As some of you may know, when one lives in a city inundated with tourists year-round, the last thing one wants to do is go check out the touristy things. As a matter of fact, I only go do touristy things when I’m basically forced to do so by my friends who are visiting from other cities. I avoid the tourists at all costs. I almost never take the Metro from March-October, because visitors don’t know that you may die a violent death if you stand on the left side of the escalators and cause a commuter to miss their train #escalefters. I realize this is ironic because I am a frequent tourist myself, but I like to think that being frequently inconvenienced by tourists at home makes me a more considerate tourist when I’m on the road. However, ya girl just got a brand new camera (and needed to break in new boots for Iceland), and DC recently had an unseasonably nice day for late November, so I decided to play hooky and go be a Pretend Tourist in my own city. Below are the highlights from my morning wander around the Tidal Basin, with in depth posts about many of these monuments forthcoming. Enjoy!
Since I was able to get out the door pretty early on a weekday, I was able to snag one of the coveted free parking spaces on Ohio Drive. (Pro tip: the street parking begins at 9am and has a 3 hour limit, whereas Lot A [and possibly Lots B and C] have an unlimited parking allowance from 8am to 1am.) These lots are within easy walking distance of the Tidal Basin and the National Mall. I decided to do a loop around the Tidal Basin and Reflecting Pool, as this route would not only take me past the major monuments, but allow me to shoot many of the monuments from a ton of different angles.
I started my tour off walking towards the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. FDR is my ‘Main Man’ President, but I had never been to the memorial, wasn’t even aware it existed until Frank Underwood visited it in House of Cards. This monument is quite expansive, so allot at least 30-45 minutes, depending on how obsessed you are with the Depression/New Deal/WWII period of American History (I majored in it in college, so…)
After spending half an hour at the FDR memorial, I walked along the path of the Tidal Basin to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The MLK memorial is the newest of the bunch and is oft overrun with large groups of people. I visited at 9:15am on a Tuesday and was pretty much the lone visitor after narrowly missing a massive group of high schoolers on a field trip. (Pro tip: go bright and early and on a weekday.) This memorial is powerful and thought provoking and a really good way to stock up on legit MLK quotes for those inspirational MLK Day Instagrams you’ll post.
Up next, I strolled over to the Korean War Veterans Memorial as it’s on the way to the Lincoln Memorial. I feel like the Korean War is one of those forgotten wars, but the memorial is haunting and beautiful. The expressive faces of the statues are captivating, and I could not stop shooting the reflections of the statues on the wall of names.
The Lincoln Memorial is one of the most recognizable monuments in the District (after the Washington Monument and The Capitol) and sits at the far end of the National Mall by the Potomac River. From the top of the steps, you can pay honor to the President who led us through the Civil War and abolished slavery, as well as look down the National Mall at the WW2 Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the The U.S. Capitol. I made it to the Lincoln Memorial around 10:15am, and it was already inundated with people, so be prepared.
On the other side of the Lincoln Memorial is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The wall lists the 58,195 names, chronologically, of every Serviceman or Servicewomen that gave their lives in service to their country in Vietnam. (Pro tip: If you know someone whose name is listed on the wall, you can search their name to find out what panel they are listed on.) I ran into another tour group here, but this time decided to crash the party and walked around with them for a little bit. I realized afterwards it was a high school marching band group, and I probably looked like a First Class Creeper following them around.
After a stroll down the opposite side of the Reflecting Pool, in which I got stuck on the wrong side of a Keep Out – Construction! barrier and nearly ran down a nice group of Chinese tourists to get to a bathroom (I took some photos for them to make up for my rudeness), I made it to the World War II Memorial. This is probably my favorite of all the memorials, because it’s so regal and striking. WWII is also my “favorite” war (remember, I chose to major in that period of U.S. History), so this being my favorite memorial makes sense. They are currently doing construction by the monument, so some of the walkways are currently closed but with a few well-angled photos, you can eliminate any evidence of the cranes in your photos.
If you stand at the main “entrance” to the WWII Memorial, and do a complete 180 turn, this is your view. The Washington Monument is THE icon of DC. At the time it was completed, the monument was the tallest building in the world at 555 feet and a few inches. It remains the tallest building in the DC. You can go up in the Monument, but you must have tickets to do so, and they have limited availability.
Last, but certainly not least, I completed my walk around the Tidal Basin on the way to the Jefferson Memorial. Thomas Jefferson was an OG. A lawyer, a Founding Father, primary author of the Declaration of Independence, a Vice President, and a President. Dude did a lot in his day. The World War II Memorial may be my overall favorite, but the Jefferson Memorial is my favorite at night time. It’s beautiful, and I cannot wait to photograph it.
I really enjoyed being a hometown tourist in DC for a morning. It’s always fun to see my city through the eyes of people who don’t see it everyday, so maybe I won’t be such a grumpasaurus the next time a friend wants a tour… Be on the look out in the next few months for posts dedicated to these monuments, as I definitely took more than 10 photos during my excursion.
I made it home from Iceland yesterday, and I am hard at work getting those photos edited and posts ready, so I hope you are ready to hear all about how much I loved it!