The Monuments are MOST BEAUTIFUL and LEAST CROWDED in the middle of the night. They are lit up, bright white against the pitch black sky and are so much more striking and awe-inspiring. You can visit the monuments at all hours, they don't close to public viewing. Your chances of driving and getting a parking space on The Mall are also much better in the evening/early morning. The Lincoln Memorial is just amazing. Climb up and look out over the reflecting pool at the Washington Monument. It will take your breath away. The Vietnam & Korean War memorials are my favorites. Beautiful but eerie, they really give you a different perspective at night time. The World War II is another memorial to see at night. One of the most overlooked memorials is the Albert Einstein Memorial... you can crawl up into his lap & take a picture. It is a ton of fun to go with friends, and is also very romantic! (I don't recommend going alone, though.)
To Washington, the high point of the year is 4th of July--Independence Day. And the place to be is on the National Mall. This year, the festivities were almost rained out; as fate would have it, the weather happened to improve just in time for the fireworks.
And what a show it was! I was lucky enough to get a good position overlooking the Washington Monument. The crowd was enormous. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.
The streets around the Mall were blocked off. Some people sat down right in the middle of 14th St--not a good idea. The police had to come through just to keep it clear. Please stay on the grass.
Another tip--take the Metro, because there's nowhere to park. When the show's over, be prepared to stand in line to get back on the Metro. It may take a while just to reach the entrance. Anyway, it's worth seeing this at least once.
The National Mall is one of America’s most interesting parks; the bulk of it lies between the Lincoln Memorial and Capitol Hill, lined by Constitution Ave. and a handful of Smithsonian Museums. Besides visiting the major monuments, memorials, and museums, you can just stroll down along the mall and people-watch; around here, you can meet congressmen, activists, and protestors.
South of the DC War Memorial and north of the Tidal Basin, you'll find a small plaque dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, leader of the American Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s. The plaque was placed there in 2000; in 2006 (this year, soon to be last year), there was a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which will occupy a much larger space on the north side of the Tidal Basin. The memorial will honor a man who brought change with nonviolence, and lost his life to improve the lives of others. However, it will probably take a few more years before actual work on the memorial is started, and even longer until it is finally finished. When it is completed, the memorial will lie on the straight line between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, symbolizing the work by those three men to provide freedom for all.
Okay, this is actually closer to the White House than the National Mall, but whatever. The Statue of Alexander Hamilton in DC is in front of the US Treasury, near the White House. You can't walk to the base of the statue, since it is behing a fenced, off-limits area in the Treasury, but you can see it and photograph it from outside. Hamilton is the man whose face is on the US ten dollar bill; he was the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. He was also a prominent Federalist who was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers (in other words, the Anti-George Mason). Quite an interesting person, quite an interesting statue.
The DC War Memorial, almsost hidden in the woods, is secluded and rarely visited, despite being very near Independence Avenue. It is south of the Reflection Pool and the WWII Memorial. The memorial's design is simple and beautiful; it is a small, white, round, mostly unadorned temple. The memorial was dedicated by Herbert Hoover around 1930, and commemorates the 26,000 young men from Washington DC who served in the first World War. Two National Park Service Interpretive plaques are beside the memorial; this is often a good place to escape the crowds.
On the South Side of the Department of Justice Building, on Constitution Ave, you'll find a small statue of Nathan Hale. Hale is not a particularly well-known member of American history, although he had his merits. Born in Coventry, Connecticut, he was a captain in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He was also America's first spy. However, while on a mission in New York in 1776, he was caught by the British and hanged. His last words were, "My only regret is that I have but a single life to give for my country." This quote immortalized him, and got him a statue in DC. The statue's not particularly large or prominent, so you'll have to look for it; it's right behind the National Museum of Natural History.
I have now done this three times, and I can not express how much fun it is.
The Smithsonian Cultural Festival is on at the same time and provides entertainment during the day. I do recommend getting to the Mall early in order to find the perfect spot. We arrived at around 3pm in 2006. In 2005 my sister and I spent the day on the Mall - attending the parade and trying to fit a few SI museums in too. We found our spot on the Mall around 5pm. I don't remember what time I got there in 1999, but there wasn't as much security to get through then.
Do be aware that Security is tight, be sure to look up the current restrictions when you go.
While visiting the US Capitol, be sure to take in the nearby grounds, with their many historic monuments. They add immensely to the experience.
