It took me about 11 years of living in the DC area before I finally made it to the top of the Washington Monument. I think we tend to forget about doing some of the touristy things in our own city. My husband was born and raised in DC and he hadn’t been to the Washington Monument since he was a kid. I decided it would be a fun family outing for a Sunday afternoon in the fall (on a day when the Redskins weren’t playing of course!).
I booked tickets online several weeks before. I highly recommend doing this to save you time and hassle, especially if you are taking children. They give out a limited number of free same-day tickets on a first-come first-served basis at the Washington Monument Lodge. It opens at 8:30am but people will start forming a line long before that and they do sell out quickly, especially during the peak season. It’s only $1.50 per ticket to book online and the tickets are delivered to your door via mail in about a week.
The tickets are for a specific time slot and it is recommended you arrive about 30 minutes before. We arrived early so we had some time to snap a few photos while waiting. There is an amazing view all the way down to the Lincoln memorial.
The girls had fun walking across the large benches. Next to them is a sign indicating the waiting area for the tours, which is on the east side of the monument. A park ranger directed us to the ground floor lobby once it was time for our tour to start.
When we entered the building, we first went through security and then waited at the elevator.
In 70 seconds, it took us up 500 feet where we had the most amazing bird’s eye views of the city and its well-known sites.
There are four sets of windows in each direction with pictures that point out all the sites in view.
The bad thing about the windows is that they are pretty small and children under the age of around 5 are not able to see out of them without an adult lifting them up. Under each window there is a step to stand on but it still isn’t enough of a boost for the littlest sightseers.
Visitors are allowed to take as much time as they want to look around at the top of the monument. We looked around for about 15 minutes, then proceeded down the stairs to the 490′ museum. This level has exhibits and is where visitors enter the queue to reboard the elevator for the descent.
During the 2 minute descent, a park ranger gives a bit of a history lesson and points out certain parts of the monuments interior. The elevator slows down a couple times to give visitors a chance to view some of the commemorative stones donated by states to help build the structure.
We all really enjoyed the tour! It lasted about 30 minutes, so it was an appropriate amount of time for the short attention span of toddlers. Afterwards, we walked over to the WWII monument, got some ice cream and fed the ducks in the reflecting pool. We started to walk down towards the Lincoln memorial but our little tourists were getting tired so we turned around. On our walk back to the parking garage, we stopped by the White House.
We had a great time being tourists for the day! We are so lucky to live in this area where we have all of these historical sites and monuments to visit.
Good to Know:
•Tickets are required for all visitors ages 2 and up. I recommend ordering tickets in advance online here. A maximum number of 6 tickets per individual can be ordered online.
•Weather permitting, the monument is open to the public every day, except for Christmas and July 4.
•We parked in the garage located under the Ronald Reagan Building on Pennsylvania Ave. It was quick to get in and out of and just a short walk to the monument.
•Nearest metro stop is Smithsonian on the Orange and Blue lines.
•The stroller parking area at the monument is just behind the outdoor waiting area. It’s not roped off or supervised so don’t leave any belongings in your stroller.
•Food and drink are prohibited inside the monument except for baby bottles and bottled water. (However, I had packed a few snacks for the girls in my diaper bag and went through security with no problem.)
•There are no bathrooms inside the monument. The closest bathrooms are located in the Washington Monument Lodge, on 15th street, which is just a short walk from the monument. This bathroom does have a changing table.