For many, summer is the very best time to visit “the DMV” (shorthand for the District, Maryland and Virginia). Imagine sultry nights sipping drinks at chic rooftop bars, free outdoor concerts, sunset strolls, or boat rides on the Potomac. But it’s also a great time do some sightseeing, especially now that the days are longer and you can explore after work.
You may not know how amazing Arlington, Virginia is–so I’m here to tell you–put this exciting County on your must-visit list. I’ve listed seven top outdoor attractions (not in order of preference) that are fascinating to see and feature incredible views of the Washington D.C. skyline.
- Take a walk through Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Island’s cool forest. You’ll love the views of the Potomac River, Rossyln’s skyscrapers and the spires of Georgetown University as you follow the paved paths, natural surface trails and boardwalk over the wetlands. This nature sanctuary is the perfect place to relax and explore why this region is known as the City of Trees.
2. I’ve been obsessed with the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove since I first visited a few years ago. It’s a humble memorial to a president who had overseen the Civil Rights Act in 1968. His wife Lady Bird Johnson was dedicated to beautifying Washington D.C., so that’s why this oasis in the city is the perfect monument to them.
3. From the Columbia Island Marina parking lot, walk under the George Washington Memorial Parkway tunnel to the shoreline of the Potomac and the Mount Vernon Trail. Take in the impressive Navy and Merchant Marine Memorial with its scenic panoramas of Washington DC’s National Mall and access to the Mount Vernon Trail. (Near the marina is the Island Time Tiki Bar & Grill)
4. Arlington’s most notable attraction is Arlington National Cemetery, an iconic destination that fills hearts and minds with stories of bravery and sacrifice. The best way to explore is to board the interpretive trolley tour, which stops at Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s grave, the Kennedy Gravesites, the memorial to the Space Shuttle Challenger and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. See soldiers perform the Changing of the Guard, and visit Caisson Museum and Stables to meet the horses that serve in military funerals. Check the calendar to see when the Twilight Tattoo’s military and musical performances take place at Summerall Field at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
5. Stop at the Arlington House grounds (currently undergoing renovations) to learn about its history as a plantation, military base for the Union Army, before it became the cemetery it is today. The former owners—George Washington’s adopted son and his granddaughter who married Confederate General Robert E. Lee-built this historic home overlooking the Potomac River and National Mall. The property includes quarters where the people who were enslaved lived and worked before the Civil War. Arlington Cemetery grounds was also the home of the Freedman’s Village, a community established for freed Black Americans.
6. The most impressive statue in the DMV is probably the US Marine Corps War Memorial, a towering clutch of soldiers raising the American flag at the Battle of Iwo Jima. From this special vantage point, you’ll see three of Washington D.C.’s most famous buildings line up in perfect synchronicity– the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the US Capitol dome.
7. Equally majestic are the gleaming spires of the Air Force Memorial. The stunning, three-pronged structure symbolizes the jet contrails behind the Air Force Thunderbirds. The four bronze statues represent members of the Air Force Honor Guard.
Make a plan to drive around Arlington one day and see some of these stunning and unforgettable treasures. For up to date information about all these sites and more visit StayArlington.com
Freelance writer and photographer specializing in vivid, deeply reported stories about food, travel and family.