Alexandria, Virginia Travel Guide
The ultimate guide to the coolest things to do and see in Alexandria, Virginia
Just a short metro ride away from the Washington, D.C. city center, Alexandria is that type of American city every international tourist is looking for. With American history packed into just about every building and a whole lot of small-town charm, Alexandria is a surprising city that makes for a great break from the heavy politics just across the border. Alexandria is also just a short drive (or bike ride) away from Mount Vernon – George Washington’s former home – and he used to regularly visit the town. Start here with my basic Alexandria travel tips, or jump down below to read my latest Alexandria travel blogs.
In 2016, Alexandria was named the #1 most romantic city in the U.S. by Amazon.com thanks to its picturesque waterfront, cosmopolitain restaurants, independent shops and cobblestoned-streets.
When to Visit
Like its’ big city neighbor across the bay, Alexandria is a popular year-round destination, though the summertime tourists do crowd the city. In December, Alexandria hosts a number of popular holiday events. Because of the city’s reputation for small, independent shops, Alexandria is a great destination for holiday shopping—especially if you’re looking for unique arts/crafts. There’s also the annual Holiday Boat Parade of Lights which floats down the Potomac River, and the annual Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend when dozens of Scottish clans dress in their colorful tartans to perform in Old Town Alexandria. And in February, the city celebrates its place in US history during the George Washington Birthday Parade.
Things To Do in Alexandria
Vola’s Dockside Grill and Hi-Tide Lounge — This waterfront restaurant offers an oyster bar, seafood classics and tiki-inspired cocktails in a modern, contemporary setting. With indoor and outdoor patio seating, the restaurant is located at the end of King Street steps away from many of Alexandria’s top hotspots. The restaurant is named after local icon Vola Lawson, a civic leader and advocate for animal rights.
Market Square — In the heart of Old Town Alexandria, the Market Square has been running a regular farmer’s market for centuries. Many 18th century buildings line the surrounding blocks, including several of the city’s historic museums (all easily accessible with the Key to the City museum pass. Check out Gadsby’s Tavern Museum—an 18th-century tavern where the first five US presidents visited.
Del Ray — This is a neighborhood just outside of the Old Town Alexandria district and serves as a quirky counterpart to the historic Old Town. Home to a large community of wellness-minded locals, the neighborhood is often referred to as “Well Ray.” There’s a Saturday-morning farmer’s market along Del Ray’s Main Street. Expect to find a lot of organic and healthy eating here.
Alexandria is a nationally renowned waterfront destination just five miles from Washington, D.C.’s city center. Old Town Alexandria is the Shop Small headquarters of the region, with dozens of independently owned boutiques and restaurants tucked into 18th and 19th century buildings along King Street. There are a number of popular tourist attractions in Alexandria—mostly historical buildings and places.
Alexandria’s Key to the City museum pass is the best way to unlock the city’s rich culture and history. The attraction pass offers access to eight historic sites, includes a 40% off coupon for a visit to nearby George Washington’s Mount Vernon and access to the observation deck atop the George Washington National Masonic Memorial.
LGBT – Gay Alexandria Travel Tip
In 2016, Alexandria launched a tourism campaign in partnership with Virginia Tourism to educate local businesses on LGBT travel marketing. Virginia has been at the forefront of the recent LGBT rights movement and Alexandria was recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as one of the state's top cities with LGBT-friendly policies. While there aren't many LGBT-specific venues in Alexandria, the city's close proximity and public transportation access to Washington, D.C. offer plenty of things to do for gay tourists.
Alexandria's proclivity for small, independent businesses and celebrity chef restaurants make it a great romantic getaway. Visit Alexandria's LGBT tourism page with tips on where to shop, eat and stay.
More gay travel resources here.
Alexandria, VA Hotel Deals
Finding affordable accommodation in Washington, D.C. isn't always easy, so many visitors choose to stay in Alexandria where you can just as easily access the major tourist sites, but you can also enjoy a quiet and charming small American town. Try Booking.com or Agoda.com for last-minute hotel deals.
The Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa is located just a block away from the DC metro stop and directly on the Old Town Alexandria strip along King Street. A free public trolley runs between the DC metro and the Alexandria Harbor stopping every other block (though it's also just a cozy 20-min walk).
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