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Difference between revisions of "Washington, D.C./National Mall"

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Washington, D.C. : National Mall
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(Get in: +mall map)
(By bus: trim, highlight a few key routes (and remove the ones that don't even come into contact with the Mall))
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[[Image:WW2 memorial.jpg|200px|thumb|World War II Memorial, Reflecting Pool, Lincoln Memorial]]
 
[[Image:WW2 memorial.jpg|200px|thumb|World War II Memorial, Reflecting Pool, Lincoln Memorial]]
'''National Mall''' is the monumental green space in [[Washington, D.C.]], stretching from the United States Capitol Building on the east end of the Mall, to the Lincoln Memorial and Potomac River on the west. The White House is connected to the National Mall by the Ellipse, which provides an uninterrupted view of the Washington Monument, a large obelisk, from the White House.  The Ellipse is located between 14th and 17th St NW, and north of Constitution Avenue. The Jefferson Memorial is located to the south of the Washington Monument, around the Tidal Basin.  East Potomac Park is a green space spanning the area from the Jefferson Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial, and around the Tidal Basin.  The East section of the National Mall, between the Washington Monument and the Capitol, is home to numerous Smithsonian museums, including the popular National Air & Space Museum, while the Reflecting Pool spans the western half of the Mall, from the National World War II Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial.
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The '''National Mall''' [http://www.nps.gov/mall/] is a National Park and the monumental green space at the heart of the city, the heart of the national psyche, and the heart of civic America. It stretches two miles just south of the White House, from the U.S. Capitol Building in the east to the Lincoln Memorial and Potomac River on the west. The park is home to the '''Smithsonian''', a huge collection of the nation's best (and free) museums, as well as most the country's most famous memorials and monuments. It is the number one destination for visitors in the city, and one of the biggest destinations in the country.
  
 
==Understand==
 
==Understand==
The National Mall is not a shopping center but rather a long grassy expanse stretching from Capitol Hill westward to the Potomac River. The Mall's central location and the many famous museums and monuments which surround it make the Mall a popular destination. If you want an "only in Washington" moment, take the Metro to the Smithsonian stop and walk out of the National Mall exit. The view is memorable.
 
  
A great way to see a lot during a limited stay is to visit museums during the day and monuments at night. The Smithsonian museums are generally open until 5pm, except for during summer months when they may be open until 7pm.  After finding a nice place to eat dinner, take a long walk to visit the monuments by night when they are most beautiful. Quite a few companies offer tours of the monuments at night, so you won't be alone. Carry an extra flashlight, though, as some parts of the mall are rather dark for effect. Seeing the monuments at night is also advantageous during Washington's hot, humid summers.
+
D.C.'s city planner, L'Enfant, planned the park as the cultural center of the city in the late 18th century, but while it today seems impossible to imagine the city without it, it took until the beginning of the 20th century for the government to get its act together under the McMillan Plan and to complete it. The plan at its most basic was to connect with grand vistas the three most highly symbolic monuments of the republic: the political center of the republic, the '''Capitol Building''', on the east; the monument to the founder of the republic, '''George Washington''', at the center; and the monument to the leader who saved the republic, '''Abraham Lincoln''', on the west. The latter was, of course, not part of the original L'Enfant plan, but was rather built in the newly conceived western portion of the Mall (West Potomac Park), and was completed in 1922. The collection of monuments has expanded with the times to include enormous constructions for other presidents, the most notable being those for '''Thomas Jefferson''' and for '''Franklin Delano Roosevelt''', as well as recent wars: '''World War II''', the '''Korean War''', and the '''Vietnam War''' (arguably the most moving memorial in the city). Construction continues with the tide of history—expect a new monumental sculpture of '''Martin Luther King, Jr.''' in the next year or so.
  
A word of warning: the National Mall is deceptively large (over 2 miles end-to-end (3.2 Km)), an illusion that is reinforced by the sheer size of the Capitol building and the Washington and Lincoln memorials. Walking the mall is certainly a great way to see the sights, but be advised that what seems to be a short stroll can quickly turn into a long, painful march in the sun on a humid D.C. summer day.
+
Aside from the political levers of power, the main tenant on the Mall is the '''Smithsonian Institute''', a government run research and educational institution established in 1846 for the "increase & diffusion of Knowledge among men." Starting out with a mere one castle to its name, the Smithsonian has over the past 100 years established an extraordinary collection of public museums unparalleled in size and scope throughout the history of the world, the majority of which are in the one mile stretch of this park, east of the Washington Monument. The public favorites are the '''National Air and Space Museum''' and the '''Museum of Natural History''', famed for their respective collections of U.S. spacecraft and magnificent collections of complete dinosaur fossils. The expansion continues, with the brand new '''Museum of the American Indian''' and the much anticipated '''Museum of African American History''', slated for completion in 2015.
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Monuments, museums, and memorials can easily distract a tourist from the actual significance of the Mall for the country. The Mall is not simply a tribute to American history, it is where American history is made. The three branches of the government find their headquarters here, and the president as well as the country's congressional representatives and senators look out from their workplace upon the park. The Mall serves as the principal gathering space for the nation's most important civic events, especially major protests and, of course, inaugural events. Likely the most powerful event to occur on the Mall in recent memory was the 1963 '''March on Washington''', where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his '''I Have a Dream''' speech, although perhaps Vietnam War protesters and Obama supporters might disagree.
  
