Monuments by Moonlight: How to Do D.C. After Dark


Washington, D.C., by night is cooler than “House of Cards.” (Photo: Getty Images)

For most people, road trips mean sunny days spent exploring cool, new locations and nights spent sleeping in (sometimes questionable) motels. After all, daytime is when most museums, shops, and tourist attractions are open for business.

But I’m not like most people.

 Washington, D.C., is a superhot location these days (Who doesn’t watch “House of Cards” or “Scandal”?). But as a former lobbyist, I’ve seen the 9-to-5 bustle of the nation’s capital and its many monuments by sunlight. So when my friend and I decided to hop in the car and head to the District, we wanted to see it after dark. Not everyone is aware, but the National Monuments are open for viewing and lit all night.

As with all my road trips, there was plenty of fast food (What’s a long drive without Burger King and corn nuts?) and lots of singing and laughing in the car on the way from Manhattan. We drove into D.C. with a couple of hours to spare before the sun went down.

Oyamel Concina Mexicana restaurant in Washington D.C.

At Oyamel Cocina Mexicana restaurant, you can’t miss the butterflies on the mobiles. (Photo: ThinkFoodGroup)

After checking into the hotel for a quick rest and a little zhuzhing, our first stop was for dinner and a margarita atOyamel Cocina Mexicana. When you think of Washington restaurants, normally steaks and martinis come to mind. But a friend assured us this hot spot is a can’t-miss. She was right – authentic Oaxaca dishes tiayudas and tamales made with cool ingredients like mezcal and chapulines (grasshoppers!) were interesting (in a good way!) and delicious.

tacos at Oyamel Concina Mexicana in Washington D.C.

Tacos at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana (Photo: ThinkFoodGroup)

We had several different kinds of tacos, fresh ceviche, and queso fresco, which were all winners. And the Salt Air margaritas, served up in swimming-pool-size glasses were just what we needed after a long drive.

After dinner, we headed out to see the sights.  The monuments stretch across three miles, so we had on comfy walking shoes and carried our iPhones for the cameras andbuilt-in flashlights to read dark plaques. (Of course, for safety reasons, we made sure to stick together, stay alert, and avoid dark areas. )

World War II Memorial at sunset

The World War II Memorial at sunset (Photo: Getty Images)

The sun was setting when we got to the World War II Memorial. Located on the National Mall, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, which opened to the public in 2004, is one of the newest in Washington, D.C. It’s an ode to the 16 million people who served, and it includes 56 pillars, representing all the U.S. states and territories, plus two triumphal arches that represent the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. But it’s the fountains located in the center of the memorial that are mesmerizing under the moon. The glow of the lights and constant splashing sounds make it a perfect spot to meditate or to bring a date.

Lincoln Memorial after dark

The Lincoln Memorial after dark (Photo: Getty Images)

By the time we hit the Lincoln Memorial, the sun and the lights were casting a warm glow on President Lincoln as tourists still buzzed around. Besides being a monument honoring one of America’s most influential presidents, the Lincoln Memorial has become a symbol for the civil rights movement. It was on the base of the steps that Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech; Eleanor Roosevelt arranged a concert featuring African American musicians after the Daughters of the American Revolution blocked a black musician from playing in a band; and people gathered to protest the Vietnam War. The history alone makes this spot truly inspirational.

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is so much more beautiful at night. (Photo: Getty Images)

Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, we just had to turn around to see the Washington Monument lit in the distance. Built to honor George Washington, the obelisk stands 555 feet high, and at night when it is mirrored in the reflecting pool, it is simply breathtaking and worthy of your bucket list.

korean war veterans memorial

The Korean War Veterans Memorial may be the most mesmerizing one to see at night. (Photo: Tim Evanson/Flickr)

Many people flock to the National Mall to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – and it is a moving tribute, especially during the day when you can see the engraved names of the deceased soldiers. But at night, the must-see site is theKorean War Veterans Memorial. I find it to be the most powerful in the shadows of night. Hidden in the brush are 19 larger-than-life, steel statues of weary-looking American soldiers trudging through the landscape. Seen at night or after a snowstorm, the ghostly images are haunting, disconcerting, and impactful.

Observatory Rooftop bar

The view from The Observatory rooftop bar (Photo: The Graham Georgetown)

Seeing the monuments is both heavy and beautiful at the same time. A good way to reflect is with panoramic views of the beautiful city lights and a cocktail. At  The Graham Georgetown, t he 3,000 sq. ft. rooftop bar, The Observatory, has both, plus cigars and amazing stargazing. A local fave is the Rickey, made with bourbon or gin, half a lime, and carbonated water. This tasty highball, named after Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey, was created in Washington in 1880 and has been a favorite here ever since.

Sure, we stayed the following day for brunch and shopping in Georgetown. But what I will always remember came as the sun set the evening before: Descending upon the National Mall at dusk was a sight so awe-inspiring, I still have to catch my breath when I think of it.

Originally found on Yahoo Travel.

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