Last Updated June 6, 2018 6/6/2018

8 Best Things to Do in Alexandria, Virginia

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The city of Alexandria lies just south of Washington, DC, but this Virginia destination looks and feels different than our nation’s capital. Here you’ll find some of the most well-preserved 18th and 19th-century buildings in the country, beautifully restored mansions, and an exciting collection of specialty shops. Alexandria is a fun town to explore on foot and stop by some of the amazing restaurants along the way as well. So, next time you’re in Northern Virginia, make sure to do these eight things in Alexandria!

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Explore Old Town
18-19th century Federal era houses on Cameron Street in Old Town

Explore Old Town

Perhaps the most popular thing to do for first-time visitors in Alexandria is to simply walk through Old Town and admire the historic architecture. The area that surrounds the King Street Mile has plenty of cobblestone alleyways and brick-lined streets to make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time despite all the modern cars going by. There’s a free King Street Trolley that you can take to get around the area, but just make sure to hop on and off a few times to browse and dine at some of the independent boutique shops and restaurants here.

Huntley Meadows Park
Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, VA

Huntley Meadows Park

For a little green space and relaxation, head to beautiful Huntley Meadows Park, which spans about 1,452 acres and is the largest Fairfax County Park Authority park. There’s a visitor center here, as well as a wetland boardwalk, wildlife observation platforms, and wildflower meadow. This is a great place for bird-watchers, as numerous bird-themed educational events are hosted here throughout the year. You can bring your dog along on all of the park trails except the park’s half-mile wetland boardwalk because this is a wildlife sanctuary area that’s home to rare bird species.

Sightseeing Cruises and Water Taxis
A panoramic view on Old Town Alexandria and Washington DC

Sightseeing Cruises and Water Taxis

It’s always interesting to experience a new city from the water for a whole new perspective. There are quite a few sightseeing cruise options in Alexandria, as well as water taxis that you can hop onboard to take a ride. There’s a marina in Old Town where you can enjoy a meal outside and watch street performers put on their best shows while you wait for your boat ride to begin. It’s also fun to take a ride up to D.C. to learn about the monuments, a Mount Vernon cruise to see George Washington’s home, or a boat to see a baseball game at Nationals Park.

George Washington Masonic National Memorial
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Alexandria, Virginia

George Washington Masonic National Memorial

One iconic site in Alexandria is the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, which is a research center, concert hall, museum, and more all wrapped into one structure. The building was constructed by Freemasons and designed to look like the ancient Egyptian Alexandria lighthouse. Inside, you’ll find portraits and a tall statue of George Washington and many other pieces of art and historic artifacts. There’s also an observation deck here where you can get lovely views of the city down below. The memorial is open every day except for major holidays from 9am to 5pm. The admission cost is $15 for visitors over the age of 12 and free for kids aged 12 and under. Daily guided tours run five times per day and explore at least five areas of the memorial in depth.

Torpedo Factory Art Center
Paintings at the Torpedo Factory Art Center

Torpedo Factory Art Center

This art center is housed in what used to be a World War II torpedo factory. Today, you’ll find a large collection of working artist studios inside of the center that guests can visit and watch artist make a wide variety of masterpieces. There are about 82 studios here, as well as galleries, workshop space, and an archaeology museum. The artists here specialize in everything from ceramics to painting, jewelry, and more. You can check the art center’s event calendar to see if there are any exhibit openings or live music acts taking place when you’ll be visiting. The art center building is open daily from 10am to 6pm, and it stays open late until 9pm on Thursdays. Since artists maintain their own working hours, it’s a good idea to browse the list of artists and confirm their availability directly before your visit.

Bike Along the Mount Vernon Trail
Bicyclists on Mount Vernon Trail

Bike Along the Mount Vernon Trail

It’s easy to get outside and active when you visit Alexandria, and one of the best ways to experience the city’s outdoorsy side is to bike along the Mount Vernon trail. There are more than 20 miles of trails in this area, not to mention waterfront parks and open green space. The Mount Vernon Trail is around 18 miles long and extends from the iconic memorial and monument sites in DC to the Mount Vernon estate. It passes through Old Town Alexandria, so it’s fun to do just a portion of it if you’re pressed for time. But if you have plenty of time and energy, this trail is part of the East Coast Greenway, which extends north to south all the way from Maine to Florida.

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
Filming a lecture at the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum

It’s also fun to check out the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, which celebrates the history of the modern pharmacy. This was the type of place where our forefathers came to when they had an illness, and it still looks like what it would have a couple centuries ago. Inside, you’ll see everything from historical medical equipment, recipe books with pharmaceutical formulas, herbal remedies, and more. The museum has more limited hours during the winter months, and admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages five to 12.

Check Out a Local Festival
Musicians performing on a covered stage entertain in Market Square next to Alexandria City Hall

Check Out a Local Festival

It seems like there’s always something exciting going on in Alexandra, and that’s because there is! This is a city that loves local festivals, and you can join in the fun throughout the year. For example, Christmas is a special time in Alexandria because the city hosts a tree-lighting ceremony, a holiday boat parade of lights, and other fun events. It’s also a good time to check out the Alexandria Arts Festival, the Annual Alexandria Armenian Festival, and Arts on the Avenue. Alexandria is also home to the Old Town Farmers’ Market, which is one of the top markets to visit in the U.S. and has been in operation for centuries.

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