A One Day Walking Tour of Washington D.C.

This is the itinerary we used for our family during the one day walking tour of Washington D.C. It worked out well for us and allowed us to hit a number of unique sites in the Nation’s Capital while also picking up several National Park Passport stamps as well.

We have visited Washington D.C. in the past and have seen the East Side of the National Mall, including the Museums and Capitol building. This itinerary focuses on the western memorials and some historical sites north of the mall.

One Day in DC Itinerary Overview

  1. Metro to Smithsonian stop on National Mall and Washington Monument
  2. Visit Reflecting pool, Vietnam and Korean Memorial and Lincoln Memorial
  3. Take DC Circulator
  4. White House Visitor Center
  5. Visit Old Post Office Tower, Natural History Museum, Navy Memorial
  6. Walk over and take a tour of Fords Theatre
  7. Escape Room
  8. Metro back to hotel
Map of Washington D.C. walking route to Washington Monument

Getting to the mall is fairly easy. We stayed in Crystal City, which is only a few stops from the National Mall. The metro is easy to navigate, especially if you have ever utilized mass transit in other major cities. A good place to start your tour, as we did, is at the Smithsonian stop which is on the orange, grey and blue lines.

Tip:  I saved a PDF of the metro map as a link on my phone. Having a map at your fingertips is a great help, especially since some metro cars do not have maps.

Nearby the Smithsonian metro stop is the Washington Monument. We were unfortunately too late to get tickets to the top of the monument. Always check the timing for these tickets. We had an easy-going attitude this do so we did not stress about it.

Tip: If you are wanting tickets to go to the top of the Washington monument arrive early! When we arrived at 8:45am, there was already a long line. By 9am all the tickets had already been taken.

Map of Washington D.C. walking route to lincoln Memorial

2. Memorials & Monuments along the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall

The next few stops on this Itinerary takes us walking down the National Mall towards the Lincoln Memorial, and this is where you can be rather flexible in your options. Some memorials may be of more interest to you than others, so feel free to explore based on your desires.

World War II memorial Star wall Washington DC

World War II Memorial

Walking down the mall toward the Lincoln Memorial, you will encounter the World War II Memorial. The memorial is separated into two sections along a semi-circle, one for the Pacific Theater and one to commemorate the Atlantic theater. The visitor center where you get the passport stamps is in a building, south of the memorial.

Tip: The sun can be very harsh, even on a cool day, so be prepared with a hat and sunscreen.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

As you continue down to the Lincoln Memorial, you can usually find some shade depending on the time of day. As you continue east and vere slightly you will eventually encounter the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

I have always seemed to miss the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall when I have visited D.C. in the past, so I wanted to walk through and pay my respects. You can find the Passport Cancellation stamps at the Memorial Kiosk near the Lincoln Memorial.  

Information Kiosk of Vietnam Veterans Memorial across the Lincoln Memorial on cloudy day

Lincoln Memorial

It is hard to miss the Lincoln Memorial, as it endcaps the reflecting pool facing the Capital building. The grandeur of the statue always amazes me and the position across from the reflecting pool. 

The bookstore is on the statue level of the Lincoln Memorial. It is a small and quaint little shop and was rather busy at the stamping location. It was basically a shelf on one of the bookshelves along the wall but looks like they just had to make do with the space they had.

Abraham Lincoln Statue at the Lincoln Memorial Washington D.C.

As you walk the mall keep an eye out, as you may see some interesting aircraft. We were able to see Marine One flying low and around the Lincoln Memorial. Pretty cool seeing the green and white that close.   

Korean War Veterans Memorial

Korean War Veterans Memorial is on the southern section of the mall, close to the Lincoln. The memorial has nineteen statues that depict a patrol of soldiers walking through a Korean winter. What is neat is the statues represent the different ethnicities that served during the war. The overall space expressed a feeling of hardship and toil associated with war.  

3. Try the DC Circulator Bus to easily get around D.C.

A great resource for tired legs around Washington D.C. is the DC Circulator bus. It is only $1 per person per ride, which is a great deal.  So much so, that we used this a few times and was very helpful. The bus stops are easy to find, and the bright red buses are hard to miss. 

We used the bus to get us from Constitution over to the east side of the White House. With the kids, this would have been at least a 30-minute walk in the hot sun.

Tip: Be thoughtful about which tickets you will need. We tried to be clever, and bought unlimited day passes at the metro. We really did not need this and ended up being a waste of money. We should have just gotten metro cards and loaded $10 or so on the card to start. You can always add more at kiosks in the metro, if needed.  

Map of Washington D.C. route to White House Visitor Center

The White House Visitor center in the Herbert C. Hoover Department of Commerce office building, a block east of President’s Park and the actual White House. To gain access for a tour of the actual White House, you would need to follow a pretty detailed set of steps. One of the steps, and rather important is request your congressmen to get approval for the tour. If you don’t have the opportuntiy to visit the actual White House, this is a great option.

