Things to do in Arlington, VA Arlington Cemetery
Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, VA

As I stroll into my day job in Arlington, I run into tourists every day.  Some on their hop-on/hop-off bus, some on bikes, some aimlessly wandering with their camera.  Sometimes, I too escape my windowless walls and explore the area, playing tourist. There are plenty of things to do in Arlington and most of them are free, which is perfect for a lunch escape or to see as much as you can visiting the city.

Things to do in Arlington, VA Arlington Cemetery
Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, VA

My picks for things to do in Arlington, VA

1. Tour the Pentagon:  Did you know you can tour one of the largest office buildings in the world?  As you tour the Pentagon, you’re taken into a world of United States Military History.  A dress-uniform clad service member takes you on a guided tour of many of the key spots of the Pentagon.  As many times as I have walked the corridors of this building, I have always been fascinated by all the small exhibitions lining the walls of the building from the history of the Air Force to a homage to women in the military. Tip: tours need to be booked in advance and make sure you have all the ID requirements needed. Click here more information.

Things to do in Arlington VA Pentagon Tour
Pentagon Tour Guides
Photo Courtesy of The Pentagon Website

2. The Arlington Cemetery:  One can easily spend a whole day at the Arlington Cemetery taking in all the history this landmark has to offer.  For some it’s about history, for others like myself, it’s a matter of paying respects to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.  If looking for a loved one, the Arlington Cemetery has made it easy via their app or their website.  If you are not capable to do the long walk (the area is quite large) there are trolley tours available at a small fee.

Things to do in Arlington VA Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

3. Mount Vernon Trail: One of my favorite things to do in Arlington is go for a run on the Mount Vernon Trail.  Whether it’s during my lunch break or on a Sunday morning, it’s such a beautiful trail along the Potomac with beautiful views of Washington, DC.  This 18-mile trail takes you from Theodore Roosevelt Island to Mount Vernon. There are several spots where you can park for free and it’s perfect whether you’re going for a short run, a long bike ride, or a stroll with the family. Tip: don’t miss Theodore Roosevelt Island.  It’s a hidden gem for nature lovers.

Things to do in Arlington heodore Roosevelt Island
View of Georgetown from Theodore Roosevelt Island

4. Pentagon City:  One of the things to do in Arlington while visiting, especially from outside the USA is shop! Although the Euro has taken a plunge, my European friends always add a day of shopping to their itinerary when visiting me. One of the places I recommend is Pentagon City Mall area.  It’s great to have all the variety without having to go deep into the suburbs. One of my go-to shopping spots in Nordstrom Rack, where I always manage to find great deals (to include my Tumi suitcase at 50% off).  There are plenty of options at the Pentagon City Fashion Centre and Pentagon Row shopping area to choose from.

Fyve Restaurant Lounge

5. Eat:  There are no shortages of great foodie spots in Arlington.  Although the city is quite small, there are plenty of options from haute cuisine to casual margaritas.  Take a break from shopping with a crab cobb salad at The Ritz Carlton Pentagon City Fyve Restaurant.  Take a virtual trip to Spain at Jose Andres’ Jaleo Crystal City.  Indulge in authentic Mexican cuisine and margaritas at Guajillo VA.  On a sunny day, sit on the patio of Lebanese Taverna (tip: order the chef’s platter).

Paella at Jaelo Crystal City
Paella at Jaelo Crystal City

6. Netherlands Carillon:  When people ask me where to take in the best views of Washington, DC, I send them across the Potomac to Arlington.  One of the most underrated spots in the city, you can take in epic views of the river and the National Monument from the Netherlands Carillon.  It’s also the perfect place to have a picnic early in the morning or at sunset.

Things to do in Arlington Netherlands Carillon
The fashionable ladies of SpicyCandyDC at a Picnic at the Netherlands Carillon
Photo by Julien Garman

7. Marine Corps War Memorial: Ok, I may be a little biased… But no trip to Arlington is complete without a visit to this iconic monument.  Steps away from the Netherlands Carillon, it also has an amazing view to DC.  The Marines Sunset Parade (free and no reservations necessary) will begin next Tuesday, May 26th and will run every Tuesday this summer until August 11th. For more information take a look at their website.  This sunset parade is highlighted by the artistry of the silent drill team needs to be on top of your things to do in Arlington, VA.

Things to do in Arlington Marine Memorial
Yours Truly at the Marine Corps War Memorial

If a trip to the Washington, DC area is on your agenda this summer, make sure you cross over the Potomac for military history, great selection of international restaurants, and great shopping deals.  Looking for a place to stay? Stay Arlington website has a great hotel guide to narrow down your choices.  What is your favorite thing to do in Arlington, VA? Share it with us below on the comments section! Any hidden gems to share with us?

  • I stumbled upon the USMC parade one summer. It is magnificent. Biking W&OD into Arlington from the west is great; Four Mile Run trail is fantastic. Ballston and Clarendon are sections of Arlington with more amazing food options (many Irish pubs!).

    • I haven’t biked in from the west, will need to try that soon! The parades are just spectacular. So much to do in this area.