Living just outside of D.C. and working in the heart of downtown, I get see some of our nation's most iconic and prolific memorials and buildings. In the years since moving to Alexandria, Wendy and I have seized the opportunity to visit as many of the various monuments and points of interest that millions of visitors flock to each and every year. Really, there's no sense in living within the bounds of a tourist attraction if you don't take a chance to visit them yourself. Otherwise you're just missing out on a major aspect of your home.

Throughout the years, we've witnessed the construction and grand opening (or re-opening) of some of the biggest attractions in D.C. The World War II memorial, Newseum, National Museum of the American Indian, and the rededication of the American History Museum are among some of the highlights. And yesterday, I took a few moments out of my day to visit the latest addition to the National Mall and Tidal Basin area, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the National Mall, it isn't the same as the shopping mall you're probably picturing. The National Mall represents the area of U.S. Parkland, memorials, museums, and significant buildings that sit in or on the span between the U.S. Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial, and between the Jefferson Memorial and The White House. It's a bustling area with plenty of walking paths, running trails, and sights to see.

I work in an office building that is very near the National Mall and I take advantage of this unique location quite often. Because of my proximity to one of our national treasures, I try to go for a lunchtime run two or three times a week that takes me around the monuments and tidal basin. Yesterday the weather was absolutely perfect, so I decided to take a quick pause on my run around the tidal basin to visit and take some photos of the newly opened Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

This newest memorial has been under construction for some time. I've been tracking the progress as I've run past it and over the last couple of weeks I was able to witness the whole thing coming together.

The memorial's official dedication was scheduled for this past weekend, but Hurricane Irene had other plans and the dedication was postponed until later this fall.

There are still a few fences and construction vehicles around the memorial, but for a lunchtime period on a random Tuesday afternoon, the crowd was actually pretty significant. There were tourists posing in front of the memorial, politicians there taking photos with their staff, and passers by taking in the beautiful weather in the midst of this new and gleaming monument to the larger than life civil rights icon.

The most striking element of the memorial is obviously the large white stone carving of King looking knowingly across the water of the tidal basin.

Situated on the western bank of the tidal basin, the monument is visible from the Jefferson Memorial and other points opposite on the basin. The large white stone juts out from the surrounding cherry blossoms and is almost imposing.

This will probably be an even more stunning view next spring during the annual cherry blossom bloom.

The primary stone carving looks as if it has broken free of the solid rock backdrop, slid forward and approaching the water.

On either side of the large white stones are stone-backed waterfalls. Situated on the walls surrounding the monument's waterfalls are several of King's famous quotations with date and location attributions of each. While not the largest monument, there is plenty of room to move around and take in the whole scene.

If you're interested in visiting the memorial, there are a couple of ways you can get down there. There is limited parking along Ohio Dr. SW along the banks of the Potomac. If you're up for a little more walking, or the Ohio Dr. parking is too full, you can park in one of the free lots along Ohio Drive. And if that is full (usually only during cherry blossom time), you can usually park at some of the meters up around the Treasury building.

If you're more interested in sightseeing and would rather not worry about parking, you can take Metro and use either the Smithsonian stop or Farragut West stop,  both about one mile from the memorial. But the best thing you can do, if you're coming in from Old Town Alexandria, take the 11Y express bus from the center of Old Town directly into Washington, D.C., and get off at the first stop.

As the new neighbor to the tidal basin block, accompanying the Jefferson Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, and the George Mason Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is definitely worth a visit. If you have any questions about the memorial or the surrounding area, let me know and I can try to answer them.  

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