We’ve been doing this for a while now, going off to see the sights of DC on a Monday holiday. Our plan is always to leave the house around 9 AM to have the best selection of parking and our strategy did not fail us today. Our destination was to see the last of the monuments on the National Mall that we’ve missed. Those included the Jefferson, FDR, Lincoln, Korean War and WW2 Memorials.
No matter what you do, the Jefferson Memorial is out by itself, but we thought that with some walking, we could manage not to have to move the car. We parked on Ohio St and W Basin Dr, which ended up being almost exactly where the FDR memorial was located. Sadly, it’s not really visible from the street, so we didn’t know how close we were until the end of the day and had backtracked at bit to find it. So learn from us!
The first thing we saw when getting out of the car was Robert E. Lee’s house in Arlington Cemetery, sitting there majestically on a hill, overlooking the Potomac. What a spectacular view he had.
(click on any of the pictures to enlarge them)
Our first stop was the FDR Memorial. It’s very well done and nicely tucked into the trees along the tidal basin. It’s different from most of the DC monuments because it is a series of “rooms” which depict the events of FDR’s terms in office. Make sure you start at the beginning of the memorial, near the corner of Ohio St and W Basin Dr. so that you see the rooms in order. Pick up a brochure there at the beginning so you can read a little about what each room is about.
The free brochure only gave a one or two line explanation of each room. There is so much symbolism in the water and the large rocks all around the monuments that I would have liked to have learned more about. Philip had seen a documentary on the memorial and was very helpful in pointing things out.
Our next stop was the Jefferson Memorial, known in our family as the Big Eraser. That’s because most of the time we see it is from the freeway, with the Washington Monument or the Big Pencil, in the background.
The Jefferson Memorial doesn’t get as many visitors because of it’s remote location. Not many people were there with us, so we enjoyed the peace and quiet and the cool, marble seats in the rotunda.
The next leg of our excursion was the longest. We’d parked the car at the halfway point between the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials and now had to walk all the way the far end of the Mall where the Lincoln Memorial is located.
Just past the steps to the left of the Lincoln Memorial is the Vietnam Memorial. We chose to skip this one since the symbolism would be mostly lost on our children. We chose instead to visit the Korean War Memorial which is just to the right of the Lincoln Memorial (that’s with Lincoln behind you). Since our family spent 2 years deployed to South Korea in the name of peace keeping, this memorial is near and dear to our hearts.
And now we were more than ready for lunch. In between the Korean War memorial and the Lincoln Memorial is a place to grab a highly non-nutritious and overly priced lunch. We’ve not had luck with packing our lunches on our excursions and our lunches have ended up a smashed, wilted mess at the bottom of our backpack. So we just buy something along the way. So much is free in DC, so it makes it easier to sign over your paycheck for lunch.
After lunch we continued down the Mall along the Reflecting Pool to the World War 2 memorial. Their brochure does a much better job explaining the various elements. The whole thing is very beautiful with all its water and marble.
I found this tucked into a corner of the memorial. If you visit, see if you can find it too!
Now it was time to head home. From the WW2 memorial, we headed up Independence to W Basin. The two streets meet right where this hidden monument is.
We were walking down W Basin towards where we guessed our car was parked was when we found the entrance to the FDR Memorial. We popped in to the bookstore which we’d skipped earlier and it was on the way out that we saw our car parked directly across the street. At the end of the day we were very glad to find our car so close!
We had a great day! The weather was beautiful and we’d been looking forward to seeing these monuments for a long time! Now that we’re in our last 9 months of our assignment, we need to make sure we don’t leave without seeing all the sights.
OK, so here’s my tips.
This whole excursion took about 5 hours, that’s with a 7 and 9 year old and the 3 year old in the stroller. DC is stroller friendly, but try to use a lightweight, umbrella stroller that is easy to maneuver. Because of the holiday, we were able to park our car without worrying about the time restrictions. The weather was mild and the humidity was low, so all the walking was not an issue. We packed water bottles and snacks to keep us going. Try to park near to where Ohio St and W Basin intersect; if you get there before 10 AM on a holiday, there is plenty of parking. Make sure that you approach the FDR Memorial from its entrance near W Basin.
Another option for seeing these particular monuments is to go from the FDR Memorial right to the Lincoln, which is differently than how we did it. Have a snack near the Lincoln, then go on to the Vietnam War and Korean War Memorials. Stop for lunch at the refreshment stand near the Korean War Memorial, or pack your own and eat at any one of the many park benches around. From there, head down to the WW2 Memorial.
Now return to your car and drive South on Ohio (keep the Jefferson on your left). Just as you pass the Jefferson and go under the freeway, you’ll see 3 parking lots marked “Memorial Parking”. They are free and they were each about half empty as we passed them. Parking there will make your walk to the Jefferson much shorter. However, do not try to park there first thing in the morning, see the memorial, then try to move your car closer to FDR and other monuments. If you try that, you will probably not find parking. Either park where I recommend and walk the whole thing as we did, or move your car to the lots I mentioned and see the Jefferson last.
This map was helpful in our planning. I got it map here, but I’ve labeled it with the street names I mentioned so it makes more sense.