I am going to Washington, D.C. again. Yes again, I’ve been several times. Each a little more special than the time before. I’m not always a huge fan of traveling to cities (preferring more remote, nature-filled areas), D.C. is for some reason different. It captured my heart the first time I was there. It might have been the museums, the history, or maybe the fact that at one point I wanted more than anything to work there. In a city that thrives on power and politics I feel the romance of bygone times. I know there are thousands of websites that give suggestions of places to go, but I’m going to give you my highlights and I truly hope they help you discover this city for the first time, or maybe the 100th time in a new light.
The National Mall & Tidal Basin – Everyone says go, but do yourself a favor…plan an evening of it.
Take the Metro down and start at the Washington Monument about an hour before sundown. After extensive remodeling, they reopened the observation level last summer I believe. I went up before it was redone. I would love to say that it was worth the wait but the windows at the time where worn to the point it was hard to see out of them. If you really want to do this, great, but you aren’t going to be missing much if you don’t go.
Take a walk to the World World II Memorial. It is beautiful and touching. The symbolism throughout the structure is fascinating. From here you will be able to see the Washington Monument one way and the Lincoln Monument the other way. Don’t get in the pool – it’s disrespectful. You will find the columns each with a state’s name engraved on it – get your picture with your state. There is a wall of stars, each representing 1,000 Americans that gave their life during the war. There are two pavilions, one representing the Atlantic Theater and the other the Pacific Theater. All in all, a very well laid out memorial.
Leisurely walk through the paths to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Take a moment, pause, run your fingers over the engravings of the veterans’ names, watch others look for their loved one’s name, look at the mementos that have been left along the wall. It’s the least you can do. Just take a moment and recognize their sacrifice.
At this point, the sun should start dipping down and painting the clouds with beautiful colors. Continue around to the Lincoln Memorial. Climb the stairs and realize how small you are in comparison. Look out over the Reflection Pool, think of Lincoln’s legacy of course, but also of Martin Luther King’s speech. Think of the how far we have come since the end of the Civil War or even the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. While no one can say there isn’t still room for improvement, no one can deny there hasn’t been progress.
Then you start down the other side of the Mall, you’ll come to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. It shows soldiers in full gear. Included are the statistics of the dead, wounded, captured and missing. Also included is a quote “Freedom Is Not Free”. With everything going on in our world still, it’s a quote that can take the wind out of a person.
The new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial will be next. It was dedicated in 2011 (on the 48th anniversary of his March on Washington), making it one of the newest monuments in D.C. In a profound statement to his unfinished work here on earth, his granite monument is purposely unfinished.
This will lead you to my favorite monument, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. By this time the sun will be down and it will be dark…take a flashlight or use the one on your phone as the walkway around the basin isn’t well lit. The monument however glows at night. Thomas Jefferson’s statue stands in the center, surrounded by inscriptions from letters to George Washington, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, and the Declaration of Independence. You will have an amazing view of the Washington Monument from the Jefferson Memorial. This is one of the most romantic areas of Washington in my book. Very few people out in the evening, the glow of the monuments, and I will find out this weekend what it’s like when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
So that concludes our evening tour of the National Mall. I hope you’ll find time to make the walk…again in the evening. It’s special and something everyone should see once in their life. It will leave you feeling inspired, nostalgic, and reenergized for another great day in the city. Don’t forget to wear comfy shoes! It’s a lot of walking!
*PS – the pictures that are not mine, I linked back to the source where I found them.