The city of Alexandria is located in the US state of Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC – the nation’s capital. Alexandria is a lovely city that is rich with history. The city was founded in 1749. So, the city already existed before the United States declared its independence from Britain in 1776 and before the construction of Washington, DC was completed in 1800.
Former US president George Washington used to live in the city. Even though Alexandria lies in the shadows of the nation’s capital, it is still a destination that is worth visiting on its own. Here are the things to do in Alexandria, VA.
Mount Vernon is located on Mount Vernon Highway at the southern end of Alexandria, overlooking the scenic Potomac River. That is the beautiful estate that George Washington owned and lived in. He lived there from 1732 until his death in 1799. He served as the US president from 1789 to 1797.
Mount Vernon was a generational estate that traced as far back as his great-grandfather, John Washington, when he bought the land in 1674. The residence was built by George’s father, Augustine Washington in 1726 after he bought the estate from his sister and George’s aunt, Mildred. George himself gained sole ownership of the estate in 1761.
During his sole ownership of the estate, George grew many kinds of crops on the estate’s sweeping farmland. These include, but are not limited to, tobacco, flax, hemp, cotton, silk, wheat, and corn. In addition to growing the many kinds of crops, George was a whiskey-maker who operated a whiskey distillery at his estate. He developed his own recipe for making the whiskey.
George was also known to operate other things at his estate such as a blacksmith shop, a stable, a smokehouse, and a spinning house. George owned his own African-American slaves who performed a wide variety of tasks at the estate from growing the crops to cooking meals to cleaning the rooms. The stately residence is constructed of yellow pine sliding designed to look like stone.
It is designed in the Palladian architectural style. The residence is shaped in a three sided manner. It is two and a half stories high with a total of 21 rooms. All of them can be toured and will give you a sense of what daily life was like during George’s time there. The scenery of the estate grounds is brimming with beautiful lawns, gardens, woodlands, and a few walking paths including a circle in front of the three sided residence.
When you arrive at the estate, you will notice that there are costumed guides there. That is meant to make you feel like you were there during George’s period back in the 18th century. They will help you explore all aspects of the estate’s history during your time there. The admission prices for Mount Vernon are $20 for adults and $12 for children aged from 6 to 11.
Those who are aged under 6 will get free admission. You can go here to buy your passes for the estate. Should you get hungry while you are there, you can dine at the estate’s onsite restaurant called the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant. Those of you wanting to shop for souvenirs will want to check out the Shops at Mount Vernon which is also located onsite.
Old Town Alexandria
In addition to Mount Vernon, you will want to make sure to visit Alexandria’s Old Town area. This is the historic heart of Alexandria. Its cobblestone streets are brimming with vivid colonial-era architecture. These are the same streets that George Washington used to walk around back in the 18th century when he lived in Alexandria.
There are hundreds of unique shops and restaurants in Old Town competing for your attention and dollars. Many of them are located on King Street which runs from west to east through Old Town. If you prefer to get somewhere in Old Town faster, then you can take a free trolley that drives on King Street. Old Town also boasts a waterfront.
So, I would suggest you to head there and soak in the views of the scenic Potomac River and the boats that come and go from the harbor. There are plenty of dining options on or near the waterfront. One such option is the Chart House.
This restaurant offers a menu of seafood fare and has a nice outdoors dining space where you can dine while at the same time taking in the beautiful views of the river and the many boats docked just south of the restaurant. If you are looking for a peaceful place to relax, there are a few parks available on the Old Town waterfront. These include Waterfront Park, Founders Park, and Windmill Hill Park.
Art lovers should certainly check out the Torpedo Factory Art Center which is also located on the waterfront of Old Town. It was once a naval munitions factory, but now it houses 82 studios and six galleries where 160 professional artists showcase and sell their work.
These are the things to do in Alexandria, VA. Also, if you are planning to cross the Potomac River into Washington, DC and visit a few world-class Smithsonian museums, I would suggest you to check out this post from last month for my suggestions.
If you are looking for a hotel to stay overnight at during your time in Alexandria, I am happy to help you out with this. Here are the two hotels I would suggest you to book with.
Embassy Suites by Hilton Alexandria-Old Town
This hotel is located on Diagonal Road just west of Alexandria’s Old Town. There is free breakfast available at the hotel. If you get hungry and/or want an alcoholic drink, you can head to the hotel’s onsite restaurant and bar called The Atrium Lounge. The hotel contains an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub. There is also a fitness center available at the hotel.
All of the suites at the hotel come with WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $142 to $321. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or check out some photos.
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Alexandria – Old Town
This hotel is located at the northern end of Alexandria’s Old Town area on First Street. There is an onsite restaurant at the hotel called Bistro on First Restaurant for you to dine at. The hotel is home to a hybrid indoor/outdoor heated swimming pool. There is also a fitness center at the hotel for your workout needs. Many of the hotel’s rooms and suites come with balconies which will allow for nice views of the bustling streets.
All of them come with WiFi and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $79 to $238. You can head here to browse your booking options and/or view some photos.
What are your thoughts? Have you visited the city that George Washington called home back in the 18th century? Feel free to leave a comment below.