24 Hours in Pentagon City
- Early Start.
Fyve Restaurant Lounge, inside The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City, begins serving breakfast at 6:30 a.m., even on weekends. The name and décor of this sophisticated space draw inspiration from the nearby Pentagon, the five-sided headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense. The mouth-watering menu features contemporary American cuisine and changes seasonally, sourcing its bounty from Arlington-area farms.
- A Revered Final Resting Place.
As beautiful as it is somber, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 military veterans and their immediate family. Start at the welcome center to get an overview of the site and a map, and sign up for the bus tour that hits the major attractions like President John F. Kennedy gravesite and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
- Congressional Matters.
Head across the Potomac River into Washington, D.C., to the U.S. Capitol’s visitor center for a one-hour tour of the iconic domed building, the seat of the legislative branch of the federal government. Then walk through the underground tunnel to reach the Library of Congress (the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, dating to 1800) and wander the largest library on Earth.
- America’s Only da Vinci.
Walk a half mile down Pennsylvania Avenue to the National Gallery of Art, one of the largest museums on the continent and the home of the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas. There’s unfortunately not enough time to visit any of the Smithsonian museums that are also on the National Mall, but be sure to at least catch a glimpse of the Smithsonian Institution Building, a stunning castle built of Maryland red sandstone in 1855.
- Modern Lunch.
Eat at the casually elegant Pavilion Café in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden. After the seasonal soup of the day and gourmet salad, or perhaps a roasted turkey and brie sandwich, tour the 6-acre garden to take in the awe-inspiring works of modern sculpture.
- Two Great Leaders.
In the center of the National Mall, you’ll find the Washington Monument, standing at just over 555 feet high. The world’s tallest stone structure and obelisk honors George Washington, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first president of the United States. One mile across the mall to the west sits the Lincoln Memorial, a 19-foot tall statue of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, seated in a chair at the helm of a 200-foot-wide building marked by 36 enormous Doric columns. While there are many moving memorials, like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial between the two, Washington and Lincoln are the must-sees.
- The White House.
No visit to the nation’s capital is complete without stopping by to see the official residence and workplace of the president. Tours must be scheduled way in advance, through your congressional representative, but that doesn’t mean you can’t admire the exterior view, and note that the White House is the centerpiece of a national park, with its own set of gorgeous grounds and historic buildings.
- Shop Like a Diplomat.
Some of the best shopping in the U.S. can be found in Arlington’s Pentagon City neighborhood, in three adjacent retail centers: Pentagon Row, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and Pentagon Centre. With limited time, stick to the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, home to 170 world-class retailers in a spectacular multi-floor setting that’s also the site of The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City.
- Spanish Influence.
Arlington, of course, serves up all the classic fine-dining favorites, from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse to McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks. But for a more singular experience, book a table at Jaleo in the Crystal City neighborhood. Founded in the Washington, D.C., area in 1993, Jaleo (and Chef José Andrés) are credited with popularizing Spanish-style gourmet food and drink in the U.S. and making tapas a cherished word among foodies everywhere.
- World-Class Performing Art.
With one night in the D.C. area, the choice is clear: the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The 17-acre facility is the summa cum laude of performing arts in America, covering the full spectrum from ballet to Broadway musicals to opera, across six theaters. Check with the concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City for tickets and recommendations. Whatever you choose, be sure to step out onto the terrace overlooking the Potomac River for one last iconic view.