Take a Day Trip to Arlington
Along the southern banks of the Potomac River, the city of Arlington sits directly across from our nation’s Capital. With the abundant military and historic sites in Fairfax County, a day trip to Arlington is a great way to experience even more political and military history of the United States of America and deepen your knowledge. Here’s your guide to taking a day trip in Arlington, Virginia.
How to Get to Arlington from Fairfax County
Hop on the Metro
Fairfax County is served by ten Metrorail stations located at West Falls Church, Merrifield/Dunn Loring, Vienna/Fairfax/GMU, Huntington, Franconia/Springfield, McLean, Spring Hill, Tysons Corner, Greensboro, and Wiehle-Reston East. (Plus, four more stations coming this fall on the Silver Line extension!) Some of these stations also offer daily parking facilities and bicycle racks, though not all stations have parking. The Pentagon, Pentagon City, East Falls Church, Ballston-MU, Clarendon, Court House, Rosslyn, and Arlington Cemetery stops serve different areas of Arlington, sitting on the Blue Line, Yellow Line, Orange Line, and Silver Line respectively. Luckily, the Metro map is relatively straightforward and you can even utilize Google Maps navigation which will tell you each train to take if you're unsure.
Take a Drive
The simplest way to get from Fairfax County to Arlington is to drive, although it may take a bit longer to navigate traffic and find parking during peak travel and work days.
Places to Visit
Arlington National Cemetery
Lay eyes on America’s largest burial ground at Arlington National Cemetery, serving as the final resting place of people such as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, world champion boxer Joe Louis, and more. The cemetery contains multiple memorials such as the Military Women’s Memorial and the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial. Two former US presidents are laid to rest at the Arlington National Cemetery - William H. Taft and John F. Kennedy. These memorials can be found in the northern part of the cemetery. Also at the cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Since 1921, it has been the heart of the cemetery as the final resting place for one of America’s unidentified World War 1 service members (unknown soldiers from later wars were added in 1958 and 1984).
Hot Tip: Visit on Veterans Day (November 11) to see the special wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as the parade of colors by veterans' organizations and remarks from dignitaries.
Air Force Memorial
Towering high in the sky is the Air Force Memorial, a national place of remembrance honoring the men and women who have served in the US Air Force and its predecessors. The memorial consists of three stainless steel spires that are “Soaring to Glory” and are based on the contrails of the Air Force Thunderbirds performing the “bomb burst” maneuver. Be sure to also admire the bronze sculpture of the Air Force Honor Guard who maintains a constant salute to the members of the US Air Force. The memorial stands just south of the Arlington National Cemetery and overlooks the Pentagon.
Visit The Pentagon
Home to the US Department of Defense, the Pentagon is the largest office building in the WORLD, with more than three times the floor space as the Empire State Building! For those interested to visit the inside of the Pentagon, tours operate regularly and must be booked in advance (for international visitors, tours are requested through your country’s embassy). The tour is around 60 minutes long and includes details of the history of the four military branches, the opportunity to see the indoor memorial near the September 11th crash site, the September 11th Memorial chapel and the Hall of Heroes.
9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon
Located just outside of the pentagon is the Pentagon Memorial, created to remember and honor the 184 lives lost because of the events of September 11th, 2001. The memorial is completely free to visit and is open 24/7, 365 days a year. The best way to access the memorial, due to the limited parking spaces, is on the Metro using the stops for the Pentagon or Pentagon City. These stops are located on the Blue Line and Yellow Line.
Iwo Jima Memorial
Also known as the Marine Corps War Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial is located slightly north of the Arlington National Cemetery. Based on the famous photograph by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press, the statue depicts the six Marines who raised the second American flag on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima in the Japanese Volcano Islands on February 23, 1945. This powerful moment signified the end of the American campaign in the Pacific during World War II. On the base of the memorial, you’ll also be able to read an engraving of every major battle The U.S. Marine Corps has been a part of since 1775.
Hot Tip: For World War history buffs, you can also see an original Sopwith Camel, the most powerful fighter plane used in WWI, on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.
Watch Planes Take Off at Gravelly Point
Located just north of the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport lies one the best spots in the US for plane spotting - perfect for aviation geeks of all ages! Planes pass by just 100-200ft above your head while landing and taking off, giving you a chance to get closer than most to the airport’s runway. Make a day of it by packing your own picnic (or grabbing takeout from a Fairfax County restaurant!).
Visit an Unexpected Slice of Nature
Take a trip to Theodore Roosevelt Island, an unexpectedly peaceful place within the bustling boundaries of Arlington. The island is a memorial to America’s 26th president and is part of the National Park Service. Experience free access to plenty of walking trails, ranger-led tours, opportunities for bird watching and wildlife exploration.
Enjoy the City Life
Looking for a slice of the city life instead? Arlington’s lively neighborhoods of Clarendon and Ballston might be for you! Clarendon is known for its nightlife and evening activities, with live music venues, craft breweries and shopping opportunities. Ballston boasts the Ballston Quarter - a shopping mall with globally inspired cuisine, shopping, and photo opps in Instagram Alley.
Hot Tip: If “photo opp” makes your ears perk up, be sure to also check out this list of the most Instagrammable places in Fairfax County.
With Fairfax County as your launching pad, there’s more to be discovered on a day trip to Arlington. Be sure to tag us in your adventures using #FXVA and @VisitFairfax.
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