A popular weekend getaway from Washington, D.C., Alexandria, Virginia has a beautiful historic Old Town, vibrant parks, great museums and unique attractions. Go for a ride on the free King Street Trolley which will take you past several famous attractions. Best things to do in Alexandria, VA include the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum, the Athenaeum, and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.
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The spirit of George Washington lives on in the streets of Old Town Alexandria. You can feel it when stepping across smooth cobblestones and old red brick sidewalks and when you pass by his Masonic Memorial, Carlyle House, or the Black History Museum. There is a strong sense of history in Old Town even when it is buzzing with the sounds and sights of bustling, modern life.
The Potomac River borders Old Town on one side, while the Torpedo Factory Art Center and the Masonic Museum serve as the other boundaries. Old Town is replete with restaurants, sidewalk cafes, shops, and all kinds of events at any time of the day. The rich and vibrant area invites you to stroll about at your leisure. Take your time to explore Old Town, and appreciate the appealing conversion of past and present.
2.George Washington Masonic National Memorial
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The George Washington Masonic National Memorial is an enormous, magnificent memorial to President George Washington. The Memorial is a museum, a library, a research center, a concert hall, and a community center.
Freemasons constructed the memorial at the beginning of the 20th century to resemble the ancient Egyptian Alexandria lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Some of the exhibited art and artifacts include an enormous, 17-feet tall statue of George Washington at the entrance to the memorial, a huge bas-relief donated by Kodak, and many portraits and busts of the legendary president and venerated Freemason.
You can get a spectacular view of Alexandria from the Memorial’s observation deck. The edifice is a National Historic Landmark.
101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, Virginia, Phone: 703-683-2007
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3.Torpedo Factory Art Center
© Torpedo Factory Art Center
The Torpedo Factory Art Center is a beloved workplace for many of Alexandria’s artists. This former ammunition plant was converted into an art center in 1974 and now contains 82 artists’ studios, two workshop spaces, seven galleries as well as the Alexandria Archaeology Museum.
Here, the Art League School offers art classes, artists create and exhibit their work, and locals and tourists stop by to see and feel the artistic soul of their city, buy a unique souvenir, and have a cup of coffee at Bread & Chocolate. All art spaces are open to the public, and you are more than welcome to stroll in and see the artists at work.
You will meet painters, sculptors, glass makers, photographers, printers and jewelry makers and they will be happy to chat with you and share with you their inspiration, hopes and dreams.
105 N. Union St., Alexandria, Virginia, Phone: 703-838-4565
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4.Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
© Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
Walking into the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum is like walking into Alexandria circa 1805 when Marta Washington or Robert E. Lee came to the shop in search of a headache remedy or a cure for the common cold.
This apothecary, or pharmacy as we call it today, was owned and operated by the Stabler-Leadbeater family until 1933, and it looks today very much the way it looked when it served the needs of the ailing citizens of Alexandria.
You will see a comprehensive collection of old medical equipment, herbal remedies, hand-blown glass containers, books of recipes and formulas, and old journals and ledgers. The museum offers a glimpse into the not-so-distant past of the pharmaceutical profession, and it is just as fascinating to the general public as it is for the pharmacists of today.
105-107 South Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia, Phone: 703-746-3852
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Just across the street from Alexandria’s City Hall in the heart of Old Town lies an elegant, almost fairytale-like house that John Carlyle built for his lovely bride Sarah Fairfax in 1793. He was a wealthy British merchant, she was from a prominent colonial Virginia family, and their home became the center of Alexandria’s political and social life.
Architecturally unique, Carlyle House is the only 18th century house in Alexandria made of stone. The beautifully restored mansion offers an exciting perspective on the way of life in Alexandria just before the Revolution. The lovely garden is meticulously maintained and features the same plants that would have been present during the times of the Carlyles.
Take a stroll around the area or have a lunch on one of many benches, in a location that is peaceful and serene, and just a few steps from the hustle and bustle of Old Town.
