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?
What a fantastic city. Too bad morons want to destroy the monuments in it because they skipped their History and Geography classes.
What monuments are being destroyed? None of the ones Matthew visited.
A statue to a traitor is very different from a memorial to a founding father.
You sound like a [redacted by admin] idiot, Santastico.
Thank you. The photos were lovely. I am happy you had such a reflective walk on a perfect evening.
Really enjoyed this. Thanks for the post. A gentle reminder of the respect and history.
You definitely did this the right way. I always recommend visitors go to those memorials at night. The setting and tone at night is wonderful, gives real time for contemplation with no crowds. Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address- man, it gets me every time.
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds”
I really boring city void of any charm, life, soul or character. I took my 75 year old Mum there on a day trip. Even she was bored out of her mind
No character? Are you kidding? From Dupont Circle to Adams Morgan, from Eastern Market to NoMa, from Georgetown to Downtown…this is an amazing city with beautiful parks, restaurants, and bars in addition to the museums and monuments. It also has a great Metro system. If this is a boring city void of charm, then what qualifies in your book?
A lot of the federal buildings and nearby areas become deserted in the evenings and weekends, which does give the appearance of a ghost town a bit.
Washington, DC’s street activity appears, in some areas, to be much different from Manhattan.
My guess is that Brasilia might seem dead after work hours.
Great post! I live in Capitol Hill, and one of my favorite things to do is to take a scooter home (rentable from the apps) from downtown or Dupont, and to go down the Mall from one end to the other, past all of the gorgeous Smithsonian museums. DC is gorgeous at night.
Have you ever been to DC? It is a fantastic city which I love to walk because you will see something amazing in each corner. Also, I love how their streets are very wide and they limited how tall can buildings be so the city feels way more open than many other Us cities. It is a great place to be.
Yes! I love that height limits on buildings.
Great walking tour! How did you feel taking the metro? I love the high ceilings of the DC metro, which I think makes it safer than the NYC subway, but still not sure I feel comfortable yet.
You sound like a [redacted by admin] idiot, Russel
@Sam – You’re welcome to express your opinion but please use alternative language.
@Bill ‘n DC – if you are still reading my blog, I’d love to know what you would recommend for an evening walking tour.
That was a nice tour for us! Did you miss Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial? I hope that the Jefferson Memorial will never be torn down in protest of his slave ownership. In the next 50 years, there might be an Obama Memorial. I don’t think Clinton or Trump will get one.
Once I went to the street where the driveway to the CIA is located, which I thought was open to the public since there’s a sidewalk. I did not venture into the driveway. The place is under video surveillance because I was suddenly surrounded by many patrol cars and security personnel who told me that it was not a tourist attraction and to go away. I didn’t even step on their property unless the sidewalk along the highway is considered a restricted area. I was so nervous! It wasn’t even at night but in the middle of the afternoon.
I later learned why. In 1993, a terrorist ambushed a bunch of employees waiting for the stop light to turn green. The terrorist escaped but was captured in Pakistan. So now, they have lots of security people out of sight that can appear in an instant.
Interesting CIA story. Yes, I did neglect the Vietnam memorial. My phone ran out of battery and I was about to abort the whole walking trip, but thankfully found a plug inside the Lincoln Memorial! When I was done, I forgot to walk back to the Vietnam memorial.
“Across the street is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, a monument I had not previously visited.”
^go figure you never took the time to visit that one in all the years you were there.
Andy K, it wasn’t built when I was there.
Just remember and it all makes sense – Republicans don’t deal in common things like “facts” and “science” and “data”
Thank you so much! I’ve only seen DC once and this brought both nice memories as well as a beautiful perspectives.
Most cities are more beautiful at night. But DC has the architectural material to make it stunning.
That Nando’s on 7th st NW is our go to spot. Absolutely amazing food, can’t go wrong with anything on their menu either.
I don’t know about the US, but in the UK they’re serial offenders when it comes to animal abuse..to a sickening and scandalous degree ( add to which the birds are pumped full of growth hormones).
I live here, and I’m struck by the beautiful photos. Nicely done.
Fully agree with Marshall
Nice. Mr Klint Goes to Washington.
For those suggesting it’s a boring city…try Canberra. Exquisitely dull in the evening…
Great restaurants though.
Yes! Like Mezzalira. I did enjoy Canberra.
Love DC, lived there in 2004, been back each year for work for the last 6 yrs, and I always make the point of finding time to walk around the monuments (albeit during the day). I sometimes throw in a walk to Arlington if I can. Always a fun and charming city, with fantastic places to grab dinner and a drink. Not sure how others find it dull & boring.
But “mayl”…? That’s not quite how we pronounce Mall in the UK, Matthew! In BrE, Mall rhymes with pal 😉
You’re right on the “pal” and “mall” rhyming. I thought mayl was the closest I could find…what should I have used? 😉
I don’t know! With mall, I typically just stick with the rhyme comparison, that usually does the trick.
I often find night photography challenging. Your images however are so sharp, without any graininess. Thank you for sharing them.
The absence of people does lend a certain eeriness to the photos. I wonder if you felt safe at all times during your long walk in the dark…
Thanks Kenneth! And all taken from an iPhone.
Matthew, for those of us foreign to the area, might you have a map showing you the route you walked?
I had planned to include my precise walking route pulled from Apple Watch. Sadly, there was a data malfunction and I lost three months worth of workouts. I could cry. I’ll still construct my own map when I can.
Ouch. I know the feeling.
You got some great photos on your walk, Matthew, Now I’m homesick! I loved working in DC and was in awe of the architecture, history, monuments, and energy of the city. The Willard has some great spots inside and is a DC institution. I had a miserable stay there once but the lobby, Round Robin bar, and Peacock Alley are national treasures. I started my miles and points journey there when a desk clerk told me about the IHG Rewards Club and invited me to join. Next time, hit up the museums and art galleries. There are so many it would probably take about three days to see all the major ones, including a few that opened after you left: National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Museum of the American Indian, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. And hop over to Old Town Alexandria for some jaw-dropping charm. Thanks for taking time to honor RBG, too! My little church in Chiang Mai, Thailand honored her today and, following the service, gathered to watch On the Basis of Sex. What a remarkable woman. #RIPRBG
Hi Christine! Thanks for sharing. When I lived in DC, my Saturday routine was to take the Metro to King Street and spend the morning in Old Town Alexandria. I love it!
You’re right with the museums–you can spend weeks there. Oh how I love that city!
I had an office on King Street and got to live in lovely Old Town. Fond memories!
I live very close to the city and you did walk a lot…there’s so much history, every step you make you learn something new, there’s a sign to read and an incredible past. I love walking in dc, I enjoy learning and it is so exciting to live and breath history. Wonderful pictures, they are just exactly how I see it. thank you for sharing your experience…awesome job.
What incredible buildings and stunning architecture- truly deserving to be the nations capital.
1st great tour and photos! My 1st thoughts were Yes night time monument tour – the best. Then Wow what’s your DC experience – Congressional staff for who and when .
I was thinking that I could quibble with some and add others, but damn this is nice! I start our night time tour with Einstein memorial along Constitution – our street in NE
Another chuckle was your comment about location for the Hyatt Place – I’ve had various connections with the amazing grow of that NoMa neighborhood as well as on the other side of the Metro at Union Market neighborhood – and will read your review. All the major chains have hotels in the area. Our Deliveries Of Five Guys comes from that neighborhood 🙂
We live just 6 blocks east of the Capitol
Thanks Bill! You live in one of my favorite parts of the city. This trip really reminded me of how much I miss living in the District.