By Carla Olivo, USMC Spouse
Here in Northern Virginia (NOVA) the list of “one in a lifetime” things to do seems endless. You could literally venture out every day and see and experience something totally new and unique! Here are 10 suggestions for creating some great memories in NOVA.
10 Amazing Things to Do in Nova
#1 Torpedo Factory
105 N Union St, Alexandria
You will find that there is usually a bit of history attached to many of the modern-day attractions around Northern Virginia. And the Torpedo Factory, located along the docks of the Potomac River in Alexandria, is a perfect example. This former torpedo plant was originally built during World War I as a munitions factory. Nearly 100 years old, the site is now where local artists showcase their work. There are 160 artisans in more than 80 studios and galleries. You can watch the artists create and add to your art collection by purchasing directly onsite.
#2 Arlington National Cemetery
The “Nation’s Cemetery” as its been called, is approximately 612 acres. More than 400,000 American service members, veterans, and their family members are buried here. Another popular attraction is the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Also, the grave of President John F. Kennedy is another must-see stop at the cemetery in NOVA. The Eternal Flame at President Kennedy’s grave, lit by Mrs. Kennedy on the day of the funeral, now burns from the center of a 5-foot circular flat granite stone located at the head of the President’s grave.
#3 Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens
3200 Mount Vernon Hwy, Mt. Vernon
Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens is one of NOVA’s more scenic tourist attractions and brings to life America’s first president and his family.
Located along the shores of the Potomac River, the colonial mansion’s interiors have been meticulously restored to their appearance in 1799. The standard mansion tour (included with admission) takes guests to the first and second floors. The premium mansion tour (available at an additional cost) includes the third floor. George Washington’s estate also features four separate gardens. You can visit his final resting place, where his wife, Martha, and other family members are also buried. Tributes at the tomb are held daily.
The Mount Vernon Inn features six dining rooms, a beautiful outdoor sunken garden, and fireplaces to enjoy a nice meal after your visit. There are many special programs and events for all ages scheduled at Mount Vernon throughout the year.
#4 The National Museum of the Marine Corps
18900 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Triangle
The National Capital Region has some of the best museums in the world. But to experience one of the more unique museums in the area, head south on I-95 to the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico. The state-of-the-art museum used actual marines cast in plaster to form the life-size statues that adorn the stunning lobby. Interactive technology and multi-media exhibits on US-involved wars from 1775 to the Gulf War are featured. You can experience the moments before landing on Iwo Jima and see the actual U.S. flag raised in Joe Rosenthal’s famous photo, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. Thousands of artifacts bring to life the values, mission, and culture of the Corps.
#5 The National Harbor
165 Waterfront St, National Harbor, MD
Convention site, date night, family fun, place you take out of town visitors – all are perfect for the National Harbor located across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on the Potomac River in Maryland.
The Capital Wheel offers a great view of the entire National Harbor and the Potomac River. The 180-foot tall observation wheel has 42 enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas that offer a comfortable, thrilling, yet safe ride. Tickets are $15 each. If you go the VIP route, you move to the front of the line and have a VIP Gondola with leather bucket seats and a glass floor to yourself. Tickets are $50 and include a photo package.
In addition, the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, Tanger Outlets, and MGM Casino at National Harbor are three “must sees” while visiting. Check the website for additional information about special events, concerts and outdoor movie nights. There are also quite a few restaurants and cafes to choose from for a bite to eat.
#6 Great Falls National Park
Great Falls National Park is the perfect place for an adventurous, outdoorsy Date Night or family activity. With 800 acres along the banks of the Potomac River in northern Fairfax County, this park offers whitewater kayaking and canoeing, fifteen miles of scenic hiking trails, (five of which are multi-use for horseback riding, hiking, and biking.) You can also experience rock climbing on the cliffs in Mather Gorge above the Potomac where the falls total 76 feet over a series of major cascades.
#7 Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum/Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy, Chantilly
The Northern Virginia location of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, near Dulles International Airport, features the massive space shuttle Discovery, the Lockheed SR-71 and various other aircraft, spacecraft and artifacts. Enjoy the IMAX theater, simulator activities and a variety of exhibits geared towards children. Check out the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Visitor’s Guide for more info.
#8 Wolf Trap
1551 Trap Rd, Vienna
The only national park dedicated to presenting the performing arts is in our backyard in NOVA. No matter what your age or taste in shows, you’ll find something you like onstage at Wolf Trap. From May through September, multiple amphitheaters in the park present performances such as musicals, dance, opera, jazz, and popular and country music. During the colder winter months, performances are scheduled at the Barns of Wolf Trap, two adjacent 18th-century barns refurbished and refined with superb acoustics and amenities.
#9 Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse
2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington
The Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse is a historic 1930’s Art Deco Theater that has been converted into a unique restaurant/theater. The restaurant menu features appetizers, salads, entrees, desserts and of course popcorn. A full-service bar includes beer, wine, and mixed drinks. The seating is large comfortable leather chairs. The schedule ranges from name comedy acts, movies and even karaoke nights!
#10 Skydome Restaurant
300 Army Navy Dr, Arlington
Finally, you can see Washington DC skyline from the Skydome Restaurant. This unique dining facility features a stunning view of downtown DC at every turn. Make memories 15 stories up as you spot monuments, dine from an award-winning eclectic and seasonal menu and sip delicious cocktails at the DC area’s only revolving rooftop restaurant.
Skydome validates the first two hours of self-parking at the DoubleTree Crystal City hotel garage.
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