National Mall Travel Guide

The Mall is impressive year round and at any time of day. It is particularly beautiful when illuminated at night, and in early spring when thousands of Japanese cherry trees burst into bloom around the Tidal Basin. Presented as a gift in 1912 from Japan, more than 3,700 cherry trees explode into a sea of pale pink and white, heralding the arrival of spring in our nation's capital.

Seasonal Highlights

Cherry Blossom Festival: Late March to early April.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival: Two weeks in late June - early July, with concerts, performances, story telling and more. Click here for more information.

Editor's Picks

Fireworks on the Mall: July 4, with a parade and concert by the National Symphony Orchestra.
Screen on the Green: Outdoor viewing of film classics on Monday nights in July and August.

Contact Information

National Mall and Memorial Parks Visitor Information:
Web site:
Phone: 202-426-6841

Smithsonian Institution Visitor Information:
Web site:
Phone: 202-357-2700

How to Navigate the National Mall and Memorial Parks

To the surprise of many visitors the seat of American government is also a beautiful city, a celebration in marble and stone of the ideals on which democracy was founded.

Though laid out roughly according to the original 1791 plan by French military engineer Pierre-Charles L'Enfant, Washington D.C. has changed considerably over the years. At its heart is the National Mall -- a majestic two-mile greensward running west from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial, lined with some of the nation's most important monuments and civic and cultural institutions -- an awe-inspiring centerpiece for sure, but one that did not assume its current form until the early 20th century.

The focal point and unmistakeble icon of the National Mall is the Washington Monument; the Mall's first presidential memorial, it was completed in 1884. Thrusting skyward 555 feet, it offers visitors a spectacular 360-degree view from its peak.

To the west, the neoclassical Lincoln Memorial is probably the most emotional of the Mall's presidential memorials. Built to resemble a Greek temple, it has 36 Doric columns representing the 36 states in the union at the time of Lincoln's death. Inside, Daniel Chester French's massive 19-foot seated sculpture of our nation's 16th president gazes out, the powerful words of his Gettysburg Address etched behind him, below a mural depicting the unity of North and South. For the most profound experience, visit at night, after the crowds have thinned out.

South of the Washington Monument on the banks of the Tidal Basin, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial was designed in 1936 by John Russell Pope and modeled on the Pantheon in Rome. Inside, a 19-foot bronze statue of the third president stands surrounded by passages from the Declaration of Independence that he helped pen.

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