15 Free Things to Do in Arlington County, VA

Free Things to Do in Arlington County, VA
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Due to its small size of just 26 square miles, many people think Arlington is a city.

Arlington is an urban county in Virginia located just over the Potomac River opposite the United States capital of Washington, D.C.

Likewise, Arlington is one of the most densely inhabited areas in the United States.

Since there are no incorporated towns within the boundary of Arlington County, it blended urban and rural surroundings harmoniously.

The area where Arlington lies was originally a part of the ten-mile square planned in 1791 for the country's capital.

The government of the United States transferred it back to the State of Virginia during the 1846 Congress.

Alexandria City and Alexandria County were the names of the area up until 1920, when the county was named Arlington.

If you are in the area, you only need a little money to have fun.

Below are the free things to do in Arlington County, Virginia.

Ride a Bike on the Mount Vernon Trail

Paved road along the Mount Vernon Trail
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The 18-mile paved Mount Vernon Trail is a great way to exercise and enjoy the stunning sceneries of the Potomac River and even spot wildlife along the way.

Biking along the Mount Vernon Trail will let you observe unobstructed breathtaking views of the Washington, D.C. cityscape.

One of the popular things people do on this trail is to explore the Mount Vernon Estate, a national historic landmark once home to the first U.S. President, George Washington.

Stunning views along the Mount Vernon Trail
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If you want to explore another part of the trail, you can go to Old Town Alexandria.

And if you get tired, you can rest at Gravelly Point Park and watch airplanes take off and land at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Finally, discover the charms of Roosevelt Island to cap off the perfect biking experience.

Boardwalk at Mount Vernon Trail
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Explore the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum

To better grasp the history of drugs and drug abuse, you should drop by the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum.

This museum has 40 interactive exhibit stations where visitors can learn about the history of drug use and how it has affected the world.

You can learn about the effects of drug abuse on different cultures and countries with more than 180 memorabilia, aside from a multipurpose room.

You can also give a silent prayer for those who have died while on duty, as they have a beautiful interactive tribute room in the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum.

Both kids and adults will enjoy this museum, as there are a lot of hands-on activities for both age groups.

Explore the Shops at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City

Interior view of Fashion Centre at Pentagon City
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If you're considering updating your wardrobe but still need a budget, you can take a casual stroll at the Fashion Centre in Pentagon City.

There are over 170 stores in this mall, including top brands such as Michael Kors, Tourneau's, H&M, and Zara.

The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, finished in October 1989 with 164 stores and restaurants, was the biggest indoor department store in Arlington.

Welcome sign at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City
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The mall also features different themes throughout the seasons, so you'll have reason to come back, as there are always new things to discover.

If you want to rest, you can sit on one of the benches and people-watch or talk to your friends.

No matter your budget, there will be something here that you'll love!

Interior view of Fashion Centre at Pentagon City
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Watch Your Dogs Swim at Glencarlyn Dog Park

Why don't you bring dogs who love playing on the water to Glencarlyn Dog Park to satisfy their restlessness?

This is an extraordinary park because it features a pond that allows your pets to revel in the water, splash around, and have a good time.

There's also plenty of space for your pet to do their business; make sure to clean up after them.

You can also watch dogs if they run off to play with other dogs.

Rest assured that they are safe and having a great time with their other furry friends.

The park also has lots of trails where your pet can explore and benches when you want to catch your breath, sit back, relax, and enjoy the view.

So what are you waiting for?

Grab your pet, head to Glencarlyn Dog Park, and enjoy a great day!

Visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers

A soldier marching infront of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers
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Going to the cemetery may not fit your idea of fun, but Arlington Cemetery is an exception.

One of the attractions in Arlington Cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.

This tomb is where all the unidentified remains of U.S. soldiers are buried, and it is guarded 24/7 by two sentinels from the 3rd Infantry Regiment.

The Changing of the Guards, which happens every hour, is an exciting and solemn display that you shouldn't miss.

Tomb stones at Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers
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Visit Arlington County to learn more about American history and pay tribute to those who gave their lives for the country.

The sentinels do not wear their ranks on their uniforms, so they do not outrank the Unknowns.

Pay your respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington Cemetery.

National guards parade at Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers
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Take a Photo at the Bon Air Park Rose Garden

Imagine having your photo taken amid beautiful roses, with the mountains in the background.

The Bon Air Park Rose Garden is the ideal background for your memorable occasion photos or even just some casual snaps to capture your memories in Virginia.

The sprawling 24-acre Bon Air Park Rose Garden features over 120 types of roses partnered with well-manicured gardens and flowing fountains.

Picturesque view of Bon Air Park Rose Garden
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Visitors are welcome to take free tours of the park, and you can even bring your picnic lunch and use the barbecue grills for the afternoon bonding experience.

Kids will also love the playground, tennis courts, and the four-mile running trail in the park!

It is an excellent spot for those looking to take beautiful photos.

Why not stop here and capture memorable moments that you can treasure forever?

Bring Your Kids to the Long Branch Nature Center

Owl at Long Branch Nature Center
Greenmars, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nestled in Glencarlyn Park, the Long Branch Nature Center is one of the best spots in Arlington County to commune with nature and learn about the environment.

The Long Branch Nature Center offers educational programs, events, and activities to allow kids to explore their natural surroundings.

These programs include hiking trails, nature walking, story reading time, and campfires.

There's also a Discovery Room inside the center, with live animals and gardens with signages and viewing ponds.

You can also study butterflies and insects at the Long Branch Nature Center.

It is worth a visit if you want to spend some time outdoors and have fun with your kids.

Why not pack a lunch and head to the Long Branch Nature Center today? You'll be glad that you did!

