Washington, DC is an ideal walking city, with several scenic pathways and accessible routes. The monuments, memorials, and buildings of Washington, DC are magnificent, and they are all clustered together. It’s a gorgeous city to walk about in, and it’s a fun and simple way to learn about American history.
Visiting monuments and memorials also helps to bring to life the passion of our forebears, leaders, and visionaries. Fortunately, you may go to any of them at any time and for free. Many of them are close to one other on the National Mall, making travel simple and convenient.
THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT
The Washington Monument honors our first president, George Washington. This 555-foot obelisk is made of marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss. Take the elevator to the 500-foot observation deck for city views. Visit the 490-foot museum after taking photographs. The monument tour is free, but you must get tickets in advance.
KOREAN WAR VETERANS MEMORIAL
On April 20, 1986, Congress approved a Korean War monument on the National Mall. The ‘Field of Service’ displays soldiers in long ponchos patrolling the memorial’s granite grounds and juniper plants. First impressions of the spread-out formation and 19 stainless steel effigies representing the U.S. Military are lifelike. 19 is important. A polished granite wall bordering the field reflects the soldiers’ pictures, forming the number 38, a reference to the 38th parallel, the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. The Mural Wall has more than 2,500 photos of land, sea, and air warriors who helped the war effort. The Pool of Remembrance, a modest reflecting pool surrounded by trees, is a moving, contemplative spot with inscriptions listing the number of war dead, MIAs, and POWs.
The Lincoln Memorial, located right across the reflecting pool from the Washington Monument, is likewise a spectacular sight. We pay respect to our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, here. The memorial, which is considered one of our country’s most famous monuments, depicts Abraham Lincoln seated on a marble chair surrounded by columns in a Greek-style temple.
It was built on the location of many historic speeches, notably Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” address in August 1963. The Lincoln Memorial is rich in history and symbolism, with 36 columns symbolising the number of states in the union when the President died, carved inscriptions of his second inauguration speech, his Gettysburg Address, and many other characteristics.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. MEMORIAL
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, one of the newest additions to the collection of monuments in Washington DC, inaugurated in August 2011. This day was selected since it was the 48th anniversary of King’s march on Washington for employment and freedom. This monument, located just southwest of the National Mall in Potomac Park, honours the relentless efforts of liberation dreamer Martin Luther King, Jr. and serves as an enduring memorial to his leadership.
This memorial’s design and placement are designed to form a visible line of leadership from the Lincoln Memorial to the Jefferson Memorial. A 30-foot stone sculpture of King, dubbed the “Stone of Hope,” sits between two slabs of granite, representing a sentence from King’s famous speech, “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
THOMAS JEFFERSON MEMORIAL
The Jefferson Memorial, which is located on the Potamic River’s South Bank, was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. Dave and I both felt that this memorial’s setting was our best in the city. Because it is located farther away from the other monuments facing the basin, there were few visitors when we visited. In the middle, a monument of Jefferson stands tall, surrounded by his most renowned words.
We had the monument entirely to ourselves throughout our visit, going around the marble stairs, taking in the vistas, and reading the words of one of America’s early leaders.
Many Washington, DC memorials are being debated, including whether statues to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson should be demolished.
VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also known as the “Wall That Heals,” was built to commemorate and remember the men and women who served, as well as to help reconcile and mend the wounds that shredded the American spirit in the wake of the war. There are 58,209 names engraved onto a massive black granite wall commemorating those who have gone missing or perished in the line of service. This is a haven for many, particularly those looking for the names of a loved one, friend, or fellow soldier, who often copy the name on the wall onto a piece of paper as a remembrance. There are also flower arrangements, presents, medals, letters, cards, and other artefacts against the wall, many of which have been saved for posterity at the Museum of American History. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial, which is part of the memorial, recognises the women, both military and civilian, who served our nation during that period. Finally, there is the iconic bronze sculpture ‘The Three Soldiers’ by acclaimed artist Frederick Hart, which represents three battle-weary young men, each reflecting the nationalities of those who participated in the conflict. It serves as a constant reminder of the toll the battle had on a generation of young people.
The Jefferson Memorial, located just across the Tidal Basin from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, honours one of our founding fathers and our third president.
It was completed in 1943 and is made of marble and stone, with circular stairs, a circular colonnade, columns, and a dome evocative of a Roman temple. Inside, a 19-foot bronze monument of Jefferson faces the White House. The open-air monument includes Declaration of Independence texts and a letter written by Jefferson. The Jefferson Memorial, one of the most visited monuments in Washington DC, is a must-see.
WORLD WAR II MEMORIAL
The World War II Memorial is a striking homage to sacrifice and dignity in the face of tremendous hardship, commemorating the 16 million Americans who served in the United States Military throughout the war and the more than 400,000 who died in combat and supported our soldiers from home. Visitors are struck by the monument’s grandeur and the message of dedication, spirit, and freedom portrayed by the 56 pillars around the memorial plaza, each of which recognises the governments and territories that worked together throughout the war effort. On the Freedom Wall, 4,000 carved gold stars honour the 400,000 Americans who died. And having a seat around the Rainbow Pool gives a calm focus point where beauty and harmony may be appreciated. The World War II Memorial, located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, was dedicated in May 2004. It has since become one of the most prominent centres of attraction on the National Mall.
