The National Parks in Washington DC are the home to some of the oldest protected parklands in America, the National Mall, and Memorial Parks contain a number of America's most emblematic landmarks. Stretching from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument the National Mall is the perfect place to stroll while reflecting on American history.
Other notable monuments include the Jefferson, Lincoln, and Vietnam Veteran's Memorials. Plan on several days for this mega-attraction.
National Parks in Washington DC
The White House is just one of our national icons in Washington, D.C. Plan carefully to see as many as your time allows. Every American should see our beautiful capital. Springtime, when the Japanese cherry trees are in full bloom, maybe the prettiest time to go, but it will also be one of the busiest.
Many of the monuments are all within walking distance. They form a big cross in the center of D.C.
The apex is the Washington Monument. It is the great obelisk, a tall white pointy statue. Construction was stopped for 30 years due to a lack of funds and the Civil War. You can see a color change where the work was resumed.
It was erected to honor our first president and Revolutionary War leader George Washington.
Tours of the White House must be arranged in advance by one of your state representatives. It will take one to six months, so plan in advance to make this the highlight of your trip.
Opposite the White House is the Jefferson Memorial. Thomas Jefferson was our third president and the main author of the Declaration of Independence.
Reading some of his works at his memorial reveals the remarkable beliefs our country was built upon. The view from the White House must inspire our presidents.
If you don't have a vehicle, take a short taxi ride or Uber over to the Jefferson Memorial, as there is no direct access, only a busy bridge around the Tidal Basin.
The Metro is the cheapest transportation around the city. It is very nice and clean. If you pack light, you can even take it to and from the airports.
Another reasonable way to view all the sites is to take the hop-on, hop-off City Sightseeing bus. If you only have 2 days and want to see the most sites, this is a great option.
At the top of the cross is the Lincoln Memorial. The solemn statue of Honest Abe is quite impressive. Take some time to reflect, our country 's history and heroes, sitting on the staircase looking over the Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument and on to the Capitol.
You can also tour the Capitol by prearranged tickets available on the website or through your state representative.
The National Mall is the area between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol. It is filled with many statues, memorials, and museums. The most impressive are the World War II Memorial, the Smithsonian's, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Most museums' entry is free. You could spend weeks here and not see them all. Most of the museums have cafeterias for starving tourists. If possible, wait till after 1:30 p.m. when the rush slows.
Every trip to Washington, D.C., should also include a trip to Arlington National Cemetery. 250,000 Americans, who died in service of the United States, are buried there. Open October to March from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. with on-the-hour changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. During the spring and summer, the hours are 8 a.m.-7 p.m. with guards changing on the hour and half hour.
Washington, DC offers enough national monuments to keep a family, couple or individual busy and interested for as long as a vacation lasts.
National Mall and Memorial Parks
There are 25 National Parks in Washington DC that are managed by the National Park Service. Check out the Washington DC: Monuments and Memorials Segway Tour for a fun way to see many of the main sites.
Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument
Belmont Paul Women's Equality National Monument is located on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. President Barack Obama designated the national monument on April 12, 2016.
It is hard to believe that Belmont Paul Women's Equality National Monument was one of the least visited National Park Sites in 2018! I would love to see this change and have a ton more visitors to learn more about this important site.
Home to the National Woman's Party for nearly 90 years, this was the epicenter of the struggle for women's rights.
Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site
Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s home served as the headquarters for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Dr. Woodson established Negro History Week here in 1926, which we celebrate today as Black History Month.
Rangers offer guided interpretive tours of the house on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The tours last for 45 minutes. Reservations are recommended.
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal NHP is located along the Potomac River from Washington D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. The park offers hiking, biking, boating, camping, and outdoor recreation.
In 1828 the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal construction was started. Over the next 22 years 35,000 workers many of them immigrants from Ireland and Western Europe dug the canal and built aqueducts, culverts, and locks.
The first five boats filled with coal traveled the length of the canal in October 1850. At the peak of operation, the canal saw more than 540 boats in service with most of them carrying coal.
Visitors today can see 184.5 miles of the old canal right of way from Georgetown neighborhood in Washington D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. The towpath has been restored so you can see the path where mules pulled boats.
Constitution Gardens is located on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The park is open year-round with a viewing memorial to the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
The park was created as a tribute to the American Revolution and its 200-year old legacy. The artificial lake was built within the park in 1984. On July 2nd, a memorial was dedicated located on the small island within the lake. The memorial consists of 56 stones with the names of the signers of the Declaration of Independence engraved on them.
Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site
Ford's Theater NHS is located in Northwest D.C. The park is open year-round and offers tours of the theater and museum along with the Peterson House.
