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Lincoln Memorial Guide

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This post is a guide to visiting the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, including tips on how to get here, parking, hours, and a self-guided tour.

Be sure to also check out our Lincoln Assassination Night Tour.


PLAN YOUR VISIT

Visiting the Lincoln Memorial is a must-do while in Washington, DC!  It is the most visited memorial in the city, with 6 million people coming to see it every year. 

It is completely free to visit the Lincoln Memorial and there is no ticket required.

In this section, we cover the memorial's hours, the best times to come, accessibility, ways to get here, and parking.  

A great way to experience the Lincoln Memorial is on one of our tours.

Both our National Mall and our DC in a Day Tours include a stop at the Lincoln Memorial. See our schedule of tours.

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LINCOLN MEMORIAL HOURS:

As with most of the memorials in Washington DC, the Lincoln Memorial is open 24-hours a day.

While the public may visit at any time of day, the National Park Service Rangers, who administer the memorial, are on duty to answer any questions between 9:30 am and 11:30 pm each day.  

Best Times to visit Lincoln Memorial

National Park Police officers make rounds through memorial park 24 hours a day.  

To reach the memorial rangers by phone, dial 1-202-426-6841.

There is no one best time to come. Many come at twilight to catch the evening sun on the Washington Monument and watch the Lincoln Memorial light up. 

However, this can be very crowded, particularly during tourist high seasons. 

Mornings are also very nice, and if you arrive before 10 am, you essentially have the memorial to yourself. 

Saturdays and Sundays tend to be relatively busy the whole day.


WHERE IS THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL LOCATED?

The Lincoln Memorial address is 2 Lincoln Circle Circle, NW, Washington, DC 20037 (map). Click on the map for directions to the memorial from anywhere in D.C.

Nearest Metro Station to Lincoln Memorial

Find out more about where to park at the Lincoln Memorial here...


Accessibility:

The Lincoln Memorial is fully wheelchair accessible.

There are ramps leading from street level to the basement of the memorial, where an elevator to the statue chamber is located.

The entrance is on the southeast corner of the memorial. There is no need to take any steps to reach the statue.  

There are restrooms and water fountains here as well. There are no metal detectors or security stands at the Memorial.


TOURS OF THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL

Guided Tours

The Lincoln Memorial is a stop on our National Mall Tour as well as our All-in-One Tour.

We also have a GPS-enabled audio tour of the National Mall, which includes a stop at the Lincoln Memorial.

All guided bus tours go to the Lincoln Memorial.  

Several of the premium tour companies, such as USA Guided Tours, have a tour guide in addition to drivers, who will accompany you to the Lincoln Memorial for a guided walking tour.


Ranger Talks 

Park Rangers provide  "interpretive programs" on the hour every hour from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m.  

The enjoyment factor depends greatly on who is giving the tour, as some rangers seem more interested than others, but they are usually all very informative. These talks are free.  

The National Park Service has posted some of these talks under "reflections" on their Lincoln Memorial Interactive site.


Mobile Phone Tour 

The Park Service also offers a mobile phone tour of the memorial.  

Dial (202) 747-3420 when you are at the memorial and enter the corresponding item number that you want to learn about.


App

The Park Service also offers a visitor's app for the National Mall for both Android and iPhone.


EXTERIOR ARCHITECTURE:

The Memorial's perimeter has 36 Corinthian order columns, one for each of the thirty-six states that made up the Union when Lincoln died.  

There are two rows of state names. The lower level contains 36 states (matching the columns).

Lincoln Memorial Frieze States

Starting from the left is Delaware, the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Next is Pennsylvania (the second), and so on and so forth.  

Interspersed between each state on the lower level is a wreath of northern laurel on top of the southern pine.  

Despite laurel and pine being abundant in both the northern and southern states during the American Civil War, it would seem to be a subtle acknowledgment of the Union's victory over the Confederacy.

The upper row lists the 48 states of the United States of America in 1922, the year of the Memorial's dedication.  

Just above this row, one can see eagles, Roman victory tripods with garland festoons.  

On the plaza level, closest to the roadway, you will find a large bronze plaque commemorating Alaska and Hawaii becoming the 49th and 50th states of the union.

Faces Lincoln Memorail Exterior

Most visitors to the memorial will go straight inside, totally oblivious to features of the memorial hidden in plain sight.

However, these are actually important symbols.

They are Roman fasces, wooden rods tied together by leather, and the victory tripods found on both sides of the grand staircase.

The first was a symbol of authority for Roman magistrates and were included to convey a similar executive authority of Lincoln.  

The fasces found on the exterior of the memorial has an American flair with 13 rods (13 colonies) and an American bald eagle atop the ax.

The fasces is also a symbol of unity; the individual rods, like the states, are weak, but unified, they are strong.  