Most prominent, of course, is the statue of General Ulysses S. Grant. During the Civil War, this Union general took Vicksburg, Mississippi. This gave the Union control of the Mississippi River; together with the Battle of Gettysburg, it spelled the doom of the Confederacy. Later, Grant became President. This statue, from 1920, is by Henry Merwin Shrady, and the architecture by Edward Casey. Around the statue of General Grant are others dedicated to his valiant soldiers.
Nearby is a statue of James Garfield (1831-1881). A Civil War hero, he was 20th president of the United States. He was assassinated by a disgruntled Federal job seeker.
To the northwest of the Capitol is the Peace Monument, by Franklin Simmons. Carved in 1878, it is dedicated to the sailors killed in the Civil War.
To the north, near the Japanese-American War Memorial, is the statue of Senator Robert Taft. Son of President William Howard Taft, he served in the Senate from 1938 to 1953. It was funded by donations from every state.
After all that the Indians have suffered in this country, it's about time that they had their own museum. Here it is, on the National Mall.
Note the odd, curvelinear shapes. The inside is the same way; there is hardly a straight line to be seen. This makes the visitor go in unpredictable directions, rather than simply following a direct route. There is information on all the major tribes, although it's hard to learn about some of the more obscure ones. The art and other displays are intriguing, unusual, and at times very moving.
If you're hungry, visit the cafeteria for some authentic American Indian cuisine. Some may be familiar, while other dishes are quite exotic. People take for granted many foods that the Indians gave to the world--such as corn, chili peppers, and potatoes.
Across from the US Botanic Garden is Bartholdi Park. While visiting the Botanic Garden, this is the perfect place to go before or after. It's small, modest, but very charming. It was created in 1932, and named for Frederic Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904), the sculptor who designed the fountain in the center.
While travelling between museums on the National Mall, don't forget to stop and smell the flowers. At least have a look, and enjoy a break from what can be an exhausting pace of life in Washington.
The National Sculpture Garden is well worth a visit. Located around the Hirshhorn Art Museum (on the south side of the Mall), they contain some fascinating works of modern art. OK, they're not for everybody, but worth taking a look.
On the north side, near the Museum of Natural History, is the Butterfly Habitat Garden. And in the middle is another beautiful garden. Don't just walk on by.
To my friends from overseas, no, this isn't some decadent three-storey shopping centre replete with Benettons, Victoria's Secrets and Banana Republics with parking as far as the eye can see.
The National Mall is green space in between many of Washington, DC's major must see activities. It forms the shape of a cross. Starting in the east is the Capitol Building. As we go west there is the Washington Monument. At its westernmost point, there is the Lincoln Memorial. Directly south of the Washington Monument is the Jefferson Memorial. Completing the cross is the northernmost point which is the White House. In between on either side of the Mall are the museums of the Smithsonian Institution.
The Washington monument is an easily spotted landmark to find the National Mall. No, this mall isn't for shopping - well you can shop there - but it is for museums and history. The mall extends from the US capitol building to the Washington monument, but most people think it includes the land that extends past this and to the Lincoln Memorial (actually named Constitution Gardens). Between the Capitol and the Washtington Momument you'll find most of the famous DC museums. Between Washing and Lincoln Memorial you'll find what I affectionately call war memorial row. The region is just part of the 1000 acres of national park-land in the DC area! The wide expanse of land is used for touring, recreation, and even protests.
During my short visit, they were setting up for a National Bookseller's event, the Peace Vigil, AND the World Bank Protest - all of which were to take place at some point in the mall! Watching all this activity made my proud to be an American, as I know not every country allows it's citizens to protest against governmental policies and processes. It also made me glad that I wasn't planning on being in town during all of this hubabaloo in the upcoming days :)
The National Mall is the sprawling park area that runs from the west side of the US Capitol all the way to the Lincoln Memorial and down to the Jefferson and Roosevelt Memorials on the Tidal Basin. The Smithsonian Museums, the National Gallery or Art, and the National Archives are all just a few minutes walk from here.
In addition to all the lovely tourist attractions, the Mall is also an excellent place just to relax. I've spent many a Sunday afternoon leaning against a tree and reading the Economist. Also, for those worried about the death of America's favorite pastime, visit the Mall on Monday or Thursday evenings in the summer to see thousands of locals playing softball.