What Washington DC does best is honor America’s war heroes, former presidents, statesmen, and all those who have helped to shape the country that the United States is today.
What Washington DC does best is honor America’s war heroes, former presidents, statesmen, and all those who have helped to shape the country that the United States is today. It does so by erecting striking monuments and memorials all over the city, but particularly along the National mall.
If you take a trip to DC, be aware that there is quite a distance between some of the main monuments. They are fairly well spread out, so seeing all of them in a day, or on foot is a bit of a task. This is where a guided tour comes into play, and there are many of them on offer, with specific tours concentrating on visiting the memorials and monuments only, both during the day and at night when the monuments are beautifully illuminated. The Washington DC Old Town Trolley tours are known to provide some of the best interesting and interactive trips around the city.
Saying that, I did not not take a tour myself, but had my own personal guide, my daughter who was living there at the time of my visit. Always an asset to have insider knowledge when visiting a new place! I visited most of the monuments at nighttime and it was well worth braving the freezing cold weather to see just how striking they are by night.
There is something unique about Washington DC. I don’t recall any place I have ever been to that shows such reverence and such respect to their monuments as DC does. I was personally struck by the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. Such dedication and reverence shown by the soldiers, such perfection and precision in what they were doing, and such obvious pride in their task, of honoring American service men and women “Known But to God”.
On a bitterly cold February night, I couldn’t but feel sympathy for the DC policeman guarding the Lincoln Memorial at midnight, yet he looked enormously proud to be there.
The Lincoln memorial, built in 1922 to honor the former president Abraham Lincoln is possibly the most striking monument of them all and one of my favorites. The Lincoln memorial is also somewhat of an icon in movies, with many famous scenes taking place on the steps as characters overlook the National Mall. Lincoln is seated on a ten foot high marble base, and 38 Grecian columns surround the statue. The statue is surrounded by engraved readings of the Gettysburg Address. Standing at nighttime on the steps, in an almost deserted looking DC, looking back down past the Reflecting Pool on to the World War two Memorial and on to the Washington Monument reminds you that you are indeed somewhere very special.
The World War Two memorial, only opened to the public in 2004, is a fitting tribute to those who fought in the Second World War. In fact, the Second World War is the only 20th Century event commemorated on the National Mall’s central axis.
To the east of this memorial is the Washington Monument, commemorating George Washington, America’s first President. The monument took 40 years to build, due to lack of funds. In fact, if you look closely you can see that the color of the stone changes a little under a third of the way up. When I visited DC the monument was being repaired (it suffered damage after the 2011 earthquake that hit the city), but according to the National Park Service, once they have replaced pieces that came loose or fell off, it will be back to its former glory by Spring 2014.
Some monuments may strike you more than others on your visit, perhaps because one or other appeals to you aesthetically, or perhaps because one or other has more resonance for you because of what it is commemorating or honoring.
A relatively new memorial, the Martin Luther King Memorial, open in 2011. This monument as well as being very beautiful, resonated with me, as it honors King’s vision of freedom, opportunity and justice for all, and King’s struggle to achieve them. The three themes of the memorial are democracy, justice and hope. On the 450 foot inscription wall you can read parts of Kings speeches and sermons.
It was unfortunate that my visit to DC did not coincide with the height of the Cherry Blossom season, as it is by all accounts a spectacular sight, as the city basks in color and nowhere looks nicer than the stunning Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin, surrounded by a grove of cherry blossom trees.
Seeing the Korean War Veterans memorial by night fall was a sight to behold. It was eerie and thought- provoking. It consists of 19 figures representing every ethnic background, depicted on patrol facing an American flag. It commemorates all those who served in the Korean War. An inscription on a granite wall depicting the faces of 2,400 unnamed soldiers, rather poignantly reads, “Freedom is not Free”.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was a personal must visit for me. It commemorates the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust. The permanent exhibition is open seven days a week, from 10am to 5.20 pm. Be sure to reserve tickets for this in advance, as it is always extremely busy, and you risk being unable to gain access otherwise. It is a very powerful exhibition, difficult to deal with, but has a very lasting effect on you, and makes you think deeply about what you see, as Washington tends to do.
The list of monuments and memorials in Washington DC is extensive, and visiting them is a worthwhile and rewarding experience. Some others to consider visiting are, The DC Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, The Women in Vietnam memorial, the United States Navy Memorial, and the much-loved Iwo Jima Memorial (which is out near Arlington Cemetery).
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