Arlington is more than the National Cemetery, from the colonial and Civil War era downtown to the picturesque, unique neighborhoods that can be found across the county, it is a gem of the East Coast and worth every moment you spend shopping and eating your way through the town in between sightseeing.
Enjoy some of our favorite things to do in Arlington, VA and don’t forget to soak in the details as you explore; there is more history than you know.
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Things to do in Arlington, VA
From war memorials and public parks to outdoor sculptures, murals and restaurants, there are so many things to do in Arlington, VA that you may want to plan a weekend getaway to this Washington, D.C. suburb.
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia is probably most well-known nationwide as the home of the Pentagon (U.S. Department of Defense) and the hallowed grounds of the Arlington National Cemetery—over 600 acres of resting places for members of the armed forces beginning with the Civil War.
You can make a day trip out of a trek through the solemn but beautifully landscaped roads and trails of Arlington National Cemetery: making your way to the Marine Corps War Memorial, paying respects at the silent Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and discovering the headstones of many famous Americans.
While on this patriotic tour, don’t miss the majestic Air Force and Pentagon Memorials right across the street.
More memorials to check out
- Women In Military Service For America Memorial
- Iwo Jima Memorial
- Air Force Memorial
Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse
This historic theater is a unique place to see a movie in Arlington; second-run and classic films play in a single-screen cinema with real old-Hollywood vibes, while servers bring snacks, pitchers and movie-themed cocktails.
It’s also a popular live performance space, drawing in big-name comedians.
Black Heritage Museum of Arlington
This is not a physical museum, but an organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of Black people in what is today Arlington, VA, from 1619 to today.
Their thorough and fascinating display on the slaves who worked in the area can be viewed at Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee memorial at National Cemetery.
They also sponsor educational events all over the county that unveil the surprising history of Arlington; visitors are strongly encouraged to check what is going on with the BHMA while they are here.
A live performance venue with a local community feel, but professional-grade talent, this two-level theater puts on several main-stage shows and dozens of smaller programs and events each year; it’s always worth checking what is currently on the stage.
Signature is located in Shirlington Village, one of many quaint shopping areas in Arlington that are perfect for a lazy Sunday stroll.
Potomac Overlook Regional Park
One of the largest and most pristine wooded areas in the county, this park stretches over 70 acres and borders the Potomac River.
The park is home to a nature center that puts on popular educational programs for children and adults, birds and reptiles that are being rehabilitated, an outdoor venue for summer concerts, and several beautiful gardens nestled among the trees.
Active visitors can wander through the woods and hike down Donaldson Run to the Potomac’s peaceful shore, and just downstream is Windy Run, another popular hiking trail to the river.
A weekend in Clarendon
For visitors seeking the local nightlife, the stretch between Clarendon and Courthouse neighborhoods is definitely the place to go.
Several nightclubs have sprung up on a few downtown blocks between classy restaurants, mainstay neighborhood bars, and plenty of outdoor seating space.
The Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill is only one of many restaurants that offer special rooftop seating, with great views of D.C.
Several metro stops in the immediate vicinity make transportation a breeze, and in this busy hangout there are always rideshare cars only a few minutes away.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Sitting in the Potomac River between Arlington and Washington, DC, Roosevelt Island is one of the most picturesque spots in a very scenic area.
A number of hiking trails lead through a surprisingly dense wilderness, allowing you to stumble upon an impressive monument often overlooked by tourists who flock to the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.
From the shore of the island, enjoy perfect views of historic Georgetown and forested northern VA, as crew teams, ferries and fishing birds swoop by.
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Mount Vernon Trail
This popular jogging and walking trail winds its way along the Potomac from first President of the United States George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, into Alexandria, with a bird sanctuary providing great opportunities to view wildlife and idyllic scenes.
On a sunny day, it’s the perfect stretch of land to relax with a picnic, play some bocce ball or take a run with the dog.
Along this trail, an offbeat favorite spot for locals is Gravelly Point Park—because the grassy field sits just north of Ronald Reagan National Airport, airplanes will take off and land seemingly feet above your head.
Arlington Arts Center
Even the front lawn of this public art studio and gallery is usually the proud home of some interesting and unusual piece of art.
Inside, nine gallery spaces host a constantly rotating set of exhibitions with artists both from the area and from all over the world. Lectures and events surrounding the collections are common.
