Guide to Exploring the National Mall in Washington D.C.

As the heart of Washington D.C., the National Mall contains some of the city’s most famous monuments and museums. Stretching over two miles from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol Building, this open area is home to renowned institutions like the Smithsonian museums and iconic structures honoring past presidents. For first-time visitors, navigating this sprawling greenspace and deciding what to prioritize can be daunting. This insider’s guide provides tips for making the most of your time exploring the National Mall.

Marvel at the Monuments

When picturing the National Mall, the first images that come to mind are likely the towering marble monuments. A walk along the Mall allows you to take in these impressive tributes up close. Start at the Lincoln Memorial, with its imposing statue of the 16th president, and stroll east towards the Washington Monument. This 555-foot obelisk offers incredible views from the top. Continue along the reflecting pool to the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial. End at the Capitol Building to appreciate the Neoclassical architecture. Allow a few hours to leisurely admire each monument and read the inscriptions. Arrive early or late to avoid massive crowds.


Dive into the Museums

With several Smithsonian institutions located on the Mall, you could easily spend multiple days absorbing these world-class collections. Don’t miss the National Air and Space Museum, home to historical artifacts like the Wright Brothers’ flyer and the Apollo 11 capsule. The National Museum of American History contains pop culture treasures, including the Star-Spangled Banner. For art lovers, the National Gallery of Art houses works by Rembrandt, Monet, and Picasso. And the National Museum of Natural History transports visitors back in time with its dinosaur fossil exhibits. Purchase timed-entry passes online in advance to skip the lines. Focus on just a few museums that align with your interests.