This post will show you Washington DC and a National Mall walking itinerary that takes you to all famous Washington museums and monuments. So why not park your car and explore the famous Washington DC National Mall by foot?
The National Mall is a 2,5 miles long green area between Capitol Hill in the east and the Lincoln Memorial in the west. Washington Monument is in the middle, the White House in the north and the Tidal Basin in the south.
Lincoln Memorial, National Mall, Washington DC
There are the world-famous memorials of American history and in addition the US government buildings. But that’s not all, the National Mall contains a huge amount of world-class museums. All this is waiting for you to visit – for free!
So find parking somewhere off the National Mall and follow my walking itinerary. Take good shoes and walk up and down the Mall and stop at as many attractions you like, and everything is free!
National Mall Walking Itinerary on the Map
This is my National Mall walking tour map. The map shows where the sights are and how you can walk between them. My post will explain you the sights and I will show you photos of them.
We will start from the Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall and walk west along the mall.
This is the US Capitol on the Capitol Hill. In fact this post does not cover Capitol Hill. I wrote about Capitol Hill, US Capitol and Library of Congress in my previous post Washington DC: Capitol Hill Walk so you can read about them behind the link.
Capitol Hill is a big sight in itself and needs a full day and its own post while the post you are reading covers the rest of the National Mall. And don’t be afraid of bringing your kids here since the National Mall is a perfect destination for kids in all ages.
Museum of the American Indian
The National Museum of the American Indian is the first museum in the eastern part of the National Mall. It is a limestone building that has flowing water around it. In the Museum you will learn about native Americans, their values, culture and how their lives have changed during centuries. I learned a lot about different Indian tribes, how they have moved across the country and how important nature still is to them.
The cafe downstairs serves meals based on Indian food heritage.
Another attraction close to the Museum of the American Indian is the US Botanic Garden. If the Botanic Gardens interest you you can read about them in my previous blog post A Day on Capitol Hill.
Sculpture Garden and National Archives
After the Museum of the American Indian walk further along the Mall and look at the well-known buildings on both sides.
These pictures are from the Sculpture Garden. Sculpture Garden is a part of the National Gallery and has an exhibition on modern art. In the middle of the park they make an an ice-skating rink in winter.
Behind the rink are the US National Archives where you can view such things as the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.
Some more photos of the Sculpture Garden:
National Gallery of Art
The huge National Gallery of Art is in two buildings, the old West Building and the East Building built in the 1970s. The West Building has European and American paintings, sculptures and objects and the East Building shows modern art.
On the days I was visiting Washington DC there were many school groups visiting from all parts of the country. They went to the National Gallery and the Museum of Natural History.
There are many museums on both sides of the National Mall. You would need a week to see them all. Just start with the ones you like most.
National Mall Museums
- National Museum of Natural History
- Hirshorn Museum
- National Air and Space Museum
- Arts and Industries Building
- African Art Museum
- Smithsonian Castle
- Freer Gallery of Art
- Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
- American History Museum
I only spent two days on the National Mall and decided to walk into the American History Museum.
National Museum of American History
Since I’m from Europe I wanted to learn about American history and that’s what I really did in this museum.
There was an interesting exhibition of former American presidents and another one telling about the First Ladies. Then there was a room showing American food habits from 1950 to 2000. After seeing that I understand how much all immigrants from different parts of the world have affected American food culture. And so have the new technologies and the wish to eat and drink on the move.
After learning so much I wanted to buy something home so I went to the museum store. The store was full of American Christmas decoration with flags and other items, all in US national colors red, blue and white. And it was first the beginning of November!
This is the Washington Monument, something you can see from all over the city. Washington Monument was built to honor George Washington and completed in 1884. It was and still is the highest freestanding stone monument in the world.
They began with white marble from Maryland and different marble was added as the work proceeded. All this made that the color changes in the middle.
There are 50 flags around the monument, one for each state.
You can take an elevator ride to the top, it’s free. But to do that you have to get a ticket at the ticket kiosk which is a small house to the east of the monument. In November there was no waiting time, but it probably will be in the summer.
The White House
The White House in a short way north of the National Mall. If you want to visit the White House interiors you will have to arrange it in advance. I didn’t but it was equally great to see the White House at a distance.
World War II Memorial
West of the Washington Monument stands the next US national monument, the National World War II Memorial. The memorial has 4 048 gold stars on the wall each of which represents 100 soldiers that died in the war.
There is a granite pillar for each state and words by presidents are written in stone walls around the fountain.
The day I was visiting there was a Veterans Day event. There was a parade and veterans from all over US came to Washington DC with the help of non-profit organizations. The Amercians take so much better care of their veterans than we do in Europe.
There are many reflecting pools in Washington DC but the one between the National World War Memorial and Lincoln Memorial is the largest. This is the view you can see in all postcards. Just amazing!
And last but not least on the National Mall is the Lincoln Memorial that celebrates Abraham Lincoln. It is the symbol of freedom and equality. Inside is a Lincoln statue and Lincoln’s most famous speeches are written on a stone wall.
And the basement has a small museum where you can learn about the Memorial’s history. Did you know that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech in this place?
South of the Lincoln Memorial is a little lake, called the Tidal Basin. The basin is lined by cherry trees that originally were a present from the Japanese. And you can rent a paddle boat here in the summer. In winter there are no paddle boats but there are bike rentals.
If you have time, rent a bike, make a bike tour around the Tidal Basin. By bike you can also see the monuments on the other side of the Basin.
I will end my National Mall walking itinerary here., we have now seen the Mall from east to west. We have seen a lot today but maybe you can return to the National Mall another day and discover more on this green stretch full of important national monuments and museums.
National Mall, Washington DC
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