The 16 Best Things to Do in Arlington, Virginia

As an important city throughout the history of the United States, Arlington, Virginia, is home to a wide variety of things to see and do. From historical sites and fascinating museums to entertainment venues and public parks, there are plenty of activities no matter what time of year you visit. While the area is so close to the nation's capital that it is almost an extension of the city, Arlington has many of its own destinations that make it special.

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Visit Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Victoria Chamberlain / TripSavvy 

Arlington, VA, USA
Phone +1 877-907-8585

The national cemetery is one of the must-see attractions in the capital region, especially if you're a fan of history and patriotism. As the final resting place to more than 400,000 American servicemen, Arlington hosts regular graveside services and memorial events and has over 600 acres to explore.

Visitors to the Arlington National Cemetary can see the graves of many notable Americans, watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, see the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, and visit Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee and his family.

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Stop by the Women in Military Service for America Memorial

Women in Military Memorial

Victoria Chamberlain / TripSavvy

Located at the entrance to the Arlington National Cemetery, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial was the first U.S. memorial built to honor the role of women in the history of America's armed forces. Opened in 1997, the memorial is housed inside the "Hemicycle," a structure that was built in 1932, and you can explore both free of charge on your way to the cemetery.

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Walk or Bike Along the Mount Vernon Trail

Biker's riding on the Mount Vernon Trail

Rachel Cooper

Mt Vernon Trail, Alexandria, VA, USA

Known as Northern Virginia's Scenic Trail, the Mount Vernon Trail follows the west bank of the Potomac River from Theodore Roosevelt Island to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate.

Whether you're a fan of bicycling or you just want to catch a great view of some of the most famous landmarks in Washington, D.C., a trek along this 18-mile-long paved recreation trail is worth the stop on your trip.

The trail is one of the busiest in the region and is a favorite for biking, walking, and running. There are a variety of parking lots off the George Washington National Parkway, which runs parallel to the trail, and you can also access it from the Potomac Waterfront in downtown Arlington.

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Take a Tour of the Pentagon

Aerial view of the Pentagon
glowimages/Getty Images
Washington, DC, USA
Phone +1 703-697-1776

If you want to learn about the mission of the Department of Defense and the four branches of the military, take a guided tour of the Pentagon, which is located in Arlington.

Guided tours of the Pentagon are given by military personnel and are available by reservation only on Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. During these tours, you'll get a chance to explore the unique five-sided building and its outdoor courtyard. Afterward, you can also stop by the Pentagon Memorial to pay respect to lives lost there during the September 11 terrorists attacks.

To schedule a tour, you must request it 14 to 90 days in advance either through the Pentagon website or by contacting your Congressional or Senate Representative.

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05 of 16

Visit the Iwo Jima Memorial

Iwo Jima Memorial also known as the Marine Corps War Memorial, Washington DC, USA at dawn
Steve Heap / Getty Images
Arlington, VA 22209, USA
Phone +1 703-289-2500

Located in Arlington, Virginia, the Iwo Jima Memorial is a 32-foot-high sculpture that was inspired by a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of one of the most historic battles of World War II. The statue depicts the scene of the flag-raising by five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman that signaled the successful takeover of the island.

The memorial is just a 10-minute walk from the Arlington National Cemetery and the Rosslyn Metro Stations, making it pretty easy to access.

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Explore Theodore Roosevelt Island

Bridge over to Theodore Roosevelt Island
Fletcher6 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Theodore Roosevelt Island, Washington, DC, USA

The 91-acre wilderness preserve on Roosevelt Island serves as a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt and has over two miles of foot trails where you can observe a variety of flora and fauna.

This is a great place to enjoy nature and get away from the busy pace of downtown, and the island is accessible from the Mount Vernon Trail although bicycles are not permitted on the island.

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Visit the U.S. Air Force Memorial

Airforce memorial
Education Images/UIG/Getty Images
1 Air Force Memorial Dr, Arlington, VA 22204, USA
Phone +1 703-979-0674

The inspiring memorial honors the millions of men and women who have served in the United States Air Force. It is situated in a prime location in Arlington, Virginia, overlooking the Pentagon, the Potomac River, and Washington, D.C.

The Gift Shop on the north end of the memorial is open Monday through Friday, as are the nearby restroom facilities. Additionally, the U.S. Air Force Memorial also hosts a variety of concerts throughout the summer months, so check the official website if you'll be in town from June through early September.

