So, it looks like we're going to get a few visitors this weekend that will want to visit the Lincoln Memorial. They're about to find out what legions of previous visitors have found: it's pretty darn hard to get to.
Sure, if you want to disregard our advice and drive, feel free, but parking is limited at best. For every lucky person that finds a spot along Ohio Drive, there are a dozen frustrated out of state cars circling around. And just assume you're going to get a ticket. I live here, and barely understand the enforcement of parking regulations on the Mall.
The Park Service has some handy tips from their website: "It is highly recommended that you make use of the efficient public transit system (Metro rail and Metro bus) as well as Tourmobile, the official interpretive visitor transportation service for the National Mall and Memorial Parks."
Well, great. Except that the Tourmobile costs $27 and generally sucks. And don't get me started on their ridiculous government sponsored monopoly that the Park Service gave them that hinders the "efficient public transit system" that the Park Service speaks so highly of.
To a certain degree, it's no real surprise that the Lincoln Memorial is difficult to get to. After all, the 1912 Lincoln Memorial Commission Report praised the remoteness of the site in their selection of it:
It is impossible to overestimate the importance of giving to a monument of the size and significance of the Lincoln Memorial complete and domination over a large area together with a certain dignified isolation from competing structures or even from minor features unrelated to it. Upon no other possible site in the city of Washington can this end be so completely as upon the Potomac Park site.
The very site of the Memorial was picked for its "dignified isolation", but these early planners were not quite as cavalier about public access to the Memorial as the current custodians. While understandably, people in 1912 failed to foresee the explosion of personal auto ownership, they did take into consideration public access to the Memorial:
An extension of the street car lines down Eighteenth Street and across B Street into the park thence turning westward and running about 40 feet south of B Street to the Twenty third Street entrance of the park opposite the site of the Lincoln Memorial will make the Potomac Park site readily accessible as it should be to all classes
B Street is now Constitution Avenue, and the site they mention is just north of the Memorial, across Henry Bacon Drive from the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial.
Sadly, those days are far behind us, and you're going to have to hoof it, unless you want to take the Tourmobile or one of the other bus tours (more on that in later posts). You have a couple options.
View Metro to Lincoln in a larger map
The first is the Foggy Bottom Metro stop, on the Orange and Blue line, which is just under a mile away up 23rd St. As you exit the Metro, take a right on 23rd and walk all the way down to Constitution. You're going to want to cross to the east side of 23rd by the time you cross Virginia Avenue because the sidewalk will get very narrow as you get down towards the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. This walk takes you right by the Department of State headquarters, the Harry S Truman Building. Also, if you're interested in getting a cup of coffee for the walk there's a Starbucks at the GW University Hospital right by the Metro, and there's a few stores in the Columbia Plaza complex just before you get to Virginia Avenue if you want to get a bottle of water or something. Not a bad idea, as options are sparse by the Monuments.
So great, you're all Memorialed out and ready to get back home. Honestly, at this point I usually hail a cab. But there's another Metro stop in close (or at least about equally far) proximity. You can swing around behind the Lincoln and cross the Memorial Bridge. This is a great walk (assuming it's not hot as, well, whatever clean analogy you can think of) and has the advantage of being not uphill, unlike the Foggy Bottom trek. It doesn't really matter which side of the Memorial Bridge you walk over, but I've laid out the south side on my little map above. The walk comes out to be .91 miles, or a shade less than the .93 miles of Foggy Bottom. Now, you might be tempted to to try and fit a visit to Arlington National Cemetery in before or after a Lincoln Memorial visit. If you're up to it, that's great, but it's a lot of walking with relatively few places to get water, so keep that in mind.
Finally, if you've mastered DC's bus system, the H1 and L1 lines run along 23rd ST from near the Foggy Bottom Metro down to Constitution and the 13 A, B, F, and G all run from the 23rd/Constitution across the river. All six of these bus routes continue down Constitution to points further east in the city. I'll be posting some advice on taking Metro Bus in the upcomming weeks, but for now let me just say it's great if you know what you're doing and prepared for it.