A Handy WWII Memorial Visitors Guide
The WWII Memorial is one of the top attractions in Washington DC. Dramatically set on the National Mall at the base of the Reflecting Pool, the WWII Memorial sits midway between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument and commands a sweeping view of the entire National Mall. The WWII Memorial honors the 16,000,000 men and women who served in the American armed forces, the 400,000 who gave their lives in the war, and the millions of Americans who participated in the war effort in the Home Front. It will inspire future generations of Americans, deepening their appreciation of what the World War II generation accomplished in securing freedom and democracy. Above all, the memorial stands as an important symbol of American national unity, a timeless reminder of the moral strength and awesome power that can flow when a free people are at once united and bonded together in a common and just cause.
Description of the WWII Memorial
The central feature of the WWII Memorial is a polished black wall with 4048 gold stars emblazoned up on it. Each of these stars represents 100 American soldiers or sailors who died in the war. Facing this wall is a semicircle of 56 granite pillars. Each pillar is inscribed with the name of one of the 48 states or 8 US territories which participated in the WWII. On either end are two large triumphal arches representing the Atlantic and Pacific theaters in the war. Between these two arches is an impressive fountain representing the oceans separating us from these two theaters. At the base of each arch are inscribed the major battles from each theater.
Opening Hours at the WWII Memorial
The WWII Memorial is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Entrance is always free to the public. The National Park Service maintains an information park kiosk to answer your questions. The kiosk is open from 9:30 AM to 10:00 PM daily.
How to Get to the WWII Memorial
If you are walking on the National Mall, the WWII Memorial is midway between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The nearest Metro station is Smithsonian Station, but it is a good 15 minutes walk away. Here you will find the Orange, Blue and Silver lines. There is a small handicapped parking area immediately nearby, but the nearest parking area open to the general public is on the east side of the Tidal Basin — about a 10 minute walk away. There is a Capital Bikeshare station across 17th Street near the Survey Lodge Ranger Station. Nonpartisan Pedicab includes a stop at the WIII Memorial as part of a Monuments and Memorials Tour where you will be able to get out and walk inside to take photos.
Handicapped Facilities at the WWII Memorial
The WWII Memorial has no steps of any kind. From the triumphal archways there is a gentle ramp heading down toward the field of stars and the fountain. There is a small parking area on Home Front Drive that has a few handicapped spots. This is right by the ranger station, where they have wheelchairs that they can lend to visitors for use at the WWII Memorial. If you have limited mobility, please check out my post on Things to Do in DC with Limited Mobility.
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Parking at the WWII Memorial
If you look closely on the map, you will see a turn in called Home Front Drive. There are a few handicapped parking spaces here, but there is no general parking. No other WWII Memorial Visitors Guide will tell you this, but there is nearby parking in a lot by the Tidal Basin. Put 1500 Maine Avenue SW into Google Maps and you will find the proper entrance. As at all National Mall parking locations, three hour parking costs $2 per hour. Parking meters only accept credit cards. This parking lot is not availabile during the Cherry Blossom Festival because there are many exhibits and activities located here during that time. Click here for more information on parking on the National Mall.
Is the WWII Memorial Kid Friendly?
On the plus side, kids will love the fountains and reading all the states names — one on each column.
Is the WWII Memorial Dog Friendly?
Yes and no. Officially, dogs are not allowed in any of the memorials. However, this is rarely enforced unless your dog is misbehaving. Service dogs are always welcome, of course. Visit our post on dog friendly tours of Washington DC.
Restrooms at the WWII Memorial
Yes, there are restrooms. These are closed when the ranger station closes at 10:00 PM each night and open again in the morning. Don’t come with high expectations.
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You can enjoy the best Washington DC sightseeing on a tour of the monuments with Nonpartisan Pedicab.
Food Availability at the WWII Memorial
There is no food available at the WWII Memorial. The nearest food would be at the Lincoln Memorial at the far end of the Reflecting Pool. During the summer, there is often an ice cream cart posted across 17th Street. If you walk down 17th and cross over Constitution Avenue you will find a hot dog truck. The nearest real food is up 17th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, where there is a Cosi, a MacDonalds, a coffee shop, and several other nearby options.
Visiting the WII Memorial during the Cherry Blossom Festival
One of the top things to do in DC is to see the Cherry Blossoms. The Cherry Blossom Festival occurs annually in late March or early April when thousands of cherry trees come into bloom simultaneously around the Tidal Basin. The WWII Memorial is not directly on the Tidal Basin, but it is very nearby. While the festival is going on, the WWII Memorial certainly attracts many extra visitors. Expect to find no nearby parking during the peak days of the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Other Attractions near to the WII Memorial
The WWII Memorial is in the center of the National Mall right between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. You can walk by the Reflecting Pool right up to the steps of the Lincoln. to the right of the Lincoln Memorial is the Vietnam War Memorial. To the left is the Korean War Memorial.
The Tidal Basin is within view. Across the Tidal Basin is the Jefferson Memorial – a good 15 minute walk away. Closer is the MLK Memorial, about 5 – 10 minutes walk. Next to the MLK Memorial a little further along is the FDR Memorial.
If you walk up to the Washington Monument, the White House is to your left.
History of the WWII Memorial
The WWII Memorial Act was introduced into Congress in 1993 and signed by President Clinton the following year. A fundraising effort followed, spearheaded by Senator Bob Dole and Frederick Smith, CEO of FedEx. Eventually $197 million was raised, almost all of which came from private donations. A committee consisting of the representatives from the United States Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission, the National Capital Memorial Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Park Service decided upon both the site location in 1995 and opened a design competition. In 1997, a design by Friedrich St. Florian was chosen, although substantial alterations to the design occurred subsequently. Ground was broken in 2001, and the WWII Memorial was unveiled to the public by President George W. Bush in 2004 in a ceremony attended by thousands of people.