One reason I spent a night in the District earlier this week was for the chance for a late-night walk through the monuments, something I have not done for a decade. It remains one of my favorite activities and a wonderful way to tour Washington, DC in the still of the night.
My Monumental 10-Mile Night Tour Of Washington, DC
Considering the District of Columbia is a central artery of power in the United Sates, it seems almost paradoxical that the city shuts down at night (the center, not the residential neighborhoods). But unlike the “city that never sleeps,” DC quiets down each evening…to the extent that you can hear a pin drop.
One of my traditions in Washington, DC is to eat at Old Ebbitt Grill, just a short walk from the White House. Sadly, it closed early (9:00pm) so I had to find another place to eat. Most restaurants were closed, but Nando’s was still open…my favorite South African chain that has restaurants in the District but not in Los Angeles.
From my hotel in NoMa, near Union Station, I walked to Nando’s in Chinatown and enjoyed a very delicious chicken dinner. Indoor dining has resumed, with capacity limited to 50%.
After dinner, I walked toward the White House. The streets were silent. No people. No cars.
As a sidenote, I cannot recommend Old Ebbitt Grill highly enough. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu and if you like oysters, they have a huge selection.
My first stop was at the Willard Hotel. If you’ve read my review of the property, you know it is my favorite hotel in the city, rich in history and beauty. I just walked through it…even walking down Peackock Alley and through the stately lobby makes me smile and brings back many happy memories.
From the Willard, I turned up 15th Street NW and walked by the Department of Treasury:
Turning onto Pennsylvania Avenue, I walked through Lafayette Park to the White House. The White House is more fortified than I’ve ever seen it, but there wasn’t a single protester out. Just crickets and cicadas.
I walked by old office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which brought back many happy memories.
Across the street was the Blair House, the diplomatic residence of visitors to the United States. The U.S. flag flying above the door meant that it was vacant.
I turned the corner down 17th Street and walked down to the World World II memorial. I had it all to myself…
Next I proceeded along the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool to the Lincoln Monument, a beautiful Greek-style temple modeled after the Parthenon. The monument is a testament to America’s civil religion and venerates Abraham Lincoln, who led the country through Civil War.
Here there were a few people around, but not many…I sat inside the temple for several minutes and re-read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which is presented on the wall along with his second inaugural address.
From the Lincoln Memorial I proceeded southeast to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which pays tribute to those who served in the (still unresolved) Korean conflict.
I headed down Independence Avenue and stopped by the D.C. War Memorial in Ash Woods. There is no formal memorial for World War I in Washington, but this small monument is the closest thing possible, commemorating those in DC who lost their lives in the so-called Great War.
Across the street is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, a monument I had not previously visited. A sculpture of King stands in the center, with his most memorable quotes flanking him on either side. Again, I was all by myself.
From the MLK Memorial I proceeded along the Tidal Basin to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, which pays tribute to America’s only four-term president.
Continuing along the Tidal Basin, my next stop was the Jefferson Memorial, which is currently under construction. I sat down again for several minutes, reflecting upon the nation and the unlikely events that brought the nation together in the first place.
My walking tour continued with a walk by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where all the money is printed, and past the Holocaust Memorial Museum, eventually arriving back at the Washington Monument.
From the Washington Monument, I proceed down the National Mall (and I cannot help but to pronounce it the “mayl” like they do in Britain) to the U.S. Capitol. Along the way I passed the Department of Agriculture. The Capitol is my favorite building in DC, a beautiful example of neoclassic architecture that was first selected by George Washington in 1793.
Turning up Independence Avenue SE, I walked by my old office in the Rayburn House Office Building, bringing back more happy memories.
I turned left on First Street NE and walked past the Library of Congress and Capitol again, then came to the Supreme Court building, in which guards stood vigil ahead of the memorial for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Continuing past Union Station, I completed my major loop through one of my favorite cities, returning to my hotel having clocked in nearly 10 miles.
I highly recommend a self-guided tour of DC at night. In the calm of the night, you can experience the monuments alone and take in a great city without the hassle of crowds. My walk reminded me of how much I miss living in the District.
Have you ever taken a night tour of Washington, DC?