Tour the Monuments with us in Washington, D.C.!

Tour the Monuments With Us in Washington, DC!

During a recent visit to our nation’s capital we saw the beautiful monuments many times.  We could see the Washington Monument from our hotel room window and frequently saw the Capitol Building during our walks around town.  The monuments in Washington, D.C. stand for so much:  freedom, justice, and civil rights, as well as honoring those who cultivated our country and those who perished in times of war.

 Monuments on the National Mall

There are over 100 monuments to see in Washington, D.C.!  With many located within the National Mall, seeing the major monuments and memorials can be done in a day if only observing quickly.  But if you want to take your time visiting the monuments, listen to veterans give talks, or do extra things such as a Capitol tour, going up the Washington Monument, or seeing the Monuments by Moonlight on the Old Town Trolley Tour, you will want to spend a couple of days doing so.

What is the National Mall?

Map of the National Mall – The large, green rectangle

The National Mall is a 2 mile rectangular park area flanked with monuments, memorials, and museums along the way.  To the east is the U.S. Capitol and to the west is the Lincoln Memorial, with everything else in between.  Nicknamed “America’s Front Yard”, it is an inviting space with jogging and walking paths snaking through the mall, benches for resting, as well as massive grassy areas to hang out on.  

With over 100 monuments and memorials in the Washington, D.C. area, we share the ones we think are a must see.  Now, it’s time to tour the monuments!

The U.S. Capitol Building

Marking the east end of the National Mall, sitting up on Capitol Hill, is our nation’s Capitol.  This is where the House of Representatives and the Senate, together known as Congress, create the laws that govern our country.  

The U.S. Capitol

We toured the Capitol building, which was the highlight of the trip!  In order to tour the Capitol, we contacted our state senator’s office and were given official approval of our tour two weeks before our visit.  If you can get a tour here, do it!  Being in the center of where America’s laws are created was a bucket list experience for sure.  

The Washington Monument

At 555 feet tall, the Washington Monument is the central focal point of the National Mall. 

The center of the National Mall, the Washington Monument

Built to honor our country’s first president, George Washington, the Washington Monument incurred some hold ups along the way.  Its conception took place in 1848 with private donations funding the project.  However, after donations ran out and America found itself in the midst of the Civil War, the project was halted.  It was finally completed thanks to Congress taking over the project and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers completing the build.  It was dedicated in 1885, with many notables present at the dedication, including Abraham Lincoln.

Seeing the tiny people gives the monument some size perspective

TRAVEL TIP:  If you want to go up the Washington Monument it is recommended to secure tickets ahead of time on the website.   Same day, walk-up tickets are available at the Washington Monument Lodge, however not guarenteed.

The Lincoln Memorial

A most recognizable memorial, thanks to its location on the back of the U.S. one cent piece, the penny, the Lincoln Memorial was erected to honor our nation’s 16th president. 

The beautiful Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is a stunning site, day or night.  When standing from afar you can see the Abraham Lincoln statue peeking out from behind the columns.  Once inside, it’s peaceful to read the inscriptions on the wall and see the statue up close.

The beautiful Abraham Lincoln statue in the Lincoln Memorial

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is simple yet moving.  The black granite wall lists all 58,318 service men and women who died in the Vietnam War.  A somber fact is that two-thirds of the soldiers were drafted.  

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial with the Washington Monument reflected in it

Across from the wall is the Three Soldier’s Monument.  The three statues are featured wearing jungle fatigues and are facing the wall, seeming to view the inscriptions of all those lives lost.   While the faces have defining facial features, they are meant to represent any solider.  It’s a heavy time in U.S. History with over 58,000 Americans ging their lives in the name of hope and freedom.  This memorial honors and remembers them for the ultimate sacrifice.  

The wall with my family viewing it and the Washington Monument in the distance

The Vietnam War Memorial is located near the Lincoln Memorial, so great to combine with a visit there.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr. was known for his tireless work in civil rights.  This monument, erected in 2011, is beautiful, but I think it especially warrants a visit at night.  

The Martin Luther King, Jr. statue aglow

The creator of the statue left the lower half of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s body unfinished.  His reasoning:  Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work was left unfinished so leaving the lower half of the statue unfinished represents that.

