Exploring the National Mall in Washington DC is a wonderful place to spend time learning about the history of the United States.
Where is the National Mall in Washington DC located?
The National Mall in Washington DC is located in central Washington. A good way to spend your time is to explore the National Museum and the sights near the National Mall – they are all within walking distance from each other.
How to get to the National Mall in Washington DC
You can take the Metro to the Smithsonian stop on the blue, orange or silver lines. If you are driving, there is parking along the mall.
Sights to see while exploring the National Mall in Washington DC
I started my exploration of the National Mall in a small area – almost all of the museums were located near each other. It was lovely – I could walk everywhere!
The Library of Congress
After leaving the Capitol Hill Hotel, the first building I spotted was the Library of Congress. You can visit the Library of Congress, but I had not made a booking. I would love to see it if I get the opportunity to revisit Washington DC, especially as it is the largest library in the world! As a book lover, this sounds like music to my ears! The Library of Congress is also responsible for research for the United States Congress and also houses the United States Copyright Office.
The United States Capitol or Capitol Building
The United States Capitol is near the Library of Congress. Most people have seen this building in the news or movies – it is a well-known symbol of Washington. It is the meeting place of the United States legislature but also houses an art gallery. The construction of the building started in 1793. It expanded through the years with the latest addition being the visitors centre. I want to return to the Capitol Building in the future.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
I walked past the United States Botanic Garden and the National Museum of the American Indian until I got to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The museum had enough exhibits to keep me busy for a few hours.
I spent a few hours here as there were so many exhibitions to view. My favourite exhibit was the space exhibits. Other exhibits included aircraft used during the different wars, the development of flight through the years – if you have an interest in aeroplanes or space, this is the place for you!
After leaving the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, I walked past the Hirshhorn Museum. Although I did not enter the Museum, I did enjoy the sculptures on the outside.
Public restrooms in the National Mall Most museums in the National Mall are free, and they all have public restrooms.
From there, I walked past the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art to arrive at the Smithsonian Castle. I thought the building itself was beautiful and I decided to see what was on the inside. There was no entrance fee, and I spent a few minutes exploring the building and the grounds. The contents inside give a good overview of the history of the Smithsonian Institute and it provides an overview of the different Smithsonian Museums.
After leaving the Smithsonian Castle, I walked past the Arthur M Sackler Gallery, which houses Asian art.
I came to the United States Department of Agriculture Administration Building. It was so amusing to see a small patch of corn – so appropriate!
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
From here, I decided to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History – another of those museums you can spend hours inside. I could easily spend a day there if I wanted to look at all the displays in detail.
Where to eat when visiting the National Mall in Washington DC If budget is not a problem try Taberna Del Alabardero, near the White House. Sweetgreen offers a variety of dishes and also caters for vegetarians. Their prices are very reasonable. Sweetgreen is near the Capitol Building. Another restaurant near the Capitol Building is Ted's Bulletin Capitol Hill - they have a range of dishes ranging from reasonable to slightly more expensive. If you want a quick bite, here are some options: HipCityVeg is near the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Bub and Pop's is near the White House.
National Archive Museum
Visiting the National Archive Museum was a highlight for me. The National Archive Museum houses the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. There are several interactive displays, which were fun. I also enjoyed the Records of Rights, which focuses on how Americans try to fulfil the promises of the founding documents. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed.
I ended my day exploring the National Mall in Washington DC at the National Archive Museum. Although the area I covered was small, you can see how much there is to do and see. It was a packed day! I could spend even more time at each of the museums I visited, but I was satisfied with what I saw at each of the museums.
I started the second day of exploring the National Mall in Washington DC by walking back where I ended the previous day and made my way to the White House.
I took a picture of the White House before going to the White House visitor’s centre. I bought souvenirs and set off on foot again.
I walked past the Washington Monument. Apart from the Capitol Building, this is probably one of the most famous Washington Landmarks. I had not booked tickets, but you can go all the way to the top of the Washington Monument if you do.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a granite wall with inscriptions of the more than 58 000 Americans who gave their lives in the Vietnam war or are still missing. The wall is long – it just helps one realise how many people 58 000 are.
Vietnam Women’s Memorial
A little distance from the Vietnam Veteran Memorial is the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. It symbolises the role women played in the Vietnam War. Click here for more information on the meaning of each element of the sculpture.
The Lincoln Memorial is another famous Washington landmark. Lincoln sitting on the chair is massive! Most of the Washington Memorials are made from marble and are beautiful.
I loved the inscriptions inside the walls of the memorial, which is from his Second Inaugural Address and Gettysburg Address. While doing my research for Washington, I discovered that the Lincoln Memorial was planned only two years after Lincoln’s assassination!
Korean Veterans War Memorial
The Korean Veterans War Memorial is a short distance from the Lincoln Memorial. There are different sections to the Memorial, such as the mural wall, the pool of remembrance, the United Nations Wall and then the statues.
The statues represent the advancement of troops through the rice paddies of Korea with a cold wind blowing their ponchos.
Martin Luther King Junior Memorial
The Martin Luther King Junior Memorial is close to the Korean Veterans War Memorial. It is a beautiful bright white statue with quotes from Martin Luther King inscribed on the memorial. It honours his struggle for freedom, justice and equality.
From here I could see the Washington DC tidal basin. It is a beautiful place, and as you walk around the basin, there is a variety of memorials and monuments celebrating iconic figures.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
After walking a short distance along the tidal basin, I arrived at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. The memorial consists of five outdoor rooms, each representing the prologue to the presidency and the four terms won by President Roosevelt.
There is also a statue of his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt. When reading about the memorial, you realise how well it was planned and laid out.
George Mason Memorial
I must admit that I did not know who George Mason was. As we arrived at the George Mason Memorial, I had to google who he was. It turns out that he was one of the founding fathers of the United States. He wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was an inspiration to Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence.
The memorial is a simple one, with George Mason sitting on a bench with bronze books lying next to him on the bench. Apparently, the simplicity of the memorial reflects Mason’s real character. The location next to the Jefferson memorial symbolises the close relationship between George Mason and Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is around the corner from the George Mason Memorial. In addition to Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence, he was also a statesman and the visionary for the founding of the United States. The statue of Thomas Jefferson is bronze.
It stands in a white marble pantheon building. There is a variety of inscriptions of the walls of the building. One inscription is an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is another free museum to visit in the National Mall in Washington DC. This museum houses many collections, including photos from before, during and after the Holocaust, details of the American response to the Holocaust, as well as diaries from people who lived in the Holocaust. As always, visiting these types of museums is sad, but it is crucial to never to forget what happened.
World War II Memorial
The World War II Memorial in Washington DC’s National Mall is a beautiful water feature. A circle of twenty-four bronze panels forms the entrance of the memorial, each representing a US state at the time fo World War II, each representing a US state at the time fo World War II. These panels surround the pool where water shoots into the air.
By this time, I was quite tired from walking. I was happy to put my exhausted feet in the cold water of the Memorial. It was bliss!
I loved the National Mall. It is such a compact area, but it is packed with sights to see. It is also a cheap way to spend time in Washington DC since most of the museums, monuments and memorials are all free!
Tours focusing on the National Mall in Washington DC
To see even more of Washington DC, consider doing one of these tours:
Washington DC hotels near the National mall
My first hotel recommendation for exploring the National Mall in Washington DC is the Capitol Hill Hotel where I stayed. It has a central location and the prices were good. Here is another article on other hotels in Washington DC near Capitol Hill, but below you can find a map with more options!