The Jefferson Memorial with pedal boats floating on the Tidal Basin.

How To Visit the Tidal Basin

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The Tidal Basin is a man-made reservoir near the National Mall. It is most famous for the cherry blossom trees that bloom there every spring. No matter the season, visitors can follow the two-mile loop trail to see monuments like the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. It is easily accessible from the E’Lafant and Smithsonian metro stations.

If you are short on time, you can snap photos of the Jefferson Memorial from Maine Ave SW or Independence Ave SW. If you have time to walk the loop, you’ll find a variety of beloved memorials. The two-mile loop can take between 1 to 3 hours to complete depending on how much time you spend at each monument.

Here are a few monuments that you’ll see along the loop:

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial includes Dr. King carved into an unfinished block of stone. Many people interpret this as a symbol of the ongoing fight for equality. Visitors can also read a variety of quotes from Dr. King carved into the rock around the memorial. The area also has many cherry trees, so it is especially beautiful in the spring, summer, and fall.

MLK Memorial with Cherry Blossoms
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial: The FDR Memorial is one of my favorites in the city. This memorial is easy to walk through and will take you through all four of FDR’s presidential terms. While many memorials in DC include water, the FDR Memorial uses the intensity of the water to illustrate both moments of stillness and rough patches throughout his tenure.

Statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt with his dog at the FDR Memorial
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

George Mason Memorial: The George Mason Memorial is smaller than some of the others on the Tidal Basin but worth a stop. Mason was a Virginia politician who wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which influenced other early American history documents like the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.

Statue of George Mason sitting with a colonial hat next to him
George Mason Memorial

Thomas Jefferson Memorial: If you make you’re way around the Tidal Basin, you can see the Jefferson Memorial up close. Sit on the steps and enjoy the water with the Washington Monument in view, step inside for a look at the statue of Jefferson, and read the quotes carved into the marble.

The Jefferson Memorial with pedal boats floating on the Tidal Basin.
The Jefferson Memorial with pedal boats.

Pedal Boats: Pedal boats can be rented from early spring to late fall for $38 per hour on weekdays and $40 per boat on weekends and holidays. Each boat holds up to 4 people. Reservations can be made online for a specific time slot or you can walk up at any time. During cherry blossom season, all pedal boat rentals are walk-up only.

Food Near the Tidal Basin

Food on the National Mall is difficult to find and in most cases, you will need to explore a nearby neighborhood to find a good restaurant. When visiting the Tidal Basin, your closest options will be on The Wharf – about a 15-minute walk from the Jefferson Memorial.

The restaurants closest to the Tidal Basin include fast-casual spots like Twisted, Falafel, Fat Fish, and Shake Shack. While the Fish Market isn’t as big as it once was, visitors can still order grab-and-go fish dishes to enjoy while walking along the boardwalk. For full-service dining, look for Rappahannock Oyster Bar, Officina, or The Grill.

Hotels Near the Tidal Basin

The Wharf is the closest major area to the Tidal Basin with hotels and restaurants. Personally, this is my favorite area to recommend to first-time tourists because it is easy to walk to the Tidal Basin and other points of interest on the National Mall. It’s also very close to the L’Enfant metro station which serves every line except Red. This makes it easy to metro to spots on the National Mall that are farther than the Tidal Basin and to other neighborhoods like Dupont, U Street, Navy Yard, the airports (DCA and IAD), and more.

Parking Near the Tidal Basin

The easiest way to get to the Tidal Basin is to walk from the Smithsonian Metro stop (Orange, Blue, Silver) or L’Enfant Plaza near The Wharf (all lines except Red). However, if you need your car, parking is available on West Basin Dr, Ohio D SW, and at the Tidal Basin parking lot along Maine Ave SW. This parking can fill up fast on weekends and in the summer, so visitors can also park in one of the parking decks on The Wharf. The Wharf parking decks are pricy but can be a more reliable option if you must drive.