In fact, this symbol of the fasces is so important, you will also see them inside on the walls and on the Lincoln statue itself.  

During World War 2, fasces would be very controversial, as the fascist government of Italy would choose fasces for both their name and flag.  

The second is the victory tripods, an ancient Roman symbol of victory. These are adorned with Americana, tobacco, corn, and eagles.  

Learn more about the secret symbols of the Lincoln Memorial.

MLK I have a dream Lincoln Memorial

In the center of the last landing, before reaching the statue chamber, you will find an engraving "I have a Dream.

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963.  

This marks the spot where Martin Luther King Jr delivered his famous speech.  

Be sure to check out the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Tidal Basin, a 10-minute walk from the Lincoln.

Constructing the Lincoln Memorial was truly a national effort and includes items from many different states, combining to form the whole, just as Lincoln would have wanted.



STATUE AND INTERIOR:

One of the most recognizable statues in the world, this colossus Abraham Lincoln will impress you.  

From the bottom of his feet to the top of his head, he measures 18 feet (5.5 m). If he were standing, he would stretch to 28 feet (8.5 m).  

Due to the enormity of the statue, Lincoln's head is approximately 20% larger in proportion to his feet, otherwise, the human eye would see a head that was too small for the body.

Lincoln Memorial Statue Symbols

Lincoln sits in a curule chair, a chair in ancient Rome that symbolized power and authority and was reserved for a magistrate.

Old Glory, the 36-star American flag of the Civil War is draped around the back of the chair.

Now take a look at the ends of the chair. At first glance, these two identical carvings appear to be the bindings of books.

However, they are the fasces that you may have noticed outside. The difference here is that we are inside the memorial. As with the inside of Rome's walls, the ax is prohibited.

The sculptor, Daniel Chester French, wanted to convey the two main qualities of Lincoln that he felt were important, Lincoln's thoughtful and compassionate nature (emancipation) as well as his forceful nature (prosecuting the great war). 

If you look away too fast, you might not notice that Lincoln is asymmetrical.

Look closely and you will see that one side of Lincoln (your right) is tense while the other side is relaxed. Take a look at his face, eyebrows, hands, and feet as well as his clothing. Notice the differences?

Gettysburg Address Lincoln Memorial Wall

To Lincoln's right (contemplative and thoughtful) is his most enduring speech, the Gettysburg Address.

It was a short and poetic speech that recalled the ideals of representative government defined by the American Revolution and placed the preservation of these ideals the cause of the Union in the Civil War while calling for a new birth of freedom.

Because the aim of the memorial was to celebrate the reunification of the northern and southern states over the emancipation of slavery, the symbols and images of the latter are secondary.

Emancipation Mural Lincoln Memorial

Click the image to enlarge.

Directly above the Gettysburg Address is the painting entitled Emancipation, painted by Jeles Guerin.

According to the National Park Service"Jules Guerin represents emancipation using allegorical images. At center, the Angel of Truth breaks the bonds of slavery. The seated figure to the left holds the sword of Justice and the scroll of Law. On the right sits Immortality attended by the standing figures of Faith, Hope, and Charity."

Don’t miss - When you are climbing the stairs, be sure to check out the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr gave his famous “I Have a Dream” Speech.  A marker is carved into the landing where he was standing.


Myths about the Lincoln Memorial

There are a lot of interesting stories about the Lincoln Memorial, only some of which are proven true. Here are some of the common ones we've heard on tours.

Is there a face on the back of Lincoln's Head?

It is true that Robert E. Lee lived in Arlington House, which is directly across the river from the Lincoln Memorial.

It is also true that if you stand at the right angle and look at the profile of Lincoln's statue, it does look like the profile of Robert E Lee looking back on his own home.

It is not true however that this was done on purpose. Lincoln just had wavy hair!

Are Lincoln's hands in an A and L for his initials in American Sign Language?

Lincoln's hands do form two different shapes that look like an A and a L.

Sculptor Daniel Chester French did have a son who was deaf; however there is no indication that French designed Lincoln's hands to reflect these two letters of the ASL alphabet.

Rather, Lincoln statue is meant to portray two sides of the same man - the determined side (the fist) and the compassionate side (the relaxed hand)

Is there a misspelled word on the Lincoln Memorial?

This one is TRUE! Kind of, it has been fixed but you can still see it if you know where to look.

Was the Lincoln Memorial damaged during WWII?

Another true one! There was an accidental firing of a weapon in Washington, DC that damaged some of the exterior of the memorial. Look at the upper right corner where the states are listed and you'll see a section that looks a little cleaner and newer than the rest.

Is Lincoln buried under the Lincoln Memorial?

Nope. There is a lot of dust, graffiti and asbestos down there but no presidential remains. Lincoln is buried in Springfield, Illinois.

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About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 28 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 4) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.
Updated: December 5th, 2022
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