Just a short drive over the bridge – or a few bridges, depending on where you’re headed – sits Arlington, Va. Founded in 1801, Arlington has grown into a bustling urban area in its own right. With most of the action huddled around Metro stops on the Blue and Orange lines, some of the most densely packed and walkable areas are in the Ballston-Clarendon-Rosslyn corridor. Its 25.98 square miles are full of family-friendly activities, educational experiences and history. Here are some not to miss.

Photo: Sean O’Neill via Flickr

For the outdoorsy types
Mix a little history with your nature by walking through Arlington National Cemetery, known as the nation’s “most hallowed ground.” Open year-round, it’s the final resting place for 400,000 people. Find the graves of soldiers from as far back as the Civil War, the gravesites of President and Mrs. Kennedy, and more than 20 memorials. Stop at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where volunteer sentinels of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment stand guard and change every hour in a somber ceremony. Arlington House, former home of Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate States Army, is also on cemetery grounds and open for tours. For something lighter and daresay more thrilling, head to Gravelly Point along the George Washington Memorial Parkway to watch the planes take off and land at Reagan National Airport, or do a memorial tour, stopping at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, Marine Corps War Memorial and U.S. Air Force Memorial.

Photo: Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce

Play and learn
History isn’t the only lesson kiddos can learn in Arlington. They can study the stars at the David M. Brown Planetarium, which offers weekend programs including the “Magic Tree House Space Mission” on Sundays. Or they can learn to play hockey like the pros at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, home of the Washington Capitals Practice Facility. Camps, youth leagues and classes are available. It’s located at the Ballston Common Mall, which is being transformed as you read into Ballston Quarter, a 589,000-square foot walkable urban village with one of the largest food halls in D.C., a bowling alley and shops. 

Photo: Boccato Gelato

 Shop and eat
Head down Wilson Boulevard to Clarendon and take in a story time at Kinder Haus Toys and grab a sweet treat nearby at Boccato Gelato and Espresso. If the kids are too antsy for sitting, sign them up for a class at JW Tumbles, which has movement options for littles ages four months to nine years, plus a separate open play area. Then stop at Pie-tanza in the same strip mall for Neapolitan-style pizza. Play those carbs away at one of Arlington’s 158 parks. The recently renovated 4-acre Quincy Park has six tennis courts, a basketball court, a sand volleyball court and tons of offbeat playground equipment, while Upton Hill Regional Park offers the Ocean Dunes Waterpark, mini golf, batting cages and walking trails.

What are your favorite Arlington hot spots? Tell us in the comments.

—Stephanie Kanowitz