Top 18 Things to Do in Old Town Alexandria
Planning a trip to Alexandria in the future? Voted one of Travel + Leisure’s Best Cities in the U.S. 2022 and Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 5 Best Small Cities in the U.S. 2022, Alexandria is a welcoming weekend escape next to our nation’s capital accessible by water taxis, Metrorail, bike share and more. Here are the can’t-miss Alexandria experiences to add to your itinerary.
1. Stroll the King Street Mile
Centuries-old architecture, brick-lined streets, cobblestone alleys and a canopy of twinkling lights during the holidays make strolling King Street the #1 thing to do in Alexandria. Explore dozens of independently owned restaurants and boutiques, or take a ride on the free King Street Trolley.
2. Enjoy a Sightseeing Cruise or Water Taxi
As a historic port city and a hub for City Cruises anchored by Hornblower, Alexandria is the launching point for sightseeing cruises and water taxis, boarding at Old Town’s bustling marina featuring street performers and outdoor dining. See national landmarks on the narrated Monuments Tour, take the water taxi into D.C. or cruise to George Washington’s Mount Vernon and National Harbor.
3. Experience History Where it Happened
Alexandria is a city that predates the American Revolution and is steeped in history. Explore outdoor walking tours by Alexandria Colonial Tours and Manumission Tour Company. See Carlyle House, a Georgian manor and 1700s social hub, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, which hosted the first five U.S. presidents, Barrett Library, the site of one of the nation’s earliest civil rights sit-ins and more. The Key to the City Museum pass, a $60 value for just $20, includes admission to nine historic sites and discounts to more.
4. See Art in Action at a Former Torpedo Factory
Located in a former World War II torpedo factory, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is home to the largest collection of publicly accessible working artist studios in the U.S. Guests can visit 72 artists’ studios featuring a variety of media including painting, ceramics, jewelry and printmaking, plus ten galleries featuring 150 artists and also visit the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. Check the Torpedo Factory calendar for special happenings like late night events and new exhibit openings.
5. See the Tiny Spite House, the Skinniest Historic House in America
A must-stop for Instagrammers and photographers, Spite House is the skinniest historic house in America at just seven feet wide. A private residence located at 523 Queen Street, Spite House was built out of spite in 1830 to keep loiterers out of disgruntled owner John Hollensbury’s adjacent alley. Wander Old Town’s historic red brick sidewalks for more photo-worthy rowhouses from centuries past and check out other top Instagram spots.
6. Dine at Historic Eateries
Enjoy independent and chef-driven restaurants in a can’t-beat historic atmosphere, with many Old Town restaurants located in centuries-old historic buildings. Snag a table at the laid-back patio of Virtue Feed & Grain, an American tavern located in an 1800s feed house located steps from the waterfront.
7. Shop 100+ Independent Boutiques
Browse one-of-a-kind finds in the Shop Small destination of the D.C. region. Old Town Alexandria is home to more than 100 independently owned boutiques, all in a walkable mile centered around King Street. Find everything from designer shoes to exquisite vintage cocktail ware to home décor.
8. Sample Local Award-Winning Craft Beer and Cider
Raise a glass of Alexandria’s award-winning craft beer from Port City Brewing Company at local restaurants and pubs, or head out to the brewery in Alexandria’s West End to experience the tasting room or sip outside. Sample the creative brews at Aslin Beer Co. and continue your craft beverage tour by checking out Lost Boy Cider, Northern Virginia’s first urban cidery.
9. Get Lost in Alexandria’s Architectural Wonder
Founded in 1749, Alexandria is an architecture lover’s dream destination with structures spanning several centuries and styles, from Georgian to Victorian to Mid-Century Modern. Take our self-guided walking tour past outdoor architectural gems.
10. Feel Like You’re in Harry Potter’s World
Step into Harry Potter’s world by visiting the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum. This historic apothecary was founded in 1792 operated continuously until 1933 when it was preserved as a museum. View over 15,000 objects from herbs to medical devices. Harry Potter fans can see the real-life ingredients used throughout the 1800s that were also used as “potion” ingredients in the series, including dragon’s blood, mandrake root, lavender, castor oil, valerian and many more.
11. Indulge in Creative Comfort Food
Praised by food critics and in-the-know locals, Alexandria’s restaurant scene is a culinary oasis for comfort food with a creative twist. Celebrity pitmaster Myron Mixon serves up his world champion barbecue classics with surprising sides. Or, head to Haute Dogs & Fries for a twist on the American classic, like the banh mi dog with sriracha mayo, carrots, cucumber jalapeños and cilantro.
12. Treat Yourself to a Sweets Crawl
There’s always room for dessert in Alexandria with ice cream shops, cupcakeries and chocolate shops lining King Street. Try authentic artisanal gelato from Old Town Dolci Gelati, whose chef is a global “gelato ambassador,” or head to Casa Rosada for freshly made artisan gelato and sorbet. Alexandria Cupcake’s made-from-scratch flavors like chocolate peanut butter will have you dreaming of when you can return.
13. Visit the Oldest Farmers Market in the U.S.
This market may be more than 260 years old, but the produce was picked just yesterday. As the nation’s longest continually operating farmers’ markets in one site, the Old Town Farmers’ Market bustles in the shadow of City Hall every Saturday morning. During peak season, you’ll find more than 70 vendors offering fruits, vegetables, breads, cheeses, pastries, fresh pasta, pickled vegetables, cut flowers, potted plants, soaps, jewelry, art and more. Grab a pastry and coffee at the market, then walk down to the waterfront for a riverside refresh.
14. Savor a Romantic Date Night
With its cobblestone streets, picturesque rowhouses from the 18th century and cozy restaurants, it’s no wonder Alexandria is known as the perfect spot for a romantic getaway. Pair a stroll along cobblestoned Captain’s Row (100 block of Prince Street) with dinner at Oak Steakhouse, Brabo Brasserie or Mia’s Italian Kitchen.
15. Dine on the Waterfront
Enjoy stunning views of the Potomac River while you dine al fresco at Alexandria’s waterfront restaurants. Hummingbird by James Beard nominee chef Cathal Armstrong offers clambakes, crab boils and oyster roasts. Nearby at Vola’s Dockside Grill enjoy fresh shucked oysters, crab cakes and New England or Carolina low country steamer pails. There are plenty of riverside restaurants to choose from, including brand-new BARCA Pier & Wine Bar and Ada’s on the River.
16. Get Spooked on a Ghost Tour
Founded in 1749, Alexandria’s haunted history comes to life on one of many ghost tours led by a lantern-carrying costumed guide. Roam through graveyards, stroll haunted neighborhoods and visit historic locations known for their eerie legends. Those 21+ can enjoy a ghost tour and pub crawl from Nightly Spirits.
17. Explore George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Most Visited Historic Home in America
Alexandria has more than 140 locations associated with the nation’s first president. For the quintessential experience, head eight miles south of Old Town to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Tour the mansion, explore the lush gardens and grounds—including can’t-miss Pioneer Farm and the distillery and gristmill—and hear the whole story on specialized tours.
18. Bike the Mount Vernon Trail
Outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of 20 miles of trails and 900+ acres of protected open space in Alexandria, including eight waterfront parks. Nearly 18 miles long, the Mount Vernon Trail stretches from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in Alexandria alongside the scenic Potomac River to the national monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C. A favorite among runners and cyclists, the trail is one of the most popular sections of the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway that extends from Maine to Florida. Need a bike? Consider renting one through Strictly Ebikes, Unlimited Biking, Capital Bikeshare, Pedego Electric Bikes or Wheel Nuts Bike Shop.