5 Unbelievable Facts About the Kennedy Graves at Arlington

Kennedy Tram Stop Sign

When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis chose Arlington National Cemetery for her husband’s final resting place, it transformed into a must-see destination for visitors to Washington, DC. Today, the Kennedy graves at Arlington stand as one of the most visited and storied sites in the Capital City.

When he was buried in late November 1963, President Kennedy was the first member of the family laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. But when tragedy struck again a few years later, JFK’s little brother was assassinated and interred nearby. You may know that JFK is buried next to his wife, Jackie, with an eternal flame encircled with Cape Cod granite burning above their gravestones, but are you aware of these little-known facts about the Kennedy graves at Arlington National Cemetery?

Pro Tip: Having a hard time keeping track of generations of Kennedys? Beginning with Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, the parents of President John F. Kennedy, this interactive Kennedy family tree branches to include more than 100 names.

Arlington Cemetery features the eternal flame at the Kennedy graves.

Have You Visited JFK's Grave at Arlington?

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JFK Grave with Eternal Flame
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

1. Why JFK Was Buried at Arlington National Cemetery

After President John F. Kennedy’s shocking assassination in November 1963, First Lady Jackie Kennedy wanted his gravesite to be as accessible as possible, saying, “He belongs to the people.” As preparations were made, many citizens from across the United States believed that JFK would be interred in Massachusetts where he was born and raised. After all, at that time, only two presidents were buried outside of their native states and in the nation’s capital. 

View of the Lincoln Memorial from JFK's Grave at Arlington National Cemetery
View of the Lincoln Memorial from the Kennedy graves at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

While visiting Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day, just a few weeks before his death, JFK stood on the grounds of the Arlington House high on a hill above the national cemetery. As he took in the sweeping views of the rolling green hills and fall foliage, his eyes continued across the Potomac River to the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. He wistfully said that the views were so spectacular that he “could stay here forever.”

Related Article:  Arlington House – How Robert E. Lee’s Home Became a National Cemetery

And so, in consultation with JFK’s younger brother, Robert F. Kennedy (AKA “Bobby”), and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Jackie selected a plot just below Arlington House. This established the site of the Kennedy family graves and offered her late husband the forever view he requested.

President William Howard Taft's Grave at Arlington National Cemetery
President William Howard Taft's grave at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

2. John F. Kennedy is NOT the Only President Buried at Arlington

Approximately three million people visit Arlington National Cemetery each year, and JFK’s grave is one of the most visited within the 624-acre site. But JFK is not the only US president buried at Arlington. 

Related Article: 12 Graves to Visit at Arlington National Cemetery (After You’ve Paid Respect to JFK)

William Howard Taft (AKA POTUS #27) was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in March 1930 after passing away at his home. He was the first president and the first chief justice buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and he remains the only American in history to serve as both president and chief justice.

3. Why JFK’s Grave Has an Eternal Flame

Around the world, an eternal flame is a symbol of everlasting life. An eternal flame incorporated into a war memorial symbolizes a nation’s gratitude and desire to forever remember the sacrifices of those being honored.

As a veteran of World War II, Purple Heart recipient (the only president to earn the medal), and president assassinated in office, it’s easy to understand why Jackie wanted President Kennedy honored with an eternal flame. For it was at her request that it quietly flickers above his headstone in the Kennedy family plot.

Kennedy Family Grave at Arlington National Cemetery
Jack and Jackie are buried with two of their children at Arlington. Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

4. JFK is Buried with Several Family Members at Arlington National Cemetery

First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis is buried next to JFK at Arlington National Cemetery. Resting on either side of Jack and Jackie are two of their four children who died as infants. Arabella Kennedy was stillborn in August 1956, and Patrick Bouvier Kennedy lived only a few days, dying just a few months before his father in 1963.

Related Article:  5 Places to Visit to Honor JFK’s Legacy

In addition to Jackie and two infant children, JFK is buried near two of his brothers. Assassinated after winning the California Democratic primary in 1968, Bobby Kennedy is buried a few steps away from Jack under a plain white cross with a simple marker. And his youngest brother, Ted, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 77, is also buried nearby. 

JFK’s oldest brother, Joe, was killed in World War II when his plane exploded over the English Channel. Although he is buried at the Cambridge American Cemetery in England, Joe is honored with a white cross in the Kennedy family plot at Arlington. 

Honor Guard Flag Over JFK Casket
Honor Guard prepares to fold the American flag covering President John F. Kennedy’s casket and present it to his widow, Jackie Kennedy. Photograph by Abbie Rowe, National Park Service, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

5. The Gravesite You Visit at Arlington Today is Not JFK’s Original Gravesite

While grieving the sudden loss of her husband, dealing with the tragic loss of her infant son, and tending to her two small children, First Lady Jackie Kennedy played an active role in her husband’s funeral arrangements. She requested an eternal flame for JFK’s grave, which was fueled by copper tubing from a propane tank a football field’s length away from the gravesite.

