February 02, 2018

The National Mall - Washington, D.C.

Guess what!  I completely missed National Plan for Vacation Day!  This year, it fell on Tuesday, January 30th.  Do you know why I missed it?  Well, I have the perfect excuse . . . Alan and I were on vacation!  Well, a mini-vacation.  On Tuesday, we were driving home from Virginia after a quick trip to visit our son (who was staying near Washington, D.C on an extended business trip) and our friends Peg and Bill.  From an earlier post, you may recall that we had overnighted at Peg and Bill’s home in Ohio when starting out on the first of our three cross country National Parks trips.  They now live in a lovely little town in Virginia and we had a brief but delightful visit.  Peg and I have been friends since the first grade (that was many, many years ago!) and enjoy an easy camaraderie that allows us to pick up right where we left off - no matter how long it has been since our last get together.  Her husband Bill is a great guy and Alan and I always enjoy the time we spend with them – no matter what we do or where we are.  Knowing that our son had a complete day free on Sunday and that Peg and Bill’s calendar was clear on Monday, we decided on a quick road trip to combine our Virginia visits.  Since our daughter was the only one in our family fortunate enough to have visited Washington, D.C. (on a school trip), Alan, our son and I headed to the National Mall late on Sunday morning to see the sights.

The traffic situation was busy but not terrible - maybe due to the day of the week, maybe due to the drizzling rain – and our “youngster” of 23 quickly found a parking garage on 12th Street NW with a $15.00 fee for the entire day.  Yay!  We had two specific goals in mind for the day:  one was to tour the Smithsonian Museum of American History (which is only one of a number of Smithsonian Institution Museums in the city) and the other was to visit the National World War II Memorial (since Alan’s Dad had served in both the Army and the Air Force during that time).

One of many Smithsonian Institution Museums

The Museum of American History was incredibly mind-boggling with a large number of meticulously organized exhibits that provided an enormous amount of information.  The creative and attractive informational displays were accompanied by countless treasures and artifacts – truly pieces of American history right there before our eyes.  My personal favorite was the “Star Spangled Banner” display.  We stood just inches away from the flag that flew over Fort McHenry while it was under attack from the British during the War of 1812.  It was this particular flag and the bombing of this Fort that prompted Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner” on September 13, 1814.  I don’t think I will ever hear our National Anthem again without remembering the moving and memorable display at the Smithsonian.  To be able to stand before this flag alone was worth the trip into D.C.  (Note:  I have no photos of the flag itself because photography was prohibited in the actual exhibit.)

The Star Spangled Banner Exhibit

I think you might be happy to know that RV travel was nicely represented in the “America On the Move” exhibit which explored the role of transportation in American history.  After viewing the travel trailer of old, my appreciation for the modern amenities in our travel trailer (like heat, air conditioning, a TV and a microwave) has deepened considerably.  A nod was given to the role of Historic Route 66, as well, and the exhibit was exceptionally well done. 

The America on the Move Exhibit


When we left the Smithsonian Museum of American History on Constitution Avenue, we walked westward along the National Mall to view the Washington Monument before making our way further west to the National World War II Memorial.  It was definitely a special moment for Alan when he was able to pull up his father’s photo and bio at the Visitor Kiosk near the Memorial.  He remembers helping his Mom submit the required paperwork many years ago that would ensure his Dad’s name was included in the Memorial.

The National World War II Memorial with the Lincoln Memorial in the background

From there, we wandered along the Reflecting Pool to the west end of the National Mall which is anchored by the Lincoln Memorial.  Another very moving Memorial and, I’d have to say, a visitor favorite based upon the number of people we saw visiting. 

The very impressive Lincoln Memorial

The view from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial stretches past the Reflecting Pool, past the Washington Monument and all the way down the National Mall to the Capitol which anchors the east end.  I couldn’t think of a better place to contemplate America’s history than from that very spot.

View from the Lincoln Memorial of the Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument and the Capitol

To be able to wander among our country’s most beloved monuments and memorials was a wonderful experience.  There were many that we weren’t able to visit simply due to time constraints that day and I can see another trip here in our future.  I admit that a visit to Washington, D.C. was never on my Bucket List but I now find myself wondering why that was and I’m looking forward to returning.

The Capitol in the city's evening light
The National Park Service web site is a good place to start if you’re interested in visiting the National Mall (link HERE).  I’d also suggest researching “The McMillan Plan,” a document authored by members of the McMillan Commission in 1901-1902 that provided the foundation for the building of the National Mall, the location of the monuments and memorials and the basic development of that area of Washington, D.C.  I know it sounds like dry reading, but it really was fascinating to learn how the most iconic of our national treasures came to be as a result of a plan that was never formally implemented. 

Do you have a favorite Monument or Memorial in Washington, D.C.?  If so, feel free to share in the Comments section below!


  1. How wise of you to see those places that require lots of mobility while you're still young. When we toured D.C., we were still young enough to walk a lot and see most of what we wished. Not so much nowadays.

    1. Our opportunities change throughout our lives and there is a time and a place for everything. The trick to replacing one adventure with another is to take advantage of the ones that bring joy to our hearts and provide experiences that enrich our lives. I have a feeling that you and Sandy have a countless number of brass rings in your collection.


Comments are encouraged and appreciated, so please do join the conversation!