Washington, DC offers up almost a dizzying array of National Park Service (NPS) units that are quick to check off, so needless to say, when an opportunity to travel to DC for work came up, I knew I’d want to take a personal day to see as many as I could!
With plans set in motion, I realized I could achieve the “Gold Master Traveler” award from the National Parks Traveler Club for 2022 during this trip (thanks to the million NPS units here), so plans switched to involving a lot of passport stamping locations and finding the efficient way between all the major stops. I warned Cassy, who was joining me, that she was in for shenanigans… (she ended up buying a passport stamp book… third person I’ve brought into the stamping madness!)
I honestly had no idea how to structure this blog post as the time we spent exploring DC was hectic… so here’s some initial takeaways and then I’ll dive into more of the actual adventure:
- You can’t see it all in one day… even moreso if you want to go to museums, which have short opening hours in the grand scheme of everything else.
- You will walk your feet off in DC. I bought a magnet that says as much, and it is true. We clocked about 11 miles on the full day adventure, and several additional miles on the arrival day in a few hours. Wear comfortable shoes.
- It is easy to get around, whether public transportation or Uber/Lyft is your choice
- Be prepared for security measures entering some of the buildings. I wish I could say there was rhyme or reason to the security, but there is not. The White House Gift Shop (which is NOT anywhere near the actual White House) thought my 1″ travel nail clippers were the bane of humankind, but no other place, including the US Capitol or Department of Interior, cared about them. Pare down any bags just to be prepared for security. screenings – i.e. remove unnecessary nail clippers.
- Bring a water bottle and refill it at the stations located all over the Mall.
- Do make a rough itinerary with open/closing times so you get to your “must dos”. The NPS app does have some suggestions for itineraries which is helpful. If you want a tour of the US Capitol, this must be reserved in advance (and a tour of the White House involves getting your Congressperson to request it for you).
- Pick up one of the free NPS maps of the National Mall/DC area. It has all the things marked, and makes things easy to reference on the go.
- The NPS Rangers will hook you up if you take the time to chat with them about more than where the bathrooms are.
- The National Mall is not a shopping mall. I feel like this could be a Subpar Parks poster in the making…
For brevity of this post, I have split the whole adventure into two blog posts… so without further ado… part 1!
September 13, 2022
Our 1:30pm flight arrival meant after getting to the hotel in Arlington, we had plenty of time to take an Uber over to the National Mall area and to start cranking out the adventures. Initially I had planned for us to take the Metro to different places, but we ended up taking Ubers to get around in the end. Not the most cost effective method, but probably the easiest as we didn’t have to figure out subway routes or do any extra walking to stations. We were dropped off at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and headed around the Tidal Basin up to the Lincoln Monument, where we called it an evening and headed back to the hotel in Arlington for dinner and sleep (we each had been up respectively since 2:30-3:45am at this point).
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial was first up, and we did hang around a bit, since the bookstore was closed for 15-20 minutes, and I needed those passport stamps, dammit. “I think this is Vermont white marble,” I told Cassy as I walked around. Realizing I have the power of Google in my hand (what did we do before smartphones?!), I confirmed I have a knack of recognizing a good Vermont white marble when I see it! (My relatives worked in the marble quarries in Vermont!)
Passport stamps and souvenirs in hand, we wandered around the Tidal Basin, enjoying the shade from the numerous trees, the numerous ducks, and stopping at the Japanese Pagoda.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial was my favorite thing of the day. The whole memorial is beautifully laid out with a section for each term of his presidency, and the area is shaded and has many water features. In terms of crowds, it is also a lot quieter and less busy, which always adds to my visitor experience. Many of the quotes were quite poignant, and it was the start of having many moments of emotions while visiting various memorials.
The FDR Memorial is divided into four “rooms,” each detailing a part of his presidency. The NPS does a great job detailing each room here. The FDR Memorial was designed to ensure quotes were at eye level and the statutes are close to the ground and meant to be touched – a more approachable method than, say, the Jefferson Memorial. Several of the pieces of the memorial also incorporate Braille.
Next up was a jaunt through the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, and the very hot gift shop that had no air conditioning (major props to the employees/volunteers in there!). The MLK Memorial was dedicated in 2011, and contains two main pieces, the Mountain of Despair and Stone of Hope.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial was up next, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the veterans groups on the Honor Flight enjoying the memorial. Cassy and I both looked at each other, and started tearing up – I’m not crying, you’re crying!
We ended our busy evening at the Lincoln Memorial, which was by far the most busiest site of the day. I stopped briefly by the ranger station for stamps (okay, I spotted those green handled stampers of amazingness from many yards away and made a beeline!). The rangers here were great, and upon noticing me eying the Junior Ranger book, made me a packet of not only the book, but all the unigrids (park brochures) for the memorials, bicycle map, DC Circulator map, and other information. I think they were thankful someone was needing them for more than bathroom directions! NPS Park Rangers – a true American blessing!
2022 is the 100th birthday of the Lincoln Memorial, which was dedicated in 1922. (This meant a special passport stamp was available!).
Back to the hotel, and then to dinner at Cava (ah-mazing! Like a Chipotle, but for Mediterranean food), and then back to the hotel so I could start uploading a bazillion passport stamp images to the master database on NPTC. A successful start of the sprint marathon adventure!
4 thoughts on “Seein’ the DC – Part 1: Lincoln, FDR, & MLK Memorials, Korean War Memorial, and Lincoln Memorial”
Great photos! I love visiting Washington DC. I’ve visited many national parks but I did not realize there was a national parks passport and that you could get awards. That’s exciting.
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“The national mall is not a shopping mall” 😂 I love it!
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My traveling companion thought it was, and excitingly asked me if there was a food court, ha!!!
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