The most convenient place to stay is also the first stop on this trip, whether you choose to spend the night there or not. Only a small percentage of travelers get the chance to stay in the White House’s Lincoln Bedroom—but anyone may visit the historic hotel where Lincoln rested his head, the Willard InterContinental
, also known as “The Residence of Presidents.” Author Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote of the Willard that it “more justly could be called the center of Washington than either the Capitol or the White House or the State Department.” Lincoln slept here in 1861, just prior to moving into the White House. See a copy of the distinguished guest’s hotel bill, framed and hung in the five-star property’s history gallery. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast (in your room or in the hotel’s restaurant, Café du Parc, a contemporary French brasserie)—or grab a croissant and Lavazza coffee on-the-go from Le Café.
Just a few minutes from the hotel, pause to appreciate the sanctuary where Lincoln spent many a Sunday morning, New York Avenue Presbyterian Church
. His compassionate, inclusive spirit is alive and well at this house of worship, a member congregation of More Light, a network to “empower and equip individuals and congregations to live into their welcome for LGBTQIA+ people.” The church voted to join this network in 1998 “to advocate for the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ folks in the world and the church.” (Currently, the church is under construction and due to reopen in Fall 2021.)
A few more minutes of travel and you’ll arrive at Lincoln Memorial
, the breathtaking outdoor temple honoring the 16th president. Seeing about 4 million visitors annually, the memorial is presided over by a 19-foot seated statue of Lincoln, carved from Georgia white marble. According to the American Institute of Architects, it is the 7th most-favorite example of American architecture.
Lincoln was a tall man, and fittingly, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
, located on the National Mall directly east of the Lincoln Memorial, is another expansive tribute to the titanic figure. It’s lined by walking paths and shaded by a long promenade of elm trees on either side. Depending on the viewer’s perspective, it offers a dramatic reflection of the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the elm trees, and/or the sky. Although not completed in time for the Lincoln Memorial’s dedication in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool has become an almost equally iconic—and frequently filmed—feature of the D.C. landscape.
While at the National Mall, take time to honor another American hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The 32nd President of the United States is almost as universally revered as Abraham Lincoln, and FDR was equally articulate—so it’s no surprise that the Roosevelt Memorial
on the National Mall includes no fewer than 22 famous quotations by or about FDR, the words engraved in the red South Dakota granite walls of the memorial. Among the voices is that of his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt: “Franklin’s illness … gave him strength and courage he had not had before. He had to think out the fundamentals of living and learn the greatest of all lessons–infinite patience and never-ending persistence.”
Respect must also be paid at the nearby Washington Monument
. Built to honor George Washington, the Monument is a 555-foot marble obelisk that casts a long shadow over the district named in honor of the first President of the United States. Construction began in 1848, and the monument has survived numerous restorations; it remains one of the most identifying features of the D.C. skyline.
Once upon a time, the 300+ acres of the National Mall were populated strictly by statues of Caucasian males. Today, the landscape embraces a far more diverse group of American heroes. Case in point: the Vietnam Women’s Memorial
. Dedicated on Veteran’s Day in 1993, the one-ton bronze sculpture is a tribute to the 265,000 women who served during the Vietnam era; American military women served as nurses, physicians, air traffic controllers, communication specialists, and intelligence officers. It is the first statue on the Mall to depict military women. A multi-figure monument, it was designed by New Mexico sculptor Glenna Goodacre, who says that the emphasis of the statue “is centered on their emotions—their compassion, their anxiety, their fatigue, and above all, their dedication.”