The Tidal Basin

Washington D.C.’s Tidal Basin was designed to function exactly as its name implies, by controlling the flow of water from the tidal section of the adjacent Potomac River. What it has become is a serene vista surrounded by elegant monuments and beautiful flowering cherry trees. The Tidal Basin is a highly visited area just south of the Lincoln Memorial and Korean War Veterans Memorial. The closest Metro station is Smithsonian (Blue, Orange, Silver), although it is about a ½ mile from the station to the water and the Basin itself is about 2 miles around.

In between the Smithsonian Metro station and the Tidal Basin are some interesting sights, one of the most fascinating being the Bureau of Engraving and Printing at 14th and C Streets SW and the somber yet powerful United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl. As you pass the corner of Raoul Wallenberg and Independence Ave, take a look at the headquarters of the U.S. Forest Service. The Romanesque U.S. Forest Service building was the original Bureau of Engraving and Printing when it was completed in 1880 and was one of the first buildings in the city to utilize electric lights.

Turning left Independence Avenue takes you to the edge of the Tidal Basin and introduces you to the stunning views across the water towards the Jefferson Memorial. As you approach the west side of the basin, at 1900 Independence Ave, you come upon the location of the District of Columbia War Memorial: an open, standalone, Doric rotunda that is 44 feet across and reaches a height of 47 feet. Around the base are the names of the 499 Washingtonians who gave their lives in service of World War I. Dedicated in 1931, the monument was designed as both a memorial and a bandstand, with every concert being a tribute to the fallen. A 2010 restoration also added more attractive pathways and lighting, enhancing the entire setting of the beautiful memorial.

Continuing around the edge of the Tidal Basin – which itself is a lovely path – you will come upon the Martin Luther King Memorial followed by the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, both large, sweeping monuments with equally sweeping views. Crossing over a small inlet at the southwest edge of the tidal basin brings you directly to the George Mason Memorial. George Mason was an important figure in the founding of the United States of America, although he is not as well known as many others. His refusal to sign the Constitution because of its lack of protection for individuals from the federal government is one of the factors that later led to the drafting of the Bill of Rights. The memorial dedicated to Mason consists of a slightly-larger-than-life statue of the founding father relaxing on a stone bench gazing at a circular reflecting pool. The effect is calming and makes for good photo opportunities. It also helps that the George Mason Memorial is often quieter than the surrounding sites such as the neighboring Jefferson Memorial.

We would be remiss if we discussed the Tidal Basin without mentioning the famous flowering cherry trees and the yearly festival centering on them. The National Cherry Blossom Festival is D.C.'s biggest event and focuses largely on the Mall and around the Tidal Basin.