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9 Ways to Pay Tribute This Veterans Day in Washington, DC

Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day - Washington, DC

Must-see observances and museum exhibits make for a memorable and moving Veterans Day experience.

Many of the monuments and memorials in the nation’s capital honor servicemen and women, while the city’s museums are packed with important military history that sheds light on the immense sacrifices that the U.S. Armed Forces have made to protect this country. On Veterans Day (Nov. 11), commemorations at DC's memorials and museum exhibits make for the perfect ways to celebrate and honor the holiday. Here’s a full range of things to do and places to go this Veterans Day in Washington, DC.

1 Watch the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wreath-laying ceremony

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall during Veterans Day - Ways to pay tribute to veterans in Washington, DC

Many DC visitors, as well as veterans and relatives of those who lost their lives in battle, gather at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a black granite memorial colloquially known as “The Wall,” to honor those who served in the Vietnam War. Many visitors leave personal effects; more than 400,000 items have been collected since the memorial opened to the public. Each year on Veterans Day a color guard, noted speakers and wreath-laying observances begin at 1 p.m.

2 Take in the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial
Take in the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Elvert Barnes

A visit to the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial is a powerful reminder of the cost of war. This national memorial honors the sacrifice of those who were disabled in service to this country across all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. The centerpiece of the memorial is the star-shaped fountain with a ceremonial flame, while tributes and stories of servicemen and women are told through 48 etched glass panels and four bronze sculptures. Located near the U.S. Botanic Garden and in view of the U.S. Capitol, the best way to get to the memorial is by taking the Metro to either Federal Center SW or Capitol South on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines.

3 Pay tribute at Arlington National Cemetery and The Women’s Memorial

Father with child laying flags before Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery - Ways to honor veterans near Washington, DC

The gravestones at this national military cemetery, which has been open for over 150 years, are an impactful lesson on the true costs of war. Walk the paths of this historic park or attend the time-honored memorial ceremony. Each year on Veterans Day, a prelude concert begins in the Memorial Amphitheater at 10:30 a.m., which is followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 11 a.m. and an observance program in the amphitheater.

The Women’s Memorial resides at the gateway to the Arlington National Cemetery, and is the only major national memorial to honor women that have defended the U.S. during all eras and in all services. The annual Veterans Day observance at the memorial includes formal military honors, a keynote address, veterans' remarks and a wreath-laying.

4 Wander through the Korean War Veterans Memorial

Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall during the fall - Memorials in Washington, DC

The Korean War Veterans Memorial consists of multiple structures that honor those who sacrificed during the conflict that was the Korean War. Images of troops moving by sea, land and air are sandblasted onto the surface of the wall, while a squadron of 19 stainless steel figures, including members from each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, are situated in the center of the memorial space.

5 Honor World War II veterans at the National World War II Memorial

@abpanphoto - Sunset over the National World War II Memorial - Monuments and Memorials in Wahsington, DC

The National World War II Memorial is an expansive stone, bronze and water memorial on the National Mall at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue. The memorial honors the 16 million men and women who served and the 400,000 who lost their lives during WWII. The majestic space is perfect for a Veterans Day visit, and it’s especially beautiful during sunset and under moonlight.

6 Reflect at the United States Navy Memorial

Ceremony honoring veterans at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, DC

Adjacent to the National Archives in Penn Quarter, the United States Navy Memorial pays respect to veterans who served in the U.S. Navy. The space includes a commemorative public plaza, a symbolic statue of a Lone Sailor and the Naval Heritage Center. The plaza’s deck includes fountains, flagpole masts and sculptural panels that depict epic Naval achievements.

7 Visit the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial)

@michaeldphotos - sunset at Marine Corps Memorial

The Marine Corps War Memorial (more commonly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial) is one of the most moving memorials in the DC region. The world-famous statue, which is based on the iconic photograph taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, depicts the six soldiers who raised the second American flag at Iwo Jima in the Japanese Volcano Islands on Feb. 23, 1945, signifying the conclusion of the American campaign in the Pacific during World War II. 

Please note that there is currently limited access to the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial until February 2018 while it undergoes a major renovation. During the renovation, the memorial will be surrounded by scaffolding and the loop road and memorial parking will be closed. Pedestrians still have access to the memorial plaza from Meade Street and visitors are encouraged to use public transportation.

8 Pay a visit to the U.S. Air Force Memorial

Sunset at the U.S. Air Force Memorial - Attractions Near Washington, DC

Across the Potomac River near Arlington National Cemetery is the U.S. Air Force Memorial, which honors the service and heritage of the men and women of the United States Air Force with three stainless steel spires. Each year on Veterans Day the memorial hosts a wreath-laying ceremony with a musical accompaniment from a military band.

9 Visit a museum with special programming

Veterans Day at George Washington's Mount Vernon

George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate
Mount Vernon welcomes active, former and retired military with free admission on Veterans Day to experience special programming. The estate salutes veterans with a wreath-laying at Washington’s tomb and a patriotic community concert by barbershop chorus the Harmony Heritage Singers at 11 a.m.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History
The Smithsonian Institution’s cache of Americana displays, The Price of Freedom: Americans at War, features a history of America’s military from the French and Indian Wars to the conflict in the Middle East, exploring the impact of conflict on citizen soldiers, their families and communities. See George Washington’s sword and scabbard in person, as well as the chairs used by generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War surrender ceremony at Appomattox in 1865.

National Museum of American Jewish Military History
This small museum in Dupont Circle makes for a powerful Veterans Day visit, especially its core exhibit, Jews in the American Military. This incredible piece chronicles contributions across the armed services in letters and memorabilia donated by Jewish veterans and their families. The display includes a brain surgery kit from the Civil War, a diary from a Jewish POW and a Torah carried by a Jewish army chaplain on the Burma Trail.

Would you like to explore more of the vital American history to be found around Washington, DC? Learn more about the monuments and memorials in the nation's capital.