Some of the best things to do in Arlington highlight the USA’s military history in the form of government buildings, war memorials, and historic houses. The urban county is located on the Potomac River, right across Washington DC in Virginia.

    While it’s most famous as the site of the Pentagon, there are still many other sightseeing opportunities to enjoy. You can explore plenty of sights in Arlington for free – it’s an excellent place to visit if you’re visiting on a modest budget. Nature lovers can also find pockets of green spaces among the many memorials within the county and beyond.

    What are the best things to do in Arlington?


    The Pentagon

    Join a guided tour of the DoD headquarters

    • History

    The Pentagon is a symbol of the US military, serving as the United States Department of Defense’s headquarters. The pentagonal-shaped structure is also one of the world’s largest low-rise office buildings, spanning around 6.5 million sq ft. There are many military displays within the Pentagon – a must-see is the Hall of Heroes, which commemorates 3,400 recipients of the Medal of Honor (Army, Sea Service, and Air Force).

    You can enter the Pentagon by reserving a free guided tour with the Pentagon Tours, which was established in 1976. The hour-long tours are available from Mondays to Thursdays, and you can expect to walk about 1.5 miles within the building.

    Location: Washington, DC 22202, USA

    Open: Monday–Friday from 9 am to 4 pm (closed on weekends)

    Phone: +1 703-697-1776


    Arlington National Cemetery

    The final resting place of over 400,000 military veterans

    • History
    • Budget

    The Arlington National Cemetery is the largest military graveyard in the USA. More than 400,000 military veterans and their immediate family are buried in this 624-acre site, along with President John F. Kennedy, President William Howard Taft, and world-renowned boxer Joe Louis.

    There are several historic monuments within the cemetery – The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a large white sarcophagus commemorating unidentified fallen soldiers who fought in WW1 and WWII as well as the Korea and Vietnam Wars. The Arlington National Cemetery is less than 2 miles north of the Air Force Memorial.

    Location: Arlington, VA 22211, USA

    Open: April–September: daily from 8 am to 7 pm. October–March: daily from 8 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 877-907-8585


    Mount Vernon Trail

    Cycle or walk alongside the western bank of the Potomac River

    • Photo
    • Budget
    • Adventure

    The Mount Vernon Trail stretches 18 miles along the Potomac River’s western bank, between George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Theodore Roosevelt Island. The mostly paved path is excellent for both cycling and walking, though some parts are relatively narrow.

    The Mount Vernon Trail gets very crowded on weekends, and cyclists must dismount at bridge crossings. If you want to explore further, it’s also connected to several regional trails, such as Rock Creek, Four Mile Run, and the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.

    Location: 1198 George Washington Memorial Pkwy, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 703-289-2500


    photo by Elvert Barnes (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    United States Marine Corps War Memorial

    See the iconic sculpture by Horace W. Peaslee

    • History
    • Budget

    The United States Marine Corps War Memorial is dedicated to members of Marines who have perished serving the country since 1775. The military monument was established in 1954, depicting Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph that was taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima in WWII.

    Designed by Horace W. Peaslee and completed by Felix de Weldon, the sculpture shows 6 Marines raising a USA flag atop Mount Suribachi. The United States Marine Corps War Memorial occupies a 100-ft-high hill, overlooking the Potomac River.

    Location: Arlington, VA 22209, USA

    Open: Daily from 6 am to midnight

    Phone: +1 703-289-2500


    Arlington Art Center

    See contemporary works by emerging and established artists

    • Families
    • Photo

    The Arlington Art Center has been one of the city’s most popular venues for contemporary artworks since 1974. The 17,000-sq-ft venue is divided into 9 exhibition galleries, as well as subsidised working studios and classrooms.

    Around 12 exhibitions take place every year, introducing works of art by emerging and popular artists from around the Mid-Atlantic region. The Arlington Art Center also organises panel discussions and art workshops year-round. Drawing, painting, printmaking, and mixed media classes are available for all ages.

    Location: 3550 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201, USA

    Open: Wednesday–Sunday from noon to 5 pm (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

    Phone: +1 703-248-6800


    Air Force Memorial

    See the iconic 200-ft-tall spires

    • History
    • Budget

    The Air Force Memorial lies between the Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon. Dedicated to the members of the US Air Force, the structure comprises 3 steel spires ranging between 201 ft and 270 ft in height.

    The design was inspired by the “bomb burst” manoeuvre of the Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration squadron. The Air Force Memorial is at a high elevation, giving you a nice view of the Arlington National Cemetery and Potomac River. You can explore the memorial and its surroundings for free.

    Location: 1 Air Force Memorial Dr, Arlington, VA 22204, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 703-979-0674


    Fashion Centre at Pentagon City

    Shop at Arlington’s largest shopping mall

    • Shoppers

    Fashion Centre at Pentagon City is one of the largest shopping malls in Arlington. Nordstrom and Macy's are its main anchors, along with over 100 local and international outlets. High-end names include Spade New York, Michael Kors and BOSS, while Pandora, Forever 21, and Pandora are just some of the mall’s more affordable options.

    Fashion Centre at Pentagon City also has plenty of dining options, including Shake Shack, Auntie Anne’s, Taco Bell and Panda Express. You can also opt to walk to the Metropolitan Park or Virginia Highlands Park for a mid-shopping break.

    Location: 1100 S Hayes St, Arlington, VA 22202, USA

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 11 am to 7 pm, Sunday from noon to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 703-415-2400


    photo by Anthony Bailey (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Arlington House

    Also known as the Robert E. Lee Memorial

    • History

    Arlington House is a Greek Revival-style mansion at Arlington National Cemetery. The historic home serves as a memorial to Confederate General Robert E. Lee, displaying 18th- and 19th-century furniture and decorative arts, as well as Civil War memorabilia and manuscripts.

    You can explore the well-preserved house, slave quarters, and potting shed, which were built between 1803 and 1818. Arlington House offers a panoramic view of the Potomac River and Washington DC. Look out for historical sites such as the National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, and Capitol Dome.  

    Location: 321 Sherman Dr, Fort Myer, VA 22211, USA

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm

    Phone: +1 703-235-1530


    Signature Theatre

    Catch musicals and plays at this award-winning venue

    • Nightlife

    The Signature Theatre is a Tony Award-winning performance venue on Arlington’s Campbell Avenue. The non-profit theatre hosts contemporary and classical performances year-round – past productions that have taken place here include Sweeney Todd, Les Miserables, Freaky Friday, and Titanic.

    The Signature Theatre’s Specialty Nights series include Pride Night on Fridays and Discussion Night on selected Tuesday and Wednesday performances. Inside Signature takes place in the Mead Lobby on the first Thursday of the month, offering a free look into the lives of the theatre's artists and staff.

    Location: 4200 Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA 22206, USA

    Open: Box office: Monday–Friday from 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday–Sunday from noon to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 703-820-9771


    photo by Emw (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Pedal Saloon Arlington

    Ride from bar to bar in Arlington

    • Nightlife
    • Group

    Pedal Saloon Arlington offers a unique way of bar-hopping around Arlington. This pedal-powered trolley has a contracted driver to take you to the city’s best bars, which are mostly located around Clarendon. It's a great way to make new friends while enjoying an evening out, as moving the vehicle requires a group effort.

    Pedal Saloon Arlington’s bar tours take around 2 hours and are available every day. You can choose to depart from Wilson Boulevard at 10 am, noon, 2.30 pm, 5 pm, 7.30 pm or 10 pm. We recommend wearing comfortable shoes to fully enjoy this pedal bar crawl.

    Location: 3125 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington VA 22201, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to midnight

    Phone: +1 703-951-3312

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller

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