First published on RootsRated.com
Nearly 20 million people travel to Washington, DC from all over the world each year, and for most, a visit to the capital monuments is the first stop on the list. That is certainly a strong showing of just how far word-of-mouth travels about the awe of the landmarks that depict the heart of America.
The White House is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. The U.S. Capitol Building signifies our political foundation and is strikingly beautiful—even covered with restoration scaffolding, as it is this year. Honest Abe’s seat at the edge of the Reflecting Pool tells tales of our nation’s progression to freedom starting during the Civil War. The newly erected statue of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the most recent addition to the architectural portfolio; and the Washington Monument towers over it all. Add to those memorials the many spectacular sights unmentioned above and you have quite a list of places to must-see-and-do—and one of the easiest and most fun ways to do so is by bike.
Navigating the paved and gravel pathways on a bicycle is made easy by smart city planning, and a flexible 15-20 mile path weaving through the memorials allows riders to pick and choose their favorite stops and see as much or as little desired.
If you want to be led by a local expert, sign up for a guided tour that provides bicycle gear and instruction—a smart option for groups, those toting children, and for those whom don’t know the city well and want to be careful while navigating through highly trafficked areas. There are tours by day, at sunset, and under the mid-Atlantic night sky. Another great thing about guided tours is the value-add of learning about the history of the memorials and what they represent.
Take the guesswork out of mapping your own route by tagging up with Bike and Roll. This outfit is an area favorite because in addition to bike tours, they offer walking and Segway tours, as well as boat tours around the nearby Potomac River. Capital Sites Bike Tour takes visitors to major points of interest around the National Mall while sharing fascinating facts about Washington politics, parks, mysteries, spies, and scandals along the way.
Grab your bike and helmet, a snack and some water, and a well thought out bike map of the monuments provided by the city of DC and head out on a self-guided tour.
This 20-mile route takes you to and along the most prized landmarks in a logical order. These are some of the stops you’ll see, starting from the steps of the capital:
U.S. Capitol Building
Built in 1800, the U.S. Capitol building is the governmental helm and architectural heart of the city.
U.S. National Mall
More than 2 miles of paved and gravel sidewalks stretching from the U.S. Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial.
The obelisk is the highest structure in Washington, built to commemorate our country’s first leader, George Washington.
World War II Memorial
Dedicated to the 16 million veterans who served, and the 400,000 who died during World War II.
A symbol of the controversial war in southeast Asia showing the names of 58,000 combat veterans who gave their lives or remain missing.
Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool
The paramount symbol of America’s civil rights movement, also known as “Lincoln’s Tomb’. At the foot of the steps is the Reflecting Pool—meant to be a reflection of American history. It has seen marches during the civil rights era, the faces of most U.S. presidents, and July fourth fireworks bursting overhead.
Iwo Jima Memorial
Inspired by a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph taken during one of the most recognizable battles of WWII, the Marine Corps War Memorial (or, the Iwo Jima Memorial,) honors veterans who have fought since 1775.
The United States military cemetery—home to the eternal flame enfolding JFK’s tomb, the Memorial Amphitheater, and the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
The memorial with one of the largest footprints in D.C., dedicated to our longest serving President. It is divided into four “rooms”, each representing one of his four terms in office.
Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial
One of the newest in downtown DC, this memorial is just steps away from where Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
This walkabout encompassing the Jefferson Memorial is the best place in DC to view the spring Cherry Blossoms gifted by the Japanese government in 1912.
Dedicated to our Third President, this striking memorial looks almost identical to Jefferson’s house in Virginia.
The White House and Lafayette Park
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the home and workplace of the President of the United States, and the residence of every U.S. president since John Adams. Lafayette Park, or Presidents Park, is a seven-acre park located directly across the street.