Much to enjoy, both old and new, in Alexandria, VA
SHERYL NANCE-NASH | 10/24/2019, 3:06 p.m.
Alexandria, Virginia was the stomping ground of the nation’s first president. George Washington lived in nearby Mount Vernon, but Alexandria was where he owned a townhouse, went to church, did business, and even sold goods at the Old Town farmers market, the oldest farmers market in the country still held in the same spot on Market Square every Saturday morning. Die-hard Washington fans will want to visit in February when there many events celebrating his birthday. Some 140 locations have ties to Washington.
But, there’s much more to Alexandria. This town of 150,000, just 5 miles from Washington, D.C., on the Potomac River waterfront, is charming with its 18th and 19th century architecture, boutiques and hyper local businesses, each more unique than the other. There are more than 200 independently owned shops and restaurants. While Alexandria overflows with memories, Old Town Alexandria, founded in 1749—a nationally designated historic district—it is very much now.
There’s always something new popping up. This year Lost Boy Cidery opened. It is the first urban craft cidery in Northern Virginia. Sample the line of heritage and modern dry craft ciders from Virginia apples and all-natural ingredients like hops, cranberries, pineapple and spices. Heritage ciders are aged in tequila, gin and Kentucky bourbon barrels: drink up. Also new is e-Bike tours from Pedego Alexandria Electric Bikes, which includes a tour of Old Town Alexandria, a tour to George Washington’s Mount Vernon, a monuments tour of D.C., a seasonal tour to the cherry blossoms in D.C., and an Old Town at Night tour—a 90-minute ride that takes you across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, offering extraordinary nighttime views of Old Town, D.C. and National Harbor.
The vibe is decidedly cool at new beer gardens, Hops N’ Shine, which serves up craft beer with more than 50 beers on tap, moonshine and good eats. At The Garden, a 100-seat outdoor restaurant, you get much more than beer. Enjoy fresh basked beignets and coffee, while you sit back and relax to the sweet sounds of jazz.
If you began your journey early morning and arrive in town just in time for lunch, fuel up at Virtue Feed & Grain. It’s hard to believe the building was once a feed house in the 1800s. Today, it’s all dolled up with modern-rustic décor and the mood is lively. Eat on the second level porch and take in views of the Potomac. After sampling the varied menu—duck poutine, wild boar chops, tuna takitos, sweet potato tacos or duck meatloaf—you might feel like a nap. But stroll the mile-long King Street, where the action is in Old Town. Weave through the art galleries (St. George Gallery is a must-see with its African antiques, jewelry, textile, furniture and pottery), cafes, and boutiques like The Hour Shop, with vintage chic barware and glassware.
Stop by the Torpedo Factory Art Center. The former munitions plant boasts the largest collection of publicly accessible working artists’ studios in the U.S. Watch more than 160 artists working many mediums: painting, jewelry making, stained glass. Chat with them, sign up for an art class. There’s also an Archaeology Museum on-site.