THEODORE ROOSEVELT ISLAND NATIONAL MEMORIAL
There aren’t many better contenders to name a wilderness retreat after than this conservationist and outdoor enthusiast. Mason Island, once overgrown farmland, was transformed into a natural park in honour of the 26th President of the United States by landscapers. This monument, which was dedicated on October 27, 1967, is unusual among the numerous in the DC region since it is placed amid a thick forest meant to seem like the forests that were on the island before it fell into ruin. The memorial’s centrepiece is a 17-foot bronze monument of Roosevelt sculpted by sculptor Paul Manship, while four 21-foot granite stelae are etched with phrases conveying Roosevelt’s perspective on masculinity, youth, nature, and the country. There are numerous activities and sights to see and do at this National Park, including ranger-led kayak excursions on the Potomac River that circumnavigate the entire island and guided tours that take you throughout the park, where you can see Whitetail deer, fox, box turtles, squirrels, coyotes, bats, and chipmunks. Another activity that this region is ideal for is bird viewing.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT MEMORIAL
This beautiful memorial, dedicated to the 32nd President of the United States, is placed on the Tidal Basin’s western edge. The outdoor monument, which spans 7.5 acres, takes visitors through each of Roosevelt’s four stints in office, documenting 12 years of American history and his administration. There are four outdoor chambers, each with statues of Roosevelt in diverse settings. There’s also a bronze monument of his loving wife and first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, making it the only presidential memorial with a first lady.
ULYSSES S. GRANT MEMORIAL
The biggest and most significant Civil War memorial in Washington, DC is located on the West Front of the United States Capitol. Despite the fact that he was the 18th President of the United States, the monument is intended to honour Grant’s achievements and leadership as the leading general of the Union Army. The memorial’s component elements were created in phases over a period of several years. The earliest of the memorial’s many tableus was created after the first decade of the twentieth century, and it comprised of a bronze lion seated upon a huge marble platform. Later, a picture of Union artillery and a visceral image of cavalry in action were included. Finally, in 1920, the massive 17-foot-tall bronze statue of General Grant astride a stallion was installed, completing the monument.
U.S. MARINE CORPS WAR MEMORIAL – IWO JIMA MEMORIAL
The official name is the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, and it is dedicated to “the Marine fallen of all wars and their friends of other services who perished fighting with them.” The monument was inspired by Associated Press war photographer Joe Rosenthal’s famous 1945 shot of six Marines raising a US flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. The US Marine Corps War Memorial is situated on Arlington Ridge, along the National Mall’s axis. From its grounds, you can see the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Capitol Building.
U.S. NAVY MEMORIAL
The United States Navy Memorial is a really magnificent memorial to those who have served or are now serving in the nation’s navies. A beautiful granite-paved plaza creates a 100-foot-diameter universe. Fountains, pools, flags, and historic panels detailing the exploits of the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines surround the plaza’s deck. The iconic Lone Sailor monument represents the soldiers who entered the army to fulfill their patriotic duty; a stunning sight, it is undoubtedly one of the memorial’s most well-known features.
TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier may be the most mysterious burial or monument in Arlington National Cemetery, resonating with an awesome power of its own and serving as a symbol of personal sacrifice. Following the conclusion of World War I, a movement arose to memorialise troops who died in war but could not be recognised. The bones of such a soldier are interred in the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, but the tomb itself speaks for all those who were not given a dignified burial and were doomed to obscurity. Members of the 3rd US Infantry Regiment guard the tomb every hour from October 1 to March 31 and every half hour from April 1 to September 30 in a ceremonial changing of the guard that is the highlight of each visit to Arlington National Cemetery.
JOHN F. KENNEDY MEMORIAL FLAME
The last resting place of U.S. President John F. Kennedy is certainly one of the most visited spots in Arlington National Cemetery. Initially burial in a separate section of the cemetery in 1963, a permanent resting place for him was built in 1967, allowing millions of people to pay their respects in the years to come much easier access. The Eternal Flame, a stone slab radiating a flame that rests near the burial plaque, was the idea of his wife and First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. The design was inspired in part by her husband’s presidential visit to Paris, when she saw an everlasting flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Arc de Triomphe that left an effect on her. She was also inspired to add such a sign because of their mutual love of the musical “Camelot,” which tells the narrative of the rise and fall of the folk hero King Arthur and tackles themes of chivalry, honour, love, idealism, and optimism. The last number of the show’s lyrics perfectly convey her wishes: “Don’t let it be forgotten, that once there was a location, for one short, glorious moment that was known as Camelot.”
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Arlington National Cemetery, a permanent memorial to the men and women who died while serving our country as active military personnel, retired veterans, or elected officials, attracts millions of visitors each year. More than 400,000 military members and their families are put to rest on these sacred grounds. Every day, funerals are performed to memorialise those who have died or sacrificed their lives defending the principles and goals of the United States, just as they are in any active cemetery. This hallowed site is a must-see during your stay, but since it is spread out across 600 acres, a guided tour is your best choice. Old Town Trolley Tours provides a Gold (1-day) Pass that includes the city’s sole approved cemetery tour. If you’re planning a trip to Washington, DC, don’t forget to include a stop in Arlington on your schedule.