President Kennedy was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery on November 25, 1963, as dignitaries from around the world paid their respects and millions of viewers watched by television. Toward the end of the graveside service, Jackie lit the eternal flame.

In the three years that followed, more than 16 million visitors stopped at JFK’s gravesite. Cemetery officials wanted to better accommodate the crowds and implement a safer, more permanent eternal flame. After two years of construction, officials exhumed JFK’s casket in March 1967 and moved his body to its current location just a short distance away. 

Related Article:  Everything You Need to Know BEFORE You Visit Arlington National Cemetery

In a private ceremony attended by just a few people, including Jackie, JFK’s two surviving brothers, and President Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 35th president was interred in his present location. At the same time, the couple’s two infant children, Arabella and Patrick, were moved from Massachusetts to their current resting place next to their father.

The eternal flame lit during JFK’s burial in November 1963 was replaced with a permanent natural gas line. It features a continuous electronic spark that reignites the flame in case it is extinguished by rain or wind.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Kennedy Family

How many children did Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald have?

Married in 1914, Joe and Rose Kennedy had nine children:

  • Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr, a US Navy lieutenant killed in action during World War II
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a graduate of Harvard University who served as a senator and the 35th president of the United States until his assassination in 1963
  • Rose Marie Kennedy, also known as Rosemary Kennedy
  • Kathleen Agnes Kennedy, an American socialite nicknamed Kick
  • Eunice Mary Kennedy, a philanthropist who founded the Special Olympics
  • Patricia Helen Kennedy
  • Robert Francis Kennedy, an American attorney and senator also known as Bobby
  • Jean Ann Kennedy, an American diplomat, activist, and author
  • Edward Moore Kennedy, a US senator from Massachusetts for more than 45 years

How much is the Kennedy family worth?

A Newsweek article published in 2018 stated that the top 30 members of the Kennedy family are worth a combined estimate of $1.2 billion.

Silence and Respect Sign at JFK Gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

Where is JFK buried?

John F. Kennedy is buried at Arlington National Cemetery , just down the hill from Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee. His gravesite is notable for its eternal flame and sweeping views of Washington, DC.

How far is John F. Kennedy's grave from the Arlington National Cemetery Welcome Center?

The Kennedy family graves are about a half-mile directly west of the visitor’s center. It’s a ten-minute walk, and portions of the route are hilly.

Who is buried with JFK at Arlington Cemetery?

John F. Kennedy is buried next to his wife, Jackie, and two children who died as infants — daughter Arabella Kennedy (born August 23, 1956) and son Patrick Bouvier Kennedy (born August 7, 1963).

Two of JFK’s brothers are buried a few steps away — Robert Kennedy (AKA Bobby Kennedy) and Edward Moore Kennedy (AKA Ted Kennedy).

Jackie Kennedy Grave with Floral Wreath
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Where is Jackie Kennedy buried?

Whether known as a senator’s wife, America’s First Lady, or JFK’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy is often described as fashionable, elegant, and sophisticated. But I also think she was incredibly strong and brave. In 1963, Jackie tragically lost both a newborn child and her husband while remaining incredibly courageous while the eyes of the world were upon her.

Although she remarried after John F. Kennedy’s tragic death, Jackie Kennedy is forever a first lady. Also known as Jackie O, Jackie Kennedy is buried next to JFK in the Kennedy graves at Arlington National Cemetery

What killed Jackie Kennedy?

On May 19, 1994, Jackie Kennedy died in her New York City apartment surrounded by friends and family. She was 64 and had been battling lymphatic cancer for several months.

What Kennedy family members are buried in Arlington?

President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie are buried at Arlington National Cemetery along with their two children who died as infants. JFK’s brothers, Bobby and Ted, are also laid to rest nearby.

Bobby Kennedy's Grave at Arlington National Cemetery
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

Where is Bobby Kennedy buried?

Bobby Kennedy is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Northern Virginia just a short walk from JFK’s eternal flame.

Why was Bobby Kennedy buried at night?

After a high requiem Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan, Bobby Kennedy’s body was transported by rail from Penn Station in New York to Union Station in Washington, DC, for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

The train was scheduled to arrive in the nation’s capital at 4:30 pm, but it had to travel at a greatly reduced speed due to crowds of mourners lining the tracks. The funeral train arrived in DC at 9:10 pm, and Bobby Kennedy’s casket arrived at Arlington National Cemetery at nearly 10:30 pm where the presidential candidate was laid to rest by the light of 1,500 candles.

Ted Kennedy Grave at Arlington National Cemetery
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Where is Ted Kennedy buried?