But why just appreciate art when you can make it? The Arts Center provides art classes to children and adults of every skill level.
This upscale mall with dozens of popular stores and restaurants is a must-stop spot for avid shoppers.
Pentagon City is an upscale mall with dozens of popular stores and restaurants, making it a must-stop spot for the shoppers in your group.
And just down the road, Crystal City provides a different fun shopping experience with a combination of outdoor strips, sprinkled with beautiful art installations and small park spaces, and an indoor system of shops connected by underground tunnels.
Anyone looking to complete the shopping trifecta should also head north to the newly renovated Ballston Quarter, an innovative mall concept with indoor and outdoor spaces and plenty of photo opportunities.
Downstairs, find an upscale take on a food court where you can sample beloved local chains and new start-up concept restaurants of every kind.
For those who seek out unusual local highlights, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s official museum and visitor’s center can’t be missed.
Once you get past the oddness of the small, niche museum, there is a lot of fascinating information to be gleaned from the displays on various substances, their histories in the US and their addictive effects.
And let’s be honest, where else are you going to get a set of leather DEA coasters, or a jacket patch featuring “Southwest Asian Heroin”?
This recreational area with plenty of parking runs along the W&OD trail through the heart of Arlington, and is an exercise and outdoor activities enthusiast’s dream, with lots of jogging and biking trails, and facilities for soccer, baseball, tennis, volleyball, basketball and disc golf.
The area also features a historic train junction, with a restored caboose and a train-themed playground.
Bon Air Park
Just across the road from Bluemont, Bon Air Park is also criss-crossed by the W & OD Trail, Old Dominion Trail, and Custis Trail, but it additionally features a large, gorgeous memorial rose garden with hundreds of rosebushes in every conceivable color and style.
During the summer months, it is a destination for serious nature photographers and selfie-seekers alike.
The park is maintained with a commitment to the protection of native plants, so the natural wooded areas by Four Mile Run are a perfect picture of Virginia wilderness.
Rosslyn public spaces
On the north side of Arlington, just across the river from Washington D.C., sits Rosslyn, a hub for businesses, government agencies and commercial shopping.
Past several cafés and casual bistros, you can find open spaces perfect for meeting up with friends or sitting with a good book.
Dark Star Park features large round sculptures with astronomic significance, while Freedom Park combines the concrete of an old overpass with intricate landscaping to form a charming little park above street level—and a popular spot for skating and parkour practice. I
f your plans include going to Washington D.C. for the day, a fun route is to begin in Rosslyn and walk across the historic Francis Scott Key Bridge, which gives you beautiful views of the river and Georgetown University before dropping you off right in another small urban park in the middle of Georgetown’s famous shopping district.
A long, long ride
The Washington, DC area Metro is a fun experience all around for tourists who don’t have subway systems back home, but while visiting Rosslyn you should definitely take a ride on the escalator down to the metro platform.
At 207 feet, it is often found on lists of the tallest escalators in the world.
It is actually the second-longest continuous elevator in the western hemisphere; the first is also in the DC Metro system, at the Wheaton stop in Maryland. But the Rosslyn tunnel has four escalators side-by-side, creating a vast cavern that visitors descend into.
It’s great exercise to jog up and down—if you don’t get vertigo easily.
Fort C.F. Smith
This is the site of a Union fort built in 1863 to defend the nation’s capital from Confederate forces—a great afternoon hike for any history buffs in your group.
Though the fort structure was torn down by succeeding owners as they built out farmland and planted exotic trees, the earthworks and gun emplacements built by Union soldiers are still visible.
Another major draw of the fort is the wildlife: fox, deer and rabbits are common, and birdwatchers know it as a favorite hangout for many types of colorful songbirds as well as owls.
Arlington Historical Museum
The Arlington Historical Museum is housed in a historic school and is dedicated to preserving the stories of the region and its people, from its founding to the present day.
Check the limited hours before visiting, but it is a great place to get lost in the long and storied history of Northern Virginia.
Their website also provides scavenger hunts for kids and teens visiting the area who want to challenge themselves to learn its unique history.
S. Eads Street @ 23rd Street S.
This single block of shops across the street from Crystal City probably has more personality and local color per square inch than anywhere else in Arlington.
