48 hours in Washington D.C. and Arlington Cemetery

first time visit to Arlington cemetery

48 hours in Washington D.C. and Arlington Cemetery

Quick Tips for 48 hours in Washington D.C. and Arlington Cemetery:

  • Come with an appetite because there is tasty food everywhere
  • Expect 2-3 hour, traffic delays if you are driving in and out of town
  • 2 days are not enough but it will get you started
  • To visit the White House, you must submit your request months before arrival (they have to scope you out).
  • Where comfy shoes because you will be doing lots of walking!

I was thrilled to visit to visit my nation’s capital for the first time. We were on a trip visiting family in Richmond, but planned to spend 48 hours in Washington D.C. and Arlington Cemetery for our 1 year wedding anniversary.

We booked an Airbnb in the Union Station neighborhood. It was a house shared by 3 guys, which basically meant I was spending my anniversary in a frat house. It could be worse, right?! Don’t be like us and find a nice hotel here! However, it was a prime location and a place to sleep because we would be exploring the sights, like madmen, over the next 48 hours. We caught the bus into downtown and decided to museum hop for Day 1.

The Washington Mall: monuments and museums

Day 1

1. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum -We found ourselves at the Holocaust museum for our first stop.  Remember, no photos allowed in this museum! What an incredible place. You are given an ID card as you enter. The ID is of an actual person who went through the Holocaust. At the end, you learn whether “your person” survived or perished. The museum takes you to the top floor first and you walk your way down to the ground level to finish. The elevator doors open to eerie photographs with timelines depicting Hitler’s progression into power and throughout his reign of terror.

As the timeline grows more morbid, you are shuttled across a pedestrian foot bridge and past jail cells. The Jews were not allowed to share a sidewalk with their fellow Germans because they were viewed as being unclean. We then crossed through an open train cart, representing our arrival into the concentration camp. These train carts were filled with Jews in unspeakable conditions. There was no fresh air, light, toilets, food, or water until they arrived at the death camp. I couldn’t help but feel like a prisoner secluded from society and being punished for being me.

The latter rooms resembled the camps. There were gas chamber “shower” rooms you walked through, graphic images depicting the camp’s conditions, tiny bunk rooms that housed triple the capacity of people, and horrific tools on display that were used for “science” experiments on the Jews.

Upon leaving, I learned my woman survived Auschwitz but her husband and newborn did not. Michael’s gentleman died in the gas chambers after being worked to the brink of death. It is difficult to put into words the somber mood, the random tears shed, and the weight this museum lays upon you. I can only urge you to go and feel it for yourself. Let us not allow history to repeat itself, in this horrific way, ever again!

2.National Museum of Natural History Honestly, I wanted to visit this museum just to see the dinosaur display. I am a huge dino nerd and I heard there may be a triceratops on display. Unfortunately, there were dinos on display because they were getting inspected and repaired. However, one of the dinosaur employees saw how interested I was in the restoration of the bones, she allowed me to gown up and enter the bone room! They had just received a shipment from Missouri, a T-rex, and her job was to inspect the bones and begin assembling it for display. I was in Heaven! As a child, I wanted to be a paleontologist. The museum was fascinating on so many levels! There were fossils from all species on display and the caveman exhibit was unparalleled. I had no idea there so many “levels” of homo- sapiens existed, but their development was incredible!

3.Washington Monument -You can’t visit D.C. without seeing the 555 ft marker. Businessmen and women picnic on their lunch breaks and tourists pose for their selfie sticks.

4.National World War II Memorial We approached the WWII monument and I was immediately filled with awe. A half circle wall encompasses a splash pad-like water feature. The wall is engraved with heroic sayings to jolt you into battle with confidence. If you go up a level, you will find 50 solid structures with plaques for each state. We found Alabama in honor of our home state. This was a beautiful space to just be and honor the sacrifices made to live in a free nation.

5.Lincoln MemorialWe took a museum break in favor of fresh air and the outdoors. We strolled along the plush landscape of the Washington Mall on our way to hang with Lincoln. We admire the joggers’ agility as they bounced past oblivious tourists. Lincoln is grand, sitting in his chair looking onward towards the future. You feel like a speck before him. His quotes are engraved into the 3 walls that surround him and you leave with a sense of determination.

