Top National Mall Attractions: Places You Must See When Visiting the National Mall

The National Mall in Washington DC is the most visited National Park in all of the United States. That’s hardly surprising. Known as “America’s Front Yard,” the National Mall is the heart of Washington DC and is designed to provide a stately and symbolic backdrop to the federal government buildings located in the nation’s capital. Here you will find not just places of huge significance to the history and legacy of the US. The National Mall is where US history is shaped day by day. What attractions should you not miss on a visit to America’s Front Yard? We have listed our picks of the top National Mall attractions here.

Lincoln Memorial

National Mall attractions in Washington DC
The Lincoln Memorial | Pixabay

The Lincoln Memorial honors the 16th US President, Abraham Lincoln, who is seen by historians as a defender of democracy and equality, as well as savior of the Union. Definitely one of the top attractions of the National Mall, the Memorial attracts some six million visitors every year. The Memorial houses a 19-foot statue of Lincoln seated on a throne and gazing down at the rest of humanity. The building is designed in the Greek Doric style similar to that of the Parthenon. The Lincoln Memorial is also considered as a sacred space for the Civil Rights Movement. This was where the African-American singer Marian Anderson performed to a live audience in 1939 after being refused by the Daughters of the American Revolution. This is also where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now-famous speech “I Have a Dream.”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King Jr Memorial at the National Mall in Washington DC
Martin Luther King Jr Memorial | Pixabay

Located near the Lincoln Memorial is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, dedicated to the most prominent figure in the American Civil Rights Movement. The Memorial is inspired by a line in MLK’s “I Have a Dream”: “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” When entering the memorial, visitors will have to pass through a figurative Mountain of Despair before they can view the Stone of Hope, a statue of MLK emerging from the stone. The Memorial was dedicated on October 16, 2011, an event attended by no less than Barack Obama, the first African-American US president.

National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden

National Gallery of Art | Pixabay

The National Gallery of Art (NGA) and its adjoining Sculpture Garden is home to some of the finest art collections in the world. This world-renowned collection is the reason why NGA is considered to be one of the top National Mall attractions. The NGA collection began from a core collection of paintings and sculpture by European old masters donated by former Secretary of Treasury Andrew W. Mellon. Today, the NGA owns a wide range of European and American artwork, but it is most noted for its collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, including works by Titian, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci.

The Smithsonian Freer and Sackler Galleries

National Mall attraction - The Smithsonian Freer and Slacker Gallery
Freer Gallery of Art | Matthew G. Bisanz

The Freer Gallery of Art and the Sackler Gallery are two separate galleries that collectively form the Smithsonian Institute’s Museums of Asian Art, linked together by an interconnecting underground gallery. The Freer Gallery began as an endowment by Detroit industrialist Charles Lang Freer, who donated his 8,000-piece collection of Asian art as well as funds for constructing and administering the gallery. The Sackler Gallery, on the other hand, started out with a donation of 1,000 Asian art pieces and funds by philantrophist Arthur M. Sackler. Today, these galleries collectively house over 27,000 artwork from various countries in Asia. Among the top attractions of the National Mall, these galleries are one of the most visited art museums in the world.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

National Mall Attraction  - Air and Space Museum
National Air and Space Museum | Pixabay

The Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) is the fifth most visited museum in the world, attracting nearly seven million visitors per year. The museum contains the largest collection of historic objects pertaining to aircraft and spacecraft in the world – 30,000 for aircraft and 9,000 for spacecraft. Included among the most significant objects in NASM’s collection are Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis airplane and the Apollo 11 Command Module. NASM is also one of the biggest research centers in the field of aircraft, space flight, geology, and geophysics.

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

National Mall Attraction - The Museum of Natural History
National Museum of History | Alex Proimos

The National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institute is certainly one of the top National Mall attractions. It draws in some eight million visitors a year, making it the most popular of the Smithsonian museums and one of the most visited museums in the world. Calling the museum home are some 126 million specimens of plants and animals, as well as fossils, rocks, minerals, and cultural artifacts. Among these artifacts are the reportedly cursed Hope Diamond, and the Star of Asia, the world’s largest sapphire. The museum is also noted for its collection of dinosaur skeletons and its exhibition on the human evolution.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial  - National Mall Attractions
Vietnam Veterans Memorial | Pixabay

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the servicemen and women who gave their lives for the country during the Vietnam War. Their names are etched on the Memorial Wall, two panels of gabbro walls designed to reflect the gazer’s face as they look upon these names. Also standing at the site of the Memorial are The Three Servicemen, a statue of three soldiers gazing solemnly at the Memorial Wall; and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, which honors the women, mostly nurses, who served during the Vietnam War.

Washington Monument

National Mall Attractions - Washington Monument
Washington Monument | Pixabay

The Washington Monument is the centerpiece of the National Mall. It commemorates the life and work of George Washington, the first president of the United States. The Monument is one of the tallest obelisks in the world and was once considered one of the tallest structures on the planet. The viewing deck at the top of the Monument gives visitors a unique perspective of the Mall and its surroundings. The Monument is currently closed to give way to repairs to its elevator system. It is expected to reopen in 2019.

The National Mall is one of the national parks you must see at least once in your lifetime. These top National Mall attractions are just some of the must-see sights you can visit there.

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Anna is a wandering writer. If she isn't wandering, she's working on other blogs. And if she's not doing that, either she's reading or she's busy with a crafting project.