The National Mall is one of Washington D.C.’s most recognizable sites and one of its most visited, attracting over 24 million sightseers a year. It is part of the National Park Service and has several national monuments, memorials, museums, and government buildings on its grounds. The National Mall is bordered by Constitution Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue where the White House is located on the north side, Maryland and Independence Avenues on the south side, 14th Street to the west, and 1st Street to the east.
Plans for what is now the National Mall began in 1791 by Pierre L’Enfant who envisioned a “grand avenue” which would be lined by gardens and trees between the statue of George Washington and the Capitol. In the 1850s, architect Andrew Jackson Downing made plans for the landscaping of the mall area and in the next fifty years, several parks would be erected by federal agencies by his plan.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, the McMillan Commission decided to replace all the gardens with open space and replaced L’Enfant’s idea of a “grand avenue” with several rows of American elm trees and broad grassy areas. In 1976, the National Park Service turned two of the mall’s inner boulevards into gravel walking paths. In 1966, the National Mall resembled what it looks like today and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The National Mall encompasses a large number of museums and monuments. The first monument you will probably recognize is the National Monument which stands 555 feet tall. Other notable memorials are the Lincoln Memorial at the end of the Reflecting Pool, the National World War II Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
The National Mall is also well known for its vast collection of museums. The best museums in the city are located here including, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American History, and the National Museum of the American Indian. The majority of the museums on the National Mall are part of the Smithsonian.
If you’re into art, the National Mall has several impressive art museums and galleries that you will want to visit. While you’re here, head over to the National Gallery of Art, the Freer Gallery of Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the National Museum of African Art. To admire some outdoor art, don’t forget to check out the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden which features many exhibits of contemporary sculptures.
The National Mall is also near several notable government structures such as the White House, the Capitol Building, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the Supreme Court Building among many others.
The National Mall has historically been the site of important events such as Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Vietnam War rallies, and other important social and political events. Presidential inaugurations, the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and the annual Fourth of July fireworks also take place here as do many other cultural events. While you’re in Washington D.C, find out what kind of fun activities are planned on the National Mall, there’s always something going on, especially on the weekends.