6.Right Proper Brewing Company Shaw Brewpub and Kitchen– The skies darkened and the storm fell with fury. Although we hauled ass, we could not outrun this summer shower. We sprinted, soggily, across the Washington Mall back downtown. We sought refuge in a brewery, because where else would you find us?! We ordered some stouts and sat for a bit.

48 hours in Washington D.C. and Arlington Cemetery

7.ChinatownWe strolled through Chinatown as we munched on doughnuts. We made our way back to the bus stop as the restaurants began to close up shop.

48 hours in Washington D.C. and Arlington Cemetery

Day 2

8.National Air and Space Museum – Morning brought us to another museum. We decided to spend a few hours learning about flight. We loved it since we spend a lot of time in the air going to our next adventure. We hung out with the Wright brothers and revisited their sketches and failed innovations. We enjoyed the history of space flight and hot air balloons but all the fluttering around made us hungry.

9. Cuisine-We found ourselves at a French restaurant ordering duck confit and wine, like the fancy people we are. *sarcasm much? * This is what I loved about D.C. There are so many cultures fused together here that you could have an Italian breakfast, French lunch, and Japanese dinner.

Our first time visit to Arlington cemetery

10.Arlington Cemetery- I could not leave without paying my respects at our national cemetery. This cemetery buries military leaders, soldiers, and Presidents whether they have fallen in battle or died of old age. You could spend hours walking through the 624 acres of hollowed ground. There are roughly 400,000 individuals buried here.

I have never seen a more beautiful burial ground. There are bright green plots shaded beneath large oak trees, illuminated by the sun. The trees look proud to stand watch over our fallen heroes. We visited President Kennedy’s grave site along with his family and strolled through countless rows of tombstones. It was a larger scale of the American Cemetery in Normandy, France.

The most memorable experience for my first time visit to Arlington cemetery, was the guard Sentinel at the tomb of the unknown soldier. The young guard paces 21 steps back and forth on a black carpet while carrying his M-14 rifle. He pauses for 21 seconds at a time before continuing his next stepping sequence. Twenty-One represents the 21-gun salute provided at military funerals. He paces for 1 hour despite rain, sleet, snow, or shine. The guard is changed every hour on the hour. He is not permitted to speak to the admiring crowd nor take his mind off the duty set before him. He is of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, traditionally known as “The Old Guard,” serving our nation since 1784.

The requirements to be a Guard Sentinel:
  • The soldier must be in prime physical shape
  • Possess an unblemished military record
  • Stand between 5’10” and 6’4” tall
  • Pass a 2 week trial to determine the soldier’s capabilities
  • Memorize seven pages of Arlington National Cemetery history
  • Learn the grave locations of nearly 300 veterans.

Washington D.C. and Arlington, VA are beautiful places to visit and I am looking forward to our return trip. I later learned that my second cousin, Kandis Smith works at Little Red Fox Bakery in D.C. This place has won awards and Kandis’ creative abilities never cease to amaze me! I will be visiting next time and you should too! Hopefully this is a helpful guide to 48 hours in Washington D.C. and Arlington Cemetery.

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About Author

Maegan and Michael are Adventurous Southerners who share their world journey and approach to living the travel lifestyle. You can expect humor and lighthearted banter blended with REAL travel stories and tips. Maegan is a registered dietitian, while Michael has an excerise science background, but both are outdoor lovers, and revel in the beauty of cultures unlike their own. Now, Maegan and Michael are working towards expat life through remote work. Join the adventure. Do you love to travel? Does your full time job or career prevent you from living the life you dream of? This is the duo to follow. Feel free to contact us if you have questions.


  1. the food scene in DC is so underrated!! glad you enjoyed your visit, it’s near & dear to our hearts!
    the lazy travelers recently posted…in a new york minute // an instagram guide to nycMy Profile

  2. Kelly says:

    I love DC. So much to see, do and explores. I loved the spy musuem when I was there. So fun. Also love the food there. I feel like it was an enexpedted foodie capital, kind of like Baltimore. Thanks for an awesome post!

    1. Maegan says:

      I Know! I wish we could have stayed longer and created our own eating tour by foot! I wanted to see the spy museum but we ran out of time!

  3. […] He lives in a historic and charming town. We only had 2 days to enjoy with him before our stent to D.C. but he gave us the grand tour. We visited 3 or 4 breweries and had 1 of the best pizzas of our […]

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