WHAT IS IT? The instantly recognizable white Georgia marble neo-Classical monument dedicated to our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.
BEAUTY (8/10) At the National Mall western end, the Lincoln Memorial stands, a steadfast Greek Temple that emanates greatness and elicits reflexive, earnest tribute. The ascent up its three flights of stairs builds the anticipation, heightens the spirit and takes you to the most fitting tribute any American president has yet to achieve.
Inside Abraham Lincoln sits. His position recalls an imagined recreation of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Lincolnís recreation is no less godlike, but instead of the bombast and tyranny of his mythical counterpart, he sits with the wisdom of Athena. Lincolnís famed melancholy is no more; he sits with self-assuredness. His gaze is more complicated; it speaks of hope and pride but also shows wariness and fear.
Despite its grand scale and lofty symbolism, the Lincoln Memorial is not triumphalist. It shows a man with flaws and sensitivities. It speaks to a hopeful future accompanied by thought and a humble character. It speaks to what America should be.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (8/10) The Lincoln Memorial has seen historic significance rare to most memorials and monuments. Since soon after its dedication, the Memorial has played host to countless concerts, political demonstrations and speeches. Perhaps the only speech to rival the legend of Lincolnís own Gettysburg Address occurred here: Martin Luther King Jr.ís ďI Have a DreamĒ speech. On that August 28, 1963 day, the Lincoln Memorial grounds served as the centerpiece for the one of the most important (and among the largest) political rallies ever to occur, the 1963 March on Washington.
CROWDS (9/10) There were a lot of people here! The mass of humanity that was milling about, ascending and descending the stairs and waiting patiently to be photographed next to Lincolnís knees were all in celebratory, dare we say, jubilant moods despite the heat of the day. This classic American landmarkís grand size can handle all comers with ease.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (4/5) The easiest way to visit is via the Tourmobileģ Sightseeing buses. Your $20.00 per adult all day ticket drops you off in front of the both the Lincoln Memorial, the nearby Vietnam Veterans and Korean Memorials and every other National Mall-area attraction.
The Lincoln Memorial is located on the western edge of the National Mall, just south of a dense conglomeration of federal offices. The more adventurous (or masochistic) tourist could find a metered street parking space among this mess of barricaded one-ways streets, diplomat-only meters and tricky diagonal intersections but we do not recommended it.
The nearest D.C. Metro stop is Foggy-Bottom-GWU, located three-quarters of a mile to the north at the intersection of 23rd and I Streets. This downhill concrete walk always seems longer than the distance indicates.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (2/5) Oddly inadequate. The Lincoln Memorial bookstore is tucked away in the inner right corner of the Memorialís mezzanine. It is far too small to handle its crowd, especially when a baby stroller is pushed into the mix. Shelf space is divvied up between the Lincoln Memorial and other nearby bookstore-less sites, including the Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Memorials. A few books on civil rights and more recent military involvements are scattered in there for good measure.
We could find no rhyme or reason for the bookstore offerings or why some titles were chosen over others. We couldnít even find a cool magnet. Those looking for substantial information on our 16th president will do much better at the Fordís Theater NHS.
COSTS (4/5) Not a penny to see the front and back of a penny.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (1/5) The area in and around the Lincoln Memorialís circular perimeter appeared to be a Ranger-free zone. We saw security guards, bookstore clerks and construction workers doing Memorial restoration but no Rangers. Even the tiny downstairs Lincoln museum appeared to be un-staffed.
TOURS/CLASSES (4/10) Park literature states that there are Park Ranger programs every day at all the National Mall Memorials. Somehow, we missed them all. We understand that the D.C. experience is primarily visceral; it is about being overwhelmed with larger than life statues and legendarily great men.
The Lincoln Memorial needs no elaboration and no educational help. Old Abe sits on his throne and regally looks over the capital city of the country he reunited (and broke apart according to some). His greatest words, the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address, flank him on either side, in their full glory and in complete context.
That is why the Lincoln Museum, located beneath the Memorial, is disappointing. The Museum consists mostly of granite-etched Lincoln quotes regarding equality, freedom, emancipation and the Union. These quotes are mangled and taken out of context in a misguided attempt to portray Lincoln as a fiery abolitionist. The museum exhibits reveal more about the curators and their opinions about Lincoln than Lincoln himself.
FUN (10/10) From his perch, Abe Lincoln enjoys the best and most classic view in Washington, D.C. He overlooks his own reflecting pool, the new World War II Memorial, the soaring obelisk Washington Monument, the National Mall and finally the U.S. Capitol. The vista is stirring at all times and in all seasons. The views and the history will infuse strong patriotic emotions into even the most cynical of Americans. The Lincoln Memorial is a resolute reminder of the positive strength of both humanity and the self.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (10/10) The Lincoln Memorial is Michaelís favorite place in Washington D.C. Every time he walks up its steps he feels the same rush of expectation and the same flood of emotions. It is a pilgrimage site and a place to give secular thanks and blessings not just to Mr. Lincoln but to Dr. King and the pioneers of the many human rights organizations that have rallied here. The Lincoln Memorial is a quintessential American icon and a must-see destination for all Americans.
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