Best National Mall Things to Do: A Perfect 24 Hours

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to the best National Mall things to do. Everyone who travels in the US should visit the National Mall at some point.

Washington DC is one of those places that everyone feels like they have visited, whether or not they’ve actually been there. It’s our nation’s capital! There are all those monuments on the National Mall! It’s the first place that aliens always blow up when they attack Planet Earth!

Well, today we will certainly spend some time with the best National Mall things to do. But we’re also going to dive deep into American history, prance around a sculpture garden, and get hit on by strange gentlemen at a Michelin-starred restaurant. So let’s get going…before the alien invasion begins.

Best National Mall Things to Do

Best National Mall Things to Do

Where to Stay?

Ordinarily, this is an area where I recommend possible hotels for my readers. Sometimes I even just recommend my favorite neighborhood. This is not one of those times. You need to stay at the Malolo Bed and Breakfast for your day of the Best National Mall Things to Do. The rooms are stunning, and there’s an amazing breakfast spread every morning. Plus the owners, George and David, are the nicest people you will ever meet.

It’s not terribly centrally located, but you can get here easily using the subway or a rideshare. Stay here! You have no choice! Your alien overlord commands it!

If you’re looking for a great deal on this hotel, click here. And if you want great deals on hundreds of other hotels in DC, click here.

Best National Mall Things to Do

Shopping List

  • An excellent small cell charger so you can keep taking pictures all during your Best National Mall Things to Do
  • The best travel guide to Washington DC
  • My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you exactly how solo travel can take your life from BLAH to amazing!
  • Want to learn how I saved enough money to travel 16 weeks a year? Check out my top secret How to Afford Travel digital system.
  • I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by Johnny Reb during your day of the Best National Mall Things to Do
best National Mall things to do

Best National Mall Things to Do

Morning: National Mall

Of course the main reason to try a day of the best National Mall things to do. There’s nowhere else in the world you can see the Washington Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Fillmore Memorial, etc. But the monuments are all so spread out and far away from each other! What’s a girl to do?

Enter the Mall & Monuments by Electric Car tour of the best National Mall things to do. On this tour, you’ll be able to see all of the major sights in the Washington DC with an informative and friendly guide by your side without wearing out your tootsies. Plus, you’ll even be able to get out and see some of the attractions!

You can book this tour for yourself easily by clicking here. I won’t spoil all the fun of the tour, but let me share my favorites with you with…

approximately top 5: Best national mall things to do

best national mall things to do
1) canadian embassy

Ha! Betcha didn’t think this would be our first stop on our tour of the best National Mall things to do, eh? But this building taught me one of the funniest facts I learned on the tour. Since Washington DC is the capital of the United States, about a jillion countries have embassies here.

Each country wants their embassy to be as centrally located as possible. Unfortunately, most countries can’t get their wish, and their embassies are further away from the National Mall than they would like.

However, Canada has one of the most centrally located embassies in DC. But since our neighbors to the north are so polite, they did not request this prime location. We just gave it to them anyway. Sore-y about that, Canada!

best national mall things to do
2) Washington monument

One of the most famous phallic symbols on the National Mall is this beauty dedicated to the Father of Our Country. It’s also the first place on the tour you get to exit the electric car and take photographs.

There’s even an elevator inside the Washington Monument that you can use to take amazing photos of the surrounding swampland. But sadly the elevator was under construction at this time. There wouldn’t be enough time on the tour to take the elevator anyway. (Also, when the aliens attack, the elevator inside the Washington Monument is the last place I’d like to be.)

One fun fact about the Washington Monument is that it’s located in between the Jefferson Memorial and the statue of Alexander Hamilton. Our guide said that it makes sense because Washington so often stepped in between the two of them during their disputes in real life. I wonder how Thomas Jefferson feels about Hamilton being the star of his own Broadway musical.

best national mall things to do
3) martin luther king jr memorial

The Martin Luther King Jr Memorial was the second place on the National Mall where we got to get out and walk a bit. It’s one of the newest monuments on the National Mall because it was dedicated in 2011, back when Barack Obama was president. It is the first monument honoring an African-American on the National Mall, and it’s definitely one of the best National Mall things to do.

I think this monument is one of the most symbolically interesting in Washington DC. In my photo above, you can see it looks as if Dr. King is still partially suspended in the stone. It reminds me of the unfinished Michelangelo sculptures in Florence.