 
==Get in==
 
==Get in==
[[Image:National Mall map.png|thumb|400px]]
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[[Image:National Mall map.png|thumb|center|600px]]
===By metro===
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The east end of the National Mall is easily accessible via the Washington Metro system, with the Smithsonian station located directly on the Mall, near the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian Castle.  But, the Smithsonian station is not the only option, and depending on your specific destination, it may not be the best choice.
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If you are heading to the U.S. Capitol or other places at the far east end of the Mall, including the National Museum of the American Indian and the U.S. Botanic Garden, then your best bet is to get off at the Federal Center station on the Blue/Orange line, and head north a couple blocks on 3rd Street until you get to the Mall. The L'Enfant Plaza Station is convenient to the National Air & Space Museum.  If your destination is the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, National Gallery of Art, Newseum, and other places at the east end of the National Mall and Penn Quarter, then getting off at Union Station is a good choice.  When you come out of Union Station, you should see the U.S. Capitol Building, and the Russell Senate Building across the open plaza area.  Cross at 1st St NE, and continue along Louisiana Ave to Constitution Avenue to get over to the Mall and Capitol Reflecting Pool area, or you can cut through the plaza and by the Russell Building to get over to the Capitol Building or Supreme Court.
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The Metro is extremely convenient to the Mall (it was designed that way), and is by far the superior option to driving or even taking the bus. Even taxis are often less convenient, owing to the awful traffic.
  
To get to the National Gallery of Art, you can get off at either the Gallery Place-Chinatown (if arriving on the Red Line) or Archives/Navy Memorial station.  Head south on 7th Street to Constitution Avenue, and the Gallery will be on your left (to the east).  The National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Gallery is on the west side of 7th Street.  If you are heading to the National Museum of Natural History (coming via the Red Line), you can get out at the 9th St exit of the Gallery Place-Chinatown station, then walk south on 9th St to Constitution Avenue, where you turn right and you will see the museum ahead on the left.  You can also get off at Metro Center, come out one of the 12th St exits, and go south on 12th St until you get to Constitution Avenue, and you will see the museum on the left.  If arriving via the Orange or Blue Lines, then get off at the Federal Triangle station, and the Archives/Navy Memorial Station is a good choice if coming on the Green or Yellow Lines.  The Metro Center and Federal Triangle stations are also convenient to the National Museum of American History, which is located on Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th St NW. 
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===By metro===
  
The Smithsonian station is convenient to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the National Museum of African American Art, the Smithsonian Castle, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, as well as the Washington Monument. It's a 5-10 minute walk from the Smithsonian station to the National World War II Memorial, via Independence Avenue or cutting across the Washington Monument grounds, and this also gets you over towards the Reflecting Pool and the western half of the Mall. It's also a 10 minute walk from the Smithsonian station to the Jefferson Memorial and the Tidal Basin, if you get over to 14th Street, and then turn left and proceed straight ahead.
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The main Metro stop for the Mall is the '''Smithsonian''' station on the Blue/Orange Line, which drops you out on the east end of the Mall, right by all the museums. The Smithsonian station is relatively close to the center of the park, so you won't have to walk much more than a mile to get to any sights (although a mile on a hot summer day can be an unpleasant walk!). One stop [[Washington, D.C./Waterfront|south of Smithsonian]] on the Orange/Blue lines is '''Federal Center''', which is very close to the southeast end of the Mall. If taking the Green/Yellow Line, Archives/Navy Memorial on the [[Washington, D.C./East End|north]] and L'Enfant Plaza on the [[Washington, D.C./Waterfront|south]] are both very close to the museums.  
  
If you are going to the Lincoln Memorial, the closest station may actually be the Arlington Cemetery station, located across the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Virginia. The Foggy Bottom station is a similar distance, located north on 23rd Street. Either station is a good 10 minute walk from the Lincoln Memorial, or you could stroll east on the Mall, back to the Smithsonian station.
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West Potomac Park is rather poorly served by Metro. If you are going to the Lincoln Memorial, the closest station is actually across the border in [[Virginia]] at the Blue Line [[Arlington (Virginia)|Arlington Cemetery station]], just across the Arlington Memorial Bridge (which has good views). The Blue/Orange Line Foggy Bottom station in the [[Washington, D.C./West End|West End]] is a similar distance to the north. Either is a good ten minute walk from the Lincoln Memorial.
  
