15 Best Things to Do in Arlington, VA

Arlington, VA
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There's no place in the nation more patriotic than Arlington in Arlington County, Virginia.

This small county packs the most historically significant monuments, museums, and landmarks in the United States.

Situated on the Potomac River's southwestern banks, Arlington is also one of the nation's top tourist destinations.

Across this county is the nation's capital, Washington D.C.

Arlington is brimming with history, but it's also a fun place to explore.

It features not just history but plenty of leisure and outdoor activities.

Join the millions of tourists flocking to Arlington every year to explore its unique attractions.

In the meantime, check the best things to do in Arlington, Virginia, for your reference.

Honor the Fallen at the US Marine Corps War Memorial

Scenic view of the US Marine Corps War Memorial
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You can start your Arlington travel adventure anywhere you like.

However, the US Marine Corps War Memorial is a recommended historical attraction you must see upon arrival.

This memorial monument along N. Meade Street is one of the many war memorials throughout Arlington.

Closer view of the US Marine Corps War Memorial
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However, this war memorial stands out among the rest since its 32-foot bronze flagpole and sculpture depicts the iconic moment of the U.S. flag raising on Mount Suribachi during World War II.

It's a magnificent monument to see and read interpretive signs, take photos, or even join guided tours.

You can also witness the sunset Parades at the US Marine Corps War Memorial every summer.

Plaque of the US Marine Corps War Memorial
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Offer Prayers at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial

View of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial at night
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Another noteworthy Arlington historical attraction is the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.

You can find this memorial along N. Rotary Road.

It mainly features the memorial of those who perished in the 9/11 attacks in the Pentagon.

This permanent outdoor memorial features the 184 people who perished in what many describe as the "Darkest Day in American History."

Daytime view of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial
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Visiting this place also lets you see the names of the Pentagon staff and the passengers of American Airlines Flight 77 who died that day.

Upon visiting, you're instantly gripped by the solemnity of its atmosphere since the tragedy happened not many years ago.

You can offer prayers, take photos and read interpretive signs at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial to make your visit there worthwhile.

Wander the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park

The road of Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park
Emw, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a break from visiting memorials and head to the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park.

This regional park offers unique outdoor and historical attractions along S. Four Mile Run Drive.

Historically, the railroad spans over 800 miles, serving as the Capital Trails Coalition network.

Bridge along Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park
Antony-22, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The trail systems stretch over 45 miles with a mixture of paved and off-road trails, perfect for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

While hiking this spectacular trail system, you'll pass through various historical landmarks and sites.

At the same time, you'll be mesmerized by the pristine natural areas along the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park.

Enjoy the Outdoors at Upton Hill Regional Park

Upton Hill Regional Park is a popular outdoor attraction for families and groups.

It mainly features a beach-themed waterpark called Ocean Dunes.

The waterpark has exciting amenities like slides, splash pads, and huge swimming pools.

At the same time, it has a deluxe mini golf course, batting cages, walking trails, a picnic area, and a playground for everyone to enjoy.

It's Arlington's best location for outdoor family bonding or perhaps for group outings.

If you're seeking a location in Arlington to spend your day with, Upton Hill Regional Park should be your go-to spot.

Spot Various Famous Memorials at Arlington National Cemetery

Headstones at Arlington National Cemetery
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What makes a cemetery fascinating to explore?

The Arlington National Cemetery is not your ordinary cemetery.

It's the most famous final resting place of prominent personalities in the United States.

Trail along Arlington National Cemetery
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It's mainly an enduring tribute to those who laid down their lives for the nation's ideals and freedom.

Visiting this place isn't just a solemn experience.

You'll also end up learning a bunch of fascinating and vital historical tidbits.

Tomb of the unknown soldier at Arlington National Cemetery
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During your visit, see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and witness the prowess of the sentinel guards.

Your next stop should be the President John F. Kennedy Gravesite or perhaps the McClellan Gate.

