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Monuments on the National Mall

Nothing is more iconic than than Washington DC’s monuments and memorials.  From the towering Washington Monument to Lincoln seated looking over the reflecting pool, DC’s National Mall is a treasure.  Memorials and monuments celebrating some of America’s greatest icons and honoring those who served and sacrificed in its wars are spread across the park.  If you get a chance, visiting at night can be a great experience when the monuments are beautifully lit.

The National Mall is administered by the National Park Service.  Stretching two miles from the Lincoln Memorial to the US Capitol Building, you can easily get to the National Mall from several downtown DC Metro stops.  (See our article on 10 Popular Metro Stops).

This map shows the nine monuments and memorials described in the article below:

Click for full size

1. The Lincoln Memorial

Perhaps best known as the backdrop for the famous 1963 “I have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., the Lincoln Memorial is located at the far west of the National Mall just near the bank of the Potomac River.  Lincoln looks out over the Reflecting Pool toward the Washington Monument.

The memorial remembers Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. Quotes and murals on the interior walls of the memorial represent Lincoln’s efforts to end slavery as he led the nation through the Civil War.  The lower level of the memorial contains an exhibit, store, and restrooms.

2. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Photo by Hu Totya

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, located on Washington DC’s National Mall, honors and remembers the service members of the US military who fought in the Vietnam War between 1955 and 1975. The lengthy conflict caused much disagreement at home and cost the United States the painful loss of over 58,000 deaths. The memorial’s three components are the Memorial Wall, the Three Soldiers, and the Women’s Memorial.  They remember those lost, those who served, and the role of women in the war.

3. The World War II Memorial

The National World War II Memorial is located just west of the Washington Monument, overlooking the Reflecting Pool. It represents the sacrifices made during the second world war, with pillars representing the US states, the District of Columbia, and the Territories of the US as of 1945.


4. The Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is an iconic US landmark located on the National Mall. The monument pays tribute to the first President of the United States, George Washington. At just over 555′ tall, it is the world’s tallest obelisk and tallest stone structure. The monument is located on the Mall between many key Washington DC structures, located roughly halfway between the Lincoln Memorial and US Capitol Building to the west and east, and the White House and Jefferson Memorial to the North and South.

The structure includes a viewing area near the monument’s top (currently closed for elevator renovations).

5. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial

The Jefferson Memorial is a tribute to Thomas Jefferson, a founding father of the United States and the nation’s third president. Directly south of the White House, and nearly in line with the Washington Monument, the memorial makes up the end of one axis defining the National Mall. The Tidal Basin area is planted with many Cherry Trees which blossom in dazzling fashion each spring, creating a centerpiece for the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Inside the monument, a bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson gazes across the Tidal Basin at the White House. The building housing the statue was influenced in design by Roman Pantheon, and its domed interior is lined by many quotations from Jefferson. The serene atmosphere, beautiful location, and grandiose space creates a larger-than-life remembrance for the former patriot and president.

6. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Photo by Matt Wade

Located on the south-west edge of the tidal basin, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is a path through the presidency of FDR. The memorial is a pathway spread over 7.5 acres with sections for each of the president’s terms in office. Unlike most DC memorials with a distinctive centerpiece, the path is long and varied, much like FDR’s time in office.

Walls, statues, and water features depict the president’s time in office, during the Great Depression, through the beginning of World War II. Distinct sections of the era are presented, from a bread line depicting the depression when FDR took office, his fireside chats, the implementation of his “New Deal”, and quotes on his attitude about the war and the nation throughout his tenure.

7. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Photo by Ron Cogswell

In August, 2011, one of the most influential civil rights leader in history of the United States found his place on the National Mall, alongside the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial remembers a man who faced the frustration of racial discrimination with patience and determination needed to help turn the nation around.

8. The DC War Memorial

Photo by Tim Evanson

The DC War Memorial, nestled in a small grove of trees across from the MLK Memorial, commemorates the DC residents who fought and served in World War I.  While the National Mall has no national monument to the first world war, this monument is a simple but powerful reminder of those who fought in The Great War.

9. The Korean War Veterans Memorial

Photo by Jennifer

The Korean War Veterans Memorial respects those who fought in the Korean War. It is located south of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Reflecting Pool, off of Independence Ave.

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