On April 14, 1864, Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary attended a play at Ford's Theater located six blocks from the White House. This was just days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appotomax Courthouse. They were looking to enjoy a night out and escape the pressures of the post Civil War period.
Unfortunately, President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth who was a Confederate sympathizer and actor. President Lincoln was moved across the street to the house of William Peterson where he passed away on the morning of April 15, 1865.
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial is located in West Potomac Park near the Jefferson Memorial. The park is open year-round and is free to explore.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 during the Great Depression. He was re-elected three times before passing away in office in 1945. He is the only U.S. President to serve more than two terms.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is 7-acres dedicated to FDR. There are four open-air galleries, one for each of his terms. The waterfalls and water features reflect the importance of water in FDR's life. He served as assistant secretary of the Navy during World War I and also oversaw the dam-building projects of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
There are also sculptures of FDR with his beloved Scottish Terrier, Fala along with a sculpture of Eleanor Roosevelt standing in front of the seal of the United Nations.
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
Frederik Douglass NHS is located in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington D.C. The park is open year-round and offers tours of Frederick Douglass's home and grounds.
Frederik Douglass was born in 1818. Despite being born into slavery he learned to read without any formal education. He escaped to the free North and became an internationally known and respected author and speaker.
He was dedicated to the abolitionist movement and equal rights for African Americans. He was also a newspaper publisher and served in many government positions including US Minister to Haiti and U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia.
In 1877 Frederik Douglass purchased a 9-acre estate that he named Cedar Hill. He would live in this house until he passed away in 1895.
Today you can take a ranger-led guided tour of Cedar Hill. Reservations are recommended. You can visit recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777 to book your tickets.
George Washington Memorial Parkway
George Washington Memorial Parkway was designated a park and playground in the 1930s. There are quite a few sites along the parkway as it leaves Washington D.C. to visit and explore.
Information, brochures, maps, and National Park Passport stamps are available at parkway headquarters and at visitor centers at Arlington House, Glen Echo Park, and Great Falls Park.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial is located on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial. The park is open year-round.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1995 to honor the American men and women who served during the Korean conflict. The Korean Conflict was never declared a war. It is often considered the forgotten war.
The memorial includes nineteen realistic stainless steel statues that depict members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and air force dressed to reflect the harsh Korean climate. There is also a polished granite wall that reflects the troops.
The Lincoln Memorial is located at the West end of the National Mall overlooking the Potomac River. The park is open year-round.
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States. He served during the Civil War, emancipated enslaved people in the South and was assassinated days after the end of the Civil War in 1865.
The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in 1922 and takes it architectural inspiration from Greek temples. The memorial was built using materials from different parts of the United States.
Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac is located off the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The park is open year-round and offers walking and biking trails.
The heart of the Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove is a 43-ton 19-foot monolith made of red Texas Granite. The memorial was created to remember LBJ's love for the land in his native Texas.
There are hundreds of dogwoods, azaleas, and rhododendrons around the memorial. You can enjoy picnic tables, winding paths, and markers inscribed with LBJ quotes. The Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial is located within Lady Bird Johnson Park which was renamed in 1968.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is located in the National Mall. The park is open year-round.
The MLK Jr. Memorial was dedicated in 2011 near the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
The memorial is a granite sculpture created by Chinese artist Master Lei Yixin. The memorial depicts Martin Luther King Jr. as a "stone of hope" emerging from a "mountain of despair".
These words were taken from this "I have a dream" speech. The memorial includes a 30-foot tall figure of Martin Luther King Jr. with his arms crossed looking hopeful towards the horizon.
There is also a wall inscribed with quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches.
Check out the African American History Tour & African American History & Culture Museum tour.
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House NHS is located in Northwest Washington D.C. The park is open year-round and offers tours of the historic home and a park movie.
Mary Mcleod Bethune was born in 1875 to parents who had been enslaved prior to Emancipation. She was very focused on her education. She became one of the most influential African Americans in the mid 20th century.
Mary McLeod Bethune truly believed that education was incredibly important to the empowerment of African-American women. She started a school in 1904 in Daytona Beach, Florida that was for poor black girls. This school grew to become Bethune-Cookman University.
Mary McLeod Bethune served as president of the university prior to being appointed the director of the Office of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
This position made her the first African-American woman to head a federal agency. Starting in 1935, She worked to create the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). The NCNW brought together more than two dozen organizations to work for better education and employment opportunities for African-American Women.
The group acquired a headquarters in 1943 which is where Mary McLeod Bethune lived until 1949. Today you can take a guided tour of the house and view a film talking about Mary McLeod Bethune's life and work. Rangers guide interpretive tours of the house on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays
National Capital Parks
National Capital Parks-East is 13 park sites, parkways, and statuary covering more than 8,000 acres of historic, cultural, and recreational parklands from Capitol Hill to the nearby Maryland suburbs.
