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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe National Mall in downtown Washington D.C., is a major national park in the United States and the D.C.’s main centerpiece. The park is operated by the National Park Service, a part of the National Mall and Memorial Park's unit. The massive park spans between Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue, and extends between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol Building. Each year, the National Mall holds more than 3,000 annual events and is visited by over 24 million tourists.
HistoryThe National Mall owes its creation to President George Washington and French-born American architect, Pierre Charles L’Enfant . In 1791, Washington commissioned L’Enfant to design a ten-mile square in the state. L’Enfant wanted a “grand avenue” between the Capitol Building and an equestrian statue of Washington (now known as the “Washington Monument”). The streets inside the park were laid out in grids and circles, serving as open spaces for monuments of other federal establishments.
Later in 1901, Michigan Representative Senator McMillan created a committee of artists, architects, and landscape designers to expand L’Enfant’s original plan (the McMillan Plan), giving rise to the National Mall we see today. The mall was extend westward and southward, and also relocating the railway behind the Capitol, which is now the D.C. Union Station.
In 2010, a new “National Mall Plan” was signed in order to improve visitors’ experience inside the park. The project was focused on the redesign and redevelopment of the facilities. These changes include the improvement of the appearance and viability of the historic sites and landscapes, improving the designs and infrastructures of the National Mall, and providing convenient and clean facilities and services for the millions of visitors. Ultimately giving the future generations a chance to experience the beauty of the National Mall.
What to See in the National MallNicknamed “America’s Front Yard”, the National Mall is a park with beautifully landscaped gardens and wide, open spaces for picnics and public events. Most tourists who visit the mall would definitely check out the U.S. Capitol Building or the President’s office, “The White House”, first for some fantastic photo opportunities. These places are most enjoyable when you schedule a public tour.
Apart from these uber-famous landmarks, the mall also has a myriad of historic landmarks and museums including the world-renowned ten museums of the Smithsonian Institution . The museums houses exhibits covering American culture and history, art, and aviation down to space exploration. Among the ten Smithsonian Museums, here are some of the best museums to visit, especially if you are visiting with limited time.
Smithsonian Institution BuildingAlso known as “the Castle”, the Smithsonian Institution Building, located along Jefferson Drive, is the oldest building among all others in the National Mall. Visiting the castle is the best way to start off your museum-hopping adventure and learn more about the institute’s background and history. Maps and schedules of events are also available here for free, that’s why most visitors stop by here first to plan their itinerary.
National Museum of American HistoryLocated between 12th and 14th Streets, the museum houses over 3 million artifacts about the nation’s history and culture, from the African-American Civil War up to the present. Many galleries are present in the museum in order to categorize the artifacts. A popular exhibit is the state-of-the-art gallery at the heart of the institute, the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
National Museum of Natural HistoryDefinitely a must-visit when visiting the Smithsonian Museums. The museum located along 10th Street and Constitution Avenue is one of the most visited museums in the National Mall, featuring an 80-foot tall dinosaur skeleton, the alluring 45-and-a-half carat “Hope Diamond”, and the life-sized scale display of mammals and other creatures that have once walked on this Earth.
Smithsonian Freer GalleryInternational collections of art, paintings, and sculptures from China, Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia can all be discovered at one convenient location. The Freer Gallery, located along Independence Avenue, is one of the popular spots to learn more about Eastern culture. Aside from the diverse artworks, the museum also has its auditorium that conducts free programs about the galleries, lectures, dramatic presentations, and even Asian music and dance performances.
National Air and Space MuseumThe largest collection of aviation and spacecraft in the entire world can only be found in the National Air and Space Museums’ two locations (the main building located at 7th and Independence Avenue, and the annex facility in Dulles Airport, Virginia). The impressive collection consists of artifacts that cover the field of aviation history, science, and the technology behind it. Kids can also enjoy the shows featured at the IMAX Theatre and the Einstein Planetarium.
Monuments and Memorials
Washington MonumentAn obelisk built to honor the U.S. first president, George Washington. Standing 169 meter above the National Mall, it is the tallest structure in the entire state of Washington, D.C. The monument is open from Monday to Sunday, 8AM until midnight during April to Labor Day (first Monday in September), and 9AM to 5PM during the rest of the year.
