Everywhere around the Cemetery you will see posted signs reminding you that this is a cemetery and you are expected to conduct yourself respectfully.
When you are witnessing the Changing of the Guard, the commander addresses the crowd asking for silence and due respect during the ceremony. You are also reminded not to put any part of your body in front of the railing.
If this request is not respected the sentinel will turn to the crowd. His voice will be loud and not pleased. He will say something like "it is requested that silence be observed" and go back to walking his post. But it is done swiftly and certainly. They expect that their request will be honored.
I have never seen sentinel's request be ignored in the times I've visited the Cemetery. I would imagine that continued problems would cause a uniformed staff member to come and ask you to escort you away. They take these things very seriously, don't even think of messing with them!
Headquarters of the Department of Defense, the Pentagon is one of the world's largest office buildings. It is twice the size of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, and has three times the floor space of the Empire State Building in New York. The National Capitol could fit into any one of the five wedge-shaped sections. There are very few people throughout the United States who do not have some knowledge of the Pentagon. Many have followed news stories emanating from the defense establishment housed in this building. However, relatively few people have had the opportunity to visit.
The Pentagon is virtually a city in itself. Approximately 23,000 employees, both military and civilian, contribute to the planning and execution of the defense of the USA. These people arrive daily from Washington, D.C. and its suburbs over approximately 30 miles of access highways, including express bus lanes and one of the newest subway systems in our country. They ride past 200 acres of lawn to park approximately 8,770 cars in 16 parking lots; climb 131 stairways or ride 19 escalators to reach offices that occupy 3,705,793 square feet. While in the building, they tell time by 4,200 clocks, drink from 691 water fountains, utilize 284 rest rooms, consume 4,500 cups of coffee, 1,700 pints of milk and 6,800 soft drinks prepared or served by a restaurant staff of 230 persons and dispensed in 1 dining room, 2 cafeterias, 6 snack bars, and an outdoor snack bar. The restaurant service is a privately run civilian operation under contract to the Pentagon.
So there you have some facts about the Pentagon. I didn't actually get there because I wasn't able to figure out the tours, I beleive there were none at the time of my visit, someone recommended I could still visit and explore the grounds. I would encourage you to check out the tours ahead of time on their web site.
No, you won't get e-Coli or anything like that if you do drink it, but if you are tempted by all that water and the ice bucket, don't mess with it. See, hotels like the Sheraton lay stuff like that out for you and some don't have a sign up warning of the price and they charge treble what you pay for similar bottled water at the nearest Wal-Mart. So, beware, they'll thoroughly pluck you if you fall for their little game.
This is not unique to just Arlington, Alexandria, and the close-in suburbs. No matter how hard the highway department tries to build roads to accommodate newcomers, the roads almost straightaway become obsolete. This is true from Leesburg (Loudoun County) to Stafford County. Traffic was bad when I attended university near here 1987-1991, but, if anything, it's got worse. Even going a compatatively short distance, it's best to plan on double or treble the amount of time you think it would take under normal circumstances. Because I was caught up in this traffic jam, I missed my train (the last one) home. We basically were stopped or were moving at a Matchbox car's pace from Sully Road (Route 28 near Dulles) to Seven Corners at the Arlington County line (some of y'all might remember that's where the D.C. area sniper fatally struck in 2002).
We took many different cabs from different companies and didn't have a big problem until the "sexy oriental taxi cab lady driver" drove us back to the airport. For all the cab drives we took, there were usually 3 of us and we were only ever charged one charge just say $10 to get from point A to point B even though there were three of us in the car. Well, upon leaving Arlington and heading to the airport we were picked up by this oriental taxi cab lady driver and she drove us to the airport flirting with my dad and his friend the whole way there. My dad and his friend were dropped off together at their airlines and she took me up a little further to drop me off at mine. She started mentioning that the ride would be $9 each. I said "that is not what you said from the beginning, nor is that what we have been charged (per person) the entire time we've been in D.C." When I got out of the cab she could see I was a bit aggrivated and I knew she was trying to rip me off, so she says "Oh don't be mad, be happy, I will let you only pay $18", I just said "Whatever lady" and gave her the money as I did not want to make a scene and did not care to deal with the woman anymore.
