In 1868, General John A. Logan, the Commander-In-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, designated May 30th as Decoration Day, a time to mourn and decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers. The date, which has since been changed to the last Monday in May, was chosen because it is an optimal time for flowers to be in bloom. The holiday is now known as Memorial Day.
The Memorial Day holiday weekend is a great time for a road trip—the late spring weather is mild and comfortable in most parts of the U.S., and it’s the official kickoff of the summer season. If you’d like to take a trip in the spirit of the holiday, Arlington, Virginia is a fitting destination. Its national historic attractions make it a great place to honor those who died in military service, and the city has plenty of local charm and culture to boot.
Located directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., the city of Arlington is best known for the famous Arlington National Cemetery, a 624-acre military burial site established during the Civil War. The cemetery was the location of the first Decoration Day National Observance, and the tradition of gathering there on Memorial Day lives on: Arlington National Cemetery historians guide an annual tour that explores the origins of the holiday.
Arlington is also home to the famous Marine Corps War Memorial, the largest cast bronze statue in the world. It is located near the Arlington National Cemetery at Arlington Ridge Park, and it is based on the 1945 photograph of six servicemen raising an American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Sculptor Felix de Weldon dedicated the statue to all Marines who have given their lives in defense of the United States since 1775.
The United States Air Force Memorial, located on the grounds of Fort Myer, honors the service and sacrifice of America’s Airmen. The memorial designed by architect James Ingo Freed hosts a number of Memorial Day events, including music celebrations and a wreath-laying ceremony.
In 2008, Arlington welcomed yet another memorial site: the Pentagon Memorial, which honors the 184 people who died as victims in the building and on American Airlines Flight 77 during the September 11th attacks.
Outside of Arlington’s historical attractions, the city also boasts top-notch dining and shopping options along with a thriving local arts and entertainment scene. According to StayArlington, the city hosts more than 1,500 art events each year, and it's home to over 55 arts organizations. Between the plentiful local culture and famous historical attractions, it's safe to say that Arlington is the perfect place to spend Memorial Day weekend.