They just reopened the Washington Monument – after being closed for 3 years. Now is the time to visit – for the best views of DC.
It’s more impressive now than it was in the third grade! Back then (yes decades ago), during a family vacation to the nation’s capital, we climbed this massive monument to peer out of tiny windows (which I wasn’t tall enough to reach). At the top, my brother Dale poked me and whispered “race you” and immediately began running down the steps again. Well – without thinking I accepted that challenge – and while we ran willy-nilly down the stairs; huffing and puffing and likely scaring all the other tourists; we created one of my best memories of that trip. Okay – so he beat me – by maybe a step or two – but it was worth “the terse words” from our parents when they caught up with us.
Elevator up please…
They closed the steps back in the 70’s – so today you can only take the elevator. The original elevator, which was steam-driven, took up to 12 minutes to reach the top public level (500 feet) of the 555 foot structure. Today’s elevator only takes a single minute to the top and just a bit longer on the way down since it slows down a couple of times during descent and the windows clear so visitors can see a few of the commemorative stones built into the walls. BTW – day two of the re-opening there was an elevator issue but that was only for an hour – then all was back to normal. Thank goodness no one was inside. If there is an emergency, the stairs are accessible via an alarmed door. Just don’t lean against the door – like a man did during our visit – or the alarms are activated.
A Bit of History
When the city of DC was laid out by its designer, Pierre L’Enfant, a prominent space was planned for a monument honoring the Father of this Country – our First President – George Washington. It took many years of fundraising and two phases of building before the Egyptian-styled obelisk was finished. It began on July 4th, 1848 but private funds ran out and it wasn’t until July 5th, 1876 that Congress redirected the work to the U.S. Army Corps eventually leading to an official dedication on February 21st, 1885. Due to vandalism, it was closed shortly and reopened again in 1888 with a public elevator. Additional restoration work has been done after the Great Depression, at the turn of the century, to repair earthquake damage in 2011 and then in 2016 to modernize the elevator. And now, finally to be reopened this past week.
Tips to Visiting
- Tickets are available first-come, first-serve for now. The doors open at 8:30 am….but don’t be late! We arrived about 9:15 am and the next available tour (they run every half hour) wasn’t till 3:30 pm.
- Most street parking won’t be available till 9:30 am due to rush hour traffic restrictions. And you can only park there till 4 pm – so keep that in mind.
- Parking will be easier if you download the ParkMobile app to your phone. By entering the 5 digit code for near your parking spot (signs are posted), you can pay online. The maximum time is 2 hours ($5) and notifications are e-mailed close to expiration; renewing online as you continue to see the sites. It won’t let you renew – if/when parking time restrictions apply again.
- If you’d rather search for a spot in advance, compare prices and book….then try the SpotHero or Parking Panda app. Apps that help you find parking spots in parking garages that can reserved in advance and how close those spots are to the address you want to visit.
- Check online before your visit – they plan to move to an online ticket process soon (maybe later in October) and if demand increases you may need to plan months ahead to reserve your tickets. https://www.nps.gov/wamo
- Don’t just walk up to the monument because the tickets are handed out at the small white block building down by the street – causing you to retrace your step.
- If you find you have time on your hands, there are several Smithsonian museums – all free entry – within walking distance.
Security is enhanced now and you’ll feel extremely secure. There are several checkpoints to clear as you enter. Only 12 visitors at a time, doors are locked at each phase, bags and you go through x-ray and metal detectors respectively and then there are vault doors and security even before you get to the elevators. You’ll ride up to the top (level 500) for reviewing and walk down one level (490) to ride the elevator down. National park security will badge your group through each phase.
Views from the Top
My friend Karen and I were blessed with a sunny clear day and you could see the entire distance of the mall – from Arlington Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial on one end to the Capital Building on the other. Down the Potomac River on the South and past the White House and up to the National Cathedral on the North.
Don’t worry- they provide reference photos marking the buildings in case you don’t know them all. Please bring a camera with a zoom….if you want any closeups.
I hope you’re able to visit us in DC soon and in the mean time – may these photos will hold you over. There is so much to see and do here….make sure to plan for several days!