Old Town Alexandria is a historic district where the cobblestone streets and taverns were once traversed by George Washington. This romantic destination is just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. and offers its residents a walkable lifestyle in a dog-friendly community with an abundance of hip shops and restaurants.
Development of Old Town began in 1749, and some of its most prized properties are grand mansions constructed in the late 1700s. Other homes include elegant 19th century Victorians and rowhouses, early 20th century Colonials, mid-century estates, and stunning modern custom-builds carefully designed to complement the district’s distinctive character. Newer developments such as Robinson Landing on the banks of the Potomac offer stylish contemporary townhouses and condominiums with incredible views of D.C.
Alexandria and its Old Town district have won a plethora of awards and made many top destination lists in recent years due to the picturesque setting and lifestyle it offers. These include: a Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award for being a top small city in the United States, inclusion in Southern Living and Oprah Magazine’s roundup of top Christmas towns, being named one of CubeSmart’s greenest cities in America, being ranked as the second-safest city in America by SmartAsset, being recognized as one of the best cities for millennials by Niche, and being lauded as MONEY’s number one best value travel destination in the United States. Alexandria also holds high rankings on several Expedia lists, such as North America’s coolest downtowns, top trending, and most dog-friendly travel destinations.
The King Street Mile is Old Town’s primary commercial stretch. Along this bustling street, you’ll discover one-of-a-kind boutiques, chic restaurants, and exciting live music venues. Standout King Street dining choices include creative farm-to-table dishes at Vermilion, romantic Tuscan dining at Landini Brothers, New England-style seafood at Hank’s Oyster Bar, contemporary twists on Southern classics at Jackson 20, great pizza paired with craft beers at Pizzeria Paradiso, decadent Sunday suppers at The Majestic, and authentic Mexican cuisine at Urbano 116. Gourmet gastropub and sports bar Theismann’s is a short stroll from King Street on Diagonal Road.
King Street’s retailers include unique stores such as vintage cocktail and barware shop The Hour and health and beauty boutique Bellacara, along with recognizable fashion brands such as H&M and Anthropologie.
Many more stores and restaurants can be found scattered throughout the Old Town district. Head to the Founders Hall co-working space on Lee Street to enjoy health-conscious acai bowls and smoothies at South Block or indulge in delicious meats and cocktails a few blocks north at celebrity chef Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster BBQ. There are also plenty of restaurants offering great waterfront views near the Potomac such as award-winning chef Cathal Armstrong’s highly-rated seafood spot Hummingbird.
Old Town’s unique heritage is at the forefront at Gadsby’s Tavern, which was built in 1785 and invites visitors to dine in the same space shared by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and several other Founding Fathers.
For stylish womenswear, head to sister boutiques The Hive and The Shoe Hive, outstanding consignment store Mint Condition, or service-focused TSALT. West Elm’s Asaph Street store has a large variety of items for the home, many of which are produced by talented local artists. The Old Town Shop also stocks items from local artisans, along with produce from vendors that set up stalls during Saturday’s Old Town Farmers’ Market. Old Town’s dog-friendly credentials are bolstered by Olde Towne School for Dogs, arguably the best canine training facility in the D.C. metro area.
Old Town’s scenic waterfront offers fantastic views across the Potomac to D.C., with boat cruises and water taxis transporting visitors to its most famous monuments. The 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail follows the Potomac’s course with paved pedestrian and biking paths that lead to George Washington’s historic estate. Jones Point Park is a great place to take in the view.
Old Town’s cultural attractions include scores of artist studios and galleries within the former naval munitions factory of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, fine art at The Athenaeum, and explorations of Alexandria’s rich history at The Lyceum and the 1753 Carlisle House.
The oldest farmers’ market in the United States takes place each Saturday morning on Market Square, and Old Town offers many more seasonal events throughout the year. These include a lively Saint Patrick’s Day parade in March, the Alexandria Birthday Celebration with fireworks in July, a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in November, and the Scottish Christmas Walk and Holiday Boat Parade of Lights in December. For Halloween, South Lee Street shuts down for trick-or-treating from 5 to 8 p.m.
Old Town is served by the Alexandria Public School District. Highlights include:
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