Arlington, an urban county in Virginia, is situated across the Potomac River from Washington D.C – which makes it a hub for tourists from around the world to explore the capital of the United States. Yet, Arlington has a lot to offer itself and is often overseen. In this blog post, I will tell you the best things to do in Arlington VA (Virginia) – so you can get most out of your own stay in Arlington VA and not miss out on all the awesome places to visit in Arlington, Virginia.
While Washington D.C is naturally the most interesting city in the area, I highly recommend staying in Arlington VA to see it’s own interesting attractions – and even save some money for your accommodation.[toc]
*This article was created in a collaboration with Stay Arlington, which sponsored my trip. All opinions are my own!
**This article contains affiliate links. This means that I may receive a small commission from potential sells – this happens at no additional cost for you!
How to get to Arlington VA
Arlington VA is an easily reachable destination, and there are different ways to get to Arlington. Here are the options you have:
Getting to Arlington VA is probably easiest by plane, and you even have two options: The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (located in South Arlington) or the Dulles International Airport (15 miles away from Arlington). You can arrive in either airport, as both are connected with public transportation and taxis. I personally arrived in Dulles International Airport, from where I took a Uber to get into Arlington (it took around 35 minutes).
To find the best deals for your flights, I recommend using Skyscanner.
There are two bus companies, Vamoose Bus, and Tripper Bus, which connect New York City with Arlington VA. The bus stop is located nearby the Rosslyn Metro Station (which is a central area). Alternatively, there are Greyhound buses going to Washington D.C, from where you can take the Metro.
To reach Arlington VA by train, you can get out at the Union Station in Washington D.C (30 minutes Metro ride away) or the smaller Alexandria station, which is a bit closer. Trains are arriving from dozens of locations.
Arlington VA is well connected with the US highway system, which makes it super easy to get to Arlington VA by car.
Getting around in Arlington VA
To get around in Arlington VA, I highly recommend using the public transportation system, which is excellent. It includes 2 bus systems, public bike-sharing, and 4 Metrorail links. During my visit to Arlington VA, I’ve mainly used the Metro system, which is super easy, fast and reliable.
Other than that, you can, of course, use taxis or ride-share apps (Uber, Lyft) – or drive around with your own car. Please note that parking spots next to attractions can be limited, hence, I’d recommend using the public transportation system.
Things to do in Arlington VA
In every city, there is a cool area to hang out with friends, get good food or just do some shopping. That’s what Pentagon Row is for Arlington, Virginia! The Pentagon Row features upscale outdoor dining, shopping options and is also a residential center. The central plaza hosts concerts during the summer and even ice skating during winter.
Overall, it is just a cool place with a great vibe to hang out, meet friends or have some food. As the Pentagon Row is located nearby the Pentagon & Pentagon Memorial, I recommend combining these activities in Arlington VA.
Tip: Get some food at Lebanese Taverna, it’s super delicious!
National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial
The Pentagon Memorial is a National 9/11 Memorial to remember and honor those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, at the Pentagon. It is the first of three national 9/11 Memorials in the United States and honors victims who were both onboard Flight #77 and inside the Pentagon.
The Memorial itself has a free entrance and is a very sad and emotional place. That being said, I really liked how the Memorial was made, as it was beautiful and respectful at the same time.
Air Force Memorial
Another memorial, another one that has a free entrance. And in my opinion, the Air Force Memorial looks absolutely incredible and is for sure one of the best things to do in Arlington VA.
The Airforce Memorial honors the service of the men and women of the United States Air Force. The memorial consists of three huge spires that go into the sky, reaching heights of more than 130 meters. Additionally, there is some information about the pioneers of the Air Force which you can read.
Tip: If you want to take good pictures, the Air Force Memorial is a great subject!
Arlington National Cemetery
The Arlington National Cemetery is probably the most famous tourist attraction in Arlington, Virginia. These grounds honor those who served in the US military. It is one of the biggest and most prestigious Cemeteries in the entire country. It is also the place where JFK, former president of the United States, was buried.
The graves are combined with an impressive hilly landscape, which makes for special views. There is also some Memorials, parades and the Arlington House which you can see while visiting the Arlington National Cemetery.
Tip: Book a trolley bus tour when visiting the Cemetery, as it will make you visit all the important sites. The area is simply too big to explore it by walking.
Day trip to Washington D.C
When you are traveling to Arlington, Virginia, of course, you also have to see the capital of the United States: Washington D.C. Washington D.C is home to many attractions such as the White House, the Capitol, the Jefferson Memorial and many more.
I personally spent a bit more than half of a day exploring Washington D.C – and really enjoyed it.
Tip: Do a Big Bus Tour, which has several stops in Arlington VA, to explore the main attractions of Washington D.C. You can book your ticket online.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
What used to be overgrown farmland on Mason’s Island was turned into Theodore Roosevelt Island, which is a memorial to America’s 26th president Theodore Roosevelt. Today, visiting Theodore Roosevelt Island is one of the many fun things to do in Arlington, Virginia.
