Visiting Arlington National Cemetery with Children
Arlington National Cemetery is a national shrine and performs up to 30 funeral services a day. As such, there rules for visitors to the cemetery, although these can be easily accommodated when visiting with children. The grounds encompass over 600 acres, with many sites of interest. While bus tours of the cemetery are available, when visiting Arlington National Cemetery with children, consider focusing your time on a few areas and allowing a reflective walk through the cemetery.
The cemetery is located on the Metro’s blue line, and if you’re looking for a place to stay, Capital Hilton is also on the blue line, providing easy access. It’s a relatively short walk from the Metro to the Visitors Center. There’s also a parking lot available; however, this fills quickly during the spring and summer months. Start at the Visitors Center to find exhibits that tell the history of Arlington National Cemetery and to get information about getting around. You can also download the iPhone or Android apps that provide maps and give directions to areas of interest or specific grave sites.
As you exit the Visitors Center, bear left to begin your walk up the hill to first visit President John F. Kennedy’s grave site and the Eternal Flame. Buried with President Kennedy is his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, and close by are the grave sites of Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy. This is a beautiful area of the cemetery, and the plaza at the site contains walls inscribed with quotes by Kennedy, which could be shared with your children to spark some conversations.
Continue walking up the hill to reach Arlington House. Arlington House is the former home of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It sits atop the hill where you have an amazing view of the city from this point. Self guided tours are available through the house and grounds, and children can earn a Junior Park Ranger badge by completing activities at the house.
From Arlington House, head south and follow signs to get to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. During the spring and summer months, you can view the Changing of the Guard here every half hour. This is a moving ceremony and location, and even children can generally appreciate the solemnity of the event.
There are several memorials in this area of the cemetery. Children may find the USS Maine Memorial particularly interesting, since it’s a memorial built around the actual mast from the vessel. From here, make your way back down the hill to the Visitors Center, letting your children set the pace.
While you won’t have seen nearly all of Arlington National Cemetery, you will have seen some of the major sites, and had a quiet, peaceful walk suitable to the solemnity of the cemetery.
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