The National Mall - Museums, Monuments and Memorials

The National Mall

A few weeks ago I taught a colored pencil drawing class in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. My family tagged along so after the weekend-long workshop, we decided to extend our stay and visit the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Early Monday morning, during a severe thunderstorm that produced heavy rain and terrible flooding, we headed to Alexandria, Virginia. Upon arriving at our hotel, we hopped on the shuttle bound for Ronald Reagan Airport.

From there we boarded a subway train that carried us into the metropolis. We emerged from the darkness of the Smithsonian Stop and stumbled on a concrete jungle that was choked with chaos and confusion.

Still soaking wet from the persistent downpour, we went into the Natural History Museum first and were impressed by the lavish displays that filled the enormous halls. We examined hundreds of animal species, ancient fossils and impressive meteorites but the highlight of the collection was the astonishing Hope Diamond.

Our second stop was next door at the American History Museum where some of our country’s most compelling memorabilia is stored. The most sobering artifact we saw was the black, top hat worn by Abraham Lincoln on the night he was assassinated.

After the weather cleared, we walked over to and mingled with the crowd located just across from the White House Lawn. Things got wild when a disgruntled citizen jumped over a concrete barrier and attempted to scale the big fence before a force of armed guards, police cars, motorcycle cops and horse-mounted officers appeared on the scene to take him down.

The next morning was more peaceful since we began the day at the National Gallery of Art. Once there, it didn’t take long to realize how special the collection really is as many of the world’s most famous artists are represented inside the spectacular salon.

Some unforgettable highlights from the incredible institution of art was the American Pre-Raphaelites Show, the Rembrandt Room, enormous paintings by Albert Bierstadt and an extraordinary portrait by Leonardo da Vinci.

The different galleries were arranged chronologically so by the time you walked into the Impressionism Room, that movement’s revolutionary way of painting was a radical departure from the earlier works shown in the West Building.

A short stroll across the park took us to the Air and Space Museum where the magnitude of impressive exhibits was overwhelming. The massive building housed rockets, spaceships, airplanes and scientific discoveries that inspired contemplation of the mysteries of our universe.

A strenuous trek was required to reach the base of the Washington Monument which was an imposing structure that rose straight up into the sky. Over the hill and the World War II Memorial was a wonderful, fountain-filled tribute to all veterans who fought in that war.

We continued our hike through sweltering heat and ascended the steep steps to the summit of the Lincoln Memorial where we were rewarded with breathtaking views that extended the entire length of the Mall. The reflecting pool mirrored the beautiful park of patriotism laid out below.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial was especially heartrending because my father-in-law fought in that war and after he made it home, he refused to speak about his experiences over there. The statues depicting a platoon of American soldiers wearing raincoats while marching through dense vegetation was a powerful expression of courage under fire.

Although we covered lots of ground during our vacation, two days just wasn’t enough time as we didn’t see the Jefferson Memorial, the Roosevelt Memorial or the Martin Luther King Memorial. We also missed Arlington National Cemetery and the East Building of the Art Gallery so I’m hoping that someday we’ll be able to return for another visit.

West Building of the National Art Gallery

The White House

Reflecting Pool

The Washington Monument

U.S. Grant Memorial in front of the U.S. Capitol

Inside the Natural History Museum

The World War II Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

The Lincoln Memorial

Inside the Lincoln Memorial

The Korean War Veterans Memorial was heartrending

Statues of American Soldiers at Korean War Memorial

A beautiful park of patriotism


  1. What a fun and interesting trip! I hate how the person tried to climb over the fence. I respect everyone's various beliefs and opinions, but people who behave that way are usually not helping their cause.

    1. I know what you're saying. It's a crazy town full of action all the time. We enjoyed our trip but I'm not used to the congestion of traffic and people out East so I'm happy to be home. Thanks!


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