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Spotlight: Fall on the National Mall

Spotlight: Fall on the National Mall

Nice weather, less crowds, and plenty to see and do in our nation’s capital.

National Mall, DC Reflections on the National Mall are easy to come by. (Scott Crawford/Share the Experience)

What You’ll Find

The National Mall in Washington D.C., is home to some of our nation’s best-known and -loved icons including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln, Jefferson, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam Veterans Memorials, the White House, the U.S. Capitol and—at the National Archives—our original Declaration of Independence and U. S. Constitution.

In the fall season, there’s the added bonus of fewer crowds and cooler, drier weather to enhance outdoor activities like walking, biking, boating and picnicking, not to mention a host of annual festivals and events. Let the National Mall and Memorial Parks guide your visit to our nation’s capital—you may be surprised at all they have to offer!

Getting There

The Washington metro area is easy to get to—with three major airports as well as regional and commuter train and bus service. Check the National Mall’s directions page for details.

Driving within the city is not as straightforward as reaching its edges, but the easy-to-use public transportation system, or “Metro” as it’s known locally, will help you get around once you arrive.

Stay Here

Since Washington is one of the top three tourism destinations in the U. S., you’ll find plenty of lodging options at Destination DC. For convenience, look for lodging near a Metro station.

If camping is your style, you can reserve sites at Greenbelt Campground, a safe, inexpensive, kid-friendly option conveniently located one mile from the city of Greenbelt, Md., three miles from College Park Metro Station and just 12 miles from Washington or try the reservable campgrounds at Prince William Forest Park, Va., about 35 miles south of the district. Rail service into the district is available from Quantico Station (about 5 miles from the park entrance) on the Virginia Railway Express or Amtrak. Civil War history buffs take note: the park is midway between Manassas National Battlefield and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Parks.

Make Sure You

Download the National Mall App or jot down the park’s cell phone tour numbers before you leave home.

Enjoy fall colors on the National Mall! Try Rock Creek Park for a picnic, hike the many footpaths or bike along 32 miles of park roads and paved trails. Stop at the Rock Creek Nature Center and Planetarium for maps, suggestions for routes and other things to do.

Try This

Bicycle around the Mall! Join a ranger-led or a self-guided bike tour. You can bring your own bike (they even allow them on the Metro during certain times), rent one at the Thompson Boat Center (just north of the Lincoln Memorial on the Rock Creek Parkway), or use one of the popular Capital Bike Share locations on the Mall.

Don’t Forget

This year the National Mall and Memorial Parks commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Be sure to visit the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps August 28, 1963 to deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech, and where Marian Anderson in 1939 sang for a crowd of 75,000, facing prejudice with dignity. A short walk takes you to one of the newest memorials on the Mall, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

Learn about more Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement by checking out the National Park Service’s Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary Series.

Eat This

The Taste of DC returns to Pennsylvania Avenue each October around Columbus Day weekend. This premier food and cultural festival features more than 70 area restaurants and food trucks, offering culinary treats from pizza, burgers and chili to unique fare like chocolate-covered bacon mac ‘n’ cheese or guava goat.

Or “digest” the offerings at the Library of Congress National Book Festival, a celebration of books on the National Mall each September.

Get Started

Pick up the excellent National Park Service map of the National Mall and Memorial Parks at the White House Visitor Center (1450 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. between 14th and 15th Streets) or at any of several ranger-staffed locations on the Mall, or download a copy from the park’s website. Then be sure to browse the Plan Your Visit section of the National Mall and Memorial Parks’ website.

If your plans take you beyond the Mall, be sure to read more trip ideas in Destination: Capital Region and Chesapeake Bay.

Did You Know?

From 2011 through 2015, Washington also commemorates The Civil War: 150 Years. Include an exploration of the Civil War Defenses of Washington and other Civil War-related sites during your National Mall trip. Read Places and Events that Shaped Our Nation 150 Years Ago for more information.