Arlington: A Chic Alternative to D.C.By Brenda Kissko
Find your style of vacation in Arlington, Virginia
Arlington, Virginia, is just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., and has become a popular alternative for travelers looking for hip neighborhoods, local shopping, and affordable accommodations near our nation’s capital. According to the local convention and visitors bureau, Arlington hotels offer rates averaging 20 percent lower than downtown D.C. hotels. Travelers choose Arlington for its fusion of eclectic dining, walkable neighborhoods, enticing boutiques, and its proximity to national monuments, nature trails, and Arlington National Cemetery.
Explore stylish Arlington neighborhoods
Arlington neighborhoods have big personality doused in local flavor. If you seek out exciting nightlife, craft cocktails, local brews, and farm-to-table bites, head to Clarendon, central to it all. Whether you’re craving Spanish (try the duck paella with a pitcher of Roja sangria at Pamplona), Balkan (try the meat pie and lamb lasagna at Ambar), or American (try the shrimp and grits with house-made andouille sausage and poached egg at Green Pig Bistro), you’ll be more than satisfied with your options in this energetic neighborhood.
If poetry slams, indie films, and live theater are your jam, check out the Shirlington neighborhood. Choose from just about any type of restaurant you can dream of along the European-style promenade at The Village at Shrilington. Enjoy an avocado panini and Blueberry Bliss tea latte at Busboys and Poets’ open mic night—come early to peruse the bookshelves. At the Tony Award®-winning Signature Theatre, you can watch art-house productions, classic movies, live jazz, documentaries with discussions, musicals, and more.
The Columbia Pike neighborhood is close to Arlington National Cemetery and hosts movie nights under the stars from June through August, and a fabulous farmers market year-round. Every June, this is the place to be when blues idols and fans from across the country converge for the Columbia Pike Blues Festival.
Other annual events in Arlington to check out include Taste of Arlington (May), Armed Forces Cycling Classic (June), Rosslyn Jazz Festival (September), and National Veterans Day Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery (November).
While these are great excuses to plan a timely trip to Arlington, there are countless experiences available any time of the year.
Tour top Arlington attractions
Arlington National Cemetery
Step foot on one of the most hallowed grounds in the country—Arlington National Cemetery. White marble headstones trace lines over the rolling hills, representing more than 400,000 service members and their families. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s wife owned the property before it was occupied by US troops at the onset of the Civil War and was quickly converted from a plantation to a national cemetery. The first military burials here occurred in 1864. There’s nothing quite like seeing Arlington National Cemetery in person. As you walk along beside row upon row—if it’s evening, the sun will be casting deep shadows on a day nearly spent—and you can’t help but to be filled with gratitude and reverence for these courageous warriors who put country before self.
Give your feet a rest and take a guided tour with Arlington National Cemetery Tours, Inc. Your knowledgeable guide will drive you to highlights such as the John F. Kennedy Gravesite and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where you can watch the changing of the guard.
The Pentagon is another attraction unique to Arlington. You might not be aware that the headquarters for the Department of Defense—the largest low-rise office building in the world—is open for public tours. Book your tour of the Pentagon between 14 and 90 days in advance. Your guide will take you on about a mile-and-a-half walk (lasting about 60 minutes) through the building to learn about the Department of Defense and the four branches of our military. Tour groups are often taken to the indoor memorial near the 9/11 crash site. This is one stop worth planning ahead for the chance to visit.
There are several national memorials in Arlington to see while you’re in town. After you tour the Pentagon, head to The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial and take the narrative audio tour as you wander through the park. You can’t miss the impressive U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, the world’s largest bronze statue, once you’ve crossed the Potomac River on the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge from Washington, D.C., to Arlington, Virginia. Honor service men and women at the Air Force Memorial that jets up high into the sky—a favorite spot for photographs as well.
The great outdoors
President Theodore Roosevelt worked to conserve our land, and you can honor that legacy at Theodore Roosevelt Island, an 88.5-acre island in the Potomac River between Arlington and D.C. Hike the Woods, Upland, and Swamp trails, and visit Memorial Plaza as a gentle breeze brushes over the island and birds sing from the trees. Grab the birding checklist and keep your eyes peeled for orioles, finches, and warblers as you take in the natural world around you. Pack a picnic to enjoy on this little oasis between two major cities. And if you find it hard to leave the great outdoors, head out on the Mount Vernon Trail, 18 miles of multi-use trail that connects Theodore Roosevelt Island with George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate.
Drive the George Washington Memorial Parkway along the Potomac River for breathtaking views and stunning foliage as you leave the island to head to your next relaxing retreat—Potomac Overlook Regional Park. Not only does this park have a hiking trail and live music on the second Saturday during summer months, but you can also jump on the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail from here.
Of course, you’ll want to pop over to D.C. to see the many locales significant to America. Walk the National Mall to see icons like the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, the US Capitol, the White House, Smithsonian Institute museums, National Gallery of Art, National Air and Space Museum, and the United States Holocaust Museum.
Don’t miss out on a trip to Arlington, where you’re surrounded by culture, great food, and our nation’s history.