Each summer, dozens of tourists flock to the Mall to see the national memorials. Here are my recommendations on some of the best ways to see the memorials, but before I begin, BRING WATER with you.
Note: 1) Only one memorial has a working water fountain, the new WWII Memorial, but other than that, there are dozens of water fountains that look ugly and fail to produce anything other than air when you repeatedly press on the buttons.
2) The closest metro is the Smithsonian (Washington Monument) or Foggy Bottom (Lincoln Memorial), but check out the new Circulator bus, as it may help you get closer to the memorials, particularly the Lincoln.
In terms of walking the memorials, the easiest route is probably as follows: Washington Monument to Jefferson/Roosevelt to Lincoln, then back by the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial to the World War II Memorial. This is a great loop with lots of trees and beautiful scenery.
1) Lincoln Memorial: Dedicated by Warren Harding on May 30, 1922 and designed by the architect Henry Bacon, the Lincoln Memorial is my favorite memorial on the Mall. Despite the throngs of tourists, it is a must-see. The best way to see it - arrive early before the tourists all ascend the steps so that you can stare at Lincoln in silence. Then, enjoy turning your head to look out over the reflecting pond and at the Washington Monument.
2) Vietnam Veteran's Memorial - Directly adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial, this wall of names serves as a somber reminder of the people who gave their lives in war.
3) World War II Memorial - A gorgeous stream of water constantly flows around this memorial. The memorial, located between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, at the end of the reflecting pond, may be the most picturesque of the memorials. There are lots of great places to picnic near this memorial, as well plenty of tree-lined paths.
4) Jefferson Memorial - Designed by John Russell Pope, the Jefferson Memorial is slightly removed from the mall and sits on the shore of the Potomac River Tidal Basin. For those who love nature, this memorial is in a spectacularly beautiful area, and is particularly gorgeous in the spring when the Cherry Blossoms are blooming.
5) Washington Monument - The most recognizable of the memorials is also my least favorite. They've recently removed the construction, and it looks far better than it did several years ago, but I (personal opinion here) find that the memorial doesn't have the same incredible feel as those listed above. It is fun, however, to visit the memorial on the weekend, when you may be able to catch a few ultimate-Frisbee or touch-football games on the surrounding grounds.