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A Walking Tour of the National Mall Bathrooms

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Any tour guide can take you around the Mall and show you the monuments. Bah, I laugh at them. Instead, let us today take a walking tour of the bathrooms of the National Mall. Bathrooms on the Mall are few and far between and generally bad, so we'll want to plan ahead. For our immediate purposes, we'll pass on those east of 14th St, as the Smithsonian's line the mall that way and they like nothing better than being viewed as a giant pee break.

Let us, instead, start at the Washington Monument kiosk, on 15th St. Recently restored, this is not a bad option if you have to go. It's generally clean and well stocked, even with moderate to high traffic.

Which is good, because you don't want to stop at the next one. Tucked in the trees behind the Sylvan Theater near Independence Ave, lurks one of the circular 1960s bathrooms the Park Service maintains. Now, I can only assume Historic Preservation laws prevent this from being rehabilitated, as it almost always has out of order facilities and is consistantly dirty. I do like it aesthetically; it reminds me of the Jetsons and flying cars and hundred story skyscrapers and all the ways people in the '60s thought we were going to live today. But as a toilet facility, it stinks.

Next up is our only real Museum option. The Holocaust Memorial Museum is worthy of it's own trip but if you happen to be walking by and need to go, it's an option. You'll have to go through security, so keep that in mind. You can either go in the cafe (seperate building to the left) or the Museum proper. In the Museum go down the stairs and take a left. The restrooms are quite well taken care of.

You've got a good stretch ahead of you to the next one. The Jefferson Memorial has restrooms on the ground level. They have maintenance problems and are often broken but the Park Service tries hard to stay on top of it.

Keep strolling and you get to one of my favorite Memorials, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's. It's so sprawling it has two separate facilities, one on either end. And unlike the fountains of the Memorial, these actually work. Wow, it's nice to go to a Memorial and not have to plan bathroom breaks around it.

If you're following the map, you've reached the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. As this does not exist yet, I can't yet give an opinion. But in addition to the well deserved Memorial, I look forward to new restroom options.

Fortunately, a short walk away is the World War II memorial. As you head along Home Front Drive (hey, I didn't pick the name), the restrooms are at the end of the bus drop off area. They're newish, so they still work. And it has one of the few working drinking fountains on the Mall. Take a picture. You're not going to another one for awhile.

Do your business now, because options are going to dry up. Our next stop is the Lincoln Memorial. I'd like to show you the excellent DC World War I and Korean War Memorials along the way, but they don't have restrooms so they're out. Now, at Lincoln, I hope it's an emergency because chances are good there's a line for the bathroom. The best I can say is that sometimes the standing water discourages the line. The Park Service tries, but this one gets way too much traffic to stay very functional. It really should be shut down and renovated, but there's nothing else to take it's place.

We're almost done. You might be tempted to cross Henry Bacon Drive across from the Vietnam Memorial. After all, just like across from the Korean Memorial, there's clearly a newly constructed kiosk there. Surely, they wouldn't build new kiosks as part of a multi-million dollar restoration and not bother to put bathrooms in them? Nope, just $18 disposable cameras and surly staff. Maybe they're unhappy at the lack of restrooms, too?

Your last option, if I could call it that, is in Constitution Gardens. Hiding in the woods as if the Park Service is ashamed of it, is the long lost brother of the circular one by the Washington Monument. Hell, this one isn't even open sometimes so you're not missing much here.

But let's end on a positive note. The National Park Service is committed to improving the situation and has a plan for upgrades. I'll be watching this as it progresses and let you know how it goes. Help is on the way! You might just have to hold it until then.

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Reader Comments (4)

Very helpful! If you continue the bathroom locating theme, it would be great to know which bathrooms make it easy to change a diaper in and which ones you're better off skipping.

March 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLina

Funny as usual, Tim. I loved your comment about taking a photo of the drinking fountain at the World War II Memorial. Yup. It's the one and the only. Wouldn't be good for the bottled water vendors if the Park Service added some at other memorials, would it?

It is, by the way, even better when the World War II Memorial water fountains have pressure and you don't have to almost touch the fountain with your lips to get to he water.

March 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Thanks for the info. Very useful.

February 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBathrooms

Thanks for the info. Very useful.

February 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMyDeco

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