National Mall in Washington D.C., is synonymous with monuments. Monolithic though they may be, they certainly aren’t the only game in town. The National Mall plays host to a treasure trove of memorable moments and unique experiences. Here are the 10 best things to do and see on the National Mall.
1. Smithsonian Institution Castle
Smithsonian Institution is headquartered inside this picturesque red Seneca sandstone “castle.” Inside, you'll find interactive displays, maps and the main Smithsonian Visitor's Center which is a great resource for your visit to the National Mall.
2. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
A favorite for visitors to the National Mall. Peppered with planes, rockets, lunar rovers and much more, this museum is a must. Don’t miss a chance to gaze at the heavens through the Observatory's 16-inch telescope, open to the public (weather permitting) Wednesday through Sunday 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm.
3. US Forest Service Center at the USDA Building
A hidden gem where an animatronic Smokey the Bear waits to greet you with his famous tagline, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” The museum housed in the building is engineered to resemble a forester’s lodge, and is packed with information on ecological conservation and forest safety.
4. National Museum of Natural History
Like nearly any other Natural History museum, you'll find fossils, flora and fauna exhibits here. Ah, but up on the 2nd floor something very unique: the O. Orkin Insect Zoo. Here you can get up close and personal with all sorts of interesting insects. Be sure to stick around for the Tarantula feeding demonstrations.
5. National Museum of the American Indian
With its stunning curvilinear architecture and lush indigenous landscaping, you can’t miss the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). The hidden gem at NMAI is the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe. Here you can enjoy indigenous dishes enjoyed by Native American tribes from around the Western Hemisphere. The Bison burgers are amazing.
National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall, Washington, D.C. — Photo courtesy of National Museum of the American Indian
6. National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
An inspiring destination any time of year. Enjoy an outdoor picnic amongst the blooms in spring. When the cold winds start to blow, mid-November through mid-March, the garden houses a spectacular ice rink.
7. National Postal Museum
Hosts special events and activities that are great for families. It also happens to offer one of the best views of the monuments, making it a great location for photographs.
8. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Took its place amongst the inspiring memorials on the mall on August 28, 2011, marking the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington led by Dr. King. This awe-inspiring stone monument is sure to draw crowds, and inspire millions, for years to come.
9. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Pays tribute to those who gave all and stands as a monument of healing and history. Offered at the memorial are fascinating interpretive programs that tell the story of this monument and the history it represents.
10. Lincoln Memorial
No trip to the National Mall is complete without standing at the feet of “The Great Emancipator.” The 16th President of the United States looks down upon all who visit with an almost parental gaze, welcoming visitors. Interesting fact: the sculpture is based in-part on the work of 17-year old Vinnie Ream, who observed Mr. Lincoln in a series of half-hour sittings conducted in 1864 and 1865.