Old Town Alexandria is one of the most charming cities we have ever visited. The alluring architecture, unique shops and restaurants as well as the abundant history here make it the perfect place for an extended weekend trip. We loved exploring this city and think you will too. Here is our ‘What to do in Old Town Alexandria’ guide.
FYI-This post is written based on a trip taken in early October. The fall colors were at peak at this time. We took this trip with our 14 month old daughter. For all our baby travels tips and tricks see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, Flying with a Baby and How to Hike with a Baby posts.
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#1 What to do Old Town Alexandria: Explore King Street & Beyond
Brick sidewalks and buildings along with cobblestone alleys make Old Town Alexandria, particularly King Street, quintessentially charming. King street is lined with many one-of-a-kind independently owned shops and restaurants, making your stroll on this street each time completely unique. Most of our favorite restaurants were located on this street (see below for recommendations).
#2: Visit the Skinniest House in America
Stop by the Spite House (523 Queen Street) to see the skinniest house in America. This house was built ‘in spite’ between the two other houses to keep loiterers out of the alley. This house, as well as many of the other houses on Queen Street are nothing short of picture perfect. Be sure to stroll Queen Street to see these gorgeous row-houses when you visit here too.
The Spite House, and other houses on Queen Street, reminded us of some of the houses in Amsterdam. See our Visiting Amsterdam, Netherlands on a Budget guide for all our tips on visiting Amsterdam.
#3 What to do Old Town Alexandria: Walk Captain’s Row
The 100 Block of Prince Street is arguably the most picturesque spot in Old Town Alexandria. We were visiting Alexandria for very good friends’ wedding and took wedding party pictures here. The charm of the houses, arched tree canopy and cobblestone here is undeniable. You feel transported to early post-Revolution America. The first picture in this post is of Captain’s Row.
#4 What to do Old Town Alexandria: Explore Wilkes Street Tunnel
This former railroad tunnel is now a picturesque passageway leading to the Windmill Hill Park. With overgrown ivy on the tunnel’s wall, the allure here is indisputable. When we visited during peak fall colors, Wilkes Street Tunnel was even prettier than we imagined. Our 14-month-old daughter thought running through this tunnel was SO fun!
#5: Dine at the Local Restaurants
There are so many independently owned restaurants in Old Town Alexandria. There were so many good authentic ethnic restaurants to choose from as well. Some of our favorites included:
- Taverna Cretekou (authentic family owned Greek restaurant, perfect patio, right outside our Airbnb)
- Pita House (Lebanese)
- Virtue Feed & Grain (tavern in an 1800s feed house near the waterfront)
- Urbano 116 (Mexican)
- Mai Thai (Thai Food)
- Old Town Dolci Gelati (small batch gelato)
- Alexandria’s Cupcakes (delicious made-from-scratch cupcakes)
#6: Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
This apothecary was operational from 1792-1933 when it was then turned into a museum. There are over 15,000 herbs, including potion ingredients, and medical devices to view here. It is really cool to see all the ingredients from a non-modern day pharmacy.
Tip: Check the hours closely before planning a visit here. They are very limited and variable.
#7 What to do Old Town Alexandria: Torpedo Factory
This former World War II Torpedo Factory is home to the largest compilation of art studios in the USA. With 83 different artists’ studios, there is something here for everyone to experience and support local artists, including seeing them at work. We attended a wedding at the Torpedo factory, and it was such a cool and unique venue. See our instagram post from the wedding for some pictures.
#8: Old Town Alexandria’s Farmers Market
We are always suckers for a good farmer’s market as it is a great way to get a more local experience and the Old Town Alexandria farmer’s market did not disappoint. Every Saturday morning, more than 70 local vendors offer fruits, vegetables, flowers, ready-made food, art and more at this farmer’s market. This is a great spot to grab a morning coffee and explore.
Fun fact: The Old Town Alexandria farmer’s market is the longest continuously operating farmer’s market in the USA.
#9: Walk the Potomac River Waterfront
The waterfront has some stunning views of the Potomac River. Stop at the iconic ‘I Love You’ sign, relax at one of the waterfront parks or grab a bite to eat at one of the many waterfront restaurants. Our daughter loved running around the waterfront parks where there was more green space than elsewhere in Old Town Alexandria.
#10: What to do Old Town Alexandria: Mount Vernon Trail
This nearly 18 mile trail is a great spot to go for a run, walk or bike ride. The Mount Vernon Trail parallels the Potomac River and is a nice retreat from the more bustling parts of Old Town Alexandria. Natalie found this spot to be the best place to access the trail, although there are many points along the waterfront to access it.
#11 What to do Old Town Alexandria: Mount Vernon
For the history buff in your group, head 8 miles south of Old Town Alexandria to George Washington’s former estate, Mount Vernon. Here, explore the riverside estate including the mansion that has been turned into a museum, the operational farm, the extensive gardens, the first presidents tomb, the distillery, the gristmill and more.
#12 What to do Old Town Alexandria: Day Trip to the National Mall
Located only about 6 miles north of Old Town Alexandria, a day trip to the National Mall is as easy as calling an Uber. The monuments and museums are always so fascinating to see. We started at the Lincoln Memorial and worked our way towards the Smithsonian Museums. Choose your own adventure when it comes to what you explore here!
Kudos to the CoziGo (in first picture in series above) for helping our daughter take a nap while out exploring the National Mall. We love this portable blackout curtain that creates a dark space for our daughter in her carseat and/or stroller. Use this link for the CoziGo for a discount.
Where to Stay in Old Town Alexandria
When researching where to stay in Old Town Alexandria, we wanted to be sure to find a place that matched the area’s picturesque charm. We were so pleased when we found this mid-century modern Airbnb in the heart of Old Town Alexandria to stay at while visiting Old Town Alexandria. This Airbnb has the perfect location and we were able to walk everywhere we wanted to visit in Old Town Alexandria. For more information on this Airbnb please see our Where to Stay in Old Town Alexandria blog post.
Looking to extend your trip from Old Town Alexandria? Check out our One Day in Shenandoah National Park and Where to Stay Near Shenandoah posts for some inspiration. Shenandoah National Park is only about 2 hours from Old Town Alexandria and a nice little escape from the city.
We hope this guide helps you plan your trip and what to do in Old Town Alexandria. Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment!
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