In Washington, there are points of view (an infinite number of them; Exhibit A: see Congress), and then there is The Point of View. That would be the observation tower inside the tippytop of the Washington Monument. When open, from this windowed aerie located exactly 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches above the ground, you can see for miles and miles, 20-plus miles, in fact, in every direction.
Alas, the interior of the Washington Monument is closed for elevator repairs. And that’s a good thin. People were getting stuck in the elevator.
The Washington Monument is the world’s tallest freestanding work of masonry and the city’s tallest building (though not the highest standing; the Washington National Cathedral, situated on a hill, holds that title). If you’ve been in DC more than a minute, you’ll have spotted the structure, prominent as it is within the capital’s level landscape.
Begun in 1848 as a memorial to America’s first president, George Washington, it took another 36 years before workers laid the capstone atop the obelisk. You, however, will complete the trip to the summit in a mere 70 seconds, via a glass-walled elevator. The descent takes a leisurely two minutes, allowing Park Rangers time to point out some of the 194 carved interior stones donated by disparate well-wishers, among them the country of Turkey, Pope Pius IX, and the Ladies Club of Lowell, Massachusetts.
When the interior is open: A couple of tips: It’s worth walking down the short flight of steps from the observation deck to the small museum at the 490-foot level to read about the stuttering progress of the Monument’s construction, and to view displays of such things as lightning-struck rods removed from the top of the Monument. Also, if you’re visiting DC in summer you might be interested to know that the Washington Monument stays open until 10pm, when the view reveals a magical landscape of illuminated memorials, the moon over the Potomac, and city lights.
Metro: Smithsonian/Mall on the Silver, Blue, and Orange Lines. Jefferson Dr. exit. DC Circulator.