If you’re planning a photo session in Washington, DC, you may or may not have heard the news that the iconic Lincoln Memorial will be undergoing construction for the next few years. While it was originally unclear what this construction was going to look like, it looks that, as of now, monument access will be significantly impacted. As of now, NPS does not have an update on what construction timing and impacts will look like moving forward.
But fear not! The nation’s capital is brimming with alternative locations that offer stunning backdrops for your wedding photos, engagement photos, family photos, and grad photos. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the best photo locations in DC that will make your portraits shine… even if your first pick of a location may not be readily available!
* Permit and prior permission required for use
The Reflecting Pool*
First… I just wanted to put a note here that the Reflecting Pool is still absolutely beautiful, especially at sunrise! This location has not been impacted by construction, so know that if you have been hoping for the iconic views of the Washington Monument, this still is an option… you’ll just be limited to that view + some of the surrounding areas.
Typically, my Lincoln sessions start at the Reflecting Pool before we finish up closer to the monument. If you do select the Reflecting Pool as a location for your session, I would recommend selecting another location (Like Constitution Gardens or the DC War Memorial) to visit in addition for more variety!
As of now, I do not think there are plans for this area to be impacted by construction.
One of the most popular alternatives to the Lincoln Memorial is the gorgeous Jefferson Memorial. Located on the Tidal Basin, this monument boasts breathtaking views of the water and the cherry blossom trees during spring. The iconic white marble columns provide a timeless backdrop for your portraits.
Over the last 3-4 years, there has been a significant restoration effort on Jefferson which has brought in a decent bit of construction and scaffolding. As of now, it does look like this is beginning to clear, but it is worth mentioning as some of the fences are still up. Double-check the status before you visit!
U.S. Capitol Building
Another iconic location that offers a grand setting for your portraits is the U.S. Capitol Building. Talk about iconic DC views! There will be no mistaking where you are with the US Capitol building as your backdrop. Best yet, there are a few gorgeous lawns and gardens within walking distance to mix and match locations throughout your session.
Know that I say all these things while also saying that this is so much more than just a photo location. Many security measures impact the US Capitol Building and surrounding plazas, so be sure to do a bit of research ahead of time to ensure location availability and safety.
DC War Memorial*
For a more intimate setting, consider the DC War Memorial. This hidden gem, nestled amidst the trees on the National Mall, looks a bit like a mini Jefferson! If you are missing the gorgeous white marble and columns of the Lincoln but would still like to be within walking distance to the Reflecting Pool, this is for sure the location for you!
If you’re seeking a photo location that combines history, elegance, and a touch of hustle and bustle, look no further than Union Station. I’m obsessed with the grandeur of Union Station’s architecture, with its soaring ceilings, intricate details, and ornate chandeliers, creating a sense of timeless beauty. This spot also offers gorgeous views of the US Capitol from some spots!
DAR Constitution Hall
Situated in the heart of DC, the DAR Constitution Hall offers a stately setting for your portraits. If you are a fan of white marble columns and stunning views of Washington, this is the spot for you! The outdoor spaces are absolutely beautiful and offer a nod to the feeling of the space you will find at the Lincoln Memorial.
US Supreme Court
For a truly unique and symbolic location, consider the US Supreme Court. This architectural gem has all of the white marble that you could ever dream of. With gorgeous columns, sweeping stairs, and views of the US Capitol in close proximity, there are so many beautiful spots to make your session here as unique as it is classic-DC!
Know that I say all these things while also saying that this is so much more than just a photo location. Many security measures impact the Supreme Court and surrounding plazas, so be sure to do a bit of research ahead of time to ensure location availability and safety.
National Gallery of Art*
If you’re a lover of art and culture, the National Gallery of Art is a perfect location for your portraits. With a sweeping greenhouse feel and many unique quarters to explore, there are so many spots to incorporate, making every session here unique.
While this spot may not *feel* a lot like the Lincoln Memorial, I wanted to include it on the list because it is a great location for families who may be concerned about the weather and want a unique-to-DC location.
National Building Museum*
For those seeking a truly grand and dramatic setting, the National Building Museum is an ideal choice. This architectural marvel, known for its vast interior space and intricate details, offers a backdrop that is both awe-inspiring and visually stunning.
If you are looking for DC’s secret garden that still somehow offers views of the Washington Monument, you’ve found it! Located just north of the Reflecting Pool, this serene oasis offers a peaceful retreat for your portraits amidst lush greenery, picturesque ponds, and beautiful views of the Washington Monument.
This spot is great for those that would like to walk to their second location from the Reflecting Pool.
National Arboretum Columns*
For a touch of ancient Greece in the heart of DC, head to the National Arboretum Columns. These majestic columns were actually salvaged from the U.S. Capitol Building. The permit requirements are pretty strict at the National Arboretum, but the wait is worth it for gorgeous sweeping views and towering columns.
Step back in time and indulge in the historic elegance of Tudor Place. This mansion, nestled in Georgetown, offers a charming and intimate setting for your portraits. I love this spot because it offers lush gardens, historic architecture, and timeless beauty all in one spot!
The Kennedy Center
For those that love the classic white marble feel of the Lincoln Memorial, consider the Kennedy Center as an alternative. I LOVE portraits against the backdrop of the Kennedy Center’s sleek lines and reflective surfaces. Kennedy also offers gorgeous views of the Potomac waterfront and has a few cute street corners within walking distance. If the building is open, it is also fun to head upstairs for sweeping views of the National Mall.
DC Grads… this is for you! I’ve lost track of the number of grads that I have worked with at the Lincoln Memorial, and while I know it is a bummer for the construction to *potentially* impact your dream photos for future graduating classes, I want you to know that there are SO many gorgeous alternatives.
Start with your college campus! I know MANY in the city offer historical and picturesque backdrops for your graduation portraits. Consider visiting your favorite college landmarks, gardens, or quiet corners of campus. I PROMISE your photos will still be as iconic as the ones taken at Lincoln… plus, you’ll save on the permit fee!
Remember to Check Photography Policies:
Before planning your photoshoot at any of these locations, it’s important to note that DC is known for its strict photography permit policies. Be sure to do your due diligence and double-check the policies at each location prior to your session to ensure you are in compliance with their current guidelines. I tried to mark as many locations as I could above, but policies are known to change!
This will help you avoid any potential disruptions and ensure a smooth and hassle-free photoshoot experience.
All this to say, while the Lincoln Memorial may be temporarily unavailable, Washington, DC, offers a plethora of alternative locations that are equally captivating and full of character. Embrace the opportunity to explore the rich history, iconic architecture, and natural beauty of the nation’s capital as you capture your cherished memories.
And I promise… Lincoln will be back, and better than ever, soon!
As of August 31, 2023, this was Lincoln’s current status! The steps are under construction, and there is no access to the columns. You can, however, get inside to see Lincoln! I’m not sure if I will be able to update this as time progresses, but I imagine that the construction site will remain pretty fluid over the coming months/years. For a more current look at the construction, I usually recommend looking at Geotags on Instagram or visiting the site in person.
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