On the side of the monument, it says “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope”. This quote was taken from one of Dr. King’s speeches. But I also like that the sculpture of Dr. King isn’t finished. It reminds the visitor that the work to obtain full civil rights for everyone is still unfinished.

best national mall things to do
4) lincoln memorial

All right, it’s time for the Big Kahuna. The head honcho. Old Honest Abe himself. (PS, it’s very difficult to get a photo of Abraham Lincoln’s statue without any other tourists in it. Be properly impressed with me because I only had to call in one fake bomb threat to get this place all to myself.)

The Lincoln Memorial is absolutely one of the best National Mall things to do. I mean, you’re talking to someone whose favorite movie from the 1930s is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I burst into tears every time I’m here.

There’s about a million fun facts I could tell you about this memorial. It was designed to look like the Parthenon in Athens because of Lincoln’s role as defender of democracy. There are 36 columns on the memorial because there were 36 states in the United States when Lincoln was president. (I wonder if that’s counting West Virginia, which became a state during the Civil War when it broke away from Virginia to rejoin the Union. Shout out to my Mountaineers out there!)

A fun thing to do at the Lincoln Memorial is to read aloud the two speeches of his that are printed on the walls, the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address. I especially recommend reading them aloud to any passing children. If they refuse to listen, chase them. That will please their parents.

best national mall things to do
5) the octagon house

The Octagon House is definitely a place I would have skipped if I hadn’t been on this tour. That would have been a real shame because it is also one of the best National Mall things to do! This house might look like it’s made out of red brick, but did you know it was once the White House? That’s because President James Madison and his wife lived here temporarily when the British burned the White House during the War of 1812.

(I’m joking a little bit because the President’s mansion wasn’t called The White House back then. Like everything else good in this country, the name White House came from Teddy Roosevelt.) It’s amazing to think that the United States has such a Special Relationship with England now. Although back then, I guess you could say we also had a Special Relationship because it’s not every country that will try to burn down another country’s capital.

best national mall things to do

Best National Mall Things to Do

Afternoon: National Museum of American History

Washington DC is not only the political capital of the United States, it is also the museum capital of the United States. It has more museums than any other city in the country, including my hometown of New York City. And what better place than our nation’s capital to see a National Museum of American History? Like many museums in Washington DC, it’s completely free of charge.

At this point in on our day of the best National Mall things to do, you’ll probably be a bit hungry. So stop in the museum cafe, order something very American like a pulled pork sandwich, and buckle up for…

three fun facts: national museum of american history

best national mall things to do
1) what’s the first thing I should see?

If you’re looking for objects that are important to our nation’s history, nothing stands out more than our Star Spangled Banner, so seeing it is definitely one of the best National Mall things to do This is the flag that inspired Marylander Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem.

He was inspired when he saw the flag stay strong during a battle of the War of 1812. (I have now officially discussed the War of 1812 more times in this one blog post than I have at any other time in my life, until you get to my post on Baltimore.)

You’re not allowed to photograph the Star Spangled Banner itself. However, you are allowed to photograph this giant silver sculpture of the flag, so I did. The National Museum of American History takes its obligation to protect this flag very seriously. It’s not even allowed to visit other museums as part of traveling exhibits. So the only way to see it is to head on down to DC and find the best National Mall things to do!

best national mall things to do
2) what’s your favorite exhibit?

At the risk of outing myself as a total girlie girl, I found the exhibit on First Lady dresses simply smashing. Nowhere else in the world can you find this amazing collection of First Lady gowns. You can tell so much about a First Lady’s personality from her dress, like with Nancy Reagan’s prim suit, pictured above. (She’s just saying no to drugs…and color!)

best national mall things to do

Whereas Mamie Dodd Eisenhower’s patriotic red gown is perfectly on trend for the 1950s. Next to her dress is Grace Coolidge’s flapper gown, and I am delighted to see that Silent Cal’s wife was such a fashionable lady.

best national mall things to do

Herbert Hoover’s wife Lou was a well-known fashion plate and the first First Lady to appear in Vogue. (This might not have made the family super popular during the Great Depression.)

best national mall things to do

The big ticket attraction is Michelle Obama’s Jason Wu gown that she wore at President Obama’s first inauguration. Yes, this is the actual gown. I wonder if I can trick people into giving me beautiful dresses if I tell them I’m opening up a Smithsonian Museum of American Gowns in my apartment. I already don’t charge admission for my apartment, so I’m ahead of the game.

best national mall things to do
3) what’s the coolest item in the museum?

