One of the most incredible things about the L’Enfant plan for Washington is how closely the layout of today’s city resembles it. One example is the National Mall, which was set out as a "Grand Avenue" for Washington – the most important thoroughfare in the city. Over time the city shifted much of that role to Pennsylvania Avenue, but the National Mall remains the most grand – and most visited – area of Washington, D.C.
Important Note: The National Mall is undergoing a major turf restoration project where much of the grass is absent and large sections are under visible construction. The project is expected to last until 2017.
The original "Mall" was the area between the U.S. Capitol and where the Washington Monument now stands. Today the area commonly referred to as the National Mall encompasses the area from the Capitol building all the way to the Lincoln Memorial. Some documents even suggest that the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the Tidal Basin is included in the National Mall, although we have separated that area. The Mall, as we are presently defining it, is approximately 2 miles long and 1/3 mile wide, if measured from Constitution Ave on its north side to Independence Ave on its south.
The Mall is largely pedestrian only, so be prepared to walk. There are several streets that pass through and surround the area, but parking is almost non-existent so driving is not recommended. The area is framed by Metro stations although Smithsonian (Blue, Orange, Silver) is the only one on the border of the Mall. For visiting the eastern end of the National Mall – the section between the Capitol and the Washington Monument – the Federal Triangle station (Blue, Orange, Silver), Archives/Navy Memorial (Green, Yellow), and L’Enfant Plaza (Blue, Orange, Silver, Green, Yellow) are all within a few blocks of the Mall. If you are starting your tour as we do, on the Mall’s western side, the closest stations are Foggy Bottom or Farragut West (both Blue, Orange, Silver) even though they are about ¾ mile away.