A visit to Washington DC is a journey through American history. And visiting the monuments and memorials helps bring the passion of our forefathers, leaders and visionaries to life. Luckily, you can visit any of them anytime and for free. Many of them are located near each other in the National Mall, making your travels easy and convenient.
Here are the top monuments you just can’t miss while in Washington DC:
An imposing sight, the Washington Monument was constructed to honor our nation’s first president, George Washington. Made of marble, granite and bluestone gneiss, this magnificent obelisk towers at 555 feet in front of a shimmering reflecting pool. Visitors can take the express elevator to the 500-foot observation deck and enjoy picturesque views of the city. After snapping photos, visit the museum on the 490-foot level. While the tour of the monument is free, you must get tickets either in advance or upon arrival for entrance.
Located just across the Washington Monument’s reflecting pool, the Lincoln Memorial is also a striking sight. It’s here that we pay tribute to our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln. Considered to be one of our nation’s most iconic monuments, the memorial features Abraham Lincoln sitting in a marble chair surrounded by columns in a Greek-style temple.
It was constructed on the site of many famous speeches, including Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech in August 1963. Steeped in history and symbolism, the Lincoln Memorial has 36 columns, representing the number of states in the union when the President died, carved inscriptions of his second inaugural address, his Gettysburg Address and many other features.
One of the newest additions to the list of monuments in Washington DC, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial opened in August 2011. This date was chosen because it marked the 48th anniversary of the march on Washington for jobs and freedom, lead by King. Located just southwest of the National Mall in Potomac Park, this monument celebrates the tireless work of freedom visionary Martin Luther King, Jr. and is a lasting legacy to his leadership.
The design of this memorial and its location are intended to create a visual line of leadership, from the Lincoln Memorial to the Jefferson Memorial. A 30-foot stone figure of King, named the “Stone of Hope,” stands past two pieces of granite, symbolizing a line from King’s famous speech, “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
Just across the Tidal Basin from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial pays tribute to one of our founding fathers and third president. It was built in 1943 and is constructed of marble and stone, reminiscent of a Roman temple complete with circular steps, a circular colonnade, columns and a dome. Inside, a 19-foot bronze statue of Jefferson stands facing towards the White House. The open-air monument features excerpts from the Declaration of Independence and a letter written by Jefferson. One of the most visited memorials in Washington DC, the Jefferson is a definite must see.
Dedicated to the 32nd President of the United States, this touching monument is located on the western shore of the Tidal Basin. Spanning 7.5 acres, the outdoor memorial takes visitors through each of Roosevelt’s four terms of office, tracing 12 years of American history and his presidency. There are four different outdoor rooms, each featuring sculptures of Roosevelt in various scenes. There’s also a bronze statue of his beloved wife and first lady, Eleanor, making it the only presidential memorial to include a first lady.