Known affectionately as “America's Front Yard,” the National Mall is an unmissable part of any trip to Washington, D.C. The Mall contains, or is adjacent to, most of Washington's major tourist attractions, including the Washington Monument, White House, and the Smithsonian museums. That said, many tourists find that visiting the Mall can be an oddly unpleasant experience.

People who picture the National Mall as a place filled with DC residents playing Frisbee on a green, lush lawn will be surprised to find out that huge parts of the Mall are treeless, dusty, and roped off for security reasons. Additionally, distances on the National Mall can be far, with the U.S. Capitol at one end lying about two miles from the Lincoln Memorial at the other. On a typical August day in D.C., crowded with tourists and with temperature and humidity pushing into the triple digits, visiting the Mall can be unbearable. On top of this, it can be surprisingly difficult to find anything good to eat on or near the National Mall. There are no restaurants on the Mall whatsoever, and the cafeterias of many Mall attractions offer only mediocre food at exorbitant prices.

To really enjoy the National Mall, therefore, try visiting its attractions early in the day, when the Mall is less crowded and the sun less strong. Additionally, knowing how vast the Mall really is will give you a leg up on many tourists. Instead of walking, consider taking the Circulator bus service around the Mall's perimeter. Finally, there is one notable exception to the Mall's otherwise lackluster cuisine: the Mitsitam Cafe in the National Museum of the American Indian. Food at the NMAI cafeteria is so good that if you go on a weekday you will be sure to see many Washington, DC locals enjoying their lunch hour at one of DC's best-kept secrets.

On your next trip to the National Mall, don't be shell-shocked by the state of “America's Front Yard.” With the tips above, you will be well on your way to enjoying this national treasure just as the locals do!