National Trust for Historic Preservation Names Alexandria a 2011 Distinctive Destination
The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Alexandria, Virginia, one of its 2011 Distinctive Destinations. Alexandria was selected for its urban charm that blends an extraordinary early American past with modern flair and its citizens' strong commitment to protecting and celebrating their history.
King Street Trolley Offers Free Ride along Alexandria's Historic Main Street ... New Hybrid Fleet launches April 22, 2012. Experiencing the shops and restaurants along King Street is easier than ever with the free King Street Trolley. Operating daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10:15 p.m., the trolley makes frequent stops along King Street from the Potomac River to the King Street Metro.
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Home to America's Patriots
As George Washington's hometown, Alexandria was where our first president lived, worked, worshipped and socialized. Many early patriots, including George Mason, spent time here, and Thomas Jefferson celebrated his presidential inaugural here. The famous Lees of Virginia were from here with the most famous member of the family, Civil War General Robert E. Lee, growing up here.
From the late 18th through the mid-19th centuries, Alexandria was one of the nation's most important seaports. Cargoes of tobacco, wheat, sugar and other commodities traveled up the coast to other colonies or across the Atlantic to Europe. The Alexandria Seaport Foundation today offers insight into this historical industry with boat building and studies of the Potomac River.
Alexandria's rich African American heritage is nationally recognized
with the listing of seven of its historic properties on the National Register of Historic Places. They are but a few of the more than 20 sites connected with Alexandria's African American heritage, which are described in the free, self-guided tour booklet, "A Remarkable and Courageous Journey," available through the Alexandria Visitors Center.
Civil War Alexandria
On May 23, 1861, Alexandrians voted to withdraw from the Union. The following morning, the city's troops mustered at Prince and Washington streets to be followed shortly by Union forces overtaking the city. They commandeered homes, warehouses and churches to use as barracks, hospitals and prisons. To protect the U.S. capital from attack, the Federal government built forts, including Fort Ward, which is now open to visitors. In the end, Alexandria had the dubious distinction of suffering the longest occupation of the Civil War.
Civil War Media Kit
A Great American Family Vacation
Alexandria makes for a Great American family vacation filled with history and creative adventures. Walk in the footsteps of George Washington on Alexandria's cobblestone streets and through historic attractions like Gadsby's Tavern Museum and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum. Civil War history comes to life at the Fort Ward Museum & Historic site. Enjoy hands-on activities at the Archaeology Museum and get inspired at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Take a family-oriented Pirate Cruise on the Potomac River and enjoy free entertainment on the waterfront. Pair your Alexandria experience with a visit to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens and a Metro ride to Washington, DC.
Independent Spirit of Old Town's 77% Locally Owned Shops and Restaurants
From the time of George Washington and the early days of this country, an entrepreneurial spirit has flourished in Alexandria. Old Town's mile-long King Street is lined with chic boutiques and celebrity chef-owned eateries, adding sexy sizzle to its timeless charm. 77% of Old Town storefronts and restaurants are independently owned and often the owner him or herself interacts with patrons.
A Shopper's Delight
Alexandria's chic, independently owned boutique scene is booming. Old Town alone contains more than 100 unique shops, including vintage shops and museum-quality antique stores, prompting Money magazine to include it in the list of 100 Best Places to Live among small cities because the "many boutiques and locally owned stores lend a small‐town vibe". Even hip, national stores have taken notice of Alexandria as a shopping destination.
A Dining Hot Spot
Alexandria restaurants have taken their place alongside Washington, D.C., restaurants as some of the best in the nation with The New York Times praising,"...the city has taken its place at the culinary table". With both locally owned and operated neighborhood restaurants as well as nationally recognized chef-owned eateries, Alexandria is a flavorful melting pot in the truest sense. In 2011, Chef Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve opened Virtue, a hip new dining spot with pool tables and video games in a historic feed and grain building, and in 2012, Society Fair, an upscale lifestyle food market with a wine bar, coffee bar, lounge, and demo kitchen. Foodies flock to Cheesetique for a meal of artisan cheese and wine, and to the charming Fontaine Caffe & Creperie to savor the specialty crepes. Alexandria's favorite independent, homegrown eateries don't just survive- they thrive - as shown by the many places opening a second location or concept. More than 60 restaurants are showcased in the bi-annual Alexandria Restaurant Week event.
Visitors can taste the range of Alexandria food traditions AND sample its flavorful history with the popular Old Town Food Tour. Tours may include Old Town's famous 135 year old Jelly Cake, locally brewed beer, European inspired dishes from the city's original fusion chef, and fresh seafood served in an 18th century captain's warehouse.
An Arts Destination with the World-Famous Torpedo Factory Art Center
Alexandria was voted 4th Best Arts Destination Among Mid-Size Cities in 2012 by AmericanStyle magazine readers. The magazine has said "The city is making a name for itself with art festivals, events, galleries and shops." With three floors of visual art and working artists at the world-famous Torpedo Factory Art Center, a former munitions factory repurposed into 82 studios for more than 140 artists who create all types of visual arts, plus shopping at antique boutiques and independent galleries, and vibrant theatrical and musical performances at venues throughout the city, Alexandria is host to a full palette of art and cultural experiences.
The event line-up includes art receptions and performances throughout the year, and the busy fall arts season - called Fall Arts Jubilee - showcases the visual arts and performing arts with festivals like the King Street Festival of the Arts in Old Town Alexandria, Art on the Avenue in Del Ray, the Kaleidoscope collection of exhibits and performances, plus the Alexandria Film Festival.
Alexandria is famous for its holiday traditions and festivities and was named a Top 10 Christmas Town by HGTV. The City celebrates its Scottish heritage with the unforgettable Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend. The Holiday Boat Parade of Lights is another of the dozens of ways to celebrate throughout the season. It's a magical time to stroll along centuries-old brick and cobblestone sidewalks and browse independently-owned shops and chic boutiques for that perfect gift. Feel transported by an old fashioned sense of holiday wonder with twinkling lights along King Street and greenery and decorations put out by merchants on their doorsteps. Escape the chill and duck into one of the nationally acclaimed restaurants and enjoy one-of-a-kind attractions. Discover Alexandria's historic and award-winning streets, recently recognized as a 2011 Distinctive Destination by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and King Street named one of 10 "Great Streets" of 2011 by the American Planning Association.
New Hotels and Restaurants Raise the Bar in Alexandria Hospitality ... With a $400 million investment in new hotel properties and upgrades of existing properties including the Four-Star Westin Hotel, Kimpton's sleek and stylish Hotel Monaco Alexandria and the Lorien Hotel & Spa, Alexandria's hospitality and meetings industry has positioned itself to accommodate larger meetings offering sophisticated technologies and luxury amenities.
During Virginia's famous Garden Week in April, several private homes and gardens, representing the city at its most elegant, are open. But, with its temperate climate and strong tradition of English-style gardening, the city is a lovely destination many months of year. Visit River Farm, once one of George Washington's properties and now operated as headquarters of the American Horticultural Society. The exuberant gardens of Mount Vernon and the 400-year-old boxwoods at Gunston Hall Plantation are also well worth the trip.
Check out what other travelers say about Alexandria tourism on TripAdvisor.