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Guide to Visiting the Washington Monument
Gaze up at this iconic stone obelisk, the defining feature of DC's skyline and one of the nation’s most recognizable structures
After years of extensive renovations, the Washington Monument reopened to the public on Sept. 19, 2019 with a modernized elevator and increased long-term reliability and safety. After recently being closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, visitors are now able to book tours as of Oct. 1, 2020. Check the National Park Service's website for additional updates, and please remember to wear your mask, social distance and follow all health/safety guidelines when visiting.
Built to honor George Washington, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first president of the United States, the Washington Monument was 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 New & Improved Washington Monument
After undergoing years of renovations and reopening in 2019, the Washington Monument has raised expectations for visitors with a new state-of-the-art elevator that will efficiently move hundreds of visitors up to the observation deck daily. The minute-long ride up 50 stories to the top of the world's tallest free-standing stone structure includes a video from the National Park Service about what to expect. From the observation deck, you can see nearly 25 miles into the horizon in every direction, including landmarks like the U.S. Capitol, the White House, Arlington National Cemetery and the Washington National Cathedral.
Part of what makes traveling in the elevator so historic is that, on the two-minute descent, it offers a glimpse of the interior walls, which are lined with stones that commemorate George Washington, placed by states, civic groups and others. The modern system gives the National Park Service operators better control of the elevator with remote access from the ground.
Before experiencing the new elevator, visitors will encounter another improvement to traveling to the top of the Washington Monument – an upgraded security screening facility at the base of the structure. The new security structure can accommodate up to 20 visitors and has more modern screening equipment.
Due to COVID-19, the Washington Monument is now allowing visitors to purchase 1 ticket, which will be valid for up to 4 people. Advance reservations are required. Tickets listed as “Not Yet Released” will become available one-day before the tour date at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. Until further notice, walk up tickets and group reservations will not be available. Visitors can purchase tickets on recreation.gov. The Washington Monument is open 9 am to 5 pm daily (last available tour ticket at 4 pm) except for December 25. The monument closes daily from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. for cleaning.
Find out more information with our Washington Monument tour and ticket guide for both groups and individuals.
More on the Washington Monument
Maintained by the National Park Service, the Washington Monument is located on the center of the National Mall between the U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial. The easiest way to get to the monument is by taking the Metro. 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 near the National Mall.
Why does the Washington Monument have two colors?
It wasn't easy to build Washington Monument. The structure was originally designed by Robert Mills, with construction beginning in 1848. The combination of the 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.