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Arlington Travel Guide: 489 reviews and 1,176 photos

A surprising city

For a city that is supposed to be a big suburb to our nation?s capital, Arlington certainly made a dynamic impression on me. This city of over 100,000 residents is certainly not just another cliché suburban collection of subdivisions, shopping centers and fast food joints. Located right across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., Arlington is a ?major city? in its own right, with its own significant roles to play in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. I stayed in Arlington when I was thirteen while on a family trip to see the sights of Washington. Interestingly enough, while Washington?s unique status and attractions keep it in a class all by itself, Arlington has the right mix of big city qualities, designated green spaces, and signature attractions to hold its own against many other larger American cities.

Washington's "downtown"

While Washington restricts the height of buildings so that none can be built taller than the Capitol dome, Arlington has assumed the role of the more traditional high-rise downtown for the metropolitan area. Here, skyscrapers can be found primarily concentrated in two bustling business districts: Rosslyn and Crystal City. Rosslyn has the tallest buildings, which form an attractive modern skyline along the Potomac River, right across from Washington?s upscale Georgetown historic district. Crystal City is located in the southern part of Arlington, close to Reagan National Airport. Crystal City is also home to an upscale mall amid its forest of mid-rise office and hotel towers, which is visible from busy Interstate 395, the primary artery between Arlington and Central Washington.

Interesting places

Aside from its apparent business demeanor, Arlington actually boasts significant historical and recreational offerings as well. Perhaps it is most synonymous with Arlington National Cemetery, which sprawls out over hillsides, covering a major chunk of the city between Rosslyn and Crystal City. I did not visit, but from the highway could see many of the crosses that speckle the hills, marking where thousands of American heroes have been laid to rest. Across from the cemetery, in an area of riverfront parklands, stands the impressive Iwo Jima Memorial statue. We did stop over to see this depiction of American soldiers working together to victoriously plant the Stars and Stripes, as originally captured in a famous World War II photograph. I was surprised by the sheer size of the statue, which ranks as one of my favorite statues of all time. While standing in front of the statue, visitors can also see the Washington Monument and Capitol dome rising behind it from across the Potomac. It is definantly a cool stop to make.

Speaking of size, Arlington?s most famous building also happens to be one of the world?s largest ? at least in land area. While not a high-rise, the
Pentagon is a gargantuan, pentagon-shaped building taking up a whole lot of real estate near the Potomac, right off I-395. The Pentagon is, of course, the headquarters for the Department of Defense, and, tragically, was one of the targeted landmarks hit by terrorists on September 11, 2001. While I never went inside the building itself, my family did utilize its Metro (subway) station as our primary gateway to explore Washington.

For something a bit more unorthodox than the typical D.C. experience, my uncle and aunt (who live in nearby Alexandria), took us to
Gravelly Point Park, which is located close to the start of the landing strip at Reagan National Airport. Here, we sat on the grass while massive jumbo jets came screaming in for a landing right over our heads! The experience is comparable to the effect produced in U2?s ?Beautiful Day,? video, in which the band is shown on a runway with planes landing right above them.

Arlington is part of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area.

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  • Last visit to Arlington: Jan 1990
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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