Top 18 Things to Do in Old Town

Named a Top 3 Best Small City in the U.S. 2019 by the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, the #1 Best Value U.S. Travel Destination 2018 by Money magazine, and one of the South’s Prettiest Cities 2018 by Southern Living, Alexandria is a welcoming weekend escape next to our nation’s capital accessible by water taxisMetrorail, bike share and more. A nationally designated historic district founded in 1749, Old Town Alexandria hums with more than 200 independent restaurants and boutiques alongside intimate historic site museums and new happenings at the waterfront. At the heart of it all is bustling King Street, a walkable mile recognized as one of the “Great Streets” of America. Enjoy a walkable downtown lined with beautifully preserved 18th- and 19th-century architecture. Check out our top 18 things to do in Old Town below. Want even more ideas? View our Old Town weekend itinerary.


King Street Trolley

1. Stroll the King Street Mile, one of the “Great Streets” of America

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.


Water Taxi

2. Choose from 6 Sightseeing Cruises and Water Taxis

As an historic port city and a hub for Potomac Riverboat Company, Alexandria is the launching point for 6 sightseeing cruises and water taxis, boarding at Old Town’s bustling marina featuring street performers and outdoor dining. See D.C. landmarks on the narrated Monuments Tour from Alexandria or take the water taxi into D.C. with stops at Georgetown, The Wharf and Diamond Teague, which offers access to Nationals Park and Audi Field. You can also cruise to George Washington’s Mount Vernon and National Harbor.

Carlyle House family

3. Experience History Where it Happened

Experience early American history where it happened at Alexandria’s intimate historic site museums. Tour Gadsby’s Tavern Museum which hosted George Washington and the first five U.S. presidents, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, an historic pharmacy founded in 1792, and the Carlyle House, a Georgian manor built in 1753 by one of Alexandria’s city founders. The Key to the City museum pass, just $15—a $44 value, includes nine historic sites and 40% off nearby George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Torpedo Factory

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 82 artists’ studios featuring a variety of media including painting, ceramics, jewelry and printmaking, plus seven galleries, two workshops, and the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. Check the Torpedo Factory calendar for special happenings like late night events, live music and new exhibit openings.

Outdoor Dining

5. Dine in Historic Hot Spots

Alexandria is a foodie destination with more than 25 new restaurants opening last year and a culinary scene highlighted in USA Today. Enjoy independent and chef-driven restaurants in a can’t-beat historic atmosphere with many Old Town restaurants located in centuries-old historic buildings. Dine at Old Town hot spots Virtue Feed & Grain, an American tavern located in an 1800s feed house, or Columbia Firehouse, home to the Columbia Steam Engine Fire Company of the late 1800s.

Spite House

6. 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, John Hollensbury built it out of spite in 1830 to keep loiterers out of his 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.

Summer Shopping

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. From designer shoes to exquisite vintage cocktail ware to home decor, shopping in Alexandria is an experience with in-store activities like “yarn tastings,” trunk shows and DIY workshops.

Port City

8. Sample Beer from the “Best Small Brewery” in the U.S.

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 for a tour and events like Beer Yoga plus happenings with food trucks and live music. Port City was named the “Best Small Brewery” in the U.S. at the Great American Beer Festival in 2015 and was the first modern-day craft beer brewery in the D.C. region.

captain gregory's

9. Slip Into a Speakeasy Hidden Inside a Donut Shop

Irish pubs, live music locales and a speakeasy hidden inside a donut shop: these are just some of Old Town’s top places for drinks. For those seeking exquisitely crafted cocktails, a sliding wooden wall inside Sugar Shack Donuts reveals Captain Gregory’s 25-seat cocktail lounge. For a laid-back vibe with live music, stroll into local pubs Daniel O’Connell’s and Murphy’s.

Family at Apothecary

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 Harry Potter books and movies, including dragon’s blood, mandrake root, lavender, castor oil, valerian and many more.

Myron Mixon

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. Meggrolls is acclaimed by Southern Living for their quirky and imaginative eggrolls in flavors like the chorizo poblano, buffalo wing and broccoli mac n’ cheese. Hank’s Pasta Bar features rustic seasonally-driven Italian dishes and handmade pasta praised by The Washington Post.


12. Treat Yourself to a Sweets Crawl

There’s always room for dessert in Alexandria with ice cream shops, cupcake bakeries 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 Nicecream for made-to-order ice cream created when liquid nitrogen meets fresh farm ingredients. Alexandria Cupcake’s made-from-scratch flavors like chocolate peanut butter will have you dreaming of when you can return.

Farmers Market at Market Square

13. Visit the Oldest Farmers Market in the U.S.

Held Saturday mornings year-round for more than 260 years, the Old Town Farmers' Market is the oldest continuously-run farmers market in the U.S. In fact, George Washington even sent his produce from Mount Vernon to be sold here. Named by Brit+Co as one of the top 25 food markets around the world to visit at least once in your life, vendors today sell fruits and vegetables, cheeses, breads, pastries, fresh cut flowers, art and more.

captain's row

14. Fall in Love with a “Most Romantic City”

With its cobblestone streets, picturesque rowhouses from the 18th century, and cozy restaurants, it’s no wonder Alexandria is known as one of the country’s most romantic cities. Pair a stroll through Old Town’s iconic cobblestone block Captain’s Row (100 block of Prince Street) with dinner at Vermilion, Magnolia’s on King or Mia’s Italian Kitchen.

LGBT Waterfront Outdoor Dining

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 is the latest hot spot offering 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 mainstays Blackwall Hitch and Chart House.

Fall Tours

16. Catch a Fright 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 hot spots known for their eerie legends. Those 21+ can enjoy a nightly spirits ghost tour and pub crawl

Family at Mount Vernon

17. Explore George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Most Visited Historic Home in America

As George Washington's adopted hometown, 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, accessible by boat, bike and car. Explore the mansion, lush gardens and grounds, intriguing museum galleries, and the distillery and gristmill. Put yourself in Washington’s shoes through a new immersive experience, “Be Washington: It’s Your Turn to Lead.”

Cyclist on Mount Vernon Trail

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 3000-mile East Coast Greenway that extends from Maine to Florida.

Explore Old Town