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A Guide to the Historic Sites of Arlington

The motto for Arlington, Virginia, is “National History. Local Flavor.”

A visit to this community across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. will leave people feeling reverential and humbled.

Arlington has several monuments and other sites important to our nation’s history, including the awe-inspiring Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, and the Air Force Memorial.

As welcoming as Arlington is to out-of-town visitors, it’s also a wonderful place to get out and explore the area’s history beyond the monuments and memorials along the National Mall.

Most of Arlington’s historical sites honor the military.

It’s an easy trip for residents to get to Arlington, either by car or more conveniently, on the Washington Metro.

Many of these attractions can be seen in one day. Or, for the discerning visitor, they can be visited a number of times. A visitor to Arlington National Cemetery can spend a full day walking among the graves and memorials in a hallowed cemetery that is the final resting place for two presidents, including John F. Kennedy, and thousands of military personnel who died serving their country or earned the right to be buried there after serving their country.

These are the major historic sites of Arlington:

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery, which is just across the Arlington Memorial Bridge from the Lincoln Memorial is easy to access from Washington, DC as there is a Metro stop near the entrance to the cemetery as well as a large parking lot.

Visitors should stop in the Welcome Center for an orientation and a map to help guide them around the 640-acre site. There is an interpretive bus tour, but many people choose to walk through the grounds, which allows them to spend as much time as they want at various graves and memorials.

There’s much to see in Arlington, which is hilly and full of shade trees.

The grave of John F. Kennedy

Most visitors head straight to the grave of President John F. Kennedy, which is the most popular site in the cemetery. Kennedy is buried next to his wife, Jackie, and the eternal flame that she lit on Nov. 25, 1963, three days after he was assassinated, flickers day and night.

Kennedy’s brothers, senators Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy, are buried at the site. There is also a memorial marker for another of JFK's brothers, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., who died during World War II and whose body was never recovered.

Besides JFK, the only other president buried at Arlington is William Howard Taft, who died in 1930.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

A short walk from the JFK gravesite is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is perhaps the most somber site in a cemetery full of heroes. The white marble sarcophagus contains the remains of an unidentified World War I soldier and has been guarded around the clock since 1937.

One wall of the tomb includes the inscription, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

Visitors are left with a lasting memory when they witness the Changing of the Guard, an elaborate ceremony that takes place every hour from Oct. 1 through March 31, and every half hour from April 1 through Sept. 30. The only sounds are the orders from the relief commander to the guard going off duty and the guard coming on duty.

During each guard’s watch, he goes through a precise routine that includes taking 21 steps past the tomb, turning, and taking 21 steps the other way. The guard also performs a "shoulder-arms" movement to place his/her rifle on the shoulder closest to the visitors who watch in silence behind a barrier, signifying that the guard stands between the tomb and any possible threat.

Visitors come here for the solemn atmosphere and the spectacular view across the Potomac toward the National Mall.

Memorial Amphitheater

Memorial Amphitheater

Right next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the Memorial Amphitheater, an ornate structure used for special events, including Memorial Day ceremonies presided over by the current president.

Arlington House, the  Robert E. Lee Memorial

Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial, sits atop one of the highest parcels of land in Arlington National Cemetery and has a breathtaking view of Washington, D.C. The Greek revival-style mansion used to be called the Custis-Lee Mansion and was the home of Robert E. Lee, general of the Confederate Army.

There are many other memorials in Arlington National Cemetery where visitors can pay their respects, including the USS Maine Memorial, which includes the mast of the ship that towers over the graves of those killed when the ship was blown up in Havana Harbor, the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial, and the Battle of the Bulge Memorial.

The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial

This heart-rending memorial honors the 184 men and women who died when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the nearby Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. Visiting this memorial is a reverent experience. 

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial

Located north of Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial is a massive bronze sculpture modeled after the iconic photograph of Marines raising the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi during World War II. The memorial honors all Marines who have been killed in action since Nov. 10, 1775. It is dedicated to "the Marine dead of all wars and their comrades of other services who fell fighting beside them."

The U.S. Air Force Memorial

The U.S. Air Force Memorial is made up of three stainless steel spires that soar several hundred feet above the ground just south of Arlington National Cemetery. It honors current and past members of the U.S. Air Force.

Whether you live in the Arlington area, are just taking a short trip, or are scouting out this part of the country to see if you might want to buy a home here, make sure you reserve some time in your schedule to visit one of these historic sites. Decided you want to live in the area or need to sell so you can upsize to a larger home? If you are interested in buying or selling Capitol Hill real estate, let the Jeanne Phil Meg Team, represent you.

 

 

 

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