For the White House, you can take Metro to the Metro Center station.  The White House Visitors Center is located in the Commerce Building, on Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th St NW, across from Pershing Park.  Or, if you just want to see Lafayette Park and/or the Ellipse, then head out of Metro Center, go west on G Street, and you will get to 15th Street.  Cross 15th Street at G St and the Pennsylvania Avenue and Lafayette Park side of the White House is straight ahead.  If you wish to see the Ellipse, then go left on 15th Street, and the Ellipse will be on your right.  The McPherson Square and Farragut West stations are also convenient to the White House and Lafayette Park.
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If you want to start your Mall journey at the White House, the visitor center is just west of the Red/Blue/Orange Line Metro Center station.
  
 
===By car===
 
===By car===
Parking around the mall is extremely limited during the day on weekdays.  There are parking garages throughout the [[Washington, D.C./West End|downtown/West End]] and [[Washington, D.C./Penn Quarter|Penn Quarter]] districts, though they often fill up with office workers who have monthly parking.  Some parking garages may still have space available, but prices are steep ($14 per day).  There is parking available at Union Station, with validation available, allowing you to park for 2 hours for $1, though 2 hours is probably not enough for sightseeing.  If you exceed the 2 hours or forget to validate, then the parking rates skyrocket.
 
  
There also is metered parking throughout the downtown area of D.C., with payment required and 2 hour time limits enforced.  But, metered spaces are very scarce, and you may find yourself circling around the block for a half-hour or even an hour in search of a parking spot. Along some stretches, including around Freedom Plaza and Judiciary Square, parking is restricted to permit holders only, and other spots, parking is for taxis or other special vehicles only. You may also find emergency no parking signs posted, which make parking off limits. There are parking spots with 3-hour limits and no payment, along Madison Drive on the National Mall, but these spaces fill up quickly and are scarce.
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Driving to the Mall is a great recipe for a headache, with chronic traffic jams, unintuitive traffic patterns, and very limited parking. If there is any sort of special event going on, you can easily get stuck downtown for ''hours''. Parking garages throughout the [[Washington, D.C./West End|downtown/West End]] and [[Washington, D.C./Penn Quarter|East End]] fill up early with office workers. Some may still have space available, but prices are steep (at ''least'' $14 per day). Double check the garage hours, so you can exit before the garage closes!
  
On evenings and weekends on the off season, it is easier to find parking spots very near to the mall in places along Independence Avenue, though you should arrive on the early side.  It is also possible to find metered spaces throughout Penn Quarter, or find parking in one of the many parking garages. Meters are in effect on Saturdays, with the two-hour time limit enforced.  But, there is no enforcement on Sundays or Federal holidays, so you can stay parked as long as you wish. If you park in a garage, make sure you know what the hours are, so you can exit before the garage closes!
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On evenings and weekends during the winter, it is sometimes possible to find metered parking on the mall (with two hour limits), although you should budget ''a lot'' of time to find a space just in case. There is no enforcement on Sundays or Federal holidays, so if you are lucky enough to find a spot, you can stay as long as you wish.  
  
During '''special events''', such as the Fourth of July, driving downtown is next to '''impossible'''.  During special events, parking is extremely scarce or not available, and numerous roads are blocked off for security reasons. For special events, you need to take Metro, or there may be special shuttle bus service from places such as RFK Stadium.
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7th, 14th, and 17th Streets are the main north-south routes, while Pennsylvania Ave, and Independence Ave are the main routes for east-west traffic. If coming from [[Arlington (Virginia)|Arlington]], the simplest routes are I-395 to 14th St, or the Arlington Memorial Bridge to Independence Ave.
  
 
===By taxi===
 
===By taxi===
Taxis are plentiful and reasonably priced, with a metered system.  It is possible to hail a taxi from the street at almost any hour of the day or night in downtown D.C.  A cab is especially convenient from Georgetown, Union Station, or National Airport.  Taxis are also a good option for getting from point A to B in the downtown area if it is too far for you to walk, or the weather is unpleasant.  The Washington Post website has a taxi fare estimator [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/metro/interactives/taxifares/] which can give you an idea of what the fare is supposed to be. 
 
