The charming and beautiful city of Alexandria is just a stone’s throw away from Washington, D.C., making it the perfect day trip during your visit to the District. Although, with its many restaurants, historical sites, shopping and nightlife, this Virginia town can stand as a popular tourist destination all on its own. So, if you find yourself in Alexandria, whether for a long stay or just passing through, here are a few of the top, must-see things you’ll definitely want to add to your itinerary.
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Explore Old Town Alexandria
Perhaps the most popular thing to do here is to visit what is known as Old Town Alexandria. Designated as a national historic district, Old Town Alexandria was founded in 1749 and was home to President George Washington. It’s been named one of the South’s Prettiest Cities by Southern Living Magazine and was also named one of the Top 5 Best Small Cities in the U.S. by the Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. Here, you can wander along cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks as you explore a variety of shops and restaurants. Make sure to check out King Street, which is recognized as one of the “Great Streets of America” and includes more than 160 retail shops along a one-mile stretch.
Visit the Torpedo Factory Art Center
The Torpedo Factory Art Center is recognized as one of the nation’s top art places and is housed inside a former naval munitions plant from World War II (hence the name). Now, as you explore this historic building, you’ll find three floors of publically-accessible art studios and galleries with more than 160 artists at work in ceramics, prints, painting and more. You can view exhibitions from all over the country and the world, as well as the works of new and upcoming artists. While you’re there, stop into the on-site café to enjoy a sandwich or salad made with local ingredients and fresh produce.
Stroll Along the Potomac River Waterfront
One of the other most popular things to do in Alexandria is to explore the beautiful waterfront area that runs along the Potomac River. If you’re up for a little exercise and fresh air, explore one of the eight parks that are situated along the waterfront or walk along the Mount Vernon Trail – an 18-mile route that is accessible for walkers, joggers and bicyclists. Or, if you’d rather sit back and relax, hop on one of the boat tours and river cruises that embark from the Alexandria Marina. There’s even a canine cruise where you can bring your furry friend along for the ride!
Have Dinner on the Water
Finish up your first day in Alexandria by having a relaxing dinner along the waterfront. There are several restaurants with waterfront dining, so you can take your pick no matter what your favorite type of cuisine. If you’re in the mood to try some local seafood, make sure you check out the Chart House, where you’ll find creative seafood dishes like Bronzed Swordfish, Shrimp Fresca and Harvest Shrimp and Scallops that are served with Brussel sprout slaw and red-eye bacon jam.
Visit George Washington's Mount Vernon
You’ll want to start your second day in Alexandria early, so grab some breakfast at the hotel and then set off for George Washington’s Mount Vernon, located less than 10 miles away from Old Town Alexandria. This popular tourist destination is the most visited historic estate in America, so it’s always busy, but it’s well worth the trip. While you’re there, you can tour the historic home and see documents and other items from our country’s history, as well as explore the estate’s sprawling grounds where you can learn about the workings of Washington’s farm. History buffs will want to inquire about the “Key to the City” Museum Pass that will not only get you a 40% discount at Mount Vernon, but also give you admission to 8 other historic sites in the area.
Explore the City's History
If you still have some time left in the afternoon after you’ve finished visiting Mount Vernon, head back toward Old Town and check out some of the city’s other famous historic sites like the Alexandria Black History Museum, the Carlyle House Historic Park, the Friendship Firehouse Museum, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, the Lee-Fendall House Museum and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum. You can also learn about the history of the city at The Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum. Housed in a former Civil War hospital ward, this museum features exhibitions, educational programs and a museum store.
Have Dinner at Gadsby's Tavern
The perfect way to finish off your visit to this historic city is to have dinner at Gadsby’s Tavern where you can dine in a colonial dining room that dates back to the 1700’s. From the moment you step in, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back in time from the candlelight to the servers dressed in period attire. The menu includes a variety of meat and seafood dishes including “George Washington’s Favorite” – grilled duck breast with potatoes, corn pudding and rhotekraut. No visit to the tavern would be complete though without sampling their famous peanut soup, so make to order a cup during your visit.