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Top Arlington, Virginia Trip Planning Tips for Students & Kids

The capital region is an ideal place for an educational trip for your family or students.

There are hundreds of historic sites, cultural attractions, and enriching experiences in the area to keep your kids busy and learning. With so many choices for your capital visit, planning a successful school trip can be daunting, but don’t worry, we have you covered. Here are some tips for a successful trip to Arlington and D.C. area:

1. Plot an Arlington Course

Decide on your Arlington sightseeing stops to maximize your time. Here are some of the special experiences for students and kids at Arlington’s key sights that are sure to earn A+ reviews: 

Arlington National Cemetery

Visit and honor the gravesites of U.S. presidents and other famous Americans, discover Arlington's rich history, take in scenic grounds and ponder the stories of 400,000 servicemembers remembered here. Don’t miss stops like the Eternal Flame at the John F. Kennedy Gravesite, newly-reopened Arlington House, and the Tomb of the Unknowns. You can even arrange in advance for your group to lay a wreath at the Tomb and witness the Changing of the Guard. Students can also discover the diverse history of the United States through the cemetery's unique lens by participating in its educational program.

Faces of Iwo Jima
Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima)

Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima)

Look in awe at the 32-foot-high figures in this bronze monument modeled after the famous photo of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima during World War II. Score an Instagram-worthy photo of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol from this elevated site. While you’re there, check out the Netherlands Carillion bell tower, a gift expressing the gratitude of the Dutch people for American aid received during and after World War II.

Air Force Memorial

Located on a beautiful hillside vista, the Air Force Memorial honors the service and sacrifice of U.S. airmen with three stainless steel spires evoking an image of jet and space vehicle flight. From here, enjoy a panoramic vista of the Washington, D.C., skyline.

Air Force Memorial
Air Force Memorial via @loriepsteinphotography⁠ - IG

Theodore Roosevelt Island

Work out some energy between museums and memorials at this wooded island and nature sanctuary on the Potomac River connected to Arlington by a pedestrian bridge. Arrange for a National Park Service ranger-led tour of the island trails, a tribute to outdoorsman and naturalist Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th president. 

Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island via @saxtonti - IG

Gravelly Point Park

Pack a picnic and head to Gravelly Point Park. Located near Reagan National Airport, this wide-open space is a favorite spot for kids of all ages to watch the planes take off and land. You can also rent bikes at the Capital Bikeshare kiosk to ride along the Mount Vernon Trail. Everyone enjoys watching the boats pass by and seeing views of the Washington Monument. 

plane taking off near Arlington
Plane spotting at Gravelly Point via @sjf.photo - IG

2. Experience Surprise and Delight

Have an unplanned hour or two on your schedule? Drop into the DEA Museum, Fort C.F. Smith or Long Bridge Park, which offer unique experiences and situate you conveniently near your Arlington hotel.

The DEA Museum

Trace the steps of the war on drugs throughout history at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Museum. Students can come home with a special badge as a Junior Special Agent after exploring the history of illegal drugs in America. Admission is free, and the museum offers group tours for larger groups.

exhibit at DEA museum
DEA museum exhibit

Fort C.F. Smith

Take a self-guided walking tour of this Civil War-era fort. Interpretive signage explains how Union soldiers used this strategic location to defend Washington, DC between 1861 and 1865. See cannons and the earthwork fortifications used for protection from cannon fire. Hike the half-mile trail or enjoy a green spot for a picnic near the Ornamental Peace Garden with a large group.

Long Bridge Park

This spacious park located in Crystal City has two playgrounds – one for pre-school and another for school-age children – along with an interactive fog area. Take the kids for a walk along the esplanade overlooking the Potomac River to watch the airplanes and trains that pass by.  

Long Bridge Park in Arlington
Sherlock at Long Bridge Park via @goodboysherlock - IG

The Old Guard Caisson Platoon Tour

Experience the Old Guard Caisson Platoon tour in Fort Myer, where students can tour the stables, pet the horses and see up close how The Old Guard soldiers and horses train and prepare constantly for their solemn duty. The 45-minute tour includes the history of the caisson platoon and a walk-through of its daily schedule, making it the perfect mid-day stop for student groups.

3. Travel Like a Pro

The D.C. Metro area can be congested, and it’s sometimes difficult to find parking. That is why we recommend taking public transportation. Secure SmartTrip cards for your group in advance so you can easily and efficiently use the Metro or bus system. You can purchase them online or at kiosks in each station. If you are traveling by private bus, see Arlington County’s complete details on tour bus parking locations, hours and fees, plus printable maps highlighting spots in each neighborhood

4. Eat Smart

Feed picky kids effortlessly with the myriad of food options at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City where pre-paid vouchers are available for student groups of 10 or more. The Dining Dollars Program avoids the hassle of using cash, serves large groups quickly and efficiently, and offers one complimentary voucher for every 20 vouchers ordered. Choose from over 50 value meals from 16 eateries for $8.50. 

Fashion Centre at Pentagon City
Fashion Centre at Pentagon City

Check out all the Arlington Group Dining options and delicious places to feed your group at restaurants ranging from American pub fare to Asian fusion.

The new bright and airy food hall Assembly is located above the Rosslyn Metro Station, just steps from several Arlington hotels. Several cuisines are represented here, including items for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Order using your mobile device, and the food is delivered to the table. Assembly can accommodate large groups on its outdoor terrace and private event space. 

5. Make Connections

Need a photographer, transportation or other local services? Arlington has you covered with our local service providers

6. Let Us Help You

Reach out to ACVS Director of Sales Portia Conerly for assistance with every aspect of your group visit. Get brochures, itinerary suggestions, hotel RFPs, vendor suggestions and more. We look forward to working with you to welcome your family and school trips to Arlington!

Author: Renee Sklarew