  
During peak periods such as the Cherry Blossom season in the spring, the streets around the Mall are extremely congested and taxis are a slow way to get around.  In such situations, walking will probably be faster.
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Taxis are easy to hail all day and night, and can be a especially convenient option from [[Washington, D.C./Georgetown|Georgetown]], [[Washington, D.C./Capitol Hill|Union Station]], or [[Arlington (Virginia)|National Airport]]. Aside from peak periods such as the Cherry Blossom season, which bring tons of traffic, taxis can be a nice way to take a load off your feet and get from one end of the Mall to the other quickly.
  
 
===By bus===
 
===By bus===
The Metrobus system is centered on downtown D.C., but is unfortunately very complex and locations of bus lines and routes are not advertised to anyone who is not a regular rider.  There is no central terminal or bus mall, for instance.  The main exception is the Pennsylvania Avenue (stops between 7th St and 15th St NW.) bus line, which takes you to Georgetown and upper Wisconsin Avenue.  The Pennsylvania Avenue lines (#30 buses) from Georgetown travel along H St, past Lafayette Park and the White House, turn south on 15th Street, and left on Pennsylvania Avenue at Freedom Plaza/Pershing Park.  The #30 buses continue on Pennsylvania to 7th Street (by the National Archives and National Gallery of Art), where they turn right and cross the National Mall.  The buses then turn left on Independence Avenue, by the National Air & Space Museum, and continue past the National Museum of the American Indian, by the U.S. Capitol, and the Library of Congress.
 
  
The D.C. Circulator [http://www.dccirculator.com/index.html], a new bus service, provides service for a $1 fare. The Circulator has a bus line running east-west from Union Station, stopping near Mount Vernon Square (two blocks north of Chinatown), and along K St NW., and over to Georgetown. Another Circulator bus route runs north-south along 7th St from Mount Vernon Square, to the Southwest Waterfront. Perhaps most useful to the visitor is the Circulator bus route that loops around the National Mall, along Constitution and Independence Avenues, between 4th St (by the National Gallery of Art) and 17th St NW. (by the National World War II Memorial). However, the Mall loop route operates only on the weekend, from 10 AM to 6 PM.
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While Metro will connect you with most of the city without needing to take the bus, there are a couple key routes to be aware of (especially to Metro-less [[Washington, D.C./Georgetown|Georgetown]]).  
 +
 
 +
Routes '''#31''', '''#32''', and '''#36''' all run northwest up Pennsylvania Ave to M St through Georgetown, and then up Wisconsin Ave all the way to [[Washington, D.C./Upper Northwest|Friendship Heights]]. You can catch them as far south as Independence Ave west of the Capitol Building (after which they run up 7th St to Pennsylvania Ave).
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Routes '''#52''', '''#53''', and '''#54''' provide a quick service up 14th St through the Mall along 14th St to [[Washington, D.C./Shaw|Logan Circle and U St]].
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The '''D.C. Circulator'''' runs a very tourist-friendly service 10AM-6PM on weekends: the Smithsonian–National Gallery of Art "Purple" line, which rings the Mall from the Reflecting Pool in the west to the Capitol Building. The Circulator's Convention Center–SW Waterfront "Red" line is a great way to move from the Mall along 7th St either up into [[Washington, D.C./East End|Chinatown]] and the Convention Center, or down to the popular [[Washington, D.C./Waterfront|Waterfront]].
  
 
==See==
 
==See==
 +
 +
A great way to see a lot during a limited stay is to visit museums during the day and monuments at night. The Smithsonian museums are generally open until 5pm, except for during summer months when they may be open until 7pm.  After finding a nice place to eat dinner, take a long walk to visit the monuments by night when they are most beautiful. Quite a few companies offer tours of the monuments at night, so you won't be alone. Carry an extra flashlight, though, as some parts of the mall are rather dark for effect.  Seeing the monuments at night is also advantageous during Washington's hot, humid summers.
 +
 +
A word of warning: the National Mall is deceptively large (over 2 miles end-to-end (3.2 Km)), an illusion that is reinforced by the sheer size of the Capitol building and the Washington and Lincoln memorials.  Walking the mall is certainly a great way to see the sights, but be advised that what seems to be a short stroll can quickly turn into a long, painful march in the sun on a humid D.C. summer day.
 +
 
===Museums===
 
===Museums===
 
'''The Smithsonian''' [http://www.si.edu] is not a single museum; there are 18 Smithsonian museums, many of which are located on the Mall.  Museums run by the Smithsonian Institution are free of charge and their gift shops do not have the 6.5% D.C. tax levied on items sold.
 
