Law Enforcement Memorial & Museum

On E Street NW between 4th and 5th streets, directly across the street from the National Building Museum and centered in the same plaza as the entrance/exit to the Judiciary Square Metro station, is the National Law Enforcement Memorial (tel. 202/737-3400; www.nleomf.org), dedicated to the federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. The memorial is a landscaped park whose two tree-lined pathways embrace two curving, 304-foot-long blue-gray marble walls on which are inscribed the names of the more than 20,000 officers who have died protecting the nation and its people throughout U.S. history, starting in 1791. New names are added every May during National Police Week. Four sculptures of a lion protecting her cubs mark each pathway entrance; this is also where you find a catalog under Plexiglass where you can locate the name of a particular officer in the memorial. Adjacent to the memorial to the south is the National Law Enforcement Museum (400 E St. NW; www.LawEnforcementMuseum.org), which opened in fall 2018. Built mostly underground, the 57,000-square-foot museum tells its story through high-tech interactive exhibits, a comprehensive collection of artifacts, extensive resources for research, and diverse educational programming.

The National Mall

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The National Park Service refers to the national parkland that extends from the Capitol to the Potomac River, encompassing the memorials, Washington Monument, National Mall, and West and East Potomac parks as the National Mall and Memorial Parks. The National Mall and Memorial Parks has its own telephone number, tel. 202/485-9880, and website, www.nps.gov/nama.

This one’s the biggie, folks. More than one-third of the capital’s major attractions lie within this complex of parkland that the National Park Service calls the National Mall and Memorial Parks. The National Mall is the centerpiece of this larger plot, which extends from the Capitol to the Potomac River, and from Constitution Avenue to down and around the cherry-tree-ringed Tidal Basin. Presidential and war memorials, the Washington Monument, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, 11 Smithsonian museums, the National Gallery of Art, the National Archives, and the U.S. Botanic Garden are here waiting for you. 

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The National Mall itself, and the memorials, are open 24/7 for visiting, with Rangers on duty from 9:30am to 10pm daily, but not necessarily stationed at a specific memorial; rather, Rangers and volunteer guides rotate and rove from memorial to memorial throughout the day to answer questions. If you don’t see a ranger at, say, the FDR Memorial, you might at your next likely stop, the nearby MLK Memorial. In addition to being available to respond to queries, rangers lead history-based or topical-themed bike tours, talks, and walks throughout National Mall and Memorial Parks, almost daily and sometimes more than once a day. Check the National Mall and Memorial Parks calendar online (www.nps.gov/nama/planyourvisit/calendar.htm) to see what’s on tap while you’re here. 

In recent years, visitors to the Mall often have been dismayed to see an expanse of browned, rather than green grass, crumbling walkways, and an overall worn appearance. The National Park Service maintains the land but struggles to keep up with needed repairs and preservation work, mostly due to lack of sufficient funds, despite monies from Congress and from the Trust for the National Mall, www.nationalmall.org, the Park Service's official fundraising partner. A third organization called the National Coalition to Save Our Mall (www.savethemall.org), made up of professional and civic groups as well as assorted concerned artists, historians, and residents, advocates for a public voice in Mall enhancement decisions, and for more support from Congress. These organizations don't necessarily agree on their visions for the Mall.

One upgrade you may be interested in: The Mall is wired for free Wi-Fi service, so app-up and bring your smartphone!

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Loop the National Mall Aboard the DC Circulator

Getting to the top attractions of the Mall is easy, thanks to the DC Circulator’s National Mall route. This bus runs on a permanent, year-round, continuously looping National Mall circuit that begins and ends at Union Station, stopping at 15 points along the way. In winter, the Loop (my name for it, and I’m sticking with it) travels 7am to 7pm Mon–Fri, 9am to 7pm Sat–Sun; in summer, the Loop operates 7am to 8pm Mon–Fri, and 9am to 8pm Sat–Sun. As with all the other Circulators, buses come by every 10 minutes and you may board them at any of its stops. The route from Union Station takes you down Louisiana Avenue and around the Mall via the inside roads of Madison, Jefferson, West Basin, East Basin, and Ohio drives, as well as Constitution Avenue. Stops include the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American History, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and 10 others-—every place you’d want to go, in other words. The fare is $1 and if you pay with a SmarTrip Card, you’ll be able to reboard for free within a 2-hour window. I’ve noted when an attraction is served by the Circulator in the listings in this section. 

Albert Einstein Memorial, 22nd Street and Constitution Avenue NW

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In a grove of holly and elm trees at the southwest corner of the National Academy of Science grounds, you'll find this dear memorial displaying the slouching figure of brilliant scientist, great thinker, and peace activist Albert Einstein. He sits slightly bent and sideways, upon a granite bench, leaning on one hand and holding in the other a bronze sheet of paper on which are written mathematical equations for which he is famous. At his feet is a celestial map. His gaze looks worn and warm. The statue measures 12 feet in height and weighs 4 tons, yet children cannot resist crawling upon it and leaning up against this man.

The Major Memorials

The National Mall and Memorial Parks' major memorials honor esteemed presidents, war veterans, founding fathers, and a civil rights leader.

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All of these memorials are located in picturesque West Potomac Park, which lies at the western end of the Mall, where it borders the Potomac River and encircles the Tidal Basin. Unfortunately, none of the memorials lies directly on a Metro line, so you can expect a bit of a walk from the specified station.

The easiest thing to do, if you're up to it, is to walk from one landmark to the next. I've organized just such a tour, detailed below. Or, you can go by Tourmobile, which continually picks up and discharges passengers at each of these sites throughout the day and allows you to purchase a ticket in advance or as you board, whichever works for you. Still another alternative is to bike the sites. Every memorial site has a bike rack.

See Walking Tours for a tour of the major memorials.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.