National Capital Parks includes:
Capitol Hill Parks
Civil War Defenses of Washington - Fort Circle Parks
Fort Dupont Park
Fort Foote Park
Fort Washington Park
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
Langston Golf Course
Oxon Cove Park/Oxon Hill Farm
Potomac Heritage Trail
Sewall Belmont House and Museum
The National Mall stretches two miles from the steps of the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. The National Mall encompasses the original mall, Washington Monument Grounds, the Tidal Basin area, and West Potomac River behind the Lincoln Memorial.
There are more than 26 miles of pedestrian sidewalks and 8 miles of trails for biking within the National Mall. Some of the most famous museums in the United States line the original Mall including the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of the American Indian.
Pennsylvania Avenue runs between the U.S. Capitol and the White House. This unique site preserves locations related to the creation of the Federal City, Presidential Inaugurations, and historically significant events.
Presidents Park - White House
The White House also is known as President's Park is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
President's Park includes open spaces, monuments, statues, and buildings around the White House as well as the White House itself.
Tours of the White House are by advance reservation only and must be made through your Member of Congress. Requests can be submitted up to three months in advance and no less than 21 days in advance.
If you wish to visit the White House and are a citizen of a foreign country, please contact your embassy in Washington, DC, for assistance in submitting your request.
The White House Visitor Center is located at 1450 Pennsylvania Ave. The visitor center includes 100 historical artifacts, interpretive panels, an interactive touchscreen tour of the White House, over 90 artifacts from the White House collection and the park film.
Rock Creek Park
Rock Creek Park is the green space along Rock Creek from the Potamam River to the Maryland state line. The park is open year-round and offers hiking, biking, bird-watching, horseback riding, and more.
In 1890, legislation was created to protect Rock Creek Park. The park was set apart as a public park for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the United States. The park is one of the oldest federal parks in the country.
It stretches for more than 10-miles from the Potomac River along Rock Creek to the boundary line between Washington DC and Maryland.
The nature center's planetarium is the only planetarium in the National Park Service. Theodore Roosevelt used to visit the park to go bird-watching.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island is located in the Potomac River off of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The park is open year-round and offers hiking and a statue of Roosevelt.
Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States. Many consider him to be the conservation-minded President. He protected/created so many sites including Devils Tower, Muir Woods, and the Grand Canyon.
He also established the Us Forest Service and set aside more than 230 million acres of land for national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Thomas Jefferson Memorial is located on the National Mall at the Tidal Basin. The park is open year-round and offers a view of a statue of Thomas Jefferson and marble panels with quotes from Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States, chief author of the Declaration of Independence and the force behind the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is located on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial. The park is open year-round.
The "wall" portion of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1982. The wall is a 246 feet long V-shape of polished black granite displaying the names of all those who died in the Vietnam War and or who were listed as missing in action.
There is also a sculpture of three soldiers (seen in the photo above) designed by Frederik Hart.
The Washington Monument is located at the midpoint of the National Mall. The park recently re-opened after modernization of the elevator and construction of a permanent screening facility for visitors entering the landmark.
Construction of the Washington Monument started in 1848. Due to the Civil War and lack of funding the completion of the monument took until 1884. You can see where when construction started back in 1878 the marble was slightly darker in color.
The top ⅔ of the monument is slightly darker in color than the lower ⅓ due to the marble coming from lower down in the same quarry.
You can take an elevator to the observation level at 5oo-feet. Tickets are required for all visitors ages 2 and up.
Advance reservation tickets may be ordered at www.recreation.gov, (1.877.444.6777) 90-days in advance for a non-refundable reservation fee of $1.00 per ticket.
The World War II Memorial is located on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The park is open year-round.
The World War II Memorial was dedicated in 2004 to honor the 16 million people who served in the United States Military along with those who supported the war effort at home.
The memorial includes a large pool and fountain, two pavilions labeled Atlantic and Pacific, a Field of Stars honoring people who passed away in the war as well as those listed as missing in action, and two semicircles of pillars denoting states and territories.
List of National Parks in Washington D.C.
- Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument
- Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site
- Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
- Constitution Gardens
- Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site
- Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial
- Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
- George Washington Memorial Parkway
- Korean War Veterans Memorial
- Lincoln Memorial
- Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
- Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site
- National Capital Parks
- National Mall
- Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site
- Rock Creek Park
- Theodore Roosevelt Island
- Thomas Jefferson Memorial
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- Washington Monument
- White House
- World War I Memorial
- World War II Memorial