Ted Kennedy is buried at Arlington National Cemetery near his brothers, John and Bobby.

Where is Arabella Kennedy buried?

Arabella Kennedy was the stillborn daughter of John and Jackie Kennedy. She is buried with her parents at Arlington National Cemetery under a marker that reads “daughter.”

Where is Patrick Bouvier Kennedy buried?

Patrick Bouvier Kennedy was the youngest child born to John and Jackie Kennedy. He lived only a few days, dying a few months before his father was assassinated 1963. He is buried by his parents at Arlington National Cemetery.

Where is John F. Kennedy Jr. buried?

Also known as John Jr., JFK and Jackie’s son perished in a plane crash in July 1999. Rather than join his parents and siblings at the Kennedy family graves at Arlington, John Jr. was given a somber burial at sea from the USS Briscoe, a Navy destroyer.

Where is Rose Kennedy buried?

President Kennedy’s mother, Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald Kennedy, is buried with her husband at Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline, Massachusetts. 

Why are there coins on the Kennedy family gravestones?

According to our tour bus guide, it was a popular tradition during the Vietnam War to place a coin on military graves:

  • A penny demonstrates that you knew them
  • A nickel says you trained with them
  • A dime shows you served with them
  • A quarter indicates you were there when they died
Do Not Toss Coins Sign at Arlington National Cemetery
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

At the Kennedy graves, it’s not uncommon to see visitors throwing coins at the graves. Do not join in this disrespectful behavior!

Visiting the Kennedy Family Graves at Arlington National Cemetery

The Kennedy family graves are a 15-minute walk from the Arlington Cemetery Metro Station and a 10-minute walk from the Arlington National Cemetery Visitor Center. If you choose to purchase a ticket for the cemetery tram, the gravesite is just a few steps (albeit uphill) from the nearest stop on the Arlington National Cemetery bus tour

Absolute silence is expected at JFK’s gravesite, and men should remove their hats. While you may see others tossing coins at graves, this is not appropriate behavior. The Kennedy family finds the practice especially disrespectful and has the coins removed and donated to charity a few times each year. 

Where is the Arlington Cemetery located?​

The address for the Arlington National Cemetery is simply Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Most search engines and map applications can find the cemetery using that information. The cemetery is located just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, and can be reached using the DC Metro via the blue line.

What hours is the Arlington National Cemetery open for visitors?

Arlington National Cemetery is open daily from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm April through September and 8:00 am to 5:00 pm October through March.

Is there a fee to visit Arlington Cemetery?​

There is no admission fee to visit Arlington National Cemetery. However, tickets are required for the tram that winds through the cemetery. Discounted tickets are offered to active-duty military, veterans, seniors, and children, and they can be purchased just inside the Arlington National Cemetery entrance.

For the latest information, including special exhibits and events, visit the Arlington National Cemetery website.

Have You Visited the Kennedy Family Graves at Arlington National Cemetery?

What was your experience like? Any additional tips or advice to pass along to others who are planning a visit to Arlington? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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37 thoughts on “5 Unbelievable Facts About the Kennedy Graves at Arlington”

  1. Trying to find the Kennedy Gravesite on my own was difficult. I asked several people I passed and got different answers several times. My advice is that when you are following directions on how to get there, if you don’t see a JFK graveside with an arrow sign about every city block, then you are going the wrong way. The signs are white street signs.

    1. Great feedback! The Kennedy gravesite is a bit of a hike from the entrance, and the cemetery is much bigger than many people think. It’s why I highly recommend the tram. Not only can you hitch a ride to the Kennedy gravesite and other highly visited spots, but you can also learn a lot about the grounds and the brave men and women buried there.

  2. I really enjoyed all the information about the Kennedy. My husband was in the honor guard at Fort Myers. I have always been very proud of my husbands military records. My husband passed away November 2023.

    1. I’m so sorry for your loss! It sounds like your husband was a remarkable man. Sending you a big hug from Kansas City!

  3. The coins thing is one of those stupid internet “traditions” that makes a disrespectful mess of the dignified Kennedy gravesite. Do NOT throw or even place coins on the Kennedy gravesites (Disappointed you included a photo of RFK’s gravestone covered with coins); only ask yourself: what would Mrs. Kennedy have thought of this “tradition,” making their family resting places look like a cheap penny arcade?
    Please, do not contribute to, take part in or encourage this disrespectful act.

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more about the coins! And, if you read my other Arlington Cemetery posts, you’ll see that I remind people not to behave in this disrespectful manner. In fact, my mother, a retired career Army officer’s wife and former school teacher scolded a child who was literally throwing fistfuls at JFK’s grave while his teachers stood by and said nothing.