Explore the Netherlands Carillon

Colorful tulips at Netherlands Carillon
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The Netherlands Carillon symbolizes the friendship between the Netherlands and the United States.

It is a stunning 53-bell carillon located on George Washington Memorial Parkway.

The 127-ft campanile is a site you won't want to miss during your visit to Arlington County.

The Carillon was erected in the 1950s, and its grounds are open for everyone to visit.

It is available for free daily tours.

Bell tower at Netherlands Carillon
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The Netherlands Carillon was refurbished in 2021, with some exterior panels replaced, making it one of the most idyllic places in Arlington.

The Carillon has a beautiful courtyard and gardens worth exploring, with stunning flowers and trees perfect for an afternoon picnic.

Additionally, concerts are held at the site throughout the year.

You can attend these concerts to learn more about this beautiful historical monument.

Vibrant color flowers at Netherlands Carillon
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Take a Hilly Hike along the Custis Trail

Try a hike along the Custis Trail for a workout that will test your endurance and strength.

The Custis Trail is a hilly trail that is part of the Arlington Loop, the Four Mile Run Trail, and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

This trail is a great way to enjoy nature while getting some exercise.

There are many great views along the way, so take a moment and appreciate your surroundings.

The trail also features trees, ponds, and a view of artificial waterfalls at the Spout Run Tributary.

If you continue walking, you'll reach Bon Air Park, where you can rest at some picnic areas and continue your journey.

Why not lace up your sneakers, bring along some water and snacks, and go for a fun and challenging hike at the Custis Trail?

You'll feel great when you're done!

Relish the Tranquility of the Crystal City Water Park

Fountain at Crystal City Water Park
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As one of the favorite hangouts among locals, Crystal City Water Park is the perfect spot in Arlington to beat the heat and bask in a day out in the sun with family and friends.

Gorgeous landscaping will greet you once you visit this park, with the flowing water on the walls surrounding the garden giving it a tranquil and soothing vibe.

Crystal City Water Park is divided into different areas suitable for all ages.

Huge chess board at Crystal City Water Park
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You can find a place that will suit everyone in your group immediately.

This spot is popular among office workers who prefer to spend their lunch breaks in a relaxing space rather than going back to crowded and hectic offices.

You can join Monday Yoga sessions here or bike around the area for a healthy vibe.

Colorful flowers at Crystal City Water Park
Elvert Barnes from Hyattsville MD, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore the Natural Beauty of Gulf Branch Nature Center

You'll fall in love with the outdoors when you explore the fantastic landscape of the Gulf Branch Nature Center.

This nature center is full of beautiful trees, plants, and wildlife that will take your breath away with their sheer natural beauty.

Delight in the 38-acre park, featuring a vernal stream where you can spot various species, from salamanders and birds to other animals.

The park also has a nature center where you can learn more about the plants and animals that inhabit the area.

You can also see an exhibit on the Woodland Indians of Arlington.

The forested trail will lead you to Robert Walker's log cabin and an ancient blacksmith forge.

Visit the Gulf Branch Nature Center to admire nature while exercising and learning new things.

Discover Hidden Treasures at the Potomac Overlook Regional Park

Mesmerizing view of Potomac Overlook Regional Park
Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It may not look like it but exploring the almost 70-acre Potomac Overlook Regional Park is a true adventure.

This park is in the Potomac River valley and has lots of hidden treasures you can discover during your visit.

Explore the 2.5-mile trail and discover the flora and fauna that thrive in this stunning space.

Water cascades at Potomac Overlook Regional Park
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Birdwatching is also a favorite activity.

Try to spot the American crow, Carolina wren, common grackle, and Carolina chickadee.

There's also a lot of history to explore in this area.

The Potomac Overlook Regional Park is worth checking out if you love learning more about the past through your visits.

If you get tired of living the wildlife, you can explore the garden full of organic fruits and veggies.

Experience the Tradition of Twilight Tattoo at Fort Myer

Have you ever watched a military parade and wondered what it is like to join one?

You'll experience the pageantry at Fort Myer, where you can enjoy Twilight Tattoo.

Twilight Tattoo is a longstanding tradition practiced before World War II that you shouldn't miss.

This is when the third U.S. Infantry Division and other military bands give a one-hour show that will captivate you with their dances and music.

This is a great way to know about the history of the U.S. Army and its role in protecting the nation.

If you're lucky, you'll see your favorite celebrities perform at this event, so don't miss out!

This event is free to all, so you can bring your entire family along as long as they are interested in experiencing a time-tested military tradition.

Enjoy Hiking at the Bluemont Park

Pretty red roses at Bluemont Park
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If you are craving an afternoon of fun, you can visit Bluemont Park.

Bluemont Park is famous for its biking trails and paths, perfect for those who want fresh air while getting good exercise.

You can join the adapted nature hike, where you and your family can explore the trail surrounded by verdant forest.

Examine the variety of trees and other plants that thrive in the area.

Stunning view of Bluemont Park
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If hiking isn't your thing, you can ask your friends to play disc golf and watch them throw Frisbees at the designated target.

The area is also open for picnics, so pack a lunch and enjoy an afternoon of hiking and fun at Bluemont Park.

Courts for tennis, basketball, lacrosse, and baseball are available to get your competitive juices flowing.

You can do plenty of amazing things in Bluemont Park to get your blood flowing.

Beautiful orange colored flower at Bluemont Park
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Final Thoughts

For nature lovers, Arlington is a great place to explore and enjoy the area's natural beauty.

With a blend of rural and urban vibes, Arlington has lots of free things to do, from parks and trails to nature centers.

Check out the free things to do in Arlington County, Virginia!

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