National Park Getaway: National Mall & Memorial Parks

By Nancy Murray, Public Affairs Specialist, National Mall & Memorial Parks
Ranger giving a talk to visitors at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Park rangers offer a wide variety of programs and activities around the National Mall: talks, walks, runs, bikes, and more!

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National Mall and Memorial Parks, known as “America’s Front Yard,” is a unique place to travel through American history. In the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, you can stand on the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech and Marian Anderson “sang for the nation” after having been denied permission to perform at nearby Constitution Hall because of her race.

Stroll along the Tidal Basin to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and learn how America navigated the Great Depression at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial; don’t miss the statue of his wife Eleanor, who is the only First Lady included in a memorial on the National Mall. Nearby, are memorials to two Founding Fathers–George Mason, the “Father of the Bill of Rights,” and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, with a larger than life statue of the third president of the United States surrounded by excerpts of his writings.
Black-colored memorial wall listing more than 50,000 names of soldiers
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial chronologically lists the names of more than 58,000 Americans who gave their lives in service to their country.

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Military history beckons at the hallowed grounds of several iconic memorials honoring our veterans. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is engraved with the names of the 58,518 fallen and missing in action; you can see your own reflection in “The Wall”, symbolically linking past and present. The nearby Vietnam Women’s Memorial commemorates the 265,000 women that went to Vietnam to care for the wounded and dying. The Korean War Veterans Memorial ensures that the “forgotten war” will never be; the 19 larger-than-life stainless steel statues represent each branch of the armed forces that served in Korea. And the World War II Memorial commemorates the 16 million members of the armed forces of the United States of America, the support of countless millions on the home front, and the ultimate sacrifice of 405,399 Americans (try to find the two “Kilroy was here” drawings hidden by the designer in the memorial!).

Beyond the monumental core, relive over two centuries of American history and presidential inaugural parades at Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site. Or take a break in Constitution Gardens, a quiet oasis in the middle of the city. Walk the rolling landscape which includes the oldest building on the National Mall, the Lockkeeper’s House. National Mall and Memorial Parks also includes more than 150 smaller monuments, memorials, traffic circles, public parks, and green spaces scattered throughout the nation’s capital.
Equestrian statue of Civil War General Phillip Sheridan
National Mall and Memorial Parks maintains more than 100 statues and memorials throughout downtown Washington.

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The National Mall hosts some of America’s largest annual national celebrations. The blossoming of more than 3,000 Japanese flowering cherry trees around the National Mall heralds the return of spring to the nation’s capital each year and the accompanying National Cherry Blossom Festival draws an estimated one million visitors to the park. And on the Fourth of July, the National Mall hosts the National Independence Day parade, A Capitol Fourth concert, and one of the nation’s largest fireworks displays.

National Mall and Memorial Parks is a diverse national park with distinctive sites that excite and enchant visitors while they learn the history of our nation. Begin your journey to “America’s Front Yard” by checking out one of the many scheduled events and tours or planning your own experience!

Last updated: August 31, 2017