ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA – REASONS TO VISIT
Alexandria, Virginia, is a destination with sophisticated style, extraordinary attractions, and exquisite cuisine. As rich in culture as it is in history, the city on the Potomac links America’s storied past with its celebrated present.
Alexandria’s history reaches back more than thirteen thousand years. From the first Native Americans to settle here, to the bustling city it is today, the timeline of Alexandria’s history is filled with events that helped shape the United States of America into the country it is today.
A vital seaport during colonial times, Alexandria is George Washington’s hometown and part of the original Washington, DC. Thomas Jefferson entertained guests at Gadsby’s Tavern; Civil War general Robert E. Lee moved to Alexandria with his family when he was only four years old, and would eventually become one of the most famous figures in the American Civil War.
A quick ride by boat, car, or train transports visitors to the National Mall, making Alexandria an unparalleled home base for visiting the nation’s capital, but Washington politicos and celebrities cross in the other direction for the galleries, boutiques, and award-winning restaurants that line Alexandria’s cobbled streets.
What makes the city so extraordinary? Among hundreds of experiences to enjoy, here some reasons to visit Alexandria to start you off
Landmarks within the city include the George Washington Masonic National Memorial (also known as the Masonic Temple) and Observation Deck, Christ Church, Gadsby’s Tavern, John Carlyle House, Little Theatre of Alexandria, Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria City Hall, Market Square (site the oldest and continual farmers Market on Saturdays year round), the Jones Point Light, the south cornerstone of the District of Columbia, Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home, the Torpedo Factory Art Center, and the Virginia Theological Seminary. Other sites of historical interest in the city include Alexandria Black History Resource Center, Fort Ward Park and Museum, and the Alexandria Canal lock re-creation at Canal Office Center. Interesting sites with Alexandria addresses but outside of the city limits include River Farm, Collingwood Library & Museum, Green Spring Garden Park, Hundley Meadows Park, Historic Huntley, Pope-Leighy House (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), Woodlawn Plantation, Washington’s Grist Mill and Mount Vernon Estate.
In 1830, John Hollensbury’s home in Alexandria was one of two homes directly boarding an alleyway that received a large amount of horse-drawn wagon traffic and loiterers. In order to prevent people from using the alleyway, Hollensbury constructed a 7 feet (2.1 m) wide, 25 feet (7.6 m) deep, 325-square-foot (30.2 m2), two story home using the existing brick walls of the adjacent homes for the sides of the new home. The brick walls of the Hollensbury Spite House living room have gouges from wagon-wheel hubs; the house is still standing, and is occupied.
Finding the best way to see the city is as easy as picking your passion in Alexandria, Virginia. History buffs explore colonial sites or follow lantern-carrying guides through graveyards for haunting tales of the city’s past. Foodies get a taste of the town with Old Town Food Tours, families gear up for adventure with Mount Vernon by Bike & Boat, and sightseers’ board water taxis and river cruises for a leisurely view of D.C. monuments.
A beautifully-preserved historic district on the Potomac River, Old Town Alexandria is the heart of the city George Washington called home. Today Old Town’s cobblestone streets and red brick sidewalks hum with an energy that attracts everyone from presidents to pet lovers to some of the city’s best restaurants, arts events, shopping and historic attractions.
The area is anchored in the west by the majestic George Washington Masonic Memorial and in the east by the Potomac River waterfront, where you’ll find restaurants with waterfront views, the nationally renowned Torpedo Factory as well as numerous boat tours and water taxis.
You’ll also find a wealth of historic architecture and attractions — a museum without walls — including the Market Square Museums and other hidden gems.
King Street, the main thoroughfare of Old Town Alexandria, is a walkable one mile of shops, restaurants, and outdoor cafes. A blend of locally-owned boutiques and national retailers makes Alexandria, Virginia, one of the region’s top destinations for antique-hunting, big-box shopping and high-fashion finds. In Old Town, the free trolley carts shoppers down King Street, the main drag, where upscale clothiers and handmade-jewelry shops nestle between fashion and home goods favorites like Anthropologie and Williams Sonoma. Minutes away in eclectic Del Ray, playful window displays beckon everyone from comic book collectors to cheese gourmands and vintage-fashion hounds.
Easily accessible, the King Street Metro Station links Old Town Alexandria with Washington, D.C., via a 15-minute train ride. Find bike share stations, taxis and the Free King Street Trolley at this multi-modal transit hub.
By day, Old Town bustles with museum-goers, art enthusiasts, and shoppers. Night or day, top chefs draw diners with creative menus and exquisite experiences. At night, Old Town bars and pubs are abuzz with live music, along with local beer or craft cocktails. There is something for every taste and budget. You will not be disappointed at all.
Named one of America’s Top Art Places, Alexandria is nationally recognized as a community with a “backbone of creative culture…exceptionally successful at combining art, artists and venues for creativity and expression…to make vibrant neighborhoods.” The city’s visual arts hub is the world-famous Torpedo Factory Art Center, a former munitions factory transformed into an artistic powerhouse with three floors of artist studios and galleries, plus the headquarters of the Art League School which serves 7,000 students annually. The Legendary Music Hall the Birchmere hosts the biggest names in country, folk and rock, while MetroStage performs top-quality productions in an intimate setting. From musical theater to cozy jazz clubs, printmaking classes to comedy nights, Alexandria’s art scene buzzes with life, forming the core of our city.
Alexandria has a distributed park system with approximately 950 acres (3.8 km2) spread across 70 major parks and 30 recreation centers, of which Chinquapin is one of the largest. Chinquapin offers facilities for swimming, tennis, racquetball, and other sports. The city also organizes several sports leagues throughout the year including volleyball, softball and basketball.
The city is home to Cameron Run Regional Park which includes a water park with a wave pool and water slides, as well as a miniature golf course and batting cages. A portion of the Mount Vernon Trail, a popular bike and jogging path, runs through Old Town near the Potomac River on its way from the Mount Vernon Estate to Roosevelt Island in Washington, DC. There is also a largely unbroken line of parks stretching along the Alexandria waterfront from end to end.