If you’re seeking a weekend away, why not pack your bags and head to Arlington, Virginia? Located across the Potomac River and adjacent to Washington, D.C., this historic county is home to numerous national landmarks such as the Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial.
But Arlington is more than just a place of memorials and monuments. It’s also a vibrant community with plenty to see and do. This very walkable region boasts a thriving arts and culture scene, a variety of delicious dining options, and plenty of green space for outdoor activities. Plus, with its central location, Arlington is the perfect starting point for a multi-day exploration of the greater Washington, D.C., area.
Here’s how to make the most of your weekend in Arlington.
DAY 1: Experience History at Arlington’s Monuments and Memorials
There is no better way to kick off your weekend than with a dose of Southern hospitality. At Bayou Bakery, award-winning Chef David Guas serves up a collection of New Orleans-inspired sweet treats. From fluffy beignets to buttery biscuits and sticky pecan buns, these decadent pastries paired with a hot cup of coffee will charge you up for the day. Even better, the bakery is just minutes from the Arlington Farmers Market, which takes place year-round on Saturday mornings. You can browse a wide selection of seasonal fruits, vegetables and other goods from local suppliers.
After breakfast and the market, it’s time to grab an Uber for a short drive to The View of D.C., a unique observation deck that offers 360-degree views of the county. Be sure to have your camera ready for Instagram-worthy photo ops of the Pentagon, Arlington Cemetery and iconic D.C. monuments and memorials across the Potomac River.
Next, enjoy a scenic walk through the Rossyln and Fort Myer Heights neighborhoods to the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial. Standing as a reminder of the marines who have given their lives in defense of the United States, the memorial depicts the iconic photograph taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.
End the morning with outdoor adventures on Theodore Roosevelt Island. Adjacent to Arlington in D.C., the island was designed to mimic a natural forest in honor of America’s 26th president, an avid outdoorsman and conservationist. On the weekends, you can join a ranger for a tour of the island and trek miles of marsh and swampland on the boardwalk. Keep an eye out for native wildlife such as deer, foxes, and herons.
Lunch already? Why not take a short walk to Quarterdeck Restaurant, located in the charming Fort Myers Heights neighborhood? The establishment is easy to spot with its crab shack-style design that stands apart from the area’s modern aesthetic. Since 1979, Quarterdeck has served classic American and seafood dishes, with its claim to fame being its seasonal all-you-can-eat Maryland Blue Crab. Reservations are highly recommended due to the restaurant’s popularity, so call ahead.
Now that you’ve refueled, it’s time to tour the Arlington National Cemetery. With its rows of pristine, white tombstones, this iconic destination is the burial place for those who have lost their lives in battle dating back to before the Civil War. The grounds extend 639 acres and are home to historical sites such as the Arlington House, a Greek Revival-style mansion and memorial to Robert E. Lee, and Freedman’s Village, a settlement that once housed formerly enslaved people. In addition to exploring the cemetery on foot, an interpretive tour bus also runs every 30 minutes. This narrated tour stops at popular locations, from President John F. Kennedy’s gravesite to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Round out your afternoon at the Air Force Memorial. Its unique design features three stainless steel spires known as “Soaring to Glory” and an Air Force Honor Guard bronze sculpture – a tribute to the Air Force’s essential humanity. Don’t skip the Glass Contemplation Wall, which includes the names of fallen airmen inscribed on a granite surface.
Bonus Stop: The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Museum is just a short drive from the Air Force Memorial. Open Saturdays, the museum highlights the history of the war on drugs in the United States. Explore an innovative learning environment featuring stories, artifacts, and exhibits that provide fascinating insights into forensic science, asset forfeiture and drug use and prevention. Finally, take a moment to pay your respects at the Wall of Honor, a tribute to the DEA’s fallen heroes.
Begin the evening with a quick trip to The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. Honoring the victims of the September 11th attacks on The Pentagon, the memorial features a grove of benches inscribed with the victims’ names. After sundown, the benches illuminate in a breathtaking glow that brings a sense of peace.
