Home to iconic monuments including the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, there are few places in America more inspiring than the National Mall and Memorial Gardens in Washington, DC. And it’s a wonderful place to visit with your pets!
Nowhere are the history and future of the United States as tangible and as they are in Washington, DC. Monuments commemorate celebrated visionaries. Memorials stand in silent remembrance of the many who’ve given their lives to preserve our freedom. And, just blocks away, the President, Congress, and Supreme Court chart our course forward.
How deeply this place affects you is your choice. It’s easy to stay on the surface, and Washington will feel like many other cities. People hustling, traffic buzzing, and life passing by in a blur.
But if you slow down and reflect on all that has transpired and is happening now along the National Mall, you can’t help but feel the significance. Words of hope spoken by the founders of our country are inscribed everywhere you look. Heartbreak, pride, and gratitude envelop you at the memorials. And ghosts of days gone by seem to slip through the shadows, observing with interest where we’re heading.
Visiting The National Mall With Pets
Centrally located in Washington, DC, the National Mall stretches over two miles from the Lincoln Memorial on the west end to the U.S. Capitol on the east end, with the Washington Monument in the middle. And along the National Mall are some of the nation’s best museums, as well as iconic monuments and memorials.
Pets are welcome on to join you as you explore the National Mall and Memorial Gardens. Because this national park sits in the middle of a living city, the rules here are less restrictive than you’ll find at other national parks.
National Mall and Memorial Gardens Pet Policy
Pet waste must be picked up and disposed of properly
Leashes are required
Pets are welcome in most outdoor areas
Pets are not allowed inside the buildings, in the National Sculpture Garden, or inside most of the memorials
READ MORE ⇒ America’s Best Dog Friendly National Parks
Planning Your Trip
When planning your trip, it’s best to prioritize the sights you’d like to see. Then grab a map and start laying out a route that hits those stops.
Be generous in estimating the amount of time it will take to walk from place to place — there’s a lot to sniff! And allow plenty of time to truly experience the sites you choose. It’s better to visit fewer places than gloss over the sights so they can be checked off a list.
You could easily spend a couple of days just enjoying the National Mall with your pets. If you bring a human buddy and want to take turns visiting the museums and touring some of the buildings, that time could easily double.
The National Mall – Top Sights To See With Dogs
Experiencing the National Mall with pets is best done on foot (and paw). Parking is abundant, so find a place to leave your car near the top priority on your list.
For us, that was the FDR memorial. Getting Ty and Buster’s photo with the Roosevelt’s beloved dog, Fala, had been a goal for years! So we found a parking lot on Ohio Drive SW, near the Potomac River, and set out.
Located along the west side of the Tidal Basin, the FDR memorial chronicles his four terms in office. But — as you might imagine — we were more captivated by Fala!
Given to the Roosevelts by a cousin, Fala was famous and went everywhere with the President. As an early ambassador for pet travel, we thought it only appropriate to pay our respects.
Fala outlived President Roosevelt by seven years and is buried at the Springwood Estate in Hyde Park, New York, a few feet from the burial place of his master and mistress.
Following the shore of the Tidal Basin, our next stop was the circular colonnade honoring Thomas Jefferson, one of the country’s Founding Fathers.
Dogs are welcome to admire all of the memorials on the National Mall from the grounds, but cannot go inside the buildings. That was fine with Ty and Buster, because the memorials are always busy. Each year about 24 million people visit the National Mall, and our dogs prefer relaxing by a shady bench to fighting crowds. Rod and I took turns sitting with the dogs while the other looked inside.
Continuing around the edge of the Tidal Pool, our next stop was the Washington Monument. Built to honor the United States’ first president, the 555-foot marble obelisk towers over the city.
The distance between destinations on the Mall can be a little deceiving. It’s 1.5 miles from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol, and Buster enjoyed the exercise. Ty, on the other hand, was delighted that we’d brought his stroller!
Tours of the U.S. Capitol can be scheduled through the Capitol Visitor Center website or through the office of one of your senators or your representative. The Capitol Visitor Center is open to visitors with tour reservations from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Saturday, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and on Inauguration Day.
From the Capitol, we left the National Mall to stroll up Pennsylvania Avenue. It was a nice walk, and we saw several restaurants with pet friendly patios to have lunch with the dogs. But we opted to hit a couple of food trucks and enjoyed a picnic in one of the many parks and green spaces scattered along Washington’s streets.
Getting a peek of the White House was anticlimactic. The sidewalk was crowded, and from this distance you can’t see much. Of course, tours of the White House are available — though they’re not pet friendly.
Cutting back over to the National Mall, our next stop was the World War 11 Memorial. One of the most visited places in America, it recognizes the ways Americans served, honors those who fell, and celebrates the victory they achieved to restore freedom around the world.
Walking along the reflecting pool and through Constitution Gardens, we made our way to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The area along the Reflecting Pool was peaceful and far more enjoyable for the dogs than Pennsylvania Avenue. So we took our time passing though the avenue of trees that line the paths on either side of the pool.
Honoring the men and women who served in the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial chronologically lists the names of more than 58,000 Americans who gave their lives in service to their country.
From the Vietnam Veterans Memorial it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to the Lincoln Memorial. Here America honors a martyred president who guided the country through civil war and freed four million enslaved persons.
The view back down the National Mall from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is inspiring! Looking past the Washington Monument, you can just see the U.S. Capitol in the distance. As the sun started to set, we got a beautiful overview of the day.
Winding up at the Lincoln Memorial toward the end of the day was serendipitous because two cafés flank this spot. We got a snack and a drink while we waited for rush hour traffic to fade.
Heading back toward the Potomac River, we stopped at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Its Wall of Remembrance and 19 stainless steel statues are a haunting reminder of the sacrifices of the millions of Americans and allied partners who fought during the Korean Conflict.
Our final stop was the larger-than-life carving of Dr. Martin Luther King. Quotes from his writings and speeches commemorate his legacy and the struggle for freedom, equality, and justice in America.
From there it was a lovely walk through West Potomac Park back to the car. It was a long, glorious day, and we walked about 7 miles in total.
Washington DC is unlike anywhere else in the country. And it would be easy to spend a week exploring it all it’s nooks and crannies!