No city in the United States features as many top-tier museums, monuments, and cultural exhibits as Washington, D.C. For a family on vacation, it’s possible to fill a week with world-class art and priceless historical objects without spending a dime on admission. Even better, you can get to virtually all of it via relatively reliable, inexpensive public transportation and short walks.
There are a multitude of monuments and memorials celebrating historical figures. Here are two Washington memorials along the northeast bank of the Tidal Basin that you must see:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
At 7.5 acres, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial utilizes a space large enough to befit America’s longest-serving president. FDR was elected to the highest office in the United States four times (prior to the implementation of term limits) and served for 12 years, ending with his death in 1945.
Located on the Tidal Basin—between the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial— the FDR Memorial honors him with elegance and dignity by featuring four areas, each highlighting a different aspect of his presidency. In every area, water is used to represent the turmoil of the times, from the straight, downward crash of the Great Depression to the chaos of World War II to the stillness that followed his passing.
The memorial for the 32nd President of the United States of America is open 24 hours. Park Rangers are typically available from 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m., and an interpretive program is available every hour from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. The monument is closed on December 25. For more information visit the memorial’s website. The closest Metro Station: Smithsonian.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” These words were spoken during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s seminal “I Have A Dream” speech and form the basis for the memorial built in Dr. King’s honor. Located along the northeast bank of the Tidal Basin, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial sits adjacent to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and across the water from the Jefferson Memorial.
The memorial itself is that metaphorical stone of hope—a monolith featuring a 30-foot-tall carving of Dr. King—hewn out of the figurative mountain of despair behind it. The granite statue, along with the two semicircular sections of wall surrounding it, features 16 inspirational Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes and fantastic views of the basin. Dr. King’s words remind visitors of the light he shone onto the civil rights movement—specifically as a result of his most well-known speech, given within view of this memorial.
The memorial is open 24 hours. Park Rangers are typically available from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. The monument is closed on December 25. For more information visit the memorial’s website. The closest Metro Station: Smithsonian.
For more historic monuments and memorials, check out The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C. by Eve Zibart, Renee Sklarew and Len Testa.