Guide to Veterans Day in Washington, D.C.: Events and Things to Do

Arlington national Cemetery

Victoria Chamberlain / TripSavvy 

Veterans Day was originally established to honor Americans who had served in World War I, and the national holiday is celebrated each year on November 11, the anniversary of the day World War I ended in 1918. Today, Veterans Day honors military service members of all wars for their patriotism and willingness to serve in the military and sacrifice for our country. Veterans Day is a great time to visit the monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C. Many of the landmarks and attractions around the region host special events in honor of America’s veterans.

Remember the Fallen at the Arlington National Cemetery

Across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., in Arlington, Virginia, the Arlington National Cemetery is a United States military cemetery whose 624 acres serve as a final resting place for many of the soldiers who gave their lives defending the country. On Veterans Day at 11 a.m. visitors can head to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for a special wreath-laying ceremony featuring a 21-gun salute to the lives lost in America's wars. Seating in the amphitheater is limited, so visitors should plan to arrive at least a half-hour before the ceremony starts.

Pay Respects at the Women in Military Service Memorial

Located at the Gateway to Arlington National Cemetery, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial is the only major national memorial dedicated to the women who gave their lives defending the United States. On Veterans Day starting at 3 p.m., stop by for a special event commemorating the women heroes of our nation with an afternoon of formal military honors, keynote speakers, veterans' remarks, and a wreath-laying ceremony.

Watch a Ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Dedicated to the many lives lost in the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is located on Constitution Avenue at Henry Bacon Drive in northwest Washington, D.C. At 1 p.m. on Veterans Day, stop by this magnificent structure for a special presentation honoring the veterans of this tragic and bloody war. During the event, guests will be able to watch color guard performances, listen to speakers including a number of prominent Vietnam veterans, and witness a ceremonial wreath-laying that pays tribute to not only Vietnam's veterans but the vets of all of America's wars.

Remember the Fallen at the Vietnam Women's Memorial

Located adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, this small statue dedicated to the women who sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War hosts its own Veterans Day event starting from 9 a.m. to noon each year. During the event, Vietnam-era veterans and the children of veterans tell stories "in their own voices" about their experiences. There will also be stories featuring soldiers of the current struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan and other locations around the world.

See the Wreath-Laying at the World War II Memorial

Stop by the World War II Memorial on 17th Street between Constitution and Independence Avenues at 9 a.m. on Veterans Day for a special wreath-laying ceremony dedicated to the 400,000 American lives lost during the Second World War. After the ceremony, stick around to hear the stories of living veterans of the war and pay tribute to the fallen at the large reflecting pool and monument.

Pay Respects at the Navy Memorial

The Naval District of Washington will lay a wreath at the foot of the Lone Sailor at the Navy Memorial in commemoration of Veterans Day from 11 a.m. to noon. The Memorial Plaza is located midway between the U.S. Capitol and the White House, directly across from the National Archives on Pennsylvania Avenue. After the ceremony, you can wander around the plaza and view the largest map in the world, known as the "Granite Sea," or pay respects for the fallen Navy service members at the iconic Lone Sailor statue, which has an exact replica on the beach of Normandy, where the United States first made landfall in the Second World War.

The National Cathedral Veterans Day Tribute Concert

Each year on Veterans Day starting at 5 p.m., the Washington National Cathedral honors the service of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces with a special concert tribute event. Featuring performances by the U.S. Marine Corps Orchestra, the Washington National Cathedral Singers, and selected readings from American War Letters, this special event is one of the biggest in the Capital Region honoring this special day of remembrance. Veterans and their families—as well as the general public—are welcome to attend this free event, which doesn't require reservations or ticketing, but seating is limited, so plan to arrive at least an hour early to make sure you don't miss the concert.

Head out to Mount Vernon for a Day of Events

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Veterans Day, George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens in Virginia—located just under 30 minutes south of D.C.—hosts events and activities honoring the soldiers of America's wars. Special activities include a patriotic community concert by the all-veteran barbershop chorus at 11 a.m. and a wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of our first commander-in-chief, George Washington, at 2 p.m. Active duty military personnel and veterans are admitted free-of-charge, and the wreath-laying is included with regular Mount Vernon admission.

The barbershop concert and Martha Washington program are free for all to attend.

The Northern Virginia Veterans Day Parade

Although Washington, D.C., doesn't host its own parade for Veterans Day, visitors to the capital region can head out to Manassas, Virginia, on November 11 at 11 a.m. for a special parade honoring the veterans of America's wars. The Northern Virginia Veterans Day Parade is a community-oriented event that includes military and high school bands, pipe and drum corps teams, military units from the various Armed Services of the United States, and members from local veterans' organizations. Free to attend, this special parade is the largest of its kind in the region.

Cut the Cake at the National Marine Corps Museum

For a special treat this Veterans Day, head out to the National Marine Corps Museum in Triangle, Virginia, for a celebration of the birth of the Marine Corps, which was founded on November 10, 1775. During this special event, which takes place on the day before Veterans Day, guests can enjoy a giant cake in honor of the birthday of the Marine Corps that is cut with a ceremonial sword. After the cake-cutting, stick around for a wreath-laying ceremony honoring the soldiers who defended America in its many wars.

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