      That said, if you’ve spent much time at Arlington, you know that it’s very rare to find any of the Kennedy graves not covered in coins. The cemetery care takers remove them a few times a year and donate them to charity, but they quickly reappear. Any of my photos that include coins do so because that’s how it was when I visited, and not because I personally threw coins. I did not want to add to the disrespect already shown by leaving the pathway or stepping past roped off areas to remove the coins for my photo. Plus, where would I put the coins — in the grass where they could cause damage to a lawn mower, in my pocket where someone would think I was stealing them?

  4. I remember exactly where I was standing in East Meadow High School when the overhead announcement was made about President Kennedy’s assassination. The entire school became silent and then the sounds of grief overcame the silence!

  5. Stewart Masheder

    We had a very moving visit to Arlington when we visited DC a few years ago. Looking at the graves around JFKs I found the burial place of another US hero, the actor Audi Murphy recipient of the Medal of Honour and I believe the United States’ most decorated soldier.

  6. Lorraine Cameron

    Thank you for all the information in this article…I have read many novels about the Kennedy Family….Now I fully understand where they are buried ..I was Not born when Kennedy was President but I was given a book about him …After reading that one I purchased many Books 📚 about The whole Family …John F Kennedy was an extraordinary man ..A War Hero who put his men’s lives before his while on PT-109 .
    Kennedy almost died because of sickness but continued on …Knowing all I know now about this man I often think to myself if he had lived and served the full eight years as President of the USA we would be living in a completely different World Now ..

    1. It’s definitely an interesting thought exercise to imagine how the course of history would have been altered had JFK not been assassinated. Did you read “11/22/63” the Stephen King novel on that subject?

  7. Does anybody know if JFK’s body was actually moved over when Jackie died? I know his marker was in a direct line with the eternal flame when I visited his grave before Jackie died. I also saw Jackie’s burial on TV when she died, and her casket was placed farther to the right of JFK’s grave stone. So I just wondered if they just moved his stone over, or moved his actual grave over to fit Jackie’s grave between his and their daughter to the right of Jackie’s?

    1. JFK’s grave was not moved but his marker was shifted slightly to the left. There was enough room to JFK’s right to accommodate Jackie’s grave and place a her marker down.

  8. This is such a fascinating post. I make sure to visit the Cemetery each time I’m in the capital. It’s such a peaceful, somber place. And JFK was right, the views from the cemetery are absolutely stunning, it would make for a marvelous final resting place.

  9. I have heard that JFK called ANC, “the most beautiful place on earth”, but I cannot find any record of that quote. I do know that he also said, “I could stay here forever”, on an earlier visit on Memorial Day. Can anyone verify this statement?

    1. I don’t know that JFK called Arlington National Cemetery the most beautiful place on earth, but our tour guide did confirm that he said he could stay there forever. However, I believe it was during a Veteran’s Day ceremony (Nov 11th) rather than a Memorial Day ceremony (the last Monday in May).

  10. While paying my respects to President Kennedy, I was appalled at all the loud talking and children running around. I’ll never forget that day he was taken away from us and the days following. So much that could have been.

    1. I agree! And I was SOOOO upset by the people standing around JFK, Jackie, and the two infant children’s graves throwing handfuls of coins at them. And I am still in shock that the posted guards can’t/don’t do anything about it. If that were my father, mother, or child’s grave, I’d be beyond upset by their behavior!

  11. I visited Arlington in the 70 and enjoying all it represents.
    I had wish that maybe someday we would have another
    Kennedy in the White House ! His son unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way

  12. It is interesting how much coincidence, and even more so irony, occurs in less than two-hundred-fifty years. When the son of Robert E. Lee, George Washington Custis Lee, sued the federal government for the return of the Arlington Plantation, and won, his co-counsel was Robert Todd Lincoln.

  13. Question:
    Does anyone know if there is definitive reason for why the ‘Eternal Flame circular flagstone’ has a very obvious crack down its center? My personal guess is that it symbolizes the crack of tragedy that befell the nation on 22 November 1963 when our young President was tragically assassinated and this crack in the nation’s should has never healed, just as per the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln! We miss your President Kennedy and what this nation could have been if you had lived. RIP JFK!

  14. I believe that Jackie Kennedy Onassis got the idea of the ‘eternal flame’ from a French War memorial during one of her numerous visits to France and insisted that a similar tribute was fitting for her husband JFK.

  15. I visited the original Kennedy grave in April 1964! While on my honeymoon. It was very moving and simple with the little white picket fence surrounding it. I think I prefer that to the newer monument that I’ve only seen in pictures.

  16. I have visited Arlington national cemetery twice and still learned something new from this post! I think this is such a beautiful place and I’m glad you shared information about it.

  17. whereivebeentravel

    So much interesting information here! I’ve never visited Arlington Cemetery but am always moved when driving past. Thanks for these tips, they will be super helpful when I make it to Arlington!

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