Situated directly across from D.C., Arlington is a major city with a different vibe and aesthetic than the District. The Potomac River acts as the boundary between D.C. and Arlington, providing scenic waterfronts for both cities; here’s how to spend a day across the river.
1. Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery | Courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery
This 624-acre military cemetery houses America’s veterans from the Civil War onwards. Its most notable features include The Tomb of The Unknown Solider and JFK’s eternal flame; the former holds bodies of the unidentified dead from America’s wars and is guarded 24/7 to guarantee their lives are always remembered, while the latter memorializes JFK at his grave site with a flame that is supposed to never go out. The flame has died a few times since its installation due to careless guests; one incident involved a child spilling holy water on the flame, extinguishing it.
Guided tours of the Pentagon can be reserved in advance. Explore the history within the walls of the eclectic five-sided building, with official military personnel guiding you the whole way through it. Make a stop at the Pentagon Memorial, a place that commemorates the lives lost in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.
Theodore Roosevelt Island is technically part of D.C. but is only accessible by car through the Virginia side. The nature preserve floats in the middle of the Potomac River, with D.C. on one bank and Arlington on the other. Offering three miles of hiking trails and a colossal memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, visitors will pass through varied environments: swamplands, forests and uplands.
This grand skating rink is host to the Capitals’ practices but also opens its doors to the public. With two NHL-sized locker rooms, a Capitals gift store and hockey classes, this is the prime destination for anyone trying to spend some time on the ice. You can also watch the Caps practice from the bleachers — for free!
This park’s proximity to Reagan National Airport makes it the perfect spot for aviation enthusiasts to gather. Watch planes ascend and descend overhead — so close that it can be a little unsettling! Located right on the Potomac River, Gravelly Point is a scenic spot for an adventurous picnic. The crisp, fresh air and sunlight create an ideal warm summer day.
Shop until you drop here — quite literally! This colossal, upscale mall includes four floors and hosts 170 retailers. From large department stores such as Macy’s and Nordstrom, to small, independent boutiques, Fashion Center has something for everyone.
The Trolley Pub scoots you around Clarendon from bar to bar. Powered by pedaling, the Trolley Pub is a unique addition to your night on the town. But remember — you need to pedal to get home (there is a contracted driver to direct the trolley though, so get as drunk as you want without losing motor skills). The bigger your group, the more people to pedal!
Three steel spires reach 270 feet in the air to commemorate the Thunderbirds squadron, known for its impressive aerial maneuvers. The pillars mimic the aerial patterns, which are usually performed by four planes; the missing pillar represents the missing man formation, performed at Air Force funerals. Located at a high elevation, enjoy sweeping views of Arlington National Cemetery and the Potomac River.