Some of Washington, D.C’s finest sightseeing comes after dark, when the major buildings and monuments are illuminated. Night time sightseeing around the Mall has the added benefit of being able to drive, find close parking, and free parking.
Three sights should not be missed at night. Indeed, these three are at their best after dark. 1) The Vietnam Memorial. Park on Constitution Ave. at the Memorial. Note the sight lines of the “Wall,” with one side pointing toward the illuminated Washington Monument, the other pointing at the lighted Lincoln Memorial. A truly memorable view.
2) The Lincoln Memorial. Walk over from the Vietnam Memorial, climb the steps and gaze on Daniel Chester French’s great sculpture of the brooding, seated Lincoln. As impressive as this in the daylight, the Memorial’s night time lighting adds an ethereal quality to the scene. As you leave, pause and take in the view down the Mall to the Capitol.
3) The Capitol. Park free on any of the streets bordering the Capitol grounds. Approach by the east front, walk around the exterior to the west terrace and take in the view of the Mall and the city.
After the Lincoln Memorial, drive by the Washington Monument, up 17th St NW past Constitution Hall, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Old Executive Office Building, turn right on H Street to see the front of the White House, then down Pennsylvania Ave. to the Capitol, and then back toward the White House on Constitution Ave. The Korean War Memorial becomes spooky at night, and then head to the Jefferson Memorial.
Out from downtown, the Shrine Church at Catholic University and the Washington National Cathedral are also impressive.
If you are confident driving around Washington, D.C., , drive the Ohio Drive loop around the peninsula sticking out into the Potomac River for the views of the city scape.
We never felt any concern about personal safety in making night visits to these places. Washington, D.C., has 17 different police agencies, and they concentrate their patrols on the government buildings that surround the Mall. Who knows for sure, but there may be more cops around here at night than tourists.
This bears repeating: for seeing the monumental architecture of the nation’s capital, the scene after dark is far better than daylight viewing. This is Washington, D.C., at its best, and there is no traffic to speak of.