Other worthy memorials in this national cemetery you must visit are the Confederate Memorial, Civil War Unknowns Monument, and the Coast Guard Memorial.

Memorial amphitheatre at Arlington National Cemetery
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Hear Bells Ring at Netherlands Carillon

Daytime view of Netherlands Carillon
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The Netherlands Carillon is a unique historical attraction donated by the country after World War II.

You can visit this historical attraction near N. Marshall Drive.

It mainly features the 53 bells on a 127-feet tall campanile.

The Dutch built this historic campanile to symbolize gratitude for liberating them from Nazi Germany in World War II.

The garden of Netherlands Carillon
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Amazingly, this campanile entertains the parkgoers with its daily concert featuring the 53 bells playing eclectic music.

It's a one-of-a-kind experience to see and hear, especially during the holidays when it plays Christmas songs daily.

After getting serenaded by the campanile's concert, proceed to the Netherlands Carillon's gorgeous gardens.

These gardens feature lovely flowers blooming seasonally, making them a superb spot for a romantic photoshoot.

View of Netherlands Carillon at night
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Explore the Mount Vernon Trail

Mile marker along Mount Vernon Trail
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Another marked trail to explore in Arlington is the Mount Vernon Trail.

This trail is on S. Washington Street.

It stretches from Washington to Alexandria about 17 miles while meandering the Potomac River.

This trail system has become popular since its opening in 1972, attracting thousands of hikers and bikers.

A person riding a bike along Mount Vernon Trail
Jesse Jaesha / Shutterstock.com

So, take another worthwhile hike leading to various natural and historical sites.

At the same time, you'll see a scenic view of Washington, D.C., while exploring the Woodrow Wilson Trails, Four Mile Run, and Rock Creek along the way.

Now you have more reason to pack your hiking boots on your trip to Arlington because of the Mount Vernon Trail.

See Washington D.C. from the View of D.C.

The View of D.C. is probably Arlington's best spot to see the beauty of Washington, D.C.

Situated along Wilson Boulevard, this location is a must-visit attraction for its 360-degree panoramic view of the nation's capital.

Enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Washington D.C. from a distance atop this tower's 12,000-square-feet viewing deck.

The place features an open-air terrace where you can take photos besides getting a panoramic view of Arlington and Washington, D.C.

Dropping by the View of D.C. is an excellent opportunity for those who can't tour the entirety of Arlington County and Washington D.C.; they should get a scenic view of these places.

Rub Elbows with Locals at Arlington Farmers Market

Fresh produce at Arlington Farmers Market
Cliff from Arlington, Virginia, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Arlington Farmers Market is the perfect place in the county to buy the freshest produce.

You can visit the Arlington Farmers Market along N. Courthouse Road.

Most of the products displayed at this farmers' market come from all over Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey.

This farmers market opens every Saturday year-round featuring seasonal produce, artisanal food, cheeses, preserves, baked treats, organic-fed meat, and wild-caught fish.

You can enjoy these delicious foods right on the spot as vendors offer samplings of their delicious products.

At the same time, it's a great way to rub elbows with locals while shopping there.

See Planes Soar at Gravelly Point

A plane taking off at Gravelly Point
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Gravelly Point is a unique outdoor attraction managed by the National Park Service of Arlington.

You can visit this famous location along George Washington Memorial Parkway near the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

One of the main reasons to visit this place is to see the low-flying planes taking off from Reagan Airport's runway on 1/19.

It's an excellent location for plane spotters to see various airplanes while enjoying the park's beauty.

People watching a plane at Gravelly Point
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However, there is more to Gravelly Point than a famous plane-spotting location.

It's where the house called Abingdon stood in 1746, where George Washington's granddaughter, Eleanor Parke Custis, was born.

Besides its historical background, this area is famous for picnics and outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and sports.