Inside White house Visitor Center showing gold gilded ceiling.

It was nice respite from the hot and sunny weather, and as a plus it also has some National Park Passport Stamps as well. Note, you will have to go through metal detectors to enter the building.

Map of Washington D.C. walking route to Old Post Office Clock tower

5. Old Post Office Tower

The Old Post Office is a unique location in the city, and I would say is an unappreciated location as it provides a different perspective on the city. A nice bonus is that this location also has National Park Stamp. The building itself is currently the fancy Waldorf Astoria Hotel.  

Waldorf Astoria Hotel and old Post office tower in Washington DC

You want to look for the signs to the Museum & Clock Tower at the back of the building (check the map above.) We walked right by it the first time and went around the building. The sign for the museum and Tower entrance is down some steps on the back of the building. 

After a security check, you will need to walk through a set of long hallways before you get to a small desk, a model of the old post office building, and a set of elevators. Along the hallway you will find a lot of information about the building and its place in the history of D.C.

Hallway to the Old Post Office Museum and Clock Tower

There are actually two different sets of elevators you have to ascend to get to the top of the tower, so be prepared for to weave through some additional hallways. We were fortunate and there were only a few people ahead of us! The trip up is pretty each but a bonus is you get a grand view of the main floor lobby of the hotel. 

Where is the stamp station at the old Post Office?

Note the Stamping location is easy to miss as it is on a small desk in the back of the room that doubles as their desk.

Best View from the Old Post Office Tower

View of Washington DC and Capital building from old post office tower

Once at the top of the tower you will get some amazing views of Washington D.C. One of the best views from the tower is out to the East, looking down Pennsylvania Ave. toward the U.S. Capital building.

Map of Washington D.C. walking route to US Navy Memorial

When you are walking around, don’t be afraid to divide and conquer. The Roaming Monk team split up, as I wanted to see the Navy Memorial and the kids wanted to walk through the Natural History Museum. We were able to make this work as we reserved our tickets to Ford’s Theater ahead of time.

Roaming monk in front of Navy Statue

Unfortunately, when I arrived at the Navy Memorial, it was closed (?) for some inexplicable reason. Sometimes things just don’t pan out, but I was able to get a nice selfie in front of the navy statue.

Map of Washington D.C. walking route to Ford's Theater

6. Ford’s Theatre

The lobby of Fords’ Theater is open to the public and even without a ticket you can look around and go to the gift shop (and enjoy the Air Conditioning!) You can pick up reserved tickets from the box office, which also has the National Park Passport Stamps.

Tips: Be sure to buy advanced tickets for the time you would like to tour Ford’s Theater as they do sell out. Also, make sure to pick a time that include the “Theatre walkthrough’, otherwise you will only see the exhibits and/or the Petersen house across the street (where Lincoln was taken after he was shot.)

Front view of Ford's Theater building and blue sky
Ford’s Theater

The exhibits below the theater are extensive, setting the stage of the civil war and walking you through the environment until that fateful day back in April 1865. There are details on the conspirators, and several small movies to put the event in historical context.

Where was Lincoln shot in Washington D.C.

After spending time going through the exhibits downstairs, you are directed upstairs to the balcony level where you can get a view of the Lincoln Box seat. It remains as it was that fateful night. The picture of George Washington was placed to signify that the President would be in attendance. Sitting in the balcony seats really puts the historical event in context. 

Note, this is a working theatre, so the view of the stage and orchestra section can be seen easily. In the spring of 2023, the NPS is planning on a performing an interpretive two person play to help tell the story of the Theatre and the events of that evening.  

Petersen House: Where Lincoln Died

The room where Lincoln died is fairly small and upstairs, so keep that in mind based on your needs. It is tight quarters, and the timed tickets certainly help manage the number of visitors, so it is easier to navigate the exhibits.

Map of Washington D.C. walking route to Archive Metro Stop

7. Escape Room in Washington D.C.

Our family decided to end the day by going to an escape room in that was nearby, The Escape Game in Downtown DC. It was on the same block as Ford’s Theatre, which made it very easy. We were able to walk over after our tour of Ford’s theatre and the Petersen house. 

There are a number of different scenarios you can choose from based on skill level and how long you want the experience to take. We decided to take on the ‘Special Ops: Mysterious Market‘ room. In the end, we needed some extra clues, but ended up saving the world from nuclear annihilation, whew!   

8. Metro Back to Hotel

The Archives – Navy Memorial-penn Quarter Metro Station is very close to the escape room and north section of the mall. The north/south green and yellow line run from this stop, and you should be able to find connection to your location fairly easily.

Dynamic Map of the One Day Itinerary

Here is the Google map of the entire itinerary.

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