A beautiful memorial of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr.

World War II Memorial

This memorial feels more like a park, which allows visitors to flow through it as they wish.  Each U.S. state and territory at the time of WWII, as well as the District of Columbia, is represented with a stone column with a bronze wreath adoring it.  To the east is the Washington Monument and to the west is the Lincoln Memorial, sitting right in front of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.  This memorial is dedicated to the 16 million people who served and sacrificed during WWII.

The WWII Memorial in the foreground of the photo with the Washington Monument in the distance

Korean War Vets Memorial

This memorial was dedicated to honor those who served during the Korean War and has four parts to it.  The Statues are wearing what is meant to look like wind-blown ponchos as they symbolize walking through rice paddies in Korea.  “Rice paddies” were created with granite strips and juniper bushes with the statues “walking” through them.  The statues seem to have haunted looks on their faces, due to the atrocities of the war.  The black wall is another section of the memorial and it contains etchings based on photographs from the war.  It is viewed as if there are 38 statues, which represents the 38th parallel as well as the 38 months of the Korean War.  Finally, the Pool of Remembrance and the United Nations Wall complete the Korean War Memorial.  

The Korean War Vets Memorial is located near the Lincoln Memorial, so great to combine with a visit there.

Monuments by Moonlight

A great way to view the most iconic monuments in Washington, D.C. is with a Monuments by Moonlight Old Town Trolley tour.  This tour takes place in the evening, once it becomes dark, to see the monuments beautifully lit up.  The tour departs from the Washington Welcome Center on E St. NW and lasts about two and a half hours.  We purchased our tickets ahead of time to secure our date, although walk up tickets are available (if there is room).  Check out the Old Town Trolley Tour’s website for up-to-date information and to secure tickets.

The tour began with touring around the U.S. Capitol building.  Our guide offered fantastic narration, explaining the different sections of the building and where the House of Representatives and Senate sections are located.  We also learned about the surrounding buildings such as the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court.

The Capitol building, all lit up at night

We then went around the Tidal Basin, a body of water known for the location of the Cherry Blossom Festival each spring.  We saw the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument lit up in the distance with the reflection of the Tidal Basin in the foreground.

The Washington Monument as seen from the Tidal Basin

We were given about 30 minutes to explore the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Monument and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument.  The two are easily visited together, thanks to the walking path between the two memorials along the Tidal Basin.  

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

TRAVEL TIP:  The best bathrooms are located at this stop!

From here, we crossed into Virginia, cruised past a very dark Arlington National Cemetery where our guide shared the incredible feat of becoming a guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and finally stopped at the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial.  Unfortunately, it was not lit up, which our tour guide also expressed his frustrations at.  He mentioned that certain monuments haven’t been lit as they should be and there doesn’t seem to be rhyme or reason to it.  It was still beautiful to see it, silhouetted against the city lights behind it.  This monument has a cloth American flag flying from it 24 hours a day.  The hill the soldiers climbed to plant the American flag in the iconic photo that this statue is based off was about the height of the Washington Monument, which the memorial faces.  

Our last stop took us to the Lincoln Memorial.  This memorial is magnificent lit up at night.  We were given about 30 minutes to explore the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Korean War Memorial.  We preferred viewing the latter during the day and just spent our evening time at the Lincoln Memorial.

The Lincoln Memorial is especially lovely lit up at night

The view from the Lincoln Memorial looking out at the reflecting pool with the Washington Monument in the distance is also a beautiful sight. 

The Washington Monument as seen from the Lincoln Memorial at night

On the rest of the trolley tour, we cruised past the White House, National Archives, and many museums along the way.  We received  fantastic narration and were given great history and facts throughout the tour.  We highly recommend the Monuments by Moonlight Old Town Trolley Tour!

Visiting the monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C. are a great way to honor those who worked hard to provide freedom and hope in the United States.  From the Capitol at the east end of the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial on the west end, and the other memorials in between, respectfully visiting these monuments is a must during a visit to Washington, D.C.

Read More!

We share our two-day itinerary for a long weekend in Washington, D.C., which was full of great things to see and do and perfect for teens!  Be sure to read this post for more, Two Days in Washington, D.C. with Teens.

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