Lincoln MemorialA national historic landmark in the National Mall that was built as tribute to late President, Abraham Lincoln. The memorial was dedicated in 1922 and has been the site for many famous speeches and events, including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s world-renowned speech in 1963 (“I have a dream”). Aside from the Neo-Classical architecture, the Lincoln Memorial also features a 19-foot tall marble statue of Lincoln sitting in the center of the memorial. The iconic landmark is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Park rangers can be seen on duty within the area from 9:30AM – 11:30PM.
World War II MemorialEstablished in 2004, the memorial is a beautiful park in the National Mall, dedicated to the veterans who fought in the 2nd World War. It is located along 17th Street, between Constitution and Independence Avenue. The memorial features an oval with two 43-foot tall arches surrounded by 56 pillars (representing the 56 states of the U.S.), and several fountains and waterfalls. The memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day.
Other historic memorials around the National Mall that are definitely worth visiting are the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, and the African-American Civil War Memorial .
DiningThe National Mall has a plethora of great dining options ranging from hot dogs and refreshment stands on the streets down to a wide variety of museum cafés and restaurants. Most of the dining spots around the park are conveniently located inside the museums, which are all open at the same time as the museums.
The first on the to-go list is the Constitution Café in National Museum of American History. The café offers gourmet snacks like sandwiches, salads, and soups. Also located in the museum is the Stars and Stripes Café, popular for its American selections. The Natural History Museum has the Atrium Café. Aside from the live band music during Fridays, the Atrium Café is a plaza of fast food options. The Fossil Café also provides visitors with choices of salads and sandwiches, even Gelato.
The National Air and Space Museum also has a wide selection of fast food in the Wright Place Food Court. Choices include Donato’s Pizza, Boston Market, and McDonald’s. Walking a few blocks to the National Gallery of Art, the Cascade Café is located in the East Building, while the Café Provencal is at the West Building. The Cascade serves specialty entrees, Japanese noodles, sushi, and wood-fired pizzas. The Café Provencal on the other hand is a French-style bistro featuring a buffet and ala carte menu.
Accommodations near The National MallHotels and all kinds of accommodations are scattered all around the National Mall, providing great experiences and exceptional services to the park’s millions of visitors every year. The wide selection of accommodation options you can find surrounding the area range from budget-friendly inns, luxury suites, and family-friendly guest rooms. Most of these hotels also offer their very own flavor of the D.C. experience, serving great food inside their establishments.
The Willard InterContinental Hotel in Pennsylvania Avenue, which is conveniently located in the heart of Washington D.C., has over 340 guest rooms and 42 luxury suites. Aside from being popular among frequent visitors due to its close proximity to the National Mall, The Willard is also one of the historic landmark hotels in the city. Another great accommodation close to the Smithsonian Museums is the State Plaza Hotel. An all-suite hotel located along East Street NW.
The Marriot Residence Inn Capitol is also a nice choice. The hotel features rooms with living rooms, sofa beds, and full kitchens. The high-rise inn is located a few blocks from the National Mall and other popular landmarks. Also a popular choice is the Liaison Capitol Hill, which is a boutique hotel offering luxury suites, customized amenities, and its own 5-star restaurant. The prestigious hotel is conveniently located along New Jersey Avenue, just a few blocks away from the Capitol Building.
Getting AroundStretching for about two miles from the Capitol down to the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall’s population get around to places most commonly by walking (it is also the best way to admire the sights and attractions). The Metrorail in Washington D.C. on the other hand provides the most convenient way of moving around from the mall and to other key points in the city. The Blue/Orange Line is the way to go if you’re planning on visiting the Smithsonian Institute first.
Buses around the National Mall all serve different routes, most buses you can see in the mall are those travelling from Georgetown to the Northwest and Pennsylvania Avenue. Although buses and cars are the most common way of getting around for most people, it is quite discouraged within the mall because of chronic traffic jams.
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Author: radiantan. Last updated: Jan 06, 2015