6.Gadsby's Tavern Museum, Alexandria, Virginia
© Gadsby's Tavern Museum
Some things never change, and we know that more business gets done in bars and restaurants than around conference tables. The same principle held true in the late 18th century when Gadsby’s Tavern and City Hotel served as a popular location for local organizations to meet and conducted their business.
Individuals would get together to discuss issues, dance, or watch a theatrical performance. Gadsby’s welcomed several rather famous names into its establishment, including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Monroe, and many other notable figures of the time. Today, the Tavern and the Hotel make up a museum that showcases Alexandria’s hospitality and the lifestyles of the city’s former inhabitants.
Have a look at the displayed artifacts of the famous guests and learn about their customs, clothing, and the food they liked.
134 N. Royal Street, Alexandria, Virginia, Phone: 703-746-4242
7.Woodlawn Plantation and Pope-Leighey House
© Woodlawn Plantation
There could be no two more different architectural masterpieces than Woodlawn and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House. Nevertheless, they are both located on the National Trust for Historic Preservation land in historic Alexandria. Therefore, visitors can compare two very different architectural styles, both of which tell a story about their builders, the inhabitants, and the most exciting time periods for the structures.
Woodlawn is a Georgian/Federal mansion designed by William Thornton for George Washington’s nephew Lawrence Lewis and his bride. The stately mansion is formal and elegant, constructed of brick masonry with sandstone trim and oversized regal windows. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Pope-Leighey house in 1940. It is one of about 100 modest residential dwellings he created.
The building is deceptively simple; it is a single level building made of wood that was designed to blend with its environment, a factor typical of Frank Lloyd Wright’s works. It was originally built in Falls Church, but it relocated to Woodland after it was in danger of being destroyed due to the highway expansion, and so it was donated to the National Trust.
9000 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, Virginia, Phone: 703-780-4000
8.Things to Do in Alexandria, VA: Jones Point Lighthouse
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The Jones Point Lighthouse served as an important navigational aid for those travelling along the Potomac River during the period from 1856-1926 when the lighthouse was in operation. The river was known for its shifting underwater shoals that threatened ships on their way to Alexandria.
Today, it is the only American riverine lighthouse still standing in the Chesapeake Bay. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1926 and made into a museum in 1964 after the establishment of Jones Point Park.
Long before the park was established, the picturesque shoreline around the lighthouse was a popular spot among Alexandrians for swimming, fishing, and enjoying a leisurely weekend. If you are looking for romantic things to do Alexandria VA, this is a beautiful place to visit.
9.River Farm, Alexandria, Virginia
© River Farm
George Washington is considered to be one of the first American great gardeners and horticulturists, so it is appropriate that the farm he bought in 1760 now belongs to the American Horticultural Society and serves as its headquarters. It is comprised of 25 acres of meticulously landscaped gardens and lawns, and Alexandria gardeners frequently browse the establishment to get ideas for their own urban gardens.
The farm, with its lovely meadow, orchards, pond, colorful thematic flower gardens, and a number of old, spectacular specimen trees, is an especially popular location for weekend picnics, wedding photos, bird-watching, or painting. The Estate House can be rented for weddings, conferences, and other events and is also a home to ever changing art exhibits.
7931 East Boulevard Drive, Alexandria, Virginia, Phone: 703-768-5700
© The Majestic
You would never guess that the Majestic is an old establishment that opened its doors the 1930s. Located in historic Old Town, the Majestic has undergone a major yet successful facelift, and the building’s Art Deco fine details have been renovated with love and great skill. While the décor evokes a feeling of nostalgia, the menu pulls at our heartstrings with good old comfort food.
Chef Jorge Pimentel works with local suppliers, ranchers, and farmers to bring completely natural, fresh, seasonal food and hormone-free beef to the table. His goal is to attract neighborhood foodies, and the menu is full of old favorites such as Yankee Pot Roast Sandwich and Hush Puppies, and everything is marked by the chef’s fine touches.