Just a word to the wise, when you get in the taxi, ask them what they charge and if it is PER PERSON or just for the ride itself.
There was ban on jogging in huge, green space of the Arlington National Cemetery. Hmm... I saw some folks jogging along side street at Crystal City. Not the best area...
BICYCLE AT THE ARLINGTON CEMETERY
As for riding a bicycle, I saw a sign (no riding bicycle) at the entry to the cemetery from Memorial Drive. So, I was surprised when I notice someone riding a bicycle far from me at the cemetery. I got to know that bicyclists can only enter the Cemetery from Fort Meyer and must go through security check there. More: they are allowed to ride only specially designated for them route. And keep in mind that you must wear a helmet and have a picture ID to ride a bicycle in Arlington county!
There is ban on smoking:
- in fenced, huge area of the Arlington National Cemetery,
- in all metro stations including those located outdoors,
- in all restaurants, I visited,
- inside all hotels I stayed except in designated areas (smoking rooms available in limited number)
- generally inside all public building unless otherwise stated.
It's not a paradise for smoking folks like me although I can easily understand it and not so easily follow the ban. At Arlington National Cemetery (a few hours needed) it was not that simple. Well, thanks to the ban I could talk to the other smokers, for example to one young lady in front of Jaleo restaurant. She had never talked to anyone from Poland before :-).
This information on rates, on the picture, was hung on the door of my room in Days Inn Arlington motel. Do NOT take it seriously. It announced that our room for two cost $125 whereas I paid $82.69.
Did they put maximum prices allowed for this category of accommodation? I don't know, but I noticed similarily high prices announced in similar way in some other motels as well, and in some other countries, I visited, too.
From my friend Kristi (Dabs) from Chicago, Illinois:
American hotels (and probably other countries as well) have something called a rack rate which is what you saw posted on the door. It's very rare that anyone actually pays this rate although I suppose it's possible if it was a very busy time of the year.
Why do they do this? Not exactly sure but likely so that a) people think they are getting a great deal when they pay less than that or b) so they can charge that rate when demand is high.
Thank you Kristi.
I enjoyed great views over Washington, DC from the top of Sheraton National hotel during two partly sunny, partly cloudy days in Arlington, in the middle of October.
I did expect great views from the hills of the Arlington National Cemetery which is closer to Washington, DC than the Sheraton hotel. Hmm... I was a little bit dissapointed at this matter. Morning, or better to say before midday fog covered Washington, DC. Well, my pictures were somewhat more secret that day :-). Follow the link below to check weather (10-day forecast) for Arlington.
The Arlington National Cemetery is partly located on quiet steep hills. There are outstanding views over the Potomac River and Washington, DC from the top and the hillsides.
While walking down and amazing the views watch your steps not to fall down, especially when your path is wet/icy. The asphalted paths have stairs down from time to time. Well, these stairs on my pictures were very well signed. They were located at most popular itinerary to/from gravesites of Kennedy family. But keep in mind that more off the beaten path stairs are not so well signed.
Well, the emergency health services are of high quality but... very expensive. I bought quite good (= expensive) health insurance for any emergencies in the USA.
I saw quite many signs which reminded me and other visitors that the Arlington National Cemetery is not a picnic area nor a playground but hallowed ground and active cemetery.
So, remember not to drink, eat or smoke except on designated areas. And remember (especially if you are a coffee lover and a last minute guy) that restrooms (toilets, WC) are located exclusively at the Visitor Center, the Custis-Lee Manion (just above the John F. Kennedy gravesite) and at the Memorial Amphitheater. You are warned!
If you are going to look for any specific gravesite at the Arlington National Cemetery you must know the surname and, especially in case of, say, Mrs/Mr Smith, Brown or Davis, the first name. Futher: there are only signs with number of sections (on my picture) put around the cemetery. Keep in mind that each square section contains many graversites, thus, at first, it may take long time to find the gravesite you are looking for. More: free brochure available in Visitors Inforrmation Center include a map with square sections but not numbered.
AT THE CEMETERY
My recommendation is to buy visitor's guide with a list of locations of gravesites (not all are listed there!). Ask at the information information desk in the Visitors Centre to get (from the complete computer base) the number of gravesite that is the section and headstone number. For example 36-1431 means section 36 and headstone 1431. Ask at the information to sign the section on your map. Gravesites in sections are usually numbered in order, one by one although in areas of mixed old and new gravesites it works more chaotic.
