Vast in size and largely accessible by Metrorail, Arlington County provides activities and sights for all ages to enjoy, often times making it difficult to narrow down a list of must-see spots. Some attractions are more well-known than others, but a few of them make Arlington unique. Whether new to the area, or simply enjoying a visit, five treasures of Arlington County can be easily found — starting with one of Greater Washington D.C.’s best-known attractions: Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington National Cemetery is hardly a “hidden gem,” but it is worth a visit for newcomers and tourists of all ages. The landmark is rich in history, views of the district and things to do. Sweeping over many acres, the cemetery is the final resting place for thousands of servicemen and historical individuals, including President John F. Kennedy Jr. and other family members. While it is widely known as a military cemetery, primarily for those who died as a casualty of war or as a veteran, many of the figures buried there also had significant roles or ties in a range of fields.
Also on the grounds is the Arlington House — the former home of Robert E. Lee and his wife. The house served as their residence after the original owner died, and the estate was used to bury the deceased during the Civil War. Now, the house is a museum that pays tribute to the time frame of Lee’s residence.
Other must-see attractions while in the cemetery are the changing of the guards, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Memorial Amphitheater. Although one must be prepared to do a lot of walking, Arlington National Cemetery provides plenty of things to see.
LOCATED NEXT to Arlington Cemetery is Arlington Ridge Park. The Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, stands in this Rosslyn park, located just off of Arlington Boulevard. It serves as a hidden gem in the sense that it is not in the same vicinity as the majority of Washington’s monuments. Rather, it stands in the park, where wide, open space for recreational activities and views of the Washington monument and Capitol Building can be seen. Unveiled in 1954, the monument honors all those in the U.S. Marine Corps who have died in defense of their country since 1775 and is modeled after the famous photograph of U.S. marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman raising the American flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Consequently, it is one of the only monuments to have a requirement of flying the American flag 24 hours a day.
Also located in the same park is a lesser-known gem of Arlington — the Netherlands Carillon. Made up of 50 bells, the tower was a gift from the Netherlands in 1954 as a thank you for the aid provided during and after World War II. Often times the site for concerts and recitals during the summer, the Netherlands Carillon stands tall on a hill overlooking Washington D.C., with Arlington cemetery bordering the edge of the park nearby — creating a picture-perfect view to sit under a tree and read a book or lay out a picnic for some family fun.
FOR THOSE feeling a little more active, the Mount Vernon trail provides plenty to see for outdoor enthusiasts. Stretching roughly 18 miles, the trail starts in Rosslyn and wraps around to parallel the George Washington Monument by Theodore Roosevelt Island. Ride, walk or jog along this course that goes past Reagan National Airport, Gravelly Point Park, and Alexandria. The trail ends up at the Mount Vernon Estate.
One of the stops along the Mount Vernon Trail — Gravelly Point Park — is another hidden pleasure of Arlington. This low-key park is located beside the Reagan National Airport and has sweeping views of Washington’s monuments across the Potomac River. With the trail lining one side and the George Washington Parkway lining the other, the park is accessible by foot, car or metro. It serves as the ideal location for some relaxation. Locals can be found to playing sporting games, picnicking and watching the planes take off from the airport.
LAST, BUT not least, the Pentagon Memorial is another must-see spot in Arlington. Filled with symbolism, beauty and a sense of peace for many, this memorial is a quiet spot among Arlington’s landmarks — dedicated in remembrance of the 184 lives lost there on Sept. 11, 2001. Each bench is dedicated to each individual who perished that day, starting with the youngest.
Public parking is not available at the Pentagon; visitors have easy access via public transportation available at the Pentagon Metro station or parking at the nearby Pentagon City Mall.