Spend an afternoon shopping for vintage clothing, eclectic pawned goods or premium tobacco; lunch on American, Mexican, Thai, Indian, Italian or Irish cuisine; get your nails done or watch the game across the street at Crystal City Sports Pub; smoke some hookah; and if you’re bar-hopping, try not to miss the drag show bingo at Freddie’s Beach Bar!
Upton Hill Regional Park
A favorite with Arlington families, this park has all the woody trails, playgrounds and picnic areas of other local parks, plus much more.
Within the grounds sits Ocean Dunes Water Park, featuring slides and waterfalls, several pools, a miniature golf course and batting cages.
At $14.50 or less per person, this little neighborhood amusement park is a no-brainer if you have kids to entertain over the summer.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Many visitors to D.C. will arrive at “National,” as it is known to locals, by default, but it is still worth stopping to take a look around.
The historic building reflects its 1940s art deco design in floor-to-ceiling windows and the exceptional, eye-catching rippling-wave pattern of the glass roof.
With a Metro stop conveniently located just across the parking lot from Reagan Washington National Airport, cross-country travel is incredibly accessible to Arlingtonians.
The extensive Arlington Public Library system has eight locations, but Central is the largest building, where a number of community events take place every week.
If you are looking to learn about the area and its residents, and especially if you have kids, then you can’t do better than the library’s free classes and events, from story time and crafts to author visits and art exhibitions.
Central Library’s grounds feature a Center for Local History, a vast selection of books, comics and movies with a wide-ranging kids section, sports fields, and a community garden with public rental available for gardening and lawn care tools.
Arlington Farmers Markets
From spring to fall, nine separate farmers markets spring up weekly around Arlington: most on the weekends, but one each on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
You’ll find the areas bustling with people serious about their fresh food, as well as food trucks, musicians, community organizers, and families just out to have fun.
Vendors offer not only ripe and delicious produce from local farms, but bread and pastries, coffee, flowers and potted plants, organic meats, mushrooms, jams, arts and crafts, and much more.
Restaurants in Arlington, VA
- Bangkok 54, 2919 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204
- Busboys and Poets, 4251 Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA 22206
- Italian Store, 3123 Lee Hwy., Arlington, VA 22201
- Westover Market & Beer Garden, 5863 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22205
- AMBAR, 2901 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201
- Carlyle, 4000 Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA 22206
- The Celtic House, 2500 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204
- Pho 75, 1721 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22209
- The Broiler, 3601 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204
- Food Trucks: Large variety of dessert and pastry trucks in the area, along with East and Southeast Asian cuisine, Mediterranean, and halal.
- Bob & Edith’s Diner, 2310 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204
- Northside Social, 3211 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201
- Punchbowl Social, 4238 Wilson Blvd Ste 1180, Arlington, VA 22203
Grab our Favorite Arlington Hotels while in Virginia
- The Westin: Two top-rated Westin Hotels in Arlington—one in Ballston and one in Crystal City. Outstanding service
- Le Méridien: Gorgeousl views of the Potomac and Georgetown
- Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel: Popular Crystal City location with great business people amenities.
- Inns of Virginia Arlington: Quiet and comfortable, with friendly local staff
- Hyatt Place Arlington/Courthouse Plaza: Modern design in the center of town
- Homewood Suites by Hilton Arlington: Suites with underground parking available
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Find more Arlington vacation rentals and hotels in the map below.
Airbnb in Arlington, VA
Gorgeous 2 bedroom in Arlington: Easy and beautiful stay at this managed service apartment with gym access, laundry and fully outfitted kitchen.
Arlington Farm House: 100 year old renovated farm house with 3 bedrooms and 2 bath in the hot Penrose community of Arlington. Just 11 minutes to downtown.
1 BR in Pentagon City: Beautiful, well-appointed apartment for a couple or some friends to share, and the Pentagon City location can’t be beat. Metro will get you to DC, historic Alexandria or Arlington shopping in minutes.
Private studio guesthouse w/ patio: Cozy private guesthouse with its own patio on a wooded lot, thoroughly and artistically decorated, in a friendly and comfortable residential Arlington neighborhood. Great for feeling like you’re getting away from it all while still being only a few minutes from the city.
Renovated 1-bedroom Condo: Free parking plus one stoplight from Washington DC, the Pentagon, Clarendon, Crystal City and National Airport. There are larger apartments also available from this Superhost.
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