you will also need time to read and reflect.
It is hard not to experience a full range of emotions if you visit each of the memorials.
Some, like the the Martin Luther King Memorial carry such inspiring words and others, like the Vietnam Memorial wall, with its list of names, speak to the carnage and loss of war. You will be in awe at some, moved or saddened by others and even angry at the loss of lives.
The thing about the National Mall is that each memorial is so different but they are all very moving in very different ways.
Suggested walking map:
i) Vietnam Memorial Wall and sculptures - We started here. This saved time because we didn't have to double back on ourselves. It was also a convenient entry to the mall after seeing the White House
ii) Lincoln Memorial - From the steps, you can look straight down the Reflection Pool towards the Capitol at the opposite end of the mall – a wonderful visual link between two and it makes a beautiful photo.
iii) Korean War Memorial
iv) Cross the road to the Martin Luther King Memorial
v) Jefferson and the Roosevelt Memorials - If you have time you can walk to these. However, if like us, you are running out of time, then you can simply look across the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial, from the MLK Memorial and then go back across the road to the WWII Memorial
vi) WWII Memorial
vii) Washington Monument - Normally you can ride the elevator to the top of this monument but it was closed when we were there and is not due to re-open until 2019.
viii) The Smithsonians - Depending on your timetable and itinerary, you can finish the walk at this point to visit one of the museums or you can continue on to the Capitol building. We continued on as we had passes for the Senate.
ix) Capitol Building and gardens
• Entry is free.
• If it is a wet day and you can juggle your itinerary, then wait for a brighter day. There is nowhere to shelter during rain and on a fine day, your photos will look much better.
• We were there in winter in Feb and the Reflection Pool was mostly drained – it would be more beautiful in summer
• Consider checking out some of them by night because some like the Washington obelisk are illuminated and look lovely in the evening
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