Travel Destinations

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Monuments of Washington, D.C. Under the Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms Around Tidal Basin and Washington Monument Washington, D.C.

The cherry blossoms are in peak bloom in Washington, D.C., and seeing the photos of the delicate white and pink blossoms decorating the rim of the Tidal Basin brings me back to when we visited this beautiful city a few years back.  One of our favorite things we did while in Washington, D.C. was visiting the memorials in the National Mall, and it was made even more special by the added beauty of the blooming cherry trees.  

In 1912, Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gifted 3,000 Yoshino cherry trees to Washington, D.C.  On March 27, 1912, the first two trees were planted on the bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park by First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chindda, the wife of the Japanese ambassador.  The cherry trees are a symbol of the friendship between the United States and Japan and annually this friendship is celebrated with the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Cherry Blossoms Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.’s cherry blossoms can be almost as elusive as the Northern Lights.  Travelers come from all over the country and all over the world to see the cherry blossoms blooming in D.C., which involves booking flights, paying for hotels, and taking time off of work, things that require a lot of advance planning.  Accurately forecasting when peak bloom will occur is only really possible around 10 days prior, and the cherry blossoms are only in peak bloom for a few days, so there unfortunately is always the chance that your best-laid plans might miss the peak bloom.  While the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s bloom watch does its best to predict when the blooms will be at their best, a surprise cold spell or a brisk wind can change everything.

The cherry trees grow along the shores of the Tidal Basin, which is also surrounded by the memorials of the National Mall.  The National Mall stretches from the foot of the United States Capital all the way to the Potomac River.  This area, protected by the National Mall and Memorial Parks, is home to the monuments and memorials of Washington, D.C. and can be explored while also enjoying the cherry blossoms.

Washington Monument

Washington Monument Washington, D.C.

The first stop on a self-guided tour of the National Mall’s monuments is the Washington Monument, north of the Tidal Basin.  It’s fitting that the first stop is a memorial to the first President of the United States of America, George Washington.  The Washington Monument is one of those structures that everyone recognizes and is often used as a symbol of Washington, D.C.  The marble obelisk is 555 feet tall and offers a bird’s eye view of the city to those who get a ticket to take the elevator ride up.

World War II Memorial

World War II Memorial Washington, D.C.

The Freedom Wall within the World War II Memorial is a striking dose of reality.  The Freedom Wall symbolizes the price of freedom and is covered in 4,048 gold stars.  Each gold star represents one hundred American military personnel who died in the war or remain missing in action. 

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Three Servicemen Vietnam Veterans Memorial Washington, D.C.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a long shiny black wall with the names of 58,000 servicemen and women who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.  There are also two statues that are part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, The Three Servicemen and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial Washington, D.C.

The Lincoln Memorial is a temple dedicated to the memory of the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, the savior of the Union.  Inscribed on the wall are the powerful words of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address, delivered during the Civil War on November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.  The commanding marble statue of Abraham Lincoln sits regally overlooking the rectangular Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the largest reflecting pool in the city.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

Korean War Veterans Memorial Washington, D.C.

For me the Korean War Veterans Memorial was one of the most striking.  This memorial commemorating those who served in the Korean War consists of 19 stainless steel statues of members of the military including figures from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force.  These larger-than-life men represent a squad on patrol marching through the rough terrain of Korea.  Behind the statues is a black granite wall covered in 2,500 photographic images.

DC War Memorial

The DC War Memorial memorializes the men and women from the District of Columbia who gave their lives in World War I.  This was the first memorial erected in West Potomac Park and it is also the only memorial specific to the District rather than the nation.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

The newest of the National Mall’s memorials, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was dedicated on August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington.  The memorial recognizes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the Civil Rights movement.  The large sculpture looks like Martin Luther King, Jr. is emerging from a block of stone.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Washington, D.C.

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is a sprawling monument with outdoor rooms representing each of Roosevelt’s terms in office.  There are multiple statues of the president, including one of him in his wheelchair, and also of the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  The walls of the outdoor rooms are covered in many of the president’s famous quotes.  The monument was created in a way to be accessible to people with physical impairments in deference to President Roosevelt’s disability.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Thomas Jefferson Memorial Washington, D.C.

Founding Father, third president, and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson is honored with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.  As a nod to Thomas Jefferson’s love of classical architecture, the memorial emulates the styles of Monticello and the Rotunda of the University of Virginia.

An added joy of visiting the National Mall is the opportunity to get multiple stamps in your Passport to Your National Parks.  Many National Parks have special stamps for visitors to commemorate their visit.  The passport is the perfect place to collect rubber stamp cancelations from all the National Parks you visit around the country.  Within the National Mall, stamps can be collected in the Lincoln Memorial.

Visiting all the memorials of the National Mall takes the better part of a day, especially during the blooming of the cherry blossoms when you’ll be stopping every 10 feet to take another picture.

Travel the World: The monuments and memorials of the National Mall accentuated by the cherry blossoms of Washington D.C.

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Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.