'''The Smithsonian''' [http://www.si.edu] is not a single museum; there are 18 Smithsonian museums, many of which are located on the Mall.  Museums run by the Smithsonian Institution are free of charge and their gift shops do not have the 6.5% D.C. tax levied on items sold.
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==Do==
 
==Do==
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The Mall is also a public gathering space not just for protesters and pigeons, but also for locals and visitors alike who are more interested in a jog, a game of frisbee, or just a picnic out on a beautiful section of the nation's capital, in the company of monuments, history, and public art. Keep in mind, though, that a hot summer day, with its unbearable humidity, can be the ''worst'' time of the year for this—you will inevitably rush inside to the air conditioned sanctuary of the nearest museum.
  
 
* <do name="Paddle Boats" alt="" address="" directions="" phone="" email="" fax="" url="" hours="" price="$4 per person per hour.">Tidal Basin Paddle Boats rents out 2 and 4 person boats. Located near the Jefferson Memorial.</do>
 
* <do name="Paddle Boats" alt="" address="" directions="" phone="" email="" fax="" url="" hours="" price="$4 per person per hour.">Tidal Basin Paddle Boats rents out 2 and 4 person boats. Located near the Jefferson Memorial.</do>

Revision as of 00:39, 17 June 2009

World War II Memorial, Reflecting Pool, Lincoln Memorial

The National Mall [1] is a National Park and the monumental green space at the heart of the city, the heart of the national psyche, and the heart of civic America. It stretches two miles just south of the White House, from the U.S. Capitol Building in the east to the Lincoln Memorial and Potomac River on the west. The park is home to the Smithsonian, a huge collection of the nation's best (and free) museums, as well as most the country's most famous memorials and monuments. It is the number one destination for visitors in the city, and one of the biggest destinations in the country.

Contents

Understand

D.C.'s city planner, L'Enfant, planned the park as the cultural center of the city in the late 18th century, but while it today seems impossible to imagine the city without it, it took until the beginning of the 20th century for the government to get its act together under the McMillan Plan and to complete it. The plan at its most basic was to connect with grand vistas the three most highly symbolic monuments of the republic: the political center of the republic, the Capitol Building, on the east; the monument to the founder of the republic, George Washington, at the center; and the monument to the leader who saved the republic, Abraham Lincoln, on the west. The latter was, of course, not part of the original L'Enfant plan, but was rather built in the newly conceived western portion of the Mall (West Potomac Park), and was completed in 1922. The collection of monuments has expanded with the times to include enormous constructions for other presidents, the most notable being those for Thomas Jefferson and for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well as recent wars: World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War (arguably the most moving memorial in the city). Construction continues with the tide of history—expect a new monumental sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the next year or so.

Aside from the political levers of power, the main tenant on the Mall is the Smithsonian Institute, a government run research and educational institution established in 1846 for the "increase & diffusion of Knowledge among men." Starting out with a mere one castle to its name, the Smithsonian has over the past 100 years established an extraordinary collection of public museums unparalleled in size and scope throughout the history of the world, the majority of which are in the one mile stretch of this park, east of the Washington Monument. The public favorites are the National Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History, famed for their respective collections of U.S. spacecraft and magnificent collections of complete dinosaur fossils. The expansion continues, with the brand new Museum of the American Indian and the much anticipated Museum of African American History, slated for completion in 2015.

Monuments, museums, and memorials can easily distract a tourist from the actual significance of the Mall for the country. The Mall is not simply a tribute to American history, it is where American history is made. The three branches of the government find their headquarters here, and the president as well as the country's congressional representatives and senators look out from their workplace upon the park. The Mall serves as the principal gathering space for the nation's most important civic events, especially major protests and, of course, inaugural events. Likely the most powerful event to occur on the Mall in recent memory was the 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his I Have a Dream speech, although perhaps Vietnam War protesters and Obama supporters might disagree.

Get in

National Mall map.png

The Metro is extremely convenient to the Mall (it was designed that way), and is by far the superior option to driving or even taking the bus. Even taxis are often less convenient, owing to the awful traffic.

By metro

The main Metro stop for the Mall is the Smithsonian station on the Blue/Orange Line, which drops you out on the east end of the Mall, right by all the museums. The Smithsonian station is relatively close to the center of the park, so you won't have to walk much more than a mile to get to any sights (although a mile on a hot summer day can be an unpleasant walk!). One stop south of Smithsonian on the Orange/Blue lines is Federal Center, which is very close to the southeast end of the Mall. If taking the Green/Yellow Line, Archives/Navy Memorial on the north and L'Enfant Plaza on the south are both very close to the museums.

West Potomac Park is rather poorly served by Metro. If you are going to the Lincoln Memorial, the closest station is actually across the border in Virginia at the Blue Line Arlington Cemetery station, just across the Arlington Memorial Bridge (which has good views). The Blue/Orange Line Foggy Bottom station in the West End is a similar distance to the north. Either is a good ten minute walk from the Lincoln Memorial.