911 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia, Phone: 703-837-9117
11.Things to Do in Alexandria: Mount Vernon
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Few individuals have made such an enormous impact on the world and its history as George Washington, and visiting his plantation home and seeing the place where he spent some of the most significant moments of his life is a rare privilege. Seeing his stately home, the establishment’s lovingly maintained grounds, and Washington’s final resting place gives visitors a fresh perspective on the first president of the United States.
Today, Mount Vernon is a museum that features historic documents and possessions of some of the historic figures who spent time on the estate. The estate also includes the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Ford Orientation Center, two facilities with a number of galleries that contain over 700 original artifacts and possessions of George Washington, including his dentures. George Washington’s Distillery is one of the most popular stops on the tour of the estate.
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, Virginia 22121, 703-780-2000
12.Trademark, Alexandria, Virginia
Trademark is a popular bar at the Westin hotel with huge windows, soaring ceilings and an attractive curved bar that perfectly complements the curved communal table. It is always packed for happy hour whether or not there is a game on one of the establishment’s many screens. Be sure to get something to drink while you’re there – they serve classic cocktails that never disappoint.
The walls are decorated with old photos, and there is a lovely corner with a well-stocked bookshelf full, jars, and old trophies near the private dining room. The menu features typical bar fare but with a few delicious surprises, including mac and cheese filled with ham and served with deep-fried pickles Cuban style. You can also get it filled with lobster or crab.
2080 Jamieson Ave, Alexandria, Virginia, Phone: 703-253-8640
13.Green Spring Gardens
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At Green Spring Gardens, you can stroll along a wooded valley by the stream and various ponds, inhale the fragrance of the native plants, browse through the tropical greenhouse, or browse the reference library. Green Spring Gardens is a wonderful place for avid gardeners whether they want to enjoy a leisurely visit, learn something new about gardening, seek inspiration for spring planting, or shop for the latest additions to the Garden’s well-stocked shop.
The Gardens serve as a living classroom for kids and adults, and there are many hands-on horticultural learning courses. The gardens also have historic significance, so do not forget to check the stately, ornate historic house built in 1784 by John Moss.
4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, Virginia, Phone: 703-642-5173
14.The Alexandria Library
© The Alexandria Library
The Alexandria Library offers five branch locations throughout the city of Alexandria, including the Beatley Central Library building, originally constructed in 2000 and named in honor of a beloved former 20th-century city mayor. The lovely central library building, which was designed by architect Michael Graves, is a favorite stop for families visiting the Alexandria region, offering a wide variety of family storytime and activity events throughout the week. Guests can peruse the library's special collections, including its local history and ADA-accessible talking books collections. Periodic special events such as pajama parties and Lego nights encourage the entire family to come along and celebrate the wonders of reading. An open-air reading garden offers seating and play space for young ones, along with free wireless internet for parents to enjoy.
5005 Duke St, Alexandria, VA 22304, Phone: 703-746-1702
15.Fort Ward Museum and Park
© Fort Ward Museum and Park
When visiting Fort Ward, do not be alarmed by the number of fierce looking people in ancient uniforms carrying what look like antique weapons. The fort is a favorite location among the re-enactors, and they help visitors understand the role the fort played in history.
The fort is very well preserved and offers a glimpse into life during the Civil War, the lives of soldiers, and the suffering in the occupied Alexandria. Fort Ward Museum offers interpretative programs, lectures, and tours, and it contains many fascinating artifacts that allow visitors to better understand the time period and life in the fort.
4301 West Braddock Road, Alexandria, Virginia, Phone: 703-746-4848
16.Jackson 20, Alexandria, VA
© Jackson 20
Jackson 20 is an old-fashioned tavern serving exceptional cuisine located at the Monaco Hotel. The interior is furnished with elegant marble tables, and there is also a wonderful spacious patio for al fresco dining. The restaurant maintains the tradition of respecting good old American cuisine.
