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Arlington, Virginia: Memorials, Parks and the Government
Set across the river from Washington, D.C., Arlington County, Virginia – or Arlington, VA as it’s most commonly known – is one of the more poignant travel destinations in the United States. Known for its many government offices, the city is pivotal in the running of the country. Yet it’s the city’s far-reaching national cemetery and proud memorials that really garner the attention of visitors. Simply put, make the journey to this part of the country and you’ll find yourself looking back on the past.
Arlington National Cemetery
Situated less than a mile from the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery is the main attraction for visitors to the city. Housing upwards of 400,000 graves, the extensive burial ground pays respect to the many military personnel that have served their country, many of whom were killed in action. Notable interments include presidents John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, sometimes referred to as the Tomb of the Unknowns, is perhaps the most well-known landmark in the cemetery. Guarded around the clock by military personnel, the tomb holds the remains of unidentified soldiers from past wars.
Arlington Memorial Amphitheater is used for state funerals and annual memorial events, including those held on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Outside of these events, visitors can take a look around the impressive structure.
In addition to the national cemetery, Arlington is also home to a number of memorials, including the Marine Corps Memorial (aka Iwo Jima Memorial) and the United States Air Force Memorial. Due to the popularity and importance of the cemetery and memorials, many of the city’s hotels are located within walking distance of these features.
The most famous building to be found in Arlington, The Pentagon serves as the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense. It might come as a surprise then to learn that you can actually tour the building.
Constructed during the Second World War, The Pentagon houses some 17.5 miles of corridors and is the work base for some 26,000 employees. As such, it’s earned the moniker “the largest office building in the world”. Sixty-minute tours of the building may not disclose state secrets, but they still prove interesting and informative. Be warned though: you’ll need to book early to secure your place on a tour.
The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial can be found outside the building, a permanent memorial to the five individuals who lost their lives during the September 11 attacks on the building. A small chapel honouring the victims can also be found on-site.
Breathe in the Fresh Air
Despite being a ridiculously busy city, there’s still room to relax in Arlington. Visitors to the city will find a number of scenic parks and trails to enjoy. Theodore Roosevelt Island is especially popular with visitors. Accessed by a footbridge on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, the picturesque island features walking trails, a boardwalk and a memorial statue of the former president himself.
Fort C. F. Smith Park is another of Arlington’s well-regarded green spaces. Here you’ll discover remnants of the civil war, as well as a beautiful peace garden. Meanwhile, the likes of Arlington Hall West Park and Alcova Heights Park offer the chance to picnic, cook-out, play and walk.
Visiting Arlington’s Museums
Arlington is home to a small number of interesting and insightful museums. Top of the list is Arlington Historical Museum. The museum is housed in Hume School – the oldest school building in the city. Inside you’ll discover exhibits focusing on the civil war and black heritage in the city.
Somewhat more contemporary, the D.E.A. Museum focuses on the history of the Drug Enforcement Agency, headquarters in the city, and the usage of illegal drugs in the United States. As well as historical accounts and artefacts, visitors can also peruse an impressive collection of drug paraphernalia.
Of course, if it’s museums you want, some of the best in America can be found across the river in Washington, D.C.
Exploring Washington, D.C.
Unless you’re visiting Arlington and Virginia on business, the lure of the nation’s capital is sure to be too much too resist. You’ll be glad to know that getting to D.C. is a straightforward process. Arlington is served by a number of stations on the Washington Metro system. Alternatively, you can easily drive or walk across the river, passing over one of the five bridges connecting the two.
Once in Washington, a wealth of landmarks, attractions and amenities await you. The National Mall – home to the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, United States Capitol and much more – is literally just across the bridge. From there, the likes of the White House, Smithsonian museums, Georgetown University, George Washington University and much more are readily accessible.
With Ronald Regan Washington International Airport located in Arlington, it’s quiet feasible to use the city as a base of operations. With hotels plentiful and excellent public transport links, exploring D.C. from across the river is a piece of cake!