Washington Monument

Washington Monument Overview

After remaining closed for almost three years, the Washington Monument has now reopened and is a great place for travelers to visit. Towering 555-feet in the sky, the obelisk memorializes the first President of the United States.  It is the tallest free-standing stone monolith in the world and attracts over one million visitors per year.

In addition to its political and historical significance, the Washington Monument gives an unparalleled view over the city, with views of the White House, Capitol, Tidal Basin and Lincoln Memorial, so don’t forget your camera!

Visiting is free, however getting Washington Monument tickets can be difficult, so be sure to plan ahead.

Getting to the Washington Monument

The monument is located on the National Mall south of the White House, on 15th street between Independence and Constitution Avenues.

It is easily accessible by public transport, via the Orange, Blue or Silver Line. The nearest Metro station is the Smithsonian.

Hours for the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is open daily except July 4 and December 25. The opening hours are as follows:

Regular Hours (Labor Day to Memorial Day): 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Summer Hours (Memorial Day to Labor Day): 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Tickets for the Washington Monument

If you wish to go inside the Washington Monument, you must purchase a ticket. There are only two ways to obtain tickets – in person, or online.

To get a Washington Memorial ticket online, you need to visit the Recreation.gov website and book. This will attract a $1.50 booking fee, and is often booked out many weeks, or even months, in advance. Make sure that you buy a ticket with plenty of time to spare, especially if visiting in peak season between April and September!

Otherwise, approximately 40% of the daily allocation of tickets (about 18,000 in total) are given out on a first come, first served basis at 8:30am every morning at the Washington Monument Lodge.  Tickets to the Washington Monument are free.

Pro tips for visiting the Washington Monument

  • The Washington Monument is close by to other attractions, including the Smithsonian American History Museum.
  • It is recommended to leave at least half an hour to visit the monument.
  • Don’t forget your camera, as the panoramic views from the top of the Washington Monument are stunning. Even on the ground, the waving American flags surrounding the Washington Monument are inspiring.
  • The monument is accessible for people with disabilities, as a ramp leads up to the base of the Monument and you reach the top via elevator.

Fun facts about the Washington Monument

  • George Washington originally stopped the country from building a Washington Monument in his honor.
  • Due to budget issues and politics, the Washington Monument took almost 40 years to build. The marble used in the beginning was no longer available, which is why the color changes slightly a third of the way up.
  • The Washington Monument was once the tallest building in the world.
  • The tip of the Washington Monument is coated in aluminum – which used to be one of the most valuable types of metal.

History of the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument honors George Washington, the commander-in-chief and hero of the American Revolution who later became the nation’s first president. Viewed as the father of the country, and loved by all, Washington was, as the saying went, “”first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen”. He was loved and respected by all – which is something you can’t say about any other U.S. president since. Even his enemy King George III of Great Britain, called him “the greatest character of the age”. Legends grew about his bravery, character, integrity, and down-to-earth wisdom.

Washington could have remained President indefinitely and even become a monarch like figure, as the country would certainly support it and there weren’t any laws created yet to limit the number of presidential terms. However, he stepped down after his second term on his own accord, stating that “What is most important of this grand experiment, the United States? Not the election of the first president but the election of its second president. The peaceful transition of power is what will separate this country from every other country in the world.” Nearly no president after him ever even attempted to run for a third term in honor of this tradition until Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to a third and fourth term nearly 150 years later, citing the outbreak of World War II as his reason to break the historical precedent. The 22nd Amendment was passed shortly after Roosevelt in order to officially limit the President to only two terms.

There were actually plans to build a Washington Monument in the soon-to-be capitol city before he was even elected president. However, Washington didn’t think public funds should be tied up for the project and wanted nothing to do with it. So once elected, he immediately scrapped the plans. Immediately after his death, the country resumed the debate for how to properly memorialize their beloved hero.

The freemasons, a secret society that Washington was a part of, designed the final plans for the Washington Monument to be a giant obelisk. The obelisk was a popular structure in Ancient Egypt that honored the sun god Ra, who was considered to be the king of the Gods and the creator of everything, bringing both light and life into the world. This seemed fitting since it is effectively what George Washington did for the new country. There are 50 flags surrounding the monument to represent each of the 50 states today.

The Washington Monument actually took almost 40 years to build because it was stopped mid construction due to a lack of funds and the outbreak of America’s Civil War. So for nearly four decades, instead of seeing an iconic monument surrounded by tourists and locals throwing footballs and frisbees, the great general and president was honored with an awkward rectangular stump in the middle of a cow pasture. While it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that something in DC was held up due to money and politics, President Ulysses S. Grant eventually had enough. He ordered the stump to either be torn down or the monument finished. Unfortunately, once construction continued, the original marble was no longer in existence, so an alternative had to be found. This is the reason why you see a slight change in color in the monument about a third of the way up.

At the time of its completion in 1884, the Washington Monument was the tallest building in the world – although it didn’t hold that title very long, as the Eiffel Tower was built soon after and surpassed it, along with many others buildings since. It does still remains the tallest building in Washington DC though, and will likely always hold that title due a DC law restricting the height of any new building in the city. It also remains the world’s tallest stone structure.

The top tip of the monument is coated in aluminum – since at the time, it was considered one of the most valuable types of metal. The aluminum tip was actually held on display in front of Macy’s in New York City, so kids could jump over it – being able to always claim that they have “jumped over the top of the Washington Monument”.

You can go to the top of the monument and see the best views in DC by either reserving a ticket online many weeks in advance or by going to the Monument’s welcome office in the morning when they open. They reserve a few tickets each day on a first come, first served basis.

Enjoy your the Washington Monument on your Washington DC tour!

Washington Monument Tour

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