The Washington Monument is a great place to get a view of the city, but you have to plan ahead and get tickets to go up. When we’re downtown and feel like taking in the city from up above (and we haven’t planned ahead), we head to the Old Post Office Pavilion. There, in the tower, you get a great view of the city, from big open-air windows. The Pavilion, located in The Old Post Office building, is located less than a block from the Mall behind the Natural History Museum. The entrance is on Pennsylvania Ave. Interestingly, the National Park Service runs the tower portion of the building.
Once inside, you first go up a glass elevator, located in one of the corners on the first floor, which takes you part way. Then you transfer to another elevator to take you to the top. On our last visit, we learned that you can take the stairs up the final couple of levels, instead of the second elevator, if you’re adventurous. We’re a stair-taking kind of family (at least some of us) so that was all we needed to hear. The race between stairs and elevator was on! I can’t remember who won, only that I was worn out. (Why does it seem like no matter how much I exercise, stairs still leave me huffing and puffing?)
But back to the Pavilion, at the top you have a great, open-air view. The openings are big, and the breeze feels great on a hot day—not so great on a cold day. It never seems to be very crowded, which is so nice in a city with a lot of people.
One thing to note is that the Pavilion closes at 5:00 pm during the fall, winter and spring. We learned about this the hard way!
Here’s a link to their hours and other info: