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Visiting Arlington National Cemetery
Pay respects to thousands that have given their lives in the name of U.S. freedom
The Arlington National Cemetery is the country’s largest military cemetery and serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty military, veterans and their immediate family from the fronts of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as World Wars I and II, the Korean conflict, Vietnam, the Cold War and America’s Civil War.
The cemetery conducts between 27 and 30 funerals every weekday. The site is open to the public 365 days a year with free admission for those who wish to tour the site and pay their respects.
What to see
Arlington National Cemetery is the home of several well-known historic sites, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is a tribute to unidentified fallen soldiers who fought in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a large white sarcophagus that is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by Tomb Guard sentinels from the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment.
The Changing of the Guard ritual—an elaborate, somber ceremony where a sentinel seamlessly takes over guard duty for the previous sentinel—happens every hour from October 1-March 31 and every half hour from April 1-September 30.
The gravesite of President John F. Kennedy is also on view at Arlington National Cemetery. At his funeral on Nov. 25, 1963, Jacqueline and Robert Kennedy lit an eternal flame that remains alight today. Two of Kennedy’s children and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis are also buried alongside the president.
In addition to the Kennedy family, President William Howard Taft, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, world champion boxer Joe Louis, the seven Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts and the Tuskegee Airmen are also buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington House, the former residence of Robert E. Lee, sits on a hill overlooking the cemetery. Originally built to be a living memorial to George Washington, in 1864 the grounds were taken over by the federal government to serve as a burial site for Civil War soldiers. Over the years, the house was also used as a plantation estate and home to 63 slaves, a military headquarters and a community for emancipated slaves and a national cemetery. The preserved historic home is open for public tours daily.
On Memorial Day and Veterans Day, thousands of visitors attend remembrance services in the Memorial Amphitheater. These special services are often attended by the President or Vice President of the United States.
Getting to and touring Arlington National Cemetery
The easiest way to get to Arlington National Cemetery is by Metro via the direct Arlington Cemetery stop (Blue line). Metrobus routes also stop at the site and it is accessible by several major roadways including George Washington Parkway. Once you’ve arrived, start at the Welcome Center, which offers an overview of the site. Here you can also sign up for a bus tour that stops at various sites throughout the cemetery. The cemetery is built into a hill and requires extensive walking if you choose to skip the shuttle.
After exploring the Arlington National Cemetery, make sure to visit the monuments memorials on the National Mall.