DescriptionAlthough an integral part of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, Alexandria is a distinct city in its own right. It was established in 1749 by a group of Scottish merchants and named for John Alexander, who had purchased the land in 1669. During the Revolutionary period Alexandria was a principal Colonial port as well as a trade, social and political center.
George Washington maintained a town house in Alexandria. During his residence he was elected vestryman of Christ Church Parish and was a member of the Masonic Lodge, becoming its Charter Master in 1788.
Alexandria also was the home of Revolutionary War general Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, and the boyhood home of his son, Robert E. Lee. During the Civil War the city was captured and occupied by Federal forces, which used it as a base of operations for various Union campaigns in Virginia.
Through careful guardianship and planning, parts of Alexandