A cemetery first, a tourist attraction second
Many visitors to Arlington National Cemetery are surprised to find out that burials still take place on the hallowed grounds.
Those visitors are even more surprised to find out that there are up to 30 burials each day. Full honor funeral processions, which can include a military band and caisson, can be extremely lengthy and elaborate. Funeral services constitute a large percentage of the day-to-day activities at the cemetery; but there are many other ceremonies, events, and construction.
The Memorial Amphitheater, located by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, holds two major services each year—one on Memorial Day and one on Veterans Day. Each ceremony attracts about 5,000 people. Approximately 3,000 smaller ceremonies are held at the Amphitheater throughout the year. The Amphitheater is often visited by dignitaries who lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Most recently, the President of Colombia and the President of Italy paid their respects to the Unknown Soldiers. When dignitaries of that status visit the Tomb, sometimes the area surrounding the Amphitheater and Tomb will be closed off to the public. Dignitaries are not the only ones to lay wreaths in honor of the Unknown Soldiers; school groups, scout troops, families, veterans groups, and other organizations schedule wreath-laying ceremonies throughout the year. Those groups contribute to the roughly four million visitors who pass through the cemetery each year.
Along with funerals, ceremonies, and events, there is on-going construction, lawn and landscape maintenance, and other projects. Currently, 11 miles of water mains and other infrastructure are being replaced and upgraded. This means that many of the main roads are closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
Arlington National Cemetery is first and foremost a cemetery, which is proud to give proper honor to our nation’s heroes. Out of respect for service members being laid to rest and their families and friends, Arlington National Cemetery Tours Inc. avoids funerals when possible. Whether you are taking the narrated tram tour or walking though Arlington National Cemetery, please be patient as funerals, events, ceremonies, and groups can sometimes delay and divert your plans.
Arlington National Cemetery
Narrator, driver, trainer and dispatcher.