WASHINGTON: The towering Washington Monument reopened Wednesday to hundreds of visitors as the US capital commits to bringing back tourists after months of Covid-related closures.

More than 500 visitors reserved tickets for opening day, the National Parks Service said, enjoying spectacular views across the city of 700,000 from the top of the world’s tallest obelisk.

The 555-foot (170-meter) landmark has been closed intermittently throughout the pandemic, shuttering in March 2020 to reopen for a window in the fall.

In January, the monument closed as a security measure for President Joe Biden’s inauguration and remained closed under Covid-19 restrictions.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been that high in my life,” said Abe Cain, 19, whose family were visiting from the West Coast.

Once the Cains discovered tickets went on sale Tuesday morning, they jumped straight online, they said.

Sightseer Grace Stricklin, 21, said she was new to Washington and eager to take in the city’s attractions when not working at her summer internship.

“I’m excited. Hopefully it’ll be fun,” Stricklin said while waiting outside. “I’ve heard that the elevator is a little scary, but we’ll see.”

Towering above Washington, the monument honors the military and political legacy of American founding father George Washington, whose Continental Army led newly-American revolutionaries to independence from Britain.

Upon its completion in 1884, the structure was briefly the tallest building in the world. Made of marble, granite and bluestone gneiss, it remains the tallest predominantly stone structure on Earth.

Coronavirus-related deaths in the United States have dipped significantly in recent months, though daily case rates are rising in some regions with low vaccination rates and the emergence of new variants.

With nearly two-thirds of residents partially or fully vaccinated and low infection rates, Washington is wooing back tourists to boost the city’s hospitality sector. Last week, the city government launched a tourism advertising campaign targeting out-of-state vacationers. – AFP


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