If you want to start your Mall journey at the White House, the visitor center is just west of the Red/Blue/Orange Line Metro Center station.

By car

Driving to the Mall is a great recipe for a headache, with chronic traffic jams, unintuitive traffic patterns, and very limited parking. If there is any sort of special event going on, you can easily get stuck downtown for hours. Parking garages throughout the downtown/West End and East End fill up early with office workers. Some may still have space available, but prices are steep (at least $14 per day). Double check the garage hours, so you can exit before the garage closes!

On evenings and weekends during the winter, it is sometimes possible to find metered parking on the mall (with two hour limits), although you should budget a lot of time to find a space just in case. There is no enforcement on Sundays or Federal holidays, so if you are lucky enough to find a spot, you can stay as long as you wish.

7th, 14th, and 17th Streets are the main north-south routes, while Pennsylvania Ave, and Independence Ave are the main routes for east-west traffic. If coming from Arlington, the simplest routes are I-395 to 14th St, or the Arlington Memorial Bridge to Independence Ave.

By taxi

Taxis are easy to hail all day and night, and can be a especially convenient option from Georgetown, Union Station, or National Airport. Aside from peak periods such as the Cherry Blossom season, which bring tons of traffic, taxis can be a nice way to take a load off your feet and get from one end of the Mall to the other quickly.

By bus

While Metro will connect you with most of the city without needing to take the bus, there are a couple key routes to be aware of (especially to Metro-less Georgetown).

Routes #31, #32, and #36 all run northwest up Pennsylvania Ave to M St through Georgetown, and then up Wisconsin Ave all the way to Friendship Heights. You can catch them as far south as Independence Ave west of the Capitol Building (after which they run up 7th St to Pennsylvania Ave).

Routes #52, #53, and #54 provide a quick service up 14th St through the Mall along 14th St to Logan Circle and U St.

The D.C. Circulator' runs a very tourist-friendly service 10AM-6PM on weekends: the Smithsonian–National Gallery of Art "Purple" line, which rings the Mall from the Reflecting Pool in the west to the Capitol Building. The Circulator's Convention Center–SW Waterfront "Red" line is a great way to move from the Mall along 7th St either up into Chinatown and the Convention Center, or down to the popular Waterfront.

See

A great way to see a lot during a limited stay is to visit museums during the day and monuments at night. The Smithsonian museums are generally open until 5pm, except for during summer months when they may be open until 7pm. After finding a nice place to eat dinner, take a long walk to visit the monuments by night when they are most beautiful. Quite a few companies offer tours of the monuments at night, so you won't be alone. Carry an extra flashlight, though, as some parts of the mall are rather dark for effect. Seeing the monuments at night is also advantageous during Washington's hot, humid summers.

A word of warning: the National Mall is deceptively large (over 2 miles end-to-end (3.2 Km)), an illusion that is reinforced by the sheer size of the Capitol building and the Washington and Lincoln memorials. Walking the mall is certainly a great way to see the sights, but be advised that what seems to be a short stroll can quickly turn into a long, painful march in the sun on a humid D.C. summer day.

Museums

The Smithsonian [2] is not a single museum; there are 18 Smithsonian museums, many of which are located on the Mall. Museums run by the Smithsonian Institution are free of charge and their gift shops do not have the 6.5% D.C. tax levied on items sold.

From east to west along Constitution Avenue (the north side of the Mall):

  • National Gallery of Art, [3]. M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 11AM-6PM. The east building of this museum focuses on modern art, while the west building showcases more traditional, mostly European, paintings and sculptures. The two buildings are connected by an underground walkway which has a store and a restaurant. Unlike most art museums, flash photography is allowed. The sculpture garden's foot pool is an excellent way to cool off during the day. Free admission.
  • National Archives, (Metro: Archives-Navy Memorial via the Green and Yellow Lines), [4]. Rotunda and exhibit hall, Open Daily except 25 December; 10AM-5:30PM (day after Labor Day through March 31), 10AM-7PM (April 1 through the Friday before Memorial Day weekend), 10AM-9PM (Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day). In summer you can go in the evening and avoid the long queue (everything else in town is closed then anyway). See the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and other displays. Gift shop. Free admission.
National Air & Space Museum
  • National Museum of Natural History, [5]. 10AM-5:30PM, summer (May 26 to September 4) 10AM-7:30PM. This Smithsonian museum presents a variety of displays including world cultures, meteorites and mineral samples. It traces the evolution of life from its beginnings through fossil plants, dinosaurs and mammals. Be sure to see the Hope Diamond, the most famous blue diamond in the world. Free admission.
  • National Museum of American History, [6]. 10AM-5:30PM, summer 10AM-6:30PM. A Smithsonian museum, it covers topics ranging from technology to social and political history. Newly re-opened after renovation. Free admission.

