Top Arlington, Virginia Attractions

It’s true that Washington, D.C., is the capital and that it has the majority of the monuments and Smithsonian museums but most people tend to forget that there’s another happening city across the Potomac River that has its own fair share of worthwhile places to visit. I’m talking about Arlington of course, home to the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Iwo Jima Memorial just to name a few. The city is also well connected to the District through public transport and has plenty of cheaper accommodation options thanks to its proximity to Ronald Reagan National Airport. When you find yourself visiting D.C., make sure you stop by some of these top Arlington Virginia attractions, and get the best out of your vacation.

Top Attractions in Arlington Virginia: Ceremony at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Ceremony at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Top Arlington Virginia Attractions

National Monuments

Washington is where you will find the presidential monuments as well as the major war memorials but the across the river is where you’ll find Arlington National Cemetery, the city’s most popular attraction. If you truly only have time to see one of these top Arlington Virginia attractions, go visit and pay respects at the country’s most famous military cemetery. The place itself is huge, covering 624 acres of prime northern Virginia real estate and contains a number of memorials itself including Arlington House, the former home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Women in Military Service for America.

Arlington, Virginia Attractions
Pentagon 9/11 Memorial

Not far from Arlington National Cemetery lies the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, built to commemorate the memory of the 184 individuals who lost their lives when American Flight 77 crashed at the Pentagon on that fateful morning of September 11, 2001. The memorial was opened in 2008 and sits on the southwest corner of the Pentagon. A constant flow of water accompanying each of the 184 benches signifies that the souls of the departed are resting for eternity. To enhance the visitor experience, an accompanying audio guide is available online or via a toll-free number.

Top Attractions in Arlington Virginia: USAF War Memorial via Flickr by Joseph Gruber, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
USAF War Memorial via Flickr by Joseph Gruber, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Other Noteworthy Memorials

A few other memorials worth visiting include the Marine Corps War Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, and the Netherlands Carillon. The first one stands just north of Arlington National Cemetery and depicts the iconic image of service men instilling the American flag on Iwo Jima while the second stands south of the cemetery and just west of the Pentagon. Its abstract design was meant to instill the notion of flight (hence the vertical element) and honor the branch’s three core values. Each of the stainless steel beams stand tall and the memorial itself is one of the most recognizable structures in the District region’s skyline.

Arlington, Virginia Attractions
Netherland Carillon

Finally, there’s the charming Netherlands Carillon, which sits in between the Marine Corps War Memorial and Arlington Cemetery. The musical instrument was donated by Dutch to the Americans as a symbol of gratitude for assisting the people of Netherlands during World War II. The carillon is surrounded by gorgeous sets of tulips and provides an excellent view of the Washington skyline.

Arlington, Virginia Attractions
Exhibit Hall via Flickr by IIP Photo Archive, CC BY-NC 2.0

An Eccentric Museum

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is a federal agency that combats the proliferation of illegal drugs in the United States and throughout their years of existence has amassed a unique collection. The agency decided to put these items on display for the public to see and hopefully learn about the dangers of illegal drug use. Examples of drug paraphernalia over the years, as well possessions of some of the most notorious names in the illegal drug cartel industry serve as the main attractions at the DEA Museum, located in the lobby of the DEA headquarters in Pentagon City. The museum’s eccentric collection includes a diamond-plated handgun that belonged to infamous drug trafficker Rafael Caro Quintero and a snakeskin shoe that an agent once wore during an undercover operation in Central America.

Arlington, Virginia Attractions
Long Bridge Park Covered in Snow

Outdoor Recreational Spots

Arlington has a number of parks and trails that provide not only scenic views but also plenty of opportunities to get your sweat on. Some of the most popular parks include Long Bridge, a relatively new outdoor recreational spot located next to the Pentagon with soccer fields and a walkway that provides a great view of the Washington Monument and Glencarlyn, located on the western edge of the city bordering Falls Church, that provides nature surrounded paved trails suitable for walking and biking.

Arlington, Virginia Attractions
Spring on Mount Vernon Trail

Hiking trails such as Mount Vernon, Potomac Heritage, and Custis also make up the top Arlington Virginia attractions. These trails cut through some of the most historic portions of the city and offer plenty of panoramic views of the District.

What are your thoughts about Arlington? Have you been to any of the above-mentioned top Arlington virginia attractions?

About Iris A


Born in the Philippines, but grew up in Texas, Iris has been traveling and writing about her experiences for well over a decade. Her work has been published on well-known travel sites like Hipmunk (#hipmunkcitylove) and D Magazine Online Travel Club. She has been all over Europe, the US, and has recently started exploring Latin America. She loves trying local cuisine and visiting UNESCO deemed World Heritage sites. Her favourite city is New York, with London, following a close 2nd. You can follow her on Twitter @sundeeiris or through her travel blog, Traveling With Iris.

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