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From military memorials and presidential sites to an array of eclectic museums, Arlington brings history vividly to life for visitors.
Arlington brims with historic sites and memorials that pay homage to our nation’s past and its sacrifice for democracy.
Three spots honor former presidents who left indelible marks on the country. With its miles of wooded trails, Theodore Roosevelt Island is a fitting tribute to the great conservationist and founder of the National Park System. The Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac, a tranquil retreat with riverside views of the National Mall in Washington, DC, recalls the president’s legacy of conservation and social justice. Marked by an eternal flame, the John F. Kennedy Gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery draws millions each year.
Eclectic monuments and sites honor military branches and service members. Overlooking the Pentagon, the soaring silver spires of the Air Force Memorial reach for the sky as an inspiring tribute to military aviators. The Marine Corps War Memorial, an iconic statue depicting the Battle of Iwo Jima in WWII, is dedicated to Marines’ bravery and sacrifice. Another sculpture, the Navy and Merchant Marine Memorial shows seven gulls over a wave to honor veterans of WWI.
A national shrine to those who served, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place of presidents, Supreme Court justices and military veterans, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At the cemetery’s entrance, the imposing Military Women’s Memorial recognizes women’s contributions to the service of our nation. Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial on the grounds of the cemetery, remembers Robert E. Lee for his role in promoting peace and reunion following the American Civil War.
Though not technically a military memorial, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial is located just outside the Pentagon, the seat of the nation’s military power. It commemorates the 184 people who lost their lives at the Pentagon and on American Airlines Flight 77 in the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001.
Several special-interest museums delve deep into fascinating aspects of Arlington history and other eclectic topics.
At the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, learn about the African American journey from slavery to freedom via exhibits, a monthly lecture series and an oral history program. Its fascinating model of Freedman’s Village depicts an African American community created on the grounds of Arlington Cemetery during the Civil War to provide housing and social services for emancipated formerly enslaved people.
Ring the bell for the Arlington Historical Museum in Rosslyn, a two-story brick structure built in 1891 as the Hume School. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s the oldest school building in Arlington and documents county history from Native Americans to 9/11, including a permanent exhibit on the Civil War with period memorabilia and artifacts.
Another property owned and operated by the Arlington Historical Society is the Ball-Sellers House. Built in the 1750s by farmer John Ball, it’s the oldest structure in Arlington County. Visit this Virginia State Historical Landmark, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, to see how 18th-century Virginians lived.
In Ballston, art lovers appreciate the Museum of Contemporary Arts Arlington, one of the largest non-federal venues for contemporary art in the Washington area with nine exhibition galleries, working studios for 12 artists and three classrooms.
Experience state-of-the-art interactive exhibits and displays at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Museum in Pentagon City, which tells the story of the science and history of drug misuse prevention.