IN THE INTERNET
Many but surely not all 240,000 gravesites (a few hundreds, I think) are to find on the official cemetery webpage. Follow the link below and pay attention to the links at the bottom of the page.
Or use any smart web search engine (like Google or Alltheweb) and search for the name + Arlington (+ cemetery).
You may try to use Find A Grave internet service as well. Good luck!
I wanted to take great pictures of the Changing of the Guards by the Tomb of the Unknowns at the Arlington National Cemetery. But most of them were of low quality because of difficult light conditions or better to say my wrong compostion of pictures.
Look at one of my pictures (after editing by software). There are three plans:
1. very far, medium light trees and very light sky (the background),
2. very, very light, white the Tomb of The Unknowns (the middleground),
3. the Old Guard member in dark uniform (the foreground).
Hmm... there is no way to have all these three, very contrast plans sharp on one picture, no matter how good (and expensive) your camera is.Even if I wait for some back sunlight which would light the dark foreground I am not sure about the quality of the picture (the tomb would be still too light). Well, you can eventually try to light the foreground by using flash if you have good enough one (= strong enough, better not this built up in your camera). And after coming back home, when I improved the quality of the picture using some software, I didn't receive a good one (enlarge my picture). Well, the original picture was worse, it contained black silhouette of a guard on white background.
My recommendation in such situations is to change the compostion, it to conatain less contrast objects (take a picture of either the guard or the tomb: the guard from the opposite side on darker background).
- Digital Photography Review - the world's best internet service on digital cameras;
- ShortCourses - a complete guide to digital cameras, digital photography, and digital video;
- Digital Photography. The Textbook - for beginners in photography,
- photo.net - one of the world's largest photo portals online.
Have a great fun :-)
When I visited the Arlington National Cemetery I found on most of gravesites completely unknown for me military abbrevations, usually abbrevations of different American military units. Just one example on my picture (do enlarge) of the grave of Dan Ernest Baker, lieutenant colonel, United States Air Force, 4050th SRW, killed on active duty... Well SRW means Strategic Reconnaissance Wing used by USAF (United States Air Force).
I think, they should offer, for some over-inquisitive crazies, a dictionary of military abbrevations in the gift shop of the Visitors Center. Just in case you have internet access on the cemetery, you may use MAD - the Military Abbreviations Dictionary, in English or German version. Good luck!
To be more seriously, unknown abbrevations make sometimes the whole text ununderstable. I recommend to remember especially three common abbrevations which I didn't know (poor me!) till Kathy (Kodi01) explained me:
MIA - Missed In Action
KIA - Killed In Action
WIA - Wounded In Action.
Any more abbrevations in action?
I can't say that Arlington was extraordinarily expensive for me.
But we wouldn't find there so good hotels (Sheraton and Hyatt-Regency) at such good price unless Priceline work for us. Regular prices for accommodation exceed $100 or mostly $150 per night except the Days Inn for about $80.
METRO, PARKING FEES
Public transportation (metro) is efficient and inexpensive. Parking lots, no worries, it's not San Francisco, at average price as for a city.
Great food, I ate, in restaurants in Crystal City were not expensive as well.
However, the restaurant located on the last floor of Hyatt Regency Crystal City hotel called Chesapeake Grill was very expensive. Generally I am not a fan of hotel restaurants, especially in higher ranked hotels, as they often don't offer much more for twice the price than local restaurants and often serve small portions. But referring to hotel leaflet the restaurant offered not only great choice of food and wines but the best panoramic view over the Washington, DC. So, at first, when we arrived to the hotel in the evening, Uszula, Kathy and I wanted to eat in this hotel restaurant.
Warning: the choice of food was not that wide, the view was over the Ronald Reagan National Airport and the Potomac River from the one side and over other hotel buildings in Crystal City from the opposite side. I would have to spend over $40 (with a tax and tip) per person to eat there. So, we left that completely empty restaurant and had great food at about 3 times lower price in chain Chili's restaurant. Two days before we had top class tapas at local restaurant Jaleo for only a little bit higher price than in Chili's.