Chef Brian McPherson serves the comfort food we all crave when away from home, and this tavern is the perfect place to enjoy some of your favorite dishes. The use of pork lard as an ingredient is not a carefully guarded secret; it is happily advertised. You can even get it spiced as a spread. The menu offers a few tempting favorites that will delight your taste buds. Try the delicious Dry Aged Steak Tartare with zucchini bread and a quail egg.
480 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia, Phone: 703-842-2790
17.Athenaeum, Alexandria, Virginia
Strolling through Alexandria’s Old Town, which is replete with magnificent architecture, you will notice the Athenaeum, a feature that stands out. It is a wonderful example of classical revival architecture, with stately pillars, and it looks very much like a Greek temple.
It is such a perfect place for the museum of fine arts and the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association that it is difficult to imagine that it used to be a bank. The Athenaeum hosts seven art exhibitions every year, and it offers music and dance performances, poetry readings, lectures, and other events. It also organizes dance, yoga and ballet classes, and various education programs.
201 Prince St, Alexandria, Virginia, Phone: 703-548-0035
18.King Street Trolley
© King Street Trolley
When you get tired of walking through Old Town, just hop on a King Street Trolley. These environmentally friendly hybrid busses run every ten to fifteen minutes with several stops between the King Street Metrorail Station and the Potomac River waterfront.
You can even load your bike on a special bike rack. If you see something interesting along the way, just pull the cord and the trolley will stop where it is safe. King Street Trolleys are free of charge and provide a convenient way of navigating the often-congested streets of downtown Alexandria not only for tourists but also for Alexandrians who work in Old Town and busy shoppers.
3000 Business Center Drive, Alexandria, VA Phone: 703-746-DASH
19.Brabo Tasting Room, Alexandria, VA
© Brabo Tasting Room
Located in the beautifully renovated 150-year-old space next to the Old Town Alexandria’s Hotel Lorien, Brabo is an excellent place to go to for a business lunch or a get-together with a group of friends. The dining room is relaxed and inviting, with tasteful touches of elegance and comfortable banquettes. You can also sit at the magnificent zinc bar or on the lovely outdoor patio.
The menu is light but innovative, reflecting the Belgian origin of Chef Wiedmaier, along with his French and Dutch training. The wood-fired oven is used for much more than making great pizzas – their wood-fired tarts are the talk of the town. Try Pork Belly with dried cherry, charred red onion, and herbed goat cheese. All ingredients are farm-to-table and amazingly fresh.
1600 King St., Alexandria, VA Phone: 703-894-5252
20.National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum
© National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum
In a nation built on inventions and innovations, you do not have to be an athlete to be placed in a Hall of Fame. Inventors have their very own Hall of Fame located in the United States Patent and Trademark Office in downtown Alexandria. The Hall and the Museum celebrate the country’s most celebrated visionaries, talented individuals who came up with life-changing patents and made a significant impact on the lives of people throughout society.
You will see more than 500 icons in the museum’s gallery of Hall of Fame inductees. The establishment hopes the interactive and innovative programs organized by the Hall of Fame will inspire younger generations to think outside the box and consider pursuing inventing projects. Check the Museum Store for some unique gifts, books, and apparel.
600 Dulany St, Alexandria, VA Phone: 800-786-9199
Vermilion is a trendy place on King Street in Old Town, Alexandria, with wonderful, whimsical décor on two levels. Downstairs can get a bit noisy when the crowds gather. Chef William Morris is dedicated to using local, seasonal ingredients and farm-raised local products, which he combines to offer traditional American comfort food with his own imaginative interpretation.
Brunch is a popular affair with the healthy, interesting menu with delights such as the Goat Herder Sandwich with roasted beets, goat cheese, garlic confit and peppers, or Chilled Red Pepper Soup with poached shrimp and yoghurt served with a brioche.