Duh, it’s the Batmobile. Nothing could possibly be cooler. Unless they actually let you get inside the Batmobile and drive it around. I don’t even know how to drive, and yet I would risk certain death to tool around in this sweet baby. After all, I’m from Gotham City, so I’m pretty sure that technically the Batmobile belongs to me.

best national mall things to do

But what the museum guards couldn’t stop me from doing is taking lots of selfies of myself with the Batmobile while growling lines like “I’m Batman!” and “You want to get nuts? Come on, let’s get nuts!” I mean, the museum guards did try to stop me, but I was too fast for them.

best national mall things to do

Best National Mall Things to Do

Evening: Dinner at Minibar

All right, we’ve spent a day exploring the best National Mall things to do, so we know all about DC’s famous monuments and museums. But did you know that DC is also home to several Michelin-starred restaurants? One of the most decorated restaurants in DC is the Michelin two-star restaurant Minibar. It’s run by legendary Spanish chef Jose Andres. So we obviously need to eat here on our Washington DC Itinerary.

Book your table far in advance and get ready to spend a pretty penny on one of the most delicious tasting menus you’ll ever experience. All diners sit at the same table, so you’ll definitely get to know your neighbors. I was seated next to a couple of dudes who were very interested in getting to know me better until I mentioned that I had a boyfriend. (He’s French, his name is Jean-Paul, and he’s not real.) Then the two men suddenly got a lot more interested in their food. Such is life!

The meal starts with a drink of tarragon lemonade that comes in a glass with its own straw built in. It continues through about 25 courses. I can’t possibly share all 25 with you, so I’ll just limit myself to…

approximately top 10: minibar edition

best national mall things to do
1) spherical olives

We start with the spherical olives, which are a tribute to Chef Andres’s Spanish roots. Legendary Spanish chef Ferran Adria created these beauties for his now defunct restaurant El Bulli. Using some form of culinary wizardry that I don’t really understand, olive juice is turned into a sphere so it resembles an actual olive. But when you bite into it. it just explodes flavor in your mouth. I think of this dish as the Godfather of molecular gastronomy.

best national mall things to do
2) surprise!!!!!

Get ready to have your mind blown further with this dish. The bowl is filled with basil foam. But the two little spoons next to it are made from Parmesan, so you get to eat the spoons after you are done with the foam. And the caviar in one of the spoons? It’s not caviar at all, but a very flavorful vinegar. At this point in the meal, I was expecting a bigger and bigger surprise with each dish until finally at the end I get to eat my chair.

best national mall things to do
3) tick tock!

So this dish, a pineapple bite on shortbread, was a first for me because I had never had a waiter tell me that a dish was time sensitive before. Was it going to turn into a bomb and explode if I didn’t eat it right away? Probably you are staring at my photo in disbelief because it looks like the shortbread is suspended in midair. But there’s actually plastic wrap over the pineapple cup, so the dish isn’t actually magic.

best national mall things to do
4) you’re my butterfly, sugar baby

One thing I loved about this menu is how the taste of each dish bounced from different tastes, savory to sweet to salty. This magical creature is made from beet, yogurt, and pretzel, which probably makes it the most healthy thing I ate all night. The only mild disappointment is that the branch was secretly edible. I had to learn that the hard way.

best national mall things to do
5) beet blini

I guess there was a beet sale in Washington DC that day because nature’s candy makes another appearance on the tasting menu. Here we have a beet blini topped with actual caviar, not that famous DC vinegar caviar. There’s puffed air in the blini so it sort of vanishes in your mouth when you take a bite. I have one word in my notes about the taste: Amazing!

best national mall things to do
6) fish sperm

All right, now we’re getting into the more elaborate dishes. This beauty is actually fish sperm, also known as milt. Apparently it’s a delicacy in Japan. The waiters started going on about how it’s funny we eat fish eggs, but some people are reluctant to eat fish sperm.

I was really worried this was going to turn into some sort of Men’s Rights diatribe, but no. It seemed to be more for the benefit of anyone who was shy about getting this friendly with a male fish.

