These travel tips, for young as well as old, should help ease some of the challenges that will face a crowd that event sponsors say could be in the neighborhood of a quarter-million people.
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. The memorial’s main entrance is on Independence Avenue SW, where a new traffic signal and crosswalks will provide access.
While this western side of the Mall puts a visitor in range of the King, Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Korean War and Vietnam War memorials, travelers can easily get disoriented. Brown pylons point the way to the sites, but there are no pointers yet for the King Memorial. The “You are here” maps don’t have a distinctive icon to mark the new memorial. Look for the small, white lettering by West Potomac Park that says, “Future site of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.”
The memorial is opening to the public this week, before the dedication next Sunday. Here’s the schedule: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday; and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday.
Next Sunday, the music starts at 8:30 a.m. The dedication ceremony starts at 11 a.m. Visitors who don’t have tickets for the ceremony’s seating area will probably find themselves standing on the wide-open grassy fields of West Potomac Park. Their best view from there will be on big video screens set up for the event.
This may remind many of their experience at the 2009 presidential inauguration. Only that was in January.
This time, they could spend hours in the heat or the rain. This area, laid out for ballfields, has few sheltering trees. With those conditions in mind, sponsors urge attendees to plan for a long day, wear light, loose-fitting clothing, monitor the weather forecast and bring a rain poncho if necessary. Wear sensible shoes, especially if you’re going to be walking across the fields.
This week, the National Park Service says, no vehicle drop offs will be allowed on Independence Avenue or Ohio Drive. A visitor taxi stand is available at the Lincoln Memorial.
Don’t try driving to the memorial area on dedication day. There will be a security perimeter, many nearby streets will be closed and parking restrictions will be in effect. Streets beyond the closed-off zone are likely to be congested.