Arlington is perhaps best known for its National Cemetery, where the public can visit the graves of U.S. soldiers dating back to the Civil War. The town has lots more to offer than just its famous cemetery, though. Arlington is home to monuments honoring 9/11, the U.S. Marine Corps, the Air Force, and Women in Military Service, but it’s the small museums that really stand out. While Washington D.C. hosts massive monuments and spectacular museums like the Smithsonian, this town across the river offers many intimate, approachable attractions and U.S. historical sites.
Drug Enforcement Agency Museum
Did you know that the War on Drugs has its own museum? The DEA Museum is right across the parking lot from the Pentagon in a neighborhood loaded with hotels and other amenities. The museum houses lots of information and memorabilia related to both legal and illegal drug use and the law enforcement efforts against drug lords and dealers. The exhibits take you on a tour of U.S. drug history, from apothecaries of the mid-19th century to crack houses of the 1980s. You’ll learn about the history of heroin, cocaine, and other drugs and encounter some of the celebrities who have battled — and lost — their addictions.
Arlington Historical Museum
This small museum tells the history of the town of Arlington itself. The building is home to the Arlington Historical Society and houses several collections related to specific events and people of the town. For instance, the Wayne Hager collection remembers a gun battle between rival motorcycle gangs that took place in Arlington in the mid-1960s, and a sports card collection highlights the town’s athletes.
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
The Civil War was a difficult time in U.S. history, and the American people are still coming to terms with how to talk about figures like Lee who were prominent in the Confederacy. This national monument works around that situation by declaring that it honors Lee for his role after the Civil War in promoting reunion and peace. The National Parks Service is working with experts to ensure that the stories of those who lived in the slave’s quarters are told as accurately as the stories of those who lived in the mansion.
The Graves of Robert E. Lee’s Garden
The location that is now Arlington Cemetery once belonged to Robert E. Lee. When Lee resigned from the Army to lead the Confederate forces, the government seized his estate, eventually making it into a cemetery for fallen soldiers. After the war, the Union leaders were concerned that Lee would return to his property and remove the graves and memorials. It was decided that the best way to deter him from returning would be to bury more bodies closer to the house. The garden is much more interesting when you know the history of the graves that were placed there.
The museums and monuments of Arlington offer a unique opportunity to get up close to U.S. history. These small museums are well-suited for history buffs and students who want an intimate encounter with history.