For what it’s worth, I thought it tasted like a lovely fish custard. Maybe this means I should finally call back that merman who’s been begging me for a date.

best national mall things to do
7) snails…or are they?

We’ve got another mindbender here! These are snail shells that have been filled with broth and placed in a pocket with herbs. Just as I was getting used to the fact that there were no actual snails in the shell, the waiter came by and set the herbs on fire. They’re always keeping you on your toes at Minibar. (The idea behind the herb fire is that it adds a special fragrance to the dish. But personally I think it’s just to keep the waiters entertained.)

best national mall things to do
8) The dish too hot to photograph

OK, this was probably the coolest dish of the night, but I can’t exactly take a photo for reasons that will soon become clear. The waiter/chefs worked in front of the entire table to make a solid, flower-shaped treat out of pumpkin and peanut oil. I don’t know exactly how it works, but extreme temperature was involved somehow.

Then as soon as the chef is done making the flower, they put the dish directly on the diner’s tongue. So that’s why there’s no photo, as I didn’t think even my most loyal fans wanted to get that close to my tongue. (And if you do, please don’t email me and tell me about it.)

best national mall things to do
9) foie gras

There were three “main course” sized dishes on the menu: a lovely morel mushroom with peas, a rabbit with peanut sauce, and my favorite, this foie gras you see pictured above. That gorgeous color comes from amethyst sorrel. I don’t think any molecular gastronomy was used in making this dish. It was just an exquisite piece of meat, and sometimes that’s all you need. Plus I want shoes in the color of that sorrel.

best national mall things to do
10) salad?

Up next, the oddest salad course I’ve ever seen. It’s made from bitter greens and strawberries, but the bitter greens have been made into an ice cream-like concoction so they’re freezing. This was a perfect transition from the savory courses to the sweet courses.

best national mall things to do
11) vanilla bean two ways

This was a proper tasting menu, so we were presented with several dessert courses. Of course, at this point in the meal, you won’t be surprised to know that this “egg” is not an “egg” at all. It’s made out of two different kinds of vanilla beans, one for the yolk and one for the white.

The chef/waiters came by and let us smell the two different kinds of vanilla beans used in the dish. At this point in the meal I was a little tipsy, so I just remember that they smelled delicious. I need all my senses at their peak to be able to tell the different between two different vanilla beans.

best national mall things to do
12) krispy kreme

Ahh, to be in America, where you can have a fine dining experience with Krispy Kreme included. This donut is made at Minibar, not Krispy Kreme. But the filling is made with a cream that has been infused with actual Krispy Kreme donuts. Can you get a fancy Krispy Kreme donut in France, Jean-Paul? I think not! USA! USA! USA! And that’s why I say this is the perfect end to a day of the best National Mall things to do.

best national mall things to do

Best National Mall Things to Do

How to Get There?

By Car: This is an easy way to get to your day of the best National Mall Things to Do, if you are coming from somewhere else on the East Coast in the United States. You can drive here easily from many major East Coast cities.

However, I don’t know how to drive, so this wasn’t an option for me. Fortunately Uber is widely available in DC, and the metro system runs very efficiently, so you don’t need a car. If you need to rent a car, you can use the search engine Expedia to find the best price from the available car rental companies.

By Plane: Fortunately, there is more than one airport in Washington DC! I have never needed to use them because I live close enough to DC to get there by bus and train. But if you’re coming from far away, you can fly directly into the city. (Again, I recommend using a search engine like Expedia to search for the best prices on flights.)

best national mall things to do

By Train or Bus: I have used the Amtrak train to get from NYC to my day of the best National Mall things to do, and it was easier than riding George Washington’s horse. If you live on the East Coast, I definitely think taking the train or bus to DC is the way to go.

I have also used Megabus to get to DC, and this is definitely the cheapest option. It’s pretty reliable too, though it takes longer than the train. If you’re on a tight budget, this is my preferred option.

best national mall things to do

That’s the Best National Mall Things to Do

What do you think are the Best National Mall Things to Do? Do you think it’s a federal crime to steal the Batmobile and how many years am I going to serve? And will Jean-Paul get jealous if I go on a date with that merman? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours finding the Best National Mall Things to Do. If you have time for another Washington DC Itinerary, try this one. And if you’d like to try a Washington DC Itinerary with the Spy Museum, click here.

Recent Posts