From east to west along Independence Avenue (the south side of the Mall):

  • National Museum of the American Indian, (866) 400-NMAI, [7]. The newest of the Smithsonian museums displays the cultural traditions of the Native peoples of North, Central and South America. It focuses on 20th century and present day culture much more than pre-European and colonial periods. Visitors who don't want to wait in line can obtain a free same-day timed entry pass at the museum's east entrance, or they can purchase a pass in advance by calling. Free admission.
  • National Air & Space Museum, [8]. 10AM-5:30PM. The most-visited museum in the world, this impressive repository covers the history of human flight, rocketry and space flight. It contains thousands of impressive artifacts, including the Wrights' 1903 Flyer, Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, Apollo 11's command module Columbia, and the simulated bridge of an aircraft carrier. There is also a huge companion museum to the Air & Space Museum called the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center which is located near Dulles Airport outside of town. It houses the Enola Gay and the Enterprise space shuttle, among other planes and vehicles. It can be reached by car, public transportation, or a shuttle bus from Dulles International Airport. Free admission.
  • Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, [9]. Museum 10AM-5:30PM; Sculpture garden 7:30AM-dusk. International modern and contemporary art.
  • Smithsonian Castle, [10]. 8:30AM-5:30PM. This distinctive brick-red structure was the original Smithsonian museum. The building now presents an overview of the Smithsonian system as well as occasional exhibitions.
  • National Museum of African Art, [11]. Presents the diversity of African art. The Freer and Sackler Galleries can also be accessed through this museum.
  • Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, [12]. 10AM-5:30PM. These linked Smithsonian museums feature Asian art. There is also an underground passage to the National Museum of African Art.

White House

  • White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (North of the Washington Monument), +1-(202)-456-7041, [13]. The residence and office of the President of the United States. Tours are available only for groups of 10 or more and must be requested up to six months in advance through your member of Congress. Note that the standard tours focus on the social/residential part of the White House -- the East Wing. You don't get to see the working West Wing unless you can arrange a tour with a White House staffer. The front door (the flat facade with the overhanging triangular pediment) can be viewed from Lafayette Square on the north side, and the back (the more distinctive curved facade) from the Ellipse on the south side. Political demonstrations typically take place at the front, though larger ones have been known to encircle the fence. Worth visiting even if you can only see the exterior, but you cannot drive any closer than two blocks away. Reservations must be made at least one month prior to the date you wish to visit. Free.

West section

soldier at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Washington Monument, [14]. 9AM-4:45PM. The view from the 550 foot Washington Monument is great on a clear day, allowing you to see up and down the Mall, and out as far as the Shenandoah Mountains. Entrance is by timed ticket, which are distributed on a first come first served basis, and are available free from a National Park Service booth on 15th Street near the monument. It's worth stopping off early in the day (opens at 8:30AM) and collecting your tickets before visiting a museum or three, and then coming back later. Better still, book your ticket online in advance at the NPS Reservation Center. If you can't get tickets or don't want to spend the time, you can get a similar panoramic view of D.C. with no wait at the Old Post Office Tower (see above), just a block from the Mall. Free.
  • National World War II Memorial, [15]. Opened in 2004. Don't forget to find the "Kilroy" carving hidden near the Pennsylvania obelisk.
  • Reflecting Pool. The view from the Lincoln Memorial, with the Reflecting Pool in the foreground and the Washington Monument just behind, and the Capitol Building in the distance, is famous and not to be missed.
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial, (In front and to the right of the Lincoln Memorial), [16]. There are three sections to this memorial, all in close proximity: a black marble wall engraved with the names of the deceased and missing of the Vietnam War; a statue of a trio of soldiers; and the Vietnam Women's Memorial. This is a very powerful monument by day or night.
  • Lincoln Memorial, [17]. This is an impressive monument in a commanding location at the end of the Mall, honoring the president responsible for ending slavery in the United States and for waging war against southern secessionists to reunite the nation.

Tidal Basin area

  • Korean War Veterans Memorial, (In front of and to the left of the Lincoln Memorial), [18].
  • Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 14th Street and C Street, [19]. Not a museum, this is where the Treasury prints money. Free tours (tickets required) on weekdays, but no: they do not give out free samples. Free.
  • FDR Memorial, (On the north west side of the Tidal Basin), [20]. A four-part memorial characterizing the four terms of Roosevelt's presidency in sculpture. Make the effort to see the monuments at night when they are all lit up. If you can catch the Capitol as the sun is setting on a clear day, the colors as the building gets lit up are wonderful.
  • Jefferson Memorial, (On the south side of the Tidal Basin), [21]. Metro: Smithsonian is the nearest station, but it's not close by. A larger than life statue of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and key architect of the U.S. government, stands in the center of this open-air marble structure. Quotes from Jefferson's writings, including the Declaration of Independence, are reproduced on the walls.
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW (Metro: Smithsonian via the Blue and Orange Lines), [22]. 10AM-5:30PM. Entrance is by free timed ticket on a first come, first served basis. Films, audio testimonies and historical exhibits tell about the Holocaust.

