Follow Me on Pinterest

Welcome

I'm Terri and I love to travel with my kids. We have a goal of visiting all 50 states. Learn more...
travel50stateswithkids.com
<a href="http://travel50stateswithkids.com" target="_blank"><img src="http://travel50stateswithkids.com/button.jpg" alt="travel50stateswithkids.com" width="125" height="125" /></a>

Virginia – Arlington National Cemetery

A visit to Arlington National Cemetery can be moving and memorable, if your kids are old enough to appreciate what they are seeing. Arlington is just one of over a hundred national cemeteries in the United States, but it is certainly the most well-known.

Arlington National Cemetery

I confess that before this trip, I was completely unaware of the ties of this piece of land to George Washington and Robert E. Lee. We had already learned during our visit to Mount Vernon earlier that day that George Washington had no biological children and had adopted the children from Martha Washington’s first marriage. Martha Washington’s grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, inherited the land where Arlington now sits in 1802.  He built Arlington House as the centerpiece of the plantation. In 1831, his only surviving child, Mary Anna Randolph Custis was wed to Robert E. Lee at Arlington House where they resided for over 30 years. During the Civil War, Lee resigned from the United States Army and his family vacated the property. Federal troops took over the property and turned it into a cemetery.

You can arrive at Arlington National Cemetery by either car or Metro. A Metro stop is conveniently located at the entrance to the cemetery. We drove there because we toured Arlington on the same day that we visited Mount Vernon and had driven there. A visitor’s parking lot is located near the entrance.  Once you arrive at the entrance, your first stop should be the Visitors Center. There you can pick up a map and plan what you want to see. There is a lot of walking involved in a visit to Arlington and if you are visiting late in the day, say, after spending a bunch of time walking around Mount Vernon, remember to choose wisely and save enough energy to get back to your car or the Metro Station.

First on our tour plan was the grave of William Howard Taft, the only person who was both President and Chief Justice of the United States. Taft was from Cincinnati, where we live. His childhood home is a National Historic Site that I wrote about in my book. It seemed fitting to also visit his final resting place.

Taft grave at Arlington

Next, we noticed that one of the streets of Arlington was named Weeks Avenue.  Our last name is Weeks, so we decided to visit “our” street. We came across the grave of John Wingate Weeks, who we discovered was in Congress, Senate, and served as Secretary of War.  As far as we know, we aren’t related, but it was nevertheless interesting.

Weeks grave

Here we are on Weeks Avenue.

Weeks Drive at Arlington

Not far from there was the gravesite of President Kennedy.

Kennedy Gravesite

 

JFK Grave at Arlington

Next we visited the tomb of the Civil War unknown dead.

Civil War Unknown Dead

From there we walked up to Arlington House.  It’s on top of the hill and was quite a hike after a long day of walking, but the view was amazing.

View from Arlington House

We rested for a few minutes on the steps of Arlington House.


Arlington House

Now comes the part we could have planned a bit better. One of the most interesting parts of a visit to Arlington National Cemetery is watching the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.  We should have been keeping a closer eye on the time because we arrived about halfway through the ceremony.  The changing of the guard occurs on the hour, and, during the summer, also on the half-hour.

Changing of the Guard

Tomb of the Unknowns

Fortunately, after the Changing of the Guard, there were two additional ceremonies in which flower wreaths were placed in front of the tomb.

Flower wreath ceremony at Arlington

My youngest daughter who was 9 years old at the time, found this to be the most (and probably only) interesting part of our visit to Arlington National Cemetery. She hadn’t learned enough American History yet to really appreciate the rest.

At this point, all of us were pretty tired and ready to head back, but my son said he wanted to see the Challenger and Columbia memorials, so we mustered a bit more energy and made it there. When my children show an interest in learning, I try hard not to interfere. Here’s the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial.

Challenger Memorial

And the Space Shuttle Columbia Memorial.

Columbia Memorial

They weren’t as big as I expected they would be.

We spent about two hours exploring Arlington, though you could certainly spend much more time there. But two hours was enough for us, and actually more than enough for my 9-year-old.  Respectful behavior is expected at all times and it can be hard for younger kids who want to run around to restrain themselves. For younger kids, I would recommend seeing the Changing of the Guard and keeping the visit to no more than an hour.

Because we had driven a car, after we left Arlington, we made a quick stop to see the nearby Pentagon Memorial and Iwo Jima Memorial.

Iwo Jima Memorial

 

Ready to Visit?

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, VA 22211
(877) 907-8585

Open 7 days a week, 365 days
April-September:  8 a.m.-7 p.m.
October-March:  8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Free admission
Parking costs $1.75/hour for the first three hours, and $2.50/hour thereafter

Bus Tours – recommended by one of my readers:
$8.75 Adults, $4.50 Children (3-11)

5 comments to Virginia – Arlington National Cemetery

  • carol

    Terri -

    Good info! My only comment is that riding the on/off bus is not just a way to save your feet. Yes, it may seem like the lazy way to visit, but you can always walk around as much as you want (my family walked one of the legs instead of riding). Also, the commentary provided by our tour guide was excellent. On the last leg he gave a wonderful thank you for visiting that had my kids listening about the sacrifice that each grave represented, and he even had me a little teary-eyed. It’s probably hit or miss on the tour guides, but ours sure made the fee for riding the bus worthwhile!

    • Terri Weeks

      Carol – Great feedback. Thanks! I can’t remember why we didn’t consider this option, but I was remiss in not mentioning it. I’m glad to hear that the tour guide was able to get your kids listening. I just added information about the bus tours to my post.

  • Heather

    My kids will never forget our visit to Arlington Cemetery! We walked around to all the popular places, and then decided to find the Victims of the Terrorist Attack on the Pentagon Memorial. Of course it doesn’t look that far away on the map, but we walked and walked forever, never seeing another person. We were wondering if we were going the right way, but finally found it in the middle of a field if smaller tombstones. I am going to take a guess and say that it is not a popular destination at Arlington! We also failed to find out when the cemetery closed, and by the time we got back to our car, it was the only one left! It was after 6:00 in March, and they must have closed at 5:00! Luckily, the parking attendant had stayed, and we were able to leave, but the kids will always remember almost being locked in the cemetery for the night!

    • Terri Weeks

      Oh my goodness! What a story. Being locked in the cemetery for the night would certainly be memorable, but not the kind of memories I aim for. Glad to hear the parking attendant waited for you.

  • Weeks Avenue! Love it! What incredible views.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>