No, this isn’t about our trip to the shops to get supplies for a weekend barbeque and a new pair of shoes. It’s about The National Mall in Washington DC– the 2 mile/3.2 km strip which has the majority of Washington DC’s iconic tourist attractions. We had one full day in Washington and wanted to see as much as possible so the only practical thing to do was hit the Mall.
At one end is the Lincoln Memorial and at the opposite end is the Capitol, the USA’s parliament. And in between is a cavalcade of possibilities – museums, war memorials, art galleries and more.
Washington has a good metro system, with lots of connections to the Downtown area and The Mall. Chances are if you’re staying at a hotel or motel in Washington or surrounding suburbs you’ll be able to catch the metro to the Mall. We started our exploration by emerging from the metro at the Smithsonian Station which is close to the Washington Monument.
We headed to the Lincoln Memorial and the famous reflective pool which is directly in front of it, connecting it with the World War II Memorial.
The Mall then passes a park area to the north called the Ellipse which sits in front of the Whitehouse. We got a view and photo but security was tight and we couldn’t get very close.
Mammoth, imposing and self-confident edifices, mostly housing Federal Government Departments, line both sides of the Mall.
Having now arrived at the eastern end of the Mall we started the long walk west pausing first at Vietnam Veterans Memorial, past the National Museum of African American History & Culture and the National Museum of American History on our way to the National Museum of Natural History.
We decided to spend some time at the Natural History Museum. It is a very well presented museum and worth it as a stopping point.
We then headed past the National Gallery of Art on our way to the Capitol.
This truly famous sight blessed us with a bit of sunshine on a February day that was otherwise cloudy and cold.
We then headed back west, passing the American Indian Museum.
Our next stop was at the National Air and Space Museum.
This has excellent exhibits with everything from the Wright Bothers’ first flight to the Apollo Missions and the Space Shuttles.
Heading back north we passed the Smithsonian Castle on our way back to the metro. Most of the museums and other sites are free so this turned out to be a very economical as well as educational day.
In total we spent just over six hours exploring the National Mall and visiting our two chosen museums – Natural History Museum and Air & Space Museum. There is certainly much that we didn’t see so 2 or even 3 days is needed if you want to experience it all, and then there is the rest of Washington. But, if like us, you have limited time, we’d recommend a day at the Mall as a good way to get a taste of Washington DC.
Here is the link to Washington’s Official tourist site – the National Mall page.