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See a Show at the Signature Theater

Entrance to the Signature theater complex
Emw/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
4200 Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA 22206, USA
Phone +1 703-820-9771

The Signature Theater in Arlington produces groundbreaking musical and contemporary productions in its 48,000 square foot facility year-round, so there's always an opportunity to see a show when you're in town.

Signature Theater also hosts a variety of workshops called SigWorks throughout the year as well as special performances and events. Be sure to visit the official Signature Theater calendar for up-to-date information on performances, shows, and events.

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09 of 16

Skate at MedStar Capitals Iceplex

Capitals iceplex

Arlington Convention & Visitors Service

627 N Glebe Rd SUITE 800, Arlington, VA 22203-2144, USA
Phone +1 571-224-0555

The state-of-the-art facility, located atop the Ballston Common Mall Parking Garage in Arlington, Virginia, offers public skating, figure skating, and hockey programs year-round.

The Medstar Iceplex is a training center for the Capitals featuring two indoor NHL-sized ice rinks, office space, locker rooms, a full-service pro shop, a Capitals Team Store, a snack bar, and space for special events. Capitals practices are open to the public and free of charge.

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Shop and Dine at Shirlington Village

Village at Shirlington
Emw / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
2700 S Quincy St, Arlington, VA 22206, USA
Phone +1 877-265-7417

Arlington, Virginia's urban Shirlington Village offers a variety of shops, restaurants, theaters, and a pedestrian-friendly promenade. Guests can see a theatrical performance at the Signature Theatre or browse through the book archives at the Arlington County Library, and the community hosts a variety of special events throughout the year.

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Dine Out in Clarendon

clarendon arlington
Ron Cogswell / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Clarendon Blvd, Arlington, VA, USA

Clarendon is a popular neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, with a wide selection of restaurants ranging from casual eateries to fine dining. Explore a variety of cuisines and enjoy some time socializing with friends and family.

American Tap Room is one of the best spots to enjoy classic American dishes prepared with local ingredients while Cava Mezze Restaurant serves up Greek food tapas style. Other recommended restaurants include Green Pig Bistro, Clarendon Grill, and the Hard Times Cafe in Alexandria.

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Tour the DEA Museum

Entrance to the DEA Museum

Susan Breslow Sardone.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is responsible for making sure America's laws regarding prescription and recreational drug use are enforced, and the DEA Museum and Visitors Center in Arlington offers guests an in-depth look into the history of drug enforcement in America. The DEA Museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays throughout the year from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily but will be closed during federal holidays.

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Take a Walking Tour

Arlington Memorial Bridge Side View

 Chris Pecoraro

With so many historical sites, memorials, buildings, and attractions, one of the best ways to truly get the most out of your trip is to take a self-guided walking tour of Arlington. Walk Arlington offers a variety of maps and resources for these tours, which they call Walkabouts, including 25 guides to different areas in and around the city.

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Watch the Twilight Tattoo Reenactment

Twilight Tattoo

 Wikimedia Commons

Twilight Tattoo is a live-action military pageant where soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band ("Perishing's Own") perform a variety of routines, songs, and salutes.

The Twilight Tattoo takes place from May through July each year and is free for the public to attend. Guests will also get a look into American history through performances by the U.S. Army Blues, the U.S. Army Band Downrange, the U.S. Army Band Voices, The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, and the U.S. Army Drill Team.

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Enjoy Outdoor Fun at Upton Hill Regional Park

Located on the border of Arlington and Fairfax counties, Upton Hill Regional Park is a great destination for outdoor recreation—especially from spring to early fall each year. Families can enjoy the beach-themed Ocean Dunes Waterpark in the summer and the deluxe minigolf course as well as a wide variety of special events throughout much of the year. Additionally, the park itself features miles of nature trails that are open year-round from dawn until dusk.

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Hear and See the Netherlands Carillon

Netherlands Carillon

 Carol Highsmith/Wikimedia Commons

Located along the George Washington Memorial Parkway near the Arlington National Cemetery, the Netherlands Carillon is a tower of bells surrounded by lush flowerbeds full of colorful tulips. This unique installation features 50 bells and was a gift from The Netherlands to America for its help during World War II and other international conflicts throughout history and symbolize a sign of lasting friendship between the two countries.

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Best Things to Do in Arlington, Virginia