Ultimate Guide To The National Mall

Washington DC National Mall

In 1791, Pierre Charles L’Enfant had a vision for a garden-lined, grand avenue that would be 1 mile in length and run between the US Capitol and an equestrian statue of George Washington. And while his original vision did not quite come to fruition, L’Enfant’s ideas were considered in the development of what we now know as the National Mall.

Today, the National Mall occupies the space where this grand avenue would have been, with the Washington Monument standing just next to where the equestrian statue of our first president would have stood. A lovely, pedestrian friendly boulevard, framed by trees and the many monuments, memorials and museums Washington DC is famous for, the National Mall is located on the banks of the Potomac River. Two miles in length and bound by the US Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall plays hosts to millions of visitors each year.

Monuments & Memorials

Lincoln Memorial
One of the most iconic sights on the mall, the Lincoln Memorial is a stunning Neoclassical style structure that features 36 stone columns and a 19-foot statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln. Surrounding him are inscriptions of his most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address, and his second inaugural speech. A truly unforgettable experience, a visit to the National Mall is not complete without viewing this honorable memorial.

Lincoln Memorial

Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Located on the west bank of the Potomac, the Jefferson Memorial is recognizable for it’s dome shape and its unique architecture that was modeled after the University of Virginia’s Rotunda, a building that Jefferson designed. The building’s circular marble steps, columns and portico are just a few of the features that set it apart. Inside, visitors are treated to a view of a 19-foot statue of Thomas Jefferson and excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, which he authored.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
An outdoor memorial that spans more than 7 acres, the FDR Memorial pays tribute to the 32nd President and the four terms he held office. As the only US President to hold the office for more than two terms, FDR led the country through many dark moments, including a worldwide economic depression and World War II. Each of the four rooms of the memorial showcase events that occurred during his tenure and quotes by the iconic leader. A memorial of several firsts, including the first ever to be wheelchair accessible and the first ever to feature a first lady, this unique memorial draws millions of visitors each year and is a definite must-see while on the National Mall.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Just next to the FDR Memorial, this unique monument commemorates the lifetime work and visions of renowned civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. A 30-foot statue of King, carved into the Stone of Hope, stands between two other large boulders that are meant to represent the Mountain of Despair, split in half. The unique design symbolizes some of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words from his famed “I have a Dream” speech.

Washington Monument
Picturesque, stately and widely recognizable, the Washington Monument may be the most famous of all the city’s sights. Located at the center of the National Mall, in between the US Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, just east of the world famous reflecting pool, the towering obelisk is the world’s tallest structure made of stone, rising to 555 feet.

Washington Monument

Other Monuments and Memorials on the Mall
Also on the National Mall are the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Marine Corps Memorial and the Pentagon Memorial.

Museums

National Air and Space Museum
An exciting experience for adults and children of all ages, the National Air and Space Museum is home to the largest collection of space and aviation aircrafts. Here, you’ll see the original Wright Brother’s flyer, the Apollo 11 command module, SpaceShip One, interactive displays, flight simulators and more.

National Museum of Natural History
What do the world’s largest African Bush Elephant, dinosaurs and the 45.5 carat Hope Diamond have in common? They all live in the incredible museum! You can see them and many more spectacular sights including shows at the IMAX theater, the Mammals in Mammals hall and an Insect Zoo.

National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of American History
Learn about and see many of the artifacts and items that are significant to American history organized into categories such as culture, entertainment, military, science and more at this unique museum. The collection here includes more than 3 million artifacts, most notable are the original Star-Spangled Banner and the original copy of the Gettysburg Address.

National Museum of the American Indian
A museum dedicated to the culture, language, literature and history of the American Indian, this museum on the National Mall provides a one-of-a-kind experience for visitors. The architecture, which features a Kasota clad building designed to mirror the natural rock formations shaped by wind and water over thousands of years and the surrounding simulated wetlands, pays tribute to the American Indians and their impact on our country.

Smithsonian Castle
Home to the Smithsonian administrative offices and information center, the Castle is constructed of red sandstone and is a great example of Romanesque and early Gothic architecture. The Smithsonian’s first building, it is also home to a crypt that houses the tomb of James Smithson, the original benefactor of the Smithsonian Institution.

Smithsonian Castle

National Gallery of Art
There are more than 141,000 pieces of art on display at the National Gallery of Art including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, decorative arts and new media. The collection spans centuries from the Middle Ages to the present, and includes a beautiful sculpture garden and a wide array of interactive programs and events.

Fun Facts About the National Mall

  • The Washington Monument sways about .125 of an inch in winds of 30 mph and more.
  • The US Capitol Building is the 4th tallest masonry dome in the world.
  • The first stainless steel memorial ever erected in DC was the Korean War Memorial.
  • On Tuesday, August 23, 2011 the Washington Monument was cracked in four places when an unexpected earthquake struck the city.
  • You can see an authentic moon rock at the National Air & Space Museum.
  • There’s a subway underneath the US Capitol Building that connects the Capitol to the House and Senate office buildings.