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Visiting the Washington Monument

Washington Monument Aerial Shot

Gaze up at this iconic obelisk or look down from its 500-foot-high observation deck.

The Washington Monument is currently undergoing repairs. Check the National Park Service's website for updates before you plan your visit.

Built to honor George Washington, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States, the Washington Monument is the defining feature of the District’s skyline and one of the nation’s most recognizable structures. Once the tallest building in the world, at just over 555 feet, the monument to America’s first president still holds the title of world’s tallest stone structure and obelisk. The view from the top gives visitors an unparalleled panorama of the nation’s capital.

Washington Monument Reflecting Pool at Night

Ride the elevator to the top

Maintained by the National Park Service, the Washington Monument is located the center of the National Mall between the U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial. Like all monuments and memorials, it’s free to visit day or night. Tickets are required to ride the elevator up 500 feet to the observation deck. Reserve your tickets in advance here for a $1.50 service charge per ticket or get free tickets the day of your visit by lining up at the Washington Monument Lodge on 15th Street – just be sure to get there early as tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The easiest way to get to the monument is by taking the Metrorail. The two closest Metro stops are Federal Triangle and Smithsonian, both on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. If traveling by bus, take DC Circulator’s National Mall route or ride Metrobus routes 32, 34 or 36. If driving, visitor parking is available on Ohio Drive, between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. Note that street parking is often limited in DC.

Why does the Washington Monument have two colors?

Washington Monument c. 1860

Believe it or not, it wasn’t easy to build Washington Monument. The structure was originally designed by Robert Mills, with construction beginning in 1848. Then the combination of Civil War, the Know Nothing Party’s rise to control of the Washington National Monument Society through an illegal election and lack of funding led to a halt in construction in 1854. When construction resumed in 1879, marble was used from a different quarry, and time and weather erosion have led to the difference in color, which begins at the 150-foot mark.

The monument was finally completed in 1884 by Thomas Casey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and an elevator was added to the monument in 1889, which shuttles tourists to the top of the monument to this day.

When taking the elevator down the monument, make sure to look for the 193 commemorative stones lining the interior walls, which were presented by individuals, societies, States, cities and nations from around the world.

Check out the rest of monuments and memorials on the National Mall!