No visit to DC is complete without a visit to the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery – even if it is in Virginia. Most visitors to the cemetery devote three hours or less – and this is really such a shame – because you could, and should, spend much more time. There is so much to see and experience on a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, that one could easily spend an entire week, and that would only be scratching the surface. Of course, we understand that time is limited, especially if you are visiting from far away. So, we’ve put together this easy to read guide to planing a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, so that you could make the most of your valuable time at this national shrine. You can click the links just below to bring you to any particular section of this overview page or just read it in one go.
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, VA 22211 (map)
It’s best to use the map and input your starting point. The map is already set to Arlington Cemetery as the ending point.
By Metro: The BLUE Line is the only METRO line servicing the cemetery. The station is called Arlington National Cemetery Station and the station is wheelchair accessible. The station is a 2 minute walk to the Visitor Center.
By Trolley and Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus: Several trolleys and hop-on, hop-off buses make stops at Arlington National Cemetery. Click here to compare the different options.
By Car: There is ample pay-for-parking at Arlington National Cemetery. Parking can be paid for inside of the Visitor Center with cash or with a credit card. You can also pay by credit card at the vehicle exits. Parking is available year round from 8 a.m. until one hour after the cemetery closes.
Personal vehicles and buses are prohibited from driving within the cemetery without prior consent.
A benefit of joining our guided walking tour is being able to ask the guide questions about the cemetery. We’ve compiled a list of a few of the most common on our Arlington National Cemetery FAQs page.
Visitor’s Center: At the Visitor’s Center, there are restrooms, free maps, and a small gift shop that sells books, commemorative items, and cold water. Food and chewing gum is strictly prohibited, and thus not sold. There are water fountains throughout the cemetery and a few restrooms, but it’s advisable to stop here first. Tickets for the trolley must be purchased at his building, and our walking tour begins just outside the front doors.
Photography: The cemetery is a beautiful place and you’re welcome to commemorate your visit with photographs and video. However, please remember that as moving as funeral ceremonies and processions are, they aren’t tourist attractions. Please refrain from photographing or videotaping these events.
Hours: The cemetery is open every day of the year. The cemetery has two distinct operating seasons, peak and off-peak.
Guided Walking Tours:
Of course, we feel our Arlington Cemetery Walking Tour is the best way to gain an appreciation of the depth and breadth of the cemetery.
By taking a guided walking tour, you have the opportunity to ask an experienced tour guide questions, something you will not be able to do with the trolley options. You can find out when our ANC Tour takes place by clicking the link above.
Self-Guided and Audio Tours:
The only authorized motorized tours in Arlington National Cemetery are operated by Old Town Trolley, run by Trusted Tours of America. These tours are particularly useful if you have mobility issues, as Arlington requires approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) of walking, half of which will be a slight uphill incline.
Prior to becoming a national shrine to America’s service men and women, the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery were part of the Custis Family holdings. Martha Washington, America’s first First Lady, was a Custis and passed this land on to her grandson George Washington Parke Custis. Immediately following the death of George Washington, his famous step-grandfather, went straight to work creating Arlington House as shrine in his memory as well as a home for the decedents. The image to the left shows the parlor of the house where Robert and Mary were wed.
One of these decedents was his daughter, Mary Custis, who would famously marry Robert E. Lee. The land would be confiscated by the U.S. Army and turned into a cemetery under the supervision of Montgomery Meigs, partially for spite, partially for practical reasons, as the Civil War raged on and created the need for new burial grounds for fallen soldiers and sailors.
Today, there are between 25-30 funerals Monday-Friday, and an average of 8 on Saturdays. Over 400,000 people are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
For a more detailed history of Arlington National Cemetery, see this post.
If you’re visiting ANC to find the grave of a loved one, our guides can assist you!
Gravesites or niches at Arlington National Cemetery can be located using ANC Explorer, an application available on mobile smart phones or online.
Launch the ANC Explorer in your browser or download a mobile app by clicking the link for your device. You may also call 877-907-8585 or visit the information desk in the Welcome Center for assistance in locating a gravesite or niche at Arlington.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides information on service members buried in VA National Cemeteries at http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/. The American Battle Monuments Commission provides information on service members buried in overseas cemeteries at http://www.abmc.gov.
Staff at the Visitor’s Center can also help guests find a grave.
There are two distinct types of funerals at ANC. The first is inurnments (cremations). All honorably discharged service men and woman are permitted to be inurned at one of the colloquiums at ANC. There are no other requirements. (Below is an image of part of a colloquiums)
Additional qualifiers are necessary for ground burial. In short, all service members who have died in combat or have retired from the military, received a purple heart or any of a number of medals of valor, or who make a career out of their service and qualify for retirement benefits from the military are automatically eligible for ground burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Additionally, all members of Congress, the Supreme Court, Cabinet Members and Presidents of the United States are automatically eligible for ground burial, regardless of length of service, as long as they were honorably discharged. Please read our full post on all burial and inurnment requirements at Arlington National Cemetery.
Markers are government issued, though family can request a personal self-funded larger headstone. You will see various emblems, both religious and military on both types. For more on this, see our guide to symbols and emblems on headstones.
Additionally, learn more about the Caisson Platoon here.
It happens every half hour in the summer and on the hour in the winter. While both ceremonies are the same, there are often wreath laying ceremonies on the hour. This is when a group participates in the laying of the wreath and a bugler plays Taps. It’s a very moving ceremony that happens regularly in the Spring. The rest of the year has a only a few a day and you can find out what time they are by visiting the kiosks in the Visitor Center and checking under that days events.
Learn more about the Tomb of the Unknowns:
Five years later his younger brother, Senator Robert Francis Kennedy, also assassinated, was laid to rest near his brother.
Finally, in 2009, the youngest bother, Senator Edward “Ted” Moore Kennedy was laid to rest next to his bothers.
ANC’s administration placed a grave marker for the oldest brother, Joseph Kennedy Jr., whose remains were never recovered.
Today, all four brothers lay in rest together. Learn more about the Kennedy brothers’ memorials here.
Learn more about explore Arlington National Cemetery off the beaten path with this post.
Accommodation: There are many hotels located in Arlington. These are some of our favorites.
Restaurants: The nearest neighborhoods are Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom. The following are our favorite restaurants in either neighborhood.