Do

The Mall is also a public gathering space not just for protesters and pigeons, but also for locals and visitors alike who are more interested in a jog, a game of frisbee, or just a picnic out on a beautiful section of the nation's capital, in the company of monuments, history, and public art. Keep in mind, though, that a hot summer day, with its unbearable humidity, can be the worst time of the year for this—you will inevitably rush inside to the air conditioned sanctuary of the nearest museum.

  • Paddle Boats. Tidal Basin Paddle Boats rents out 2 and 4 person boats. Located near the Jefferson Memorial. $4 per person per hour..
  • Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater (located at the National Museum of Natural History), Constitution Avenue, between 10th and 12th St NW., 202.633.IMAX (4629), [23]. Shows IMAX films on natural history topics, such as dinosaurs and ocean life. $8.50.
  • Sculpture Garden Ice-Skating Rink (at the National Gallery of Art), Constitution Avenue and 7th St NW, (202) 289-3360, [24]. Seasonal (November to March), weather permitting; open 10 AM - 7 PM (M-Th); 10 AM - 9 PM (F-Sat); 11 AM - 7 PM (Sun). Relaxing place to enjoy the fresh air, listen to music, and enjoy the surroundings, including a view of the National Archives building. Take a break from skating to enjoy hot cocoa or a meal at the Pavilion Café, next to the skating rink. Note that the sculpture garden itself closes at 5 PM (6 PM on Sundays), and access after that time is restricted to the ice rink only. $7 adults, $6 children, students, and seniors; $3 for skate rental.

Buy

All Smithsonian museums have gift shops and they are tax-free. The largest and can be found in the National Museum of American History (currently closed for renovations) and the National Air and Space Museum. The gift shop in the National Building Museum is one of the best gift shops not run by the Smithsonian Institution, though D.C. sales tax applies.

Eat

The larger museums have cafeterias and cafes [25] of varying prices and quality—in general, you get what you pay for. If you're on the mall, it's either these cafeterias, the hot dog stands, or a march north towards the Penn Quarter section of D.C.'s downtown.

  • Cascade Cafe, (202) 737-4215. In the National Gallery of Art, has fast buffet style food with salads and great desserts.
  • Mitsitam Café, National Museum of the American Indian. Slightly more expensive than most museum cafeterias, but well worth it, the café features Native foods found throughout the Western Hemisphere.
  • Smartkart, Locations outside the Hirshhorn Museum and American History Museum, [26]. 11AM-6PM. New concept for outdoor food carts, Smartkarts have appeared recently around D.C., selling tacos, empanadas, and salads, along with organic snacks, from an eco-friendly electric vehicle. $5.
  • The Wright Place, (202) 357-2700. In a great glass atrium adjacent to the Air and Space Museum, is relaxing with many plants

Drink

No booze on the Mall. If you want to find a bar, you have three options, head north, south, or east. Of the three, the Pennsylvania Ave strip on Capitol Hill to the east has superior options (to the touristy bars just north). It's within easy walking distance of the Capitol Building.

If you are here on a summer day, bring water. The museums have plenty of water fountains, but you'll need water outside. The huge sandy park that is the Mall is fun for throwing around a football, or for letting the kids loose to chase pigeons, but all that sand and gravel reflects the awful D.C. summer humid heat. The street vendors stock water bottles large supply, but charge a big markup—bringing a couple bottles from wherever you are staying is a good idea.

Sleep

People have camped out on the Mall or the Ellipse, waiting in line to get tickets for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll and other special events. Aside from that, there is no camping or accommodations on the Mall.

There are scores of hotels, at all price ranges, in the Penn Quarter and West End sections of Downtown Washington, D.C. — all within walking distance of the Mall. There also are some hotels in the Capitol Hill area. Many visitors to Washington, D.C. stay further distances from the Mall, such as in Arlington or Alexandria, Virginia, or Bethesda, and take the Metro into downtown D.C. There also are hotel options in many other sections of Washington, D.C.

Contact

  • Freedom Plaza and Pershing Park, Pennsylvania Avenue, between 13th and 15th St NW, (703) 842-4851, [27]. The Open Park Project provides free wi-fi for both Freedom Plaza and Pershing Park outdoor areas.
  • Smithsonian Castle. The Smithsonian provides free wi-fi service at the Smithsonian Castle.


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