Best Things to Do and See In Alexandria VA
Whether a PCS house hunting trip has brought you to Alexandria or if you’re already living here, there are plenty of sites to see and things to do in the city. The trick is to make sure your family checks off as many attractions as possible before it’s time to move again.
Because of Alexandria’s proximity to Washington, D.C. new residents often get sidetracked by heading to the big names of tourism there: The Smithsonians, Arlington National Cemetery, etc. Once you’ve lived here awhile, you’ll realize the insider info mandates to catch all of those iconic monuments and museums during the fall and winter months when tourists aren’t running mad dashes through the heat and humidity to fit each one into three days’ time.
During those crowded days, do yourself a favor and hit the unique opportunities in and around Alexandria. There’s plenty of history, art, and culture in Alexandria to rival the D.C. offerings.
Walking Tours of Alexandria
A great way to learn your bearings and street names is to sign up for a walking tour. Self guided and professionally guided options both exist, and there are plenty to choose from. Of course, ghost tours are always popular, but colonial history, food, beer and wine, and even dessert tours exist.
Alexandria’s Visitor Center is a ideal place to begin planning any type of tour.
Hiking and Biking
The Mount Vernon Trail is beloved by tourists and residents alike. Walking, biking, or hiking along the Potomac’s shores offers views of not just Virginia’s wooded banks, but you’ll also see Maryland’s riverbanks, flights from and to Reagan International Airport, and cityscapes. The 18 miles of paved trail is operated by the National Park Service, the same agency that cares for all of the parks and monuments in D.C.
One end of the trail begins at Mount Vernon, and the other begins at Theodore Roosevelt Island. Living on or near the The Parkway, as it’s known, is a perk that many commuters (by both bike and car) to the Pentagon and Fort Belvoir look for when buying or renting a house in Alexandria.
Mount Vernon Trail via Wikimedia Commons
Picnic and observe wildlife at two more local parks: Huntley Meadows Park and Fort Hunt Park. Both have seasonal events planned throughout the year.
There’s no way to separate George and Martha Washington from Alexandria’s history. The Washington family and the city are so intertwined that it's hard to distinguish where his properties ended and began. In fact, many in demand homes in the Mount Vernon and Fort Hunt areas of Alexandria were previously farmed by our first president. But, his most cherished property was certainly his home at Mount Vernon. Although privately owned, the plantation welcomes millions of visitors each year and is typically on any must-do list for Washington, D.C.
Mount Vernon via Wikimedia Commons
Military families who remain in Alexandria often take advantage of Mount Vernon memberships, as they usually pay for themselves after one visit. Because of its easy-to-find location and myriad of exhibitions, events, and festivals, plan to visit more than once a year.
Guest passes come with memberships and are perfect to lend to the dozens of guests who will want to stay with you now that the military has stationed your family somewhere worth visiting!
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial
Speaking of George Washington (See, it's hard to exclude him!), a visit to his namesake’s Masonic National Memorial offers another perspective of the man; his dedication to the Mason way of life. The memorial is undergoing a full scale renovation, so stay tuned to their website for updates on parking and hours of operation. If you choose to live near this part of Alexandria, The West End, keep your snow sleds close. The memorial hosts sledding of epic portions when a few inches of snow make it to the ground.
For history with a Harry Potter twist, visit the Stabler Leadbeater Apothecary Museum where tours and birthday parties are created with Harry Potter fans in mind.
Old Town and the Waterfront
Strolling through Old Town is a day of visiting onto itself. The options in the heart of the city include everything from boutique and antique shopping, touring museums and art galleries, and lounging waterside for sunset cocktails. Waterside, the Torpedo Factory isn’t what it sounds like anymore, but now houses artists of all mediums. Whether creating or selling, there’s always someone in the building working on their craft.
The restaurant choices are so superior that it can be overwhelming to choose one. But, do make time to visit at least one of the ice cream parlors while walking King Street. If a hot day makes walking unbearable, take advantage of the free King Street Trolley that covers the most popular destinations on the length of King Street.
Old Town is also the perfect docking spot to take a boat tour up and down the Potomac. Options vary in size and amenities, so there’s likely one that fits your itinerary. Water taxis are also popular and shuttle guests to more fun places like the National Harbor and The Nationals baseball stadium.
In Old Town, history is everywhere, so add in the Carlye House Historic Park to your walking tour or planned visit.
This is only a smidge of the things to see and do in Alexandria. The city is very family-friendly and offers year-round adventures from parades to festivals and fireworks. There is truly something to explore every weekend and holiday!
Stay up to date with MilitaryByOwner for more interesting events and happenings in Alexandria. The amount of once in a lifetime recreational opportunities is a key factor for military families hunting for homes for sale or rent in the area.