National Parks in and near Washington D.C. – Episode 665

categories: USA Travel

National Parks in Washington D.C. (Podcast)

Hear about National Parks in Washington D.C. and the vicinity as the Amateur Traveler talks to Erik Smith about monuments, memorials, mansions, battlefields, gardens, and more.

Erik is closing in on seeing all the National Park sites in the lower 48 states.

Erik says, “the best place to start in Washington D.C. is the National Mall which is run by the National Park Service. While there isn’t anything that says national park on the mall obviously there are a bunch of monuments and memorials on this quintessential piece of American geography.”

On the Mall, the national park sites include such well-known places as the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the war memorials of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and WWII. Part of the main Mall area is also Constitution Gardens.

Ghosts at the Korean War Memorial – Washington D.C. – Photo

The Washington Monument was briefly the word’s tallest building and is still the world’s tallest monument. If you look closely, you will see it has stones with two different colors. The line in between marks when they ran out of money building it in 1854. Construction did not continue until 22 years later. 

Erik recommends visiting the National Mall at night when it is lit up. 

Just off the Mall are the newer memorials to FDR and MLK Jr which are around the same reflecting pool as the Jefferson Memorial. Across the Potomac River is Arlington National Cemetary. On the grounds of the cemetery is the Arlington House which is run by the park service. The house used to belong to Robert E. Lee, who married a descendant of Martha Washington.

In the D.C. area, the park service also runs some green spaces like George Washington Memorial Parkway, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Rock Creek Park, Anacostia Park, and Great Falls. Rock Creek Park has a working grist mill but is also full of biking and hiking trails. Fort Washington Park is part of the Civil War defenses of Washington D.C. One of Erik’s favorite green spaces is Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens.

There are a few sites in the D.C. area dedicated to African American history. This includes the historic homes of Frederick Douglas, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Carter G. Woodson. Douglas was one of the best-known abolitionists. McLeod Bethune was the founder of the National Council of Negro Women. Woodson is best known for founding Black History month.

Ford’s Theatre in D.C. is where Lincoln was shot. The Peterson house where he died across the street is also part of the park site. 

The other performing arts site that is a national park in the area is Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in nearby northern Virginia. Northern Virginia also has a number of national battlefield parks from Manassas to Petersburg. George Washington Birthplace National Monument is also in the area (it is not Mount Vernon). 

Within a day’s drive from D.C., you will find some other national parks that we give a nod to as well.

There is much to see in Washington D.C. If you are a fan of history or willing to become one, then D.C. needs to be on your bucket list. While you are there, check out some of these great national parks.

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Show Notes

US National Parks
National parks to Explore in DC
Washington DC
National Mall
Washington Monument
The White House
National World War II Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Constitution Gardens
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The Three Soldiers
Vietnam Women’s Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial
Martin Luther King Jr Memorial
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
FDR Memorial
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington House
Smithsonian Institution
George Washington Memorial Parkway
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Rock Creek Park
Anacostia Park
Fort Washington Park
Prince William Forest Park
Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Hill Farm
Great Falls
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens
20 African-American history destinations in Washington, D.C.
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site
Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site
Ford’s Theatre
Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park
Richmond National Battlefield Park
Petersburg National Battlefield
George Washington Birthplace National Monument
Mount Vernon
Colonial National Historical Park
Colonial Williamsburg
Shenandoah National Park
Assateague Island
Gettysburg Battlefield
National Park Passport Stamps
Passport Program
Clara Barton National Historic Site
Glen Echo Park


Amateur Traveler trip in 2020 is to Turkey.

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I love listening to this podcast that Cris put together so well to bring on guests about places to travel and share their experiences in each destination! I love the questions that Chris asks his guests on the show and I find this podcast really relaxing to listen to when driving to work or cleaning and cooking home! I am so grateful for Chris and his preparations for each episode of the show he shared with us here to travel around the world!

Excellent! Interesting!

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Excellent!, Interesting! Excellent!, Interesting!, Excellent!, Interesting!, Excellent!, Interesting!, Excellent!, Interesting!, Excellent!!!

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

5 Responses to “National Parks in and near Washington D.C. – Episode 665”

Erik Smith


I really did not mean to say ‘Green Spaces’ & ‘Civil War Era’ about 1000 times.

Craig Ferris


DC is my favorite large US city and this podcast got me itching to go back! One memorial I was hoping to hear mentioned is the United States Marine Corps Memorial (aka the Iwo Jima Memorial) located prominently on the George Washington Memorial Parkway right next to Arlington National Cemetery. I have the “Iwo Jima” in my top 5 DC memorials, and I visit it every time I am in DC. Sometimes, travel is not only about discovering something new but also reflecting on our history and experiences. If you visit the Iwo Jima in the summer, the Marine Corps Band performs free bugle and drum concerts on Tuesdays around sunset.

I totally agree with Erik about the majesty of the Mall at night. He did a great job bringing to life the best of the Mall and other DC area parks and memorials maintained by our wonderful National Park Service. I also feel the same way as Chris about the WW II Memorial. For me it does not tug on the emotions like the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials. Our greatest generation deserved better.

Chris Christensen


Glad you like it Craig. I think that the United States Marine Corps Memorial is not part of the national parks which is why we skipped it this time (with so much else).



Erik is one of your most knowledgeable and informative guests. I always enjoy when he is the featured speaker. The podcast mentioned that a World War I Memorial is in the works. Many people are not aware that the District of Columbia War Memorial is honors the DC citizens (local citizens) who served during WWI. Designed in the style of a mini-Jefferson memorial, it is small and often overlooked. It is near 17th St and Independence Ave southwest. Worth a look next time you are strolling the mall.

Chris Christensen


Count me as one of those who did not know that Carole. 🙂

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