The National Mall is the nation’s front yard, a green sweep of 700 acres flanked by Smithsonian museums and government buildings, its near 2-mile length bookended on the east by the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and on the west by the Lincoln Memorial, with the Washington Monument rising up midpoint.
The National Park Service reckons 25 million people trek across the Mall every year. Crowds gather here to participate in protests, witness inaugural ceremonies, celebrate the Fourth of July, and attend the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Locals and visitors descend to sightsee, picnic, toss a frisbee, walk a dog, take a shortcut to work, fly a kite. You’ll find people here at any hour—the Lincoln and other memorials are illuminated at night and open to visitors 24/7.
It was the capital’s original planner, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, whose elegant 1791 design imagined this grand avenue of parkland open to all, as the city’s centerpiece. The National Mall today is part of a larger national park entity known as the National Mall and Memorial Parks, which includes the Tidal Basin, the Jefferson Memorial, and other landmarks.
Metro: Smithsonian/National Mall on the Silver, Blue, and Orange Lines.