12 Things to Do in Alexandria, Virginia
Looking for something to do in Alexandria, Va.? No matter where your interests lie, Alexandria offers something to delight!
Here are just a few of the most popular things to do in Alexandria—along with some hidden gems you might not know about!
For the History Buff
Built in 1785, Gadsby’s Tavern was once a popular hotel and tavern. It hosted several historical events, including George Washington’s Birthnight Ball and Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural banquet. Among its past famous guests are Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.
Today, Gadsby’s Tavern operates as both a museum that offers tours on its rich history, and as Gadsby’s Tavern Restaurant, which boasts “fine dining since 1770” and a colonial-inspired menu.
Just around the corner from Gadsby’s Tavern sits the Carlyle House, a Georgian mansion built in 1753 by merchant and city founder John Carlyle. Visitors get a peek into eighteenth century life through tours, youth programs, special events, exhibits, and lectures. During the holidays, special programming shows how the Carlyles and their enslaved workers celebrated the holidays in colonial times.
For the Nature Lover
The Mount Vernon Trail is an 18-mile trail that starts at Mount Vernon and winds along the Potomac River, with uninterrupted views of monuments and other landmarks. An appealing destination for nature and history lovers as well as outdoor enthusiasts, it’s a popular place to run, walk, or cycle.
The trail connects with regional trails, including the Potomac Heritage, Custis, Rock Creek, Four Mile Run, and Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trails.
Fun Fact: The Mount Vernon Trail takes visitors under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which connects Virginia and Maryland, and is one of the few remaining drawbridges in the United States.
The Dora Kelley Nature Park is a 50-acre nature sanctuary with a one-mile nature trail made up of hills, wetlands, and streams. A popular destination for bird-enthusiasts, it’s not uncommon for visitors to spot woodpeckers, owls, hawks, wild turkeys, and even bald eagles. The park also offers guided tours.
Located along the Mount Vernon Trail on the Potomac River under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, Jones Point Park was once a World War I shipbuilding area, and now offers a playground, a basketball court, fishing piers, garden plots, historical markers, and even a small lighthouse. An interpretive trail explains the park’s history, including its use by Native Americans and its role in shipbuilding and navigation.
Fun Fact: The Jones Point Park “Learn to Ride” program helps children learn to ride a bike by teaching kids aged five and up and their parents a “balance first” technique.
For the Art Connoisseur
Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory Art Center is located in a former World War II torpedo factory, and houses the largest collection of publicly accessible working artist studios in the United States. There are currently more than 160 resident artists in 82 studios, creating art in a variety of media, including painting, ceramics, jewelry, printmaking, sculpture, and photography.
The Torpedo Factory hosts special events, exhibits, and live music. In addition to the working artist studios, there are also seven galleries, workshops, and a gift shop.
For the Cruiser
There are a number of fun ways to experience the mighty Potomac River: The Potomac Riverboat Company offers sightseeing cruises, water taxis, and private events.
Narrated sightseeing cruises sail along the Potomac River, past monuments and landmarks. The company’s eight sailing vessels connect the Washington D.C. community with stops at National Harbor, Gaylord Convention Center, Georgetown, Alexandria, Mount Vernon, the National Mall, and Nationals Park baseball stadium.
Fun Fact: The Cherry Blossom is one of the few working sternwheelers—a boat propelled by a paddle wheel at the stern—in the United States.
For the Trivia Buff
The Spite House, located in Old Town Alexandria, is the narrowest house in the United States. It is just 7 feet wide, 25 feet deep and 325 square feet. Once an alley between two houses, its name is rooted in its curious history: John Hollensbury, the owner of one of the adjacent houses, built it in 1830 to keep horse-drawn wagons and loiterers out of his alley. The brick walls of the houses on either side form the walls of the living room—and still sport the gouges from wagon-wheels that once traversed the alleyway.
For the Foodie
Blue Fern offers culinary tours of Alexandria that feature local businesses. Tours sample foods at locally owned restaurants and also describe the evolution of Alexandria, from the role it played during the founding of the country, to the Civil Rights Movement, to modern day.
Fun Fact: Blue Fern is the area’s only one-for-one food tour: a portion of each ticket sale goes to Bread for the City, a charity that provides services to D.C. locals, including providing food, clothing, and legal and medical services.
For the Spirits-Lover
Sonoma Cellar is a wine tasting room and bistro that brings a little bit of California to Alexandria. It offers an exclusive collection of more than 180 Sonoma California wines and 20 Virginia-based wines, along with California craft foods that can be enjoyed in the wine tasting room or on the outside patio. The wine tasting experience includes a detailed description of the wine, the varietal, the winemaking process, the vineyard, and the growing region.
Fun Fact: Remy Julienne, Sonoma Cellar’s resident dog and mascot, is a four-year-old purebred Papillion, friend, companion and certified therapy dog who can often be found greeting Sonoma Cellar’s guests.
Aslin Beer Company brewery, taproom and beer garden offers a wide variety of ales, lagers and variants, including hazy IPAs, pastry stouts, and sours. The taproom also hosts special events.
A rotating menu brings fresh food options every 8 weeks.
Cans, crowlers and growlers are available to go.
For the Java Enthusiast
Misha’s Coffee House offers freshly roasted coffee—by the pound or by the cup, served hot or iced—in a unique setting. Guests come to drink coffee—but also to work, read, or meet up with friends. Its large open floor plan and long community table surrounded by paintings and photos and the sounds of jazz encourage guests to sit and stay awhile. An outdoor area is also available.
No matter what your interest, Alexandria has something for you!
Wishing you a happy home,
P.S. Do you have a special place in Alexandria you love? Please share it with me!