This post is part of a series on the Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip, a 10-month, 15,000 mile tour of the top pet friendly attraction in each of the lower 48 states.
Choosing the #1 pet friendly destination in each state was the hard part – now we’re visiting each location, and sharing our experiences with you. The purpose of this grand adventure is to celebrate the bonds that grow and the beautiful moments we collect when we travel with our pets. We hope you’ll hop aboard and join us vicariously here on the blog and on social media by following the #pawsomememories hashtag. Waggin’ trails!
There are few places in the United States more inspiring than our National Mall and Memorial Gardens. Our country’s history and future hang in the air, monuments commemorate celebrated visionaries, and memorials stand in silent remembrance of the many who’ve given their lives to preserve our freedom.
How deeply you’re affected by these surroundings is totally up to you. You can 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 let the weight of this place sink in, you can’t help but be affected. Words of hope spoken by the founders of our country are inscribed everywhere you look. Heartbreak, pride, and gratitude envelop you at the war memorials. And ghosts of days gone by seem to slip through the shadows, observing with interest where we’re headed.
When planning a trip to Washington, D.C., it’s best to prioritize the sights you want to see, and be generous in estimating the amount of time it will take to cover each stop. It’s easy to forget the scale of the city – just walking from the U.S. Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial is 2.3 miles and takes about an hour, so plan accordingly.
We parked by the Potomac River, just south of the Jefferson Memorial, and followed the shore of the Tidal Basin to the Washington Monument, down the Mall to the Capitol, up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, then back to the Washington Monument to walk along the Reflecting Pool out to the Lincoln Memorial. From there we made our way back to the car – it was a long, glorious day, and we walked about 7 miles in total.
Pets at The National Mall and Memorial Gardens
Pets are welcome on to join you on the National Mall and Memorial Gardens. This national park sits in the middle of a living city, so the rules here are less restrictive than you’ll find at other national parks. Basically, pets must be leashed and cleaned up after, and they are not allowed in the buildings, in the National Sculpture Garden, or inside most of the memorials.
Pet Rules at The National Mall and Memorial Gardens
Pets must be on leash
Pet waste must be picked up and disposed of properly
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
For years I’ve wanted Ty and Buster’s photo with FDR’s beloved dog, Fala, so the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial was our first stop on this trip! Given to the Roosevelts by a cousin, Fala was famous and went everywhere with the President.
He was an early ambassador for pet travel, and 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.
After getting that shot of the boys, we followed the Tidal Basin around to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and then to the Washington Monument. Dogs are welcome to admire these structures from the grounds, but cannot go inside the buildings. That was fine with the boys, because the memorials are always busy. Each year about 24 million people visit the National Mall, and Ty and Buster prefer relaxing on a shady bench to fighting crowds.
The distance between destinations on the Mall can be a little deceiving when you’re guestimating things on a map. It’s 1.5 miles from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol, and Buster was happy for the exercise, but Ty was REALLY glad we’d brought his stroller!
We strolled up Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol and found a nice selection of places to have lunch with the dogs. There were some pet friendly patios at restaurants, but we opted to hit a couple of food trucks and enjoy our goodies in one of the many parks and green spaces that pepper Washington’s streets.
Seeing the White House was anticlimactic – restrictions have changed and visitors aren’t allowed up to the gate anymore. Catching a glimpse of the house from the crowded sidewalk behind concrete barriers was disappointing, and we didn’t even consider taking Ty and Buster down the packed walkway for a photo op.
The area along the Reflecting Pool was far more enjoyable for the dogs, and we took our time passing though the avenue of trees that line the paths on either side of the pool. And, as the sun went down, we got a beautiful overview of all that we’d seen during the day.
Winding up at the Lincoln Memorial was serendipitous because two cafés flank this spot, and we were able to get a snack and a drink while we waited for rush hour traffic to fade. From there it was a lovely walk through West Potomac Park back to the car.
There’s nowhere in the country like Washington, and it would be easy to spend a week exploring it all it’s nooks and crannies. Be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes, and enjoy your visit to this spectacular city!