Are you into history, art, and a little bit of whimsy?
If so, you should see what Old Town Alexandria has to offer. This peaceful, old town might be best known for its sense of calm, but when you’re looking for things to do in Old Town Alexandria, you won’t have to look long.
You can start the day with a walk down King Street, take a picture at the thinnest house in the United States, see some Ethiopian art, and if you still have time, go for a relaxing bike ride with a wonderful view. These are just a few of the wide range of activities in Alexandria you can take part in.
For the absolute must-see visit spots in town, here are our top 10 ideas:
1. Start Your Journey for Things to Do in Old Town Alexandria With a Visit to the Torpedo Factory Art Center
An old munitions building might seem like the last place you’d find a thriving art scene. But the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria would prove you wrong. It’s a unique art experience, attracting visitors with its 82 art studios and a broad variety of styles.
Unlike a typical art museum or art gallery, the Torpedo Factory has dozens of artists working on their creative process in-house. This means you can observe how they create their work in real-time.
2. Squeeze in a Trip to the Spite House
For a unique architectural sight, stop by the skinniest house in the United States. Locals call it the Spite House because legend has it that this building was created out of spite.
It’s only 7 feet wide, but it’s 2 stories. The house is neatly lodged in between surrounding houses of a more normal and spite-free size. The original owner had it built to block off the alley and keep out horse-drawn wagons.
3. Enter the Magical World of the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
This apothecary museum boasts a one-of-a-kind collection of unusual items. You may have trouble visiting it right now due to the pandemic, but keep an eye peeled for its re-opening. When the opportunity opens up again, this is one you won’t want to miss.
From herbal botanicals to hand-blown glass and formula books, this apothecary has everything you need to feel like you’re in a mystical sorcerer’s place of business.
4. Take a Bike Ride Through the Mount Vernon Trail
Say hello to 18 miles of glorious nature. The Mount Vernon trail is paved, so it’s smooth enough for a casual bike ride, and it’s the perfect mix of city scenes and lush vegetation. You’ll get a beautiful view of the D.C. skyline, and at the same time you’ll be removed enough to reconnect with the quieter side of things.
The trail is within walking distance of the Arlington Cemetery and the Rosslyn metro stations, so you can make a solid day trip out of your visit.
5. Honor Black History at the Alexandria Black History Museum
Old Town Alexandria is a place that’s rich in historical landmarks and notable memorabilia. As you take in the history of the town, do yourself a favor and include the Black history museum in your plans.
You may have heard a lot about Black history and the Black experience in the United States. But entering an entire museum dedicated to the telling of these stories is an encounter that’s hard to top.
6. Take a Scenic Walk Along King Street
A trip to a historic town is never complete without a scenic walk along the shops and sights of the city. King Street is a lovely stretch of Old Town Alexandria that has little boutiques, well-known stores, and lots of local treasures you can’t find anywhere else.
When you take a stroll along King Street, we can promise you won’t be bored. A nice walk in the morning or after lunch is a perfect way to spend the day.
7. Visit the Athenaeum
For a beautiful and spacious art environment, take a trip to the Athenaeum. This art gallery is a celebration of artists from the surrounding regions. The tall ceilings and stunning architecture make it a one-of-a-kind backdrop for the rotating art exhibitions.
Recent exhibits include botanical art, doodle art, and ‘the human condition.’ Take a look at the Athenaeum’s website to see what they’ll have on display while you’re in town.
8. Take a Spooky Ghost Tour (Or a Regular One)
What is it about historic towns and ghost tours? Is it the element of fun in an educational setting? Or that old towns have so many famous dead people?
Whatever the reason may be, what we know is that it works. A ghost tour around Halloween can be the perfect seasonal outing for you and your travel buddies. And if you want the history minus the ghosts, there are plenty of regular tours out there too.
9. See the Stately Architecture of the Carlyle House
If you know what Georgian residential architecture means, you might have already heard about the Carlyle House in Old Town Alexandria. And if not, it’s time to see for yourself!
This stone mansion is one of the finest examples of its architectural style. It’s large, impressively designed, and almost 300 years old. If you or anyone you’re traveling with is interested in the local architecture, the Carlyle House is a must-see.
10. Experience Ethiopian Art at the St. George Gallery
You can support woman-owned spaces while learning about the intricacies of Ethiopian art at this gallery in Old Town Alexandria. The founder, Saba Alene, used the first version of this gallery as a way to break through and uplift the art scene in Ethiopia.
At the Alexandria location, you’ll find paintings, textile work, pottery, jewelry, and more. You can approach it as a museum-goer, discovering things you never knew about Ethiopian art. Or you can go as a shopper and get some beautiful finds for your friends, family, and your own home.
Come See For Yourself!
Come visit a charming town with a lot to offer. From bike trails to spooky tours, this place has something for everybody. These are our top picks, but they just scratch the surface of excellent things to do in Old Town Alexandria.
For more posts about Alexandra and Northern Virginia, check out the rest of our blog!