1120 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314, Phone: 703-684-9669
22.Del Ray Neighborhood, Alexandria, Virginia
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Just minutes from Alexandria’s sophisticated Old Town, you will find a friendly, colorful neighborhood where people sit on their front porches and kids play on the street. The sidewalk cafes are filled to capacity, shops are unique and independent, and the graffiti is considered an art form. The neighborhood has so many health stores that it has earned the nickname “Well Ray.”
The neighborhood has weekly street festivals with delectable street food and live music. Every Saturday, the area hosts a lively Farmer’s Market, and you can always find a variety of shops that sell just about everything. Del Ray is also home to the Birchmere, a renowned music hall, St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub, and Cheesetique, which sells the best mac and cheese in town, along with several fine cheeses.
23.Fountains Day Spa
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Whether you are a Virginian or visiting this beautiful area, after sweating on hiking trails, visiting amazing historical sights, or stuffing your face with the fantastic Commonwealth cuisine, you will need a day to relax, cleanse body and soul, and pamper yourself. The first day spa opened in Alexandria, Fountains Day Spa offers creative and innovative full-salon treatments. Rejuvenating and relaxing facials clear the skin while treatments such as steam baths and microdermabrasion are offered to make your skin clearer and firmer. Professional hair removal is offered for both women and men, while a relaxing and nourishing massage reduces stress and renews body and soul. The services are offered by appointment only.
422 S. Washington St. Old Town, Alexandria, VA 22314, Phone: 7703-549-1990
24.Fort Hunt Park, Alexandria, VA
© NPS Photo
Fort Hunt Park is a popular weekend destination for Alexandrians and tourists alike. Sprawled across the lush Virginia hills, the park is located minutes from Alexandria and two miles from George Washington’s historic home at Mount Vernon. The park originally served as George Washington’s farmland before becoming a war fort during the Spanish-American war.
Eventually, it was used as a secret intelligence facility during the Second World War. Replete with mature trees and a variety of plants, the park is also home to many wild animals. A favorite spot among children are the ruins of Fort Hunt with its Spanish American War batteries.
25 Best Things to Do in Alexandria, Virginia
- Old Town, Photo: Courtesy of chasingmoments - Fotolia.com
- George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Photo: Courtesy of brianpirwin - Fotolia.com
- Torpedo Factory Art Center, Photo: Torpedo Factory Art Center
- Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, Photo: Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
- Carlyle House, Photo: Courtesy of Michael Geissinger - Fotolia.com
- Gadsby's Tavern Museum, Alexandria, Virginia, Photo: Gadsby's Tavern Museum
- Woodlawn Plantation and Pope-Leighey House , Photo: Woodlawn Plantation
- Things to Do in Alexandria, VA: Jones Point Lighthouse, Photo: Courtesy of Mauro Rodrigues - Fotolia.com
- River Farm, Alexandria, Virginia, Photo: River Farm
- The Majestic, Photo: The Majestic
- Things to Do in Alexandria: Mount Vernon, Photo: Courtesy of melkenater - Fotolia.com
- Trademark, Alexandria, Virginia, Photo: Trademark
- Green Spring Gardens , Photo: Courtesy of jon bilous - Fotolia.com
- The Alexandria Library, Photo: The Alexandria Library
- Fort Ward Museum and Park, Photo: Fort Ward Museum and Park
- Jackson 20, Alexandria, VA, Photo: Jackson 20
- Athenaeum, Alexandria, Virginia, Photo: Athenaeum
- King Street Trolley, Photo: King Street Trolley
- Brabo Tasting Room, Alexandria, VA, Photo: Brabo Tasting Room
- National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum, Photo: National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum
- Vermilion, Photo: Vermilion
- Del Ray Neighborhood, Alexandria, Virginia, Photo: Courtesy of MISHELA - Fotolia.com
- Fountains Day Spa, Photo: Courtesy of Rido - Fotolia.com
- Fort Hunt Park, Alexandria, VA, Photo: NPS Photo
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of jonbilous - Fotolia.com