The Lincoln Memorial is one of the grandest and most distinctive of Washington’s monuments. Anchoring the western end of the National Mall and framed by the Reflecting Pool, it’s an outsized tribute to an American president who played an outsized role in America’s history: Abraham Lincoln. Its classical columns frame a large statue of a seated Lincoln gazing out towards the Capitol Building at the opposite end of the Mall.
The purpose of the impressive structure is to house a 175-ton statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln, the 16th American president, as he gazes eastward over the Reflecting Pool, past the Washington Monument, to the US Capitol Building.
Photographer Friendliness Rating
With the exception of a restrictions on tripods within the building and on the steps, the Lincoln Memorial is very photographer friendly. There’s no problem using flash.
The Lincoln Memorial gets a lot of tourist traffic (check out the video below to see what I what mean), so count on there being a lot of people there unless you’re going very early or very late. It’s a popular post-dinner stop for the many school groups that visit Washington, so it can be busy quite late into the evening. If you’re looking to minimize the number of people in your shots, the best time to go is before dawn.Scaffolding Alert! The Lincoln Memorial has recently had renovations to the plaza in front. That construction is now complete, and the beautifully paved area is a marked improvement over what was there before. The Reflecting Pool, however, is currently undergoing major renovations scheduled for completion in spring 2012. More info.
The Lincoln Memorial is open around the clock, so you never really have to worry about it being closed. No tickets or reservations are required. The interior of the memorial isn’t especially bright, so a good off-camera flash is useful at night. The exterior lights illuminate the building all night and provide plenty of dramatic lighting for night shots.
You can use tripods in the areas surrounding the main structure, but security guards will descend on you quickly if you try to use them inside or on the steps. And truth be told, it’s an entirely sensible safety precaution–the memorial is often crowded, and someone tripping on a tripod leg could be serious with the combination of hard marble and high stairs.
You can find many more example photos of the Lincoln Memorial here.
Getting to the Lincoln Memorial & Parking
The best way to get to the Lincoln Memorial is by Metro. The closest stops are Foggy Bottom (0.8 miles) (Orange and Blue lines), Smithsonian (1.1. miles) (Orange line), Arlington National Cemetery (0.9 miles) (Blue line), or Federal Triangle (1.4 miles) (Orange line). Metro has a handy Trip Planner and here’s a map of the Metro lines.
There isn’t any parking immediately next to the Lincoln Memorial (except for tourist buses). Depending on time of day and how busy it is, it might be possible to find parking along Constitution Avenue, but make careful note of the signs to make sure you don’t get towed. There’s often free parking along Hains Point, but that’s first-come-first-served, and you might end up with a long walk back to your car during the busy tourist season. And be warned that the roads around the Lincoln Memorial can be confusing; it’s very easy to end up across the river in Arlington before you know it. If you’re coming from the Arlington side, another good option is to park at Arlington National Cemetery (check hours and parking fees) and walk across Memorial Bridge.
There are no entrance fees, reservations, or tickets and no lines except very rarely for the small exhibit under the building (which is mostly because that’s where the restrooms are).