In addition to the actual memorial, which is located in a beautiful part of the island right after the entrance, there are also several miles of trails through the forest and relaxing nature. Spending some time on Theodore Roosevelt Island is definitely a good idea!
Tip: There is a Bike Share station next to the entrance, take a bike and drive to the Island. (Note, bikes are forbidden on the island itself)
Mount Vernon Trail
The Mount Vernon Trail is a 27 kilometers (17 miles) long path between Rosslyn (which is right next to Theodore Roosevelt Island!) and George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon. The trail offers fantastic views of the Potomac River and Washington D.C – and makes for a great experience.
I brought some food with me and rented one of the shared Bikes to do a small part of the trail, starting from Rosslyn. I really enjoyed the views, took some pictures and eventually had lunch next to the Potomac River, together with some wild ducks that were wandering around.
If you’re more adventurous you can also do the whole trail, which is mainly a separate path, with just some short parts on an actual street with traffic.
Tip: The trail leads you past the local airport, from where you can see planes taking off and land from close.
The Arlington loop is an alternative route which is mainly separated from vehicle traffic, except for some street crossings. It is a 16 miles circuit and you can do small parts of it by walking, biking or running. The Arlington loop leads through several neighborhoods in Arlington, Virginia and is a great addition to the Mount Vernon Trail.
Crystal City Art
The street art in Crystal City is one of the most Instagrammable places in Arlington, Virginia – and believe me, it is a super cool area! Once you leave the Crystal City metro station you can’t miss the various paintings and street art. If you’re around the area, simply walk around for some minutes and enjoy the cool atmosphere – visiting the Crystal City Art was one of the most surprising things to do in Arlington, VA for me. It is for sure one of the best things to see in Arlington VA.
Tip: When you leave the metro station, head left and afterward turn right. Under the bridge, you will see several pieces of street art on both sides of the road.
The View of D.C
Certainly one of the main things to do in Arlington VA is visiting The View of D.C, which offers some of the best, if not the best, views over the US capital. The View of D.C is a public observation deck and rises up to 390 feet, which makes it the tallest building in the Capital Beltway. The observation deck is not only home to fantastic views but also includes an outdoor terrace and several interactive displays, with which you can learn about the history of the area.
I recommend going there in the morning to avoid the visitors coming from Washington D.C – and definitely enjoy a drink or a little snack on the outdoor terrace if you have good weather!
Tip: Buy your ticket online to save some money!
Update: Currently the View of DC is unfortunately closed to the public and changed into a private venue. Please check the website (linked above) for the latest information.
Hotels in Arlington VA
When visiting Arlington, Virginia, there are plenty of great options for you to choose from. Here are some of my recommendations for the best hotels in Arlington VA:
- 4* Hyatt Centric Arlington: This 4-star hotel has a perfect location right next to the Rosslyn Metro Station and nearby some bus stops. It offers spacious and super comfy rooms, excellent breakfast, a gym, and a super friendly staff. I personally stayed here during my stay and absolutely enjoyed it.
- 5* The Ritz Carlton, Pentagon City: Great location in Pentagon City with indoor Metro access. This hotel is super luxurious and offers a gym, sauna and steam rooms.
- 3* Comfort Inn Pentagon: Great value, great location and amazing ratings from previous guests. This hotel also offers free shuttle buses to the nearby Metro station.
- 2* Americana Hotel, Arlington: Budget option with decent rooms, nearby a Metro station (600 meters) and free shuttle buses. For just a bit more than 100$ you can get a good deal here!
If none of these hotels is something for you, feel free to check out all the hotels available in Arlington VA right here.
Additionally, you can book Apartments and rooms starting from under 40$ on Airbnb throughout Arlington. Use my invitation link to get over 50$ off your first stay! Click here.
Best time to visit Arlington VA
With every location, one of the big questions is: When should I visit it? Here is a quick overview of the best times to visit Arlington, Virginia:
September – November: Fall (autumn) is probably the best season to visit Arlington VA, as the temperatures are usually pleasant. However, it could get hard to find a good deal for accommodation.
December – February: This is definitely the low season, with sometimes freezing temperatures. Bring good clothes and be prepared for it! A good thing about it: The hotel rates are the lowest and there will be less other tourists than in other seasons.
March – May: Another great season to visit Arlington VA is spring when temperatures are good and you could even experience the National Cherry Blossom Festival (mid to late March)
June – August: Busiest and hottest times of the year. The temperatures are generally high, combined with sticky humidity. I personally visited Arlington during this period (end of June) and still had a great time though. Like usually in the USA, most buildings offer AC and you won’t have a big problem. If you don’t like the heat, definitely avoid this period.
For some more impressions of Arlington, VA – check out the Youtube Video I made about the best things to do there:
I hope this blog post was helpful and you will enjoy your trip to Arlington, Virginia! If you have any questions or think I’ve missed something, please let me know in the comments down below. I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible!
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