Because a smaller ceremony is envisioned and because we’ve left the summer travel season behind, planners no longer anticipate a national crowd of about a quarter-million people. Still, the event could draw tens of thousands of spectators.
The dedication is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. No tickets are required. The public will watch from West Potomac Park, the grassy area on the west side of the memorial off Independence Avenue SW. Organizers encourage people to bring folding chairs and picnic blankets. There will be music and speakers on a stage in the park. The concluding element of the dedication will occur in the forecourt of the Memorial. It will be visible on the Jumbotrons in the park.
For the original event, we were concerned about people standing for hours in the heat. The average high temperature for D.C. in October is 68 degrees, although the morning hours at the site near the Potomac River are likely to be cooler than the afternoon.
Many people already have had a chance to see the memorial, open since late August. Early Wednesday afternoon, several hundred visitors, including some large school groups, were viewing the King statue and reading the quotes etched in stone. The west boundary is still a fenced-off work zone, but it doesn’t impede access.
The best view of King’s statue is from the northwest side of the path that surrounds the Tidal Basin. The path is about the width of four people standing shoulder to shoulder. Nearby, cherry trees overhang the path and the water. On the north side of the memorial site, pedestrians can use a large crosswalk, covered by a traffic signal, on Independence Avenue SW.
While this western side of the Mall puts a visitor in range of the King, Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Korean and Vietnam war memorials, travelers can easily lose their bearings. The “You Are Here” maps now mark the site, but many of the brown pylons do not yet have a plaque and arrow specifically aimed toward the King Memorial.
Don’t count on finding a parking space near the memorial. That’s especially true for dedication day, when motorists should expect street closures in the area. But it applies to other days, as well. Free street parking for all the memorials in the area is available along Ohio Drive SW. However, that parking is very limited, and many motorists — assuming they’re lucky enough to find a space on a regular day — could wind up walking almost as far as they would from the closest Metro station.
The road entrance to the memorial is on West Basin Drive, off Ohio Drive. It has a few three-hour parking spaces, including some for disabled people. There’s a stopping area for tour buses as well. (The Tourmobile has a stop nearby on Ohio Drive.)