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In Alexandria, you can walk the same cobblestone streets where George Washington once trod, duck into a modern art gallery or explore a wealth of historic attractions near the Country Inns & Suites hotel. While many visitors use the city as a base for exploring Washington, D.C., just five miles up the Potomac River, Alexandria is a pleasant destination in its own right. Old Town is the historic heart of the city, packed with some of the area’s best dining, shopping and entertainment.
Top Things to Do in Alexandria
Shopping: King Street is Old Town’s main thoroughfare, where boutiques and national chain shops sell merchandise ranging from kitschy souvenirs to handcrafted furniture. While staying at this Alexandria hotel, some local favorites include She’s Unique for jewelry, Chinoiserie for modern gifts, and tu-anh Boutique for women’s clothing and accessories.
History: One of the busiest ports in colonial times, Old Town Alexandria is a history buff’s dream, with 2,000 buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Get a glimpse into early American life at The Carlyle House and Gadsby's Tavern Museum, sit in the same pews as founding fathers and former presidents at Christ Church, and visit the offbeat Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum to see where Martha Washington filled her prescriptions.
Art & Antiques: Dominating an entire block along the Old Town waterfront is the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Once a naval munitions factory, today the building houses 82 studios. Visitors can see artists at work, and buy works directly from the artists themselves. Old Town is also home to numerous galleries and more than 50 antique stores.
Dining: Fresh, high-quality seafood is the specialty of several Old Town restaurants, including well-established classics like Chart House and Wharf Restaurant as well as the more contemporary Hank's Oyster Bar. If your tastes are more exotic, you can find a variety of international cuisine including Greek (Taverna Cretekou), Ethiopian (Hawwi Ethiopian Restaurant) and Vietnamese (Caphe Banh Mi). For a sweet treat, head to Casa Rosada Artisan Gelato and sample such flavors as dulce de leche and pistachio.
Alexandria Local Excursion Adventures
By Water: From May to October, the Potomac Riverboat Company runs a 30-minute water taxi from the Old Town waterfront to the National Mall; during baseball season, PRC offers Baseball Boat service to Nationals Park on home game days. You can also check out spectacular skyline views by cruising to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate or Maryland’s National Harbor.
By Land: To combine exercise with sightseeing around Alexandria, you can walk, jog or bike on the 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail, which passes right through Old Town on the way from Theodore Roosevelt Island to Mount Vernon.
Best Time to Go to Alexandria
With pleasant temperatures, spring is by far the most popular tourist season, when Washington, D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival on the National Mall is the main attraction. During the steamy summer months, you can enjoy a refreshing breeze along the Old Town waterfront while drinking and dining al fresco, or relaxing at one of the many outdoor concerts in the park.
Alexandria Insider Travel Tip
To give your feet a break from the cobblestones, hop on the free King Street Trolley, which makes frequent stops along King Street from the Metro Station to the Old Town waterfront.