Why you might roll your eyes:
You already know what the monuments look like from a distance.
Why you’ll love it:
Because there are ways to see them with new eyes. Here are three ideas.
In the snow: The next time Washington is freshly blanketed, hop on the Metro and head toward the Mall. The city is at its most hushed—and possibly most beautiful—when it snows, making it a perfect time to walk and gawk.
At night: It’s no secret that the best way to view the monuments is at night, when they positively glow. Besides, it’s easier to park. But because it’s no secret, if you time it wrong (say, during spring-break weeks) you’ll find yourself admiring Lincoln with busloads of tourists. Our advice: Pick an evening—Christmas or Thanksgiving night, maybe Super Bowl Sunday—when most people are doing something else. You may just end up having the Jefferson to yourself.
On the water: From a kayak in the Potomac or Anacostia River, Washington’s storied sites take on both a more imposing and a more peaceful vibe. The outfitter Boating in DC leads three 90-minute guided tours that ply the local waters at sunset: a monument-heavy trip taking off from Georgetown, a Capitol Riverfront jaunt in the Anacostia starring vistas of the Capitol and Navy Yard, and a paddle departing from National Harbor with glimpses of Old Town Alexandria and the illuminated Capital Wheel. Discovery Channel-worthy close-ups of birds such as blue herons come with the experience. “When you’re on a boat, the marble on the monuments takes on a special glow, and the water is beautiful at sunset,” says Boating in DC’s Nicholas Verrochi.
Tours ($45) take place multiple times a week in warmer months. Reserve at boatingindc.com.