Once a part of the 10-square-mile plot that defined the District of Columbia, Alexandria is now a perfect day trip for any history enthusiast just a short drive or Metro ride away.
You’ll probably want to start the day—or finish it, if you’re looking for nightlife—with a walk around Old Town, the historic center of Alexandria, packed with antique stores, wine bars, restaurants, boutiques, and theaters. There you’ll find the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, an 18th-century tavern and hotel that was the center of business, political, and social life in early Alexandria, patronized by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. Today you can visit the old taproom, dining room, and bedchambers, furnished as they would have been in the tavern’s heyday. To get the most out of it, take one of the tours offered every 30 minutes at a quarter before and a quarter after the hour.
One block away is the Carlyle House Historic Park. The Carlyle family began construction on the house in 1751, only two years after the city of Alexandria was founded. In 1755 the British General Edward Braddock briefly used the house as his headquarters at the start of the French and Indian War. Today Carlyle House is again furnished in mid-18th-century style, and you can take tours to learn about life in that period every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour.
Finally, you can get a unique view of the city with a riverboat cruise. The Potomac Riverboat Company’s Alexandria by Water Seaport Cruise will carry you up and down the city’s historic waterfront, explaining the history and significance of the Torpedo Factory, the Old Town Yacht Basin, and the Jones Point Lighthouse, among many other landmarks.
The City of Alexandria, which owns the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, rents the dining areas to a private restaurant, so you can eat lunch or dinner in the same rooms as some of the Founding Fathers. For more about the museum visit http://oha.alexandriava.gov/gadsby. You get a discount on admission to the museum if you eat at the restaurant.
For more about the Carlyle House visit www.nvrpa.org/park/carlyle_house_historic_park.
For coupons offering discounts to the museums in Alexandria, click here.
Parking: Most on-street parking in Alexandria is limited to two hours.
Metrorail: Blue and Yellow Line stops for King Street and Braddock Road, Yellow Line stop for Eisenhower Avenue, and Blue Line stop for Van Dorn.
Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens
Hotels in Alexandria