Arlington National Cemetery
For many, the most sobering experience of their Washington is gazing across the seemingly endless rows of small, white headstones, all marked with U.S. flags. Here, in the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, the graves of veterans from America’s wars, past and present, are lined up in military precision.
Located directly across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial, the Arlington National Cemetery hosts around 30 funerals a day, five days a week. More than 400,000 service women and men are buried here in 70 different sections. A somber, peaceful atmosphere pervades the immaculately maintained 624-acre (252-hectare) grounds.
Unless you know exactly where you’re going, make the Visitor Center your first stop. Here you’ll find maps, guides, and have the chance to take one of the interpretive shuttle bus tours that run from the center to Arlington House, the highest point of the cemetery, which offers rewarding views across Washington. Nearby, you’ll find a monument dedicated to the unknown soldiers who died during the Civil War.
Take a moment to reflect at the cemetery’s other popular memorials. The gravesite of John Fitzgerald Kennedy — marked with an eternal flame — and his wife Jacqueline are two of the most visited graves. Other popular sites are the September 11 Memorials, the Lockerbie Cairn and the Pentagon Group Burial Marker, and Section 46, where the seven astronauts from the ill-fated space shuttle Challenger are memorialized.
Many American heroes who didn’t serve in the military are honored with a burial at Arlington, including heavyweight boxer Joe Louis, novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart and inventor George Westinghouse. Behind Arlington House you’ll find the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater, which hosts state funerals and Memorial Day Services.
The Arlington National Cemetery is open to visitors every day of the year. It is just over two miles (three kilometers) from downtown, over the Arlington Memorial Bridge. It is an easy trip by bus. Alternatively, you can walk across the bridge, which is immediately adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial. The cemetery grounds are extensive though, so some prefer to have a car to get around once there.