Are you planning a Washington DC trip and thinking about visiting the DC monuments at night?
Awesome! It is a great option. Not only will you beat the heat of the summer but the crowds will be so much lower!
If you have been following along on my blog you will know that I am based in Utah. One exciting thing you may not know is that I lived just outside of Washington DC and was able to explore a lot of the east coast during our time there.
I love Washington DC and all of the East Coast Historical Sites. I wish I could have lived there longer!
Let’s plan everything you need to know when visiting the DC monuments at night!
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Why Visit the DC Monuments at Night?
Okay, truth be told is that on a trip to DC last year, my husband visited the monuments at night because he was in meetings during the day. So, yes, one reason is that it’s the only time you have time.
But hopefully, that’s not the situation, in which case, here are the five reasons to see the monuments at night.
1. DC Monuments are Open at Night
They’re open. There is not a lot open in the evening in DC. The museums close early. But the monuments are always accessible.
2. The Blazing Sun is Down
You don’t have to mess with the sun. Summer and DC when mixed together are ingredients for heat. For the most part, you are outside if you are visiting the monuments. By going at night, you can enjoy the monuments without battling the summer heat.
3. Less Crowds
Another reason is there are fewer crowds. You won’t be completely alone in most places. You will still see tour buses late at night. Sometimes you won’t see the buses, but all of a sudden see a swarm of people with lanyards and know tour or convention buses are still making the rounds.
You will also likely come across families and friends on rental bikes or scooters getting around Washington DC. But there won’t be many. And with few people out and about, you will have plenty of space to roam around.
And if you happen to be a runner, and my husband and I are, avoiding the heat and having space is a recipe for a great, scenic run.
4. Monuments are Lit Up
See the lights. The monuments are lit up at night, accentuating their majestic structures.
It’s peaceful. With fewer cars and fewer people, it is noticeably more quiet. It is a great way to quietly take in each monument and ponder on their messages.
Transportation to the Washington DC Monuments
Take the Orange, Silver, or Blue Line to the Smithsonian stop. The Smithsonian stop is where you will want to exit to start your monument at night tour.
There is a small free parking lot by the Washington Memorial that I used to park at all the time. However, if spots are taken you can usually find a spot along the Mall. These spots do cost money. If you park at night, you should have better luck than finding a spot earlier in the day.
How Much Time Do I Need to See the Monuments at Night?
The National Mall is about a 5 miles round trip. You can try to hit as many monuments and memorials as you can but it can take hours, so you may want to pick and choose the ones that are most important to you.
Obviously, you are not going to be speed walking you will want to enjoy each monument and read the inscriptions and take pictures at each one. I would give you about 3 hours to tour around some of the top monuments and memorials on foot.
Things to Know Before Exploring the Monuments at Night
The monuments are run by the National Park Service.
Do the Monuments in DC Close?
The monuments are open 24 hours a day. There are park rangers available from 9:30 am – 11:30 pm daily.
Restrooms are located at the Lincoln Memorial, the FDR Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. There is another restroom as you are walking along the path.
The good thing about DC at night is the crowds are lower making the parking spaces more available. Parking is strictly enforced. So please pay attention to the signs.
Make your plan of attack for viewing the DC monuments at night. You will want to have a plan on which monuments you want to see first and which ones are the most important to you.
The National Mall stretches from the United States Capitol to the east, to the Lincoln Memorial to the west. From the Smithsonian Station, it is about half of a mile to the Washington Memorial (to the west of the station).
Word War II Memorial
From there, your next step will be likely the World War II Memorial, about a third of a mile to the west of the Washington Memorial. I really enjoy the World War II Memorial and spent quite some time there before moving on.
The World War II Memorial is made up of two semicircles, with two arches commemorating the two theaters of the war: the Pacific and the Atlantic. Pillars line the semicircles, each with a name of one of the fifty states.
From the World War II Memorial, you will have about a half-mile to the Lincoln Memorial.
Word of Caution
A word of caution here. I would recommend walking along the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool that runs between the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial. It can be quite easy to follow a path that veers to the north.
I have found going toward the Constitution Gardens to the north is intimidating. There appear to be fewer people at night, the lighting is very poor, and you may see the occasional bench sleeper. It is not the best path to see the Lincoln Memorial at night.
You will have plenty of light and should have plenty of company if you stay by the reflecting pool.
The Lincoln Memorial is an awesome sight and a favorite of many. Don’t be surprised if it seems crowded, even late at night.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
From there, unless you saw it on your way, consider going to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
There do not seem to be many people at night, and the stillness of the evening help to reflect on the sacrifice of those who served.
If you call it good at that point, you probably haven’t been out too long, and can go back to your hotel or other abode and call it a night.
Continue Along the Path
But if you have time, stamina, and the desire to see it all, if you head south from the Lincoln Memorial, and walk along the west bank of the Tidal Basin, you can see quite a few more memorials.
The last stop will be the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, which is over a mile from the Lincoln Memorial.
The good news is that you can get to the Smithsonian Station from there by continuing counterclockwise along the Tidal Basin (it takes about another mile).
Other Monuments Along the Way
Korean War Veterans Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr Memorial
Walking another mile is a tall order for me unless I get an early start. But if I’m ambitious, I might go part way, hitting the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
The other memorial along that route is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. This is an expansive memorial, with quite a bit to see.
Complete List of Memorials and Monuments
Here is a complete list of the major memorials and monuments on the National Mall in no particular order:
- Jefferson Memorial
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
- Korean War Veterans Memorial
- Lincoln Memorial
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- Washington Monument
- World War II Memorial
- Martin Luther King Memorial
If you prefer to be in a group, there are many night tours available. Many offer a form of transportation other than your feet. This is really nice because there is a lot of walking involved when touring the DC monuments.
The Washington DC Monuments at Night Bus Tour is probably the best way to tour at night. You have the safety of a larger group as well as a guide. This is a 3-hour excursion. Keep in mind the night bus tour is not offered every night. Check the schedule to see when it is available.
On our most recent trip, we decided to take the daytime bus tour. We talked with many people who had done the DC night monument tour and loved it. They said it was even better than the day tour. Unfortunately, it wasn’t offered on the days we were in DC.
The monuments by moonlight Trolley Tour is another option.
The Night Time Roadster Tour is a great way to explore the Nation’s Capital at night. This seven-passenger electric vehicle will provide a two-hour guided historical trip around the most fascinating DC attractions. It is a great opportunity to use your nighttime photography skills.
A Bike Tour of Washington DC at Night is another great way to see the monuments. This tour is about three hours and allows you to jump on and off your bike to see the spectacular views all around you.
A Washington DC Segway Night Tour is a fun adventure to try. You get the same benefits as the bike tour but with just a little less physical exercise involved.
Take a Drive to Iwo Jima
After you visit all of the monuments near the Mall, take a drive to Iwo Jima. It is a short drive, and so worth it. On our last trip, we never adjusted to East Coast time. We ended up visiting Iwo Jima at midnight!
I loved seeing this monument at night! There is plenty of parking all around! My brother was in the Marines, so this one has a special place in my heart.
Visit the DC Monuments at Night
Hopefully, this gives you some helpful tips for visiting the DC monuments at night! It is so fun to experience these great memorials in a different light. (no pun intended) The National Mall at night is incredible!
Memorials and Monuments and the East Coast National Parks are a vital part of learning history. It helps us remember those that came before us and the lessons from the past.
History is not always pretty but learning from these events will help us become better. Without them, we may forget the learning moments of American history.
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