The night continues with pre-dinner drinks at The Freshman, a popular hangout known for its chic, industrial atmosphere and creative cocktails. Sample unique flavor combinations such as the Cashmere Cardigan, a delicious blend of sparkling red sangria with notes of fall spices, or the Wise Old Sage, The Freshman’s version of a dark and stormy featuring a rye whiskey with a splash of espresso syrup.
After drinks, head to the Bowlero – a bowling alley, arcade, sports bar, and restaurant all under one roof. Whether you’re looking to score a strike or two, show off your dance moves in the arcade, or catch the game on one of their many TVs, Bowlero has got you covered. By now, you’ve worked up an appetite, and good grub is just a quick order away from the lanes—chow down on American classics like burgers, wings, fries and street tacos.
DAY 2: A Relaxed Day of Art, Culture and Shopping
Ready for round two? After a busy day sightseeing at Arlington’s memorials, monuments and historical sites, it’s time to dial things back for a relaxed day of art, entertainment and shopping.
Start the morning with coffee and pastries with a Pakistani twist at Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery in National Landing. One of five locations in the United States, the bakery is the passion project of baker Umbar Ahmad, the child of immigrants from Pakistan. The menu features unique sweets such as almond croissants dipped in rum syrup, pimento danish (a savory spin on a classic) and Baharat cookies featuring a blend of Middle Eastern spices such as cinnamon, cloves and coriander.
With breakfast checked off the list, it’s time to spend the morning on a self-guided tour of Arlington’s public art. The county is home to temporary and permanent exhibitions throughout the region, from Cupid’s Garden, an abstract sculpture representing cupid’s arrows, to the Corridor of Light, a three-stage art project that features unique light displays at the three major Arlington entryways. Two phases are complete – Gravity and Grace and Luminous Bodies.
Next stop – Pentagon City for brunch, history and an afternoon of retail therapy.
History comes to life at the Arlington Historical Museum, the oldest school building in Arlington. Take a self-guided tour of the historic schoolroom and exhibits featuring the history of Arlington Country, from the Indigenous Americans to the impacts of the attack on the Pentagon on September 11th. Learn about how African American experiences shaped Arlington’s history, the county’s participation in the Civil War and the U.S.S. Arlington.
Brunch and shopping are next on the list at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. Home to more than 140 stores and a selection of restaurants, this is the ultimate shopping destination in Arlington County. Begin with brunch for two at Matchbox, a trendy joint with indoor and outdoor seating that serves up delicious wood-fired pizzas and classic American fare. Choose between a variety of traditional brunch selections, from bottomless mimosas to pancakes, french toast and eggs. If you’re looking for other options to satisfy your food cravings, several restaurants nearby serve cuisine ranging from bistro-style sandwiches to Asian fusion.
Lunch done – it’s time for fun. Spend the rest of your afternoon exploring four stories of stores, from high-end boutiques to popular brands such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach, Macy’s, Apple and Nordstrom. Searching for the perfect pair of shoes? Head to Aldo. Need to elevate your wardrobe? Armani Exchange has you covered.
Your final night in Arlington is all about Ballston Quarter, an indoor/outdoor urban center featuring top-tier dining, entertainment and shopping. First, grab a bite at Quarter Market, a neighborhood food hall showcasing a diverse selection of cuisine, from South American to Korean.
After dinner, why not check out some entertainment? At Punch Bowl Social, you’ll find a three-floor fun factory that’s home to four bars, bowling, karaoke, ping-pong, wall scrabble, and arcade games. There are even weekly events, from trivia nights to drag queen bingo! Next, tap into your artistic side at Muse Paintbar, where you can sip wine and learn to paint with an expert art instructor. You bring the inspiration; they’ll provide the canvas. Finally, release your inner child at Immersive Gamebox, a new addition to Ballston Quarter that features a unique gaming experience through private, interactive game rooms. The game rooms provide an immersive experience that tests your skills and aptitude through touch screens, motion tracking and surround sound.
Goodbye, for now
It’s incredible how much you can see and do in 48 hours. However, many more adventures await, and this weekend was just a taste of all Arlington offers. From the scenic trails of Potomac Overlook Regional Park to the National Cherry Blossom Festival, where will your next trip take you?