By TMoM Team Member Suzy Fielders Aaron

There are so many amazing things to do and see at our nation’s capital. Whether you take a day trip to DC and stay outside the city or spend a weekend there, one must visit destination is the National Mall. We took a day to visit this area of DC in August and had such a great time!

If you homeschool like us, it is the perfect place for field trips. You can also have the kids research in advance various exhibits they want to see or history on the monuments.

DC Travel Tips

First, if you only plan to spend the day there, then try to take the train. It is horrible trying to get in and out of DC. I-95 in the area is virtually a parking lot in multiple areas.

Next, if you do drive in, I highly recommend the ParkWhiz app. I purchased the space in parking deck right by the National Mall. It was an easy walk to our first museum stop. It picks up plenty of parking options in the area. That part was all wonderful. The trying to get to the parking deck was absolutely horrible as they kept shutting down roads for protests, rallies, security, etc.

Admission is free to all these museums and monuments; however, a few do require reserving tickets currently. Be sure to look on the museum’s website before visiting.

If you visit anytime soon or while the pandemic is still ongoing, plan to mask up. Also, most places require masks for 2+ years old.

Be ready to walk – a lot! Make sure everyone has on comfortable walking shoes and that you have (or you can stop and buy along the way) water.

There are plenty of food trucks in the area. Or, at least when we were there that was the case. They are a bit pricy, but a lot easier than bringing food (for a picnic) or going outside the mall to go to a restaurant. There are also a couple places within the middle and inside the museums to get food, but it’s mostly beverages or snack type items.

Finally, do not go in the summertime if you can avoid it. It was so incredibly hot on our August visit. I had ‘hoped’ since it was further north than the Triad, it might be slightly cooler. No such luck. Since it requires a lot of outdoor walking, the heat is intense. The same probably goes in colder months. If you can plan accordingly, Spring and Fall are likely the best times to visit.

Museums, Monuments, and Memorials

We knew we only had a day to get through the entire National Mall, so we looked at the map and decided on the places we really wanted to see. Honestly, you could probably spend an entire weekend at the National Mall and still not see everything! Therefore, make sure you do some research in advance and decide on the places you want to see most.

National Gallery of Art

Remember that parking space I mentioned? It was right by this museum. So, we started here and worked our way around the National Mall and ended at the National Air and Space Museum as it was across from the National Art Gallery.

This museum has two buildings – an east and west wing – and a sculpture garden. We didn’t get to make it to the sculpture garden. But, for any art lover or one who appreciates art, this museum is a must. It showcases so many different genres of art. The rooftop terrace had some cool sculptures and views as well.

Be sure to get a map as it’s a large place and easy to miss things!

National Museum of Natural History

My daughter and husband loved this museum best. It has so many cool exhibits with a huge variety of displays from gems and fossils to mummies. The Hope Diamond is also here and is stunning. Similar to the National Gallery of Art a map is very helpful here to not miss any exhibits.

Washington Monument

Due to being short on time, we did not go inside/up the monument. However, it is very impressive to look at, take photos of, or get a family photo in front of.

World War 2 Memorial

This is a stunning and moving memorial. It is fun to walk around and check out each state’s pillar. Plus, the distance between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial is pretty far. So, it is a good place to stop and rest for a moment.

Lincoln Memorial

When we visited there was a rally or protest of some sort happening on the steps and in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Those are common in DC, so just be prepared for that possibility in there and in the National Mall. There were two other ones going on in other areas of the National Mall that day. It did make it a little hard to get into the Lincoln Memorial and was very packed, but well worth it. This is a moving place and a must-see memorial.

Smithsonian Institution Building (a.k.a. The Castle)

We did not get to go inside of this one as we were running out of time. However, the outside architecture is worth the stop and photo opportunity! It was on our list to go in, and if we go back we will be sure to go in.

National Air and Space Museum

Since we are from the ‘First in Flight’ state, we, of course, wanted to check out this museum. Honestly, it was the only one we visited that was a bit disappointing. It wasn’t that big and didn’t have a ton to see. Plus, their AC was either not working or very poor as it was almost as hot in there as it was outside. However, we did enjoy the Wright Brothers exhibit and walking inside a rocket to see how the astronauts live in space. Apparently, there is now a second Air & Space Museum location in Chantilly, VA so it might be they’ve moved exhibits out there.

Other Museums

In addition to all the ones listed above, other museums right inside the National Mall include:

  • American History Museum
  • African American History and Culture Museum
  • Freer Gallery
  • Sackler Gallery
  • African Art Museum
  • Hirshhorn Museum
  • American Indian Museum

Also, at the end opposite the Lincoln Memorial is the U.S. Capitol building. We did not get to walk all the way down to it but were able to get some good photos from afar. Similarly, you can get a good view of the White House from the Washington Monument.

I hope this helps you plan your visit to see the National Mall in DC! For more travel blogs and tips, click here!

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