The grounds of Gravelly Point
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Tour the Pentagon

Aerial view of the Pentagon
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As the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, the Pentagon is the biggest military headquarters in the nation, perhaps worldwide.

It's famous for its pentagon-shaped structure that will surely put you in awe upon seeing it.

Don't miss the one-of-a-kind tour of this famous attraction.

Join guided tours to see various sections of this monumental building.

Exterior of the Pentagon
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The tour inside Pentagon usually lasts an hour or two.

It takes you to various branches, such as the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and many more.

After touring, head to the Pentagon Mall and score some unique finds from 712 shops and restaurants to complete your visit.

Conquer the Climb Upton Courses

Take a break from visiting Arlington's memorials, parks, and monuments, and have fun at Climb Upton.

This vast climbing and obstacle course facility offers everyone a fun-filled and adrenaline-pumping experience.

Situated next to the Ocean Dunes Waterpark, this attraction has earned its popularity among locals, especially families, for its exhilarating challenges.

Over 90 vertical climbing and obstacle courses await you inside Climb Upton, which is perfect for those who love challenges.

For those who can't complete all the 90 challenging elements of its course, there are courses with varying difficulty levels for a more enjoyable experience.

Step inside the Arlington Historical Museum

Exterior of the Arlington Historical Museum
Dmadeo, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Arlington Historical Museum is a two-story brick-structure facility that opened in 1891, formerly the Hume School.

Today, this museum is one of Arlington's favorite historical attractions.

It's famous mainly for its massive collection of historical artifacts dating back to the nation's early days.

Touring the museum lets you see permanent exhibits up close.

These exhibits include the Native Americans display, the Ball-Sellers House, the Antebellum Era in Arlington, the Civil War, World War II, Industrialization in Arlington, the African-American Experience, and plenty more.

Enjoy the Arlington Historical Museum's fascinating exhibits through guided and self-guided tours.

These tours offer a deeper insight into the nation's history, fun and educational experience you mustn't miss.

Climb Up & Down at the Rosslyn Metro Escalator

View of the Rosslyn Metro Escalator
Justin Henry from Burlington, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Do you fancy climbing down to one of the world's longest escalators?

Then head to the Rosslyn Metro Escalator that leads you to the Rosslyn Metro Station below Arlington's streets.

This 207-foot escalator descends deep underground, leading to one of Arlington's busiest train stations.

For the record, the escalator is the second-longest of its kind in the world.

It may sound intimidating, but the escalator makes descending to the metro station easy.

Going down this famous escalator usually takes about three minutes.

Just avoid using this famous escalator during rush hour.

Visiting the Rosslyn Metro Escalator is a fascinating experience you mustn't miss, plus it lets you explore other places in Arlington and D.C. through train rides.

Immerse in Nature at Gulf Branch Nature Center and Park

The waters of Gulf Branch Nature Center and Park
Kevin Borland, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Gulf Branch Nature Center and Park are perfect for immersing yourself in nature.

This natural attraction along Military Road is known for its nature-related events, programs, seasonal festivals, hikes, and campfires.

It's a relaxing place to spend your time amidst Arlington's busy urban atmosphere.

It's where you'll also meet fellow nature lovers at its nature center who enjoys hiking, nature viewing, and other activities.

You can hike through its trails, taking you to various historical and natural sites such as a 19th-century log cabin, a pollinator garden, a conservation area, and a vernacular pond.

Besides outdoor activities and events, the Gulf Branch Nature Center and Park exhibit Arlington's cultural and natural history, including live animals.

Visit this nature center and park with your family to enjoy various outdoor activities and tour its exhibits.

Final Thoughts

Arlington has witnessed the nation's colorful and significant historical events making it a famous tourist destination.

Consider traveling to this historic county that offers more than epic memorials and monuments.

Moreover, Arlington has a charming community, bustling cityscape, and lifestyle scene, offering you plenty of recreational opportunities.

Start planning your visit to this famous county with this list of the best things to do in Arlington, Virginia.

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