Erected in honor of the first American president, the Washington Monument is one of America’s oldest and most recognizable symbols of national pride. The alabaster obelisk at the west end of the National Mall offers not-to-be-missed views of the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln memorial and other surrounding monuments.
(Note that the Washington Monument is currently closed until 2014 while repairs are carried out after the structure was damaged in the 2011 Virginia earthquake. This means visitors are unable to enter the monument until repairs are complete.)
Work on the monument began in 1848 but was not completed until in 1884. Look closely and you’ll notice the slight change in color of the marble, the result of the 22-year hiatus between 1854 and 1876 due to the Civil War. This impressive monument, 555 feet (169 meters) high, is the tallest building in Washington and the tallest free-standing stone structure in the world.
The Washington Monument is visible from countless locations in the National Mall and beyond, but to get a true sense of its grandeur you need to get up close. The view from the west, behind the Reflecting Pool, offers an enticing photo opportunity at night when the structure is subtly illuminated.
Tickets to enter the monument are free. You can either make a reservation in advance online or obtain a ticket from the Washington Monument Lodge, where they are given out on a first come, first served basis starting at 8:30 am. Each ticket is stamped with a time for your visit, and there’s a limit of six tickets per person. Tickets at the Lodge often go fast, and lines can start as early as 7 a.m.
Plan your visit to coincide with one of the many free concerts, theater performances or cinema screenings that are held throughout the year in the Sylvan Theater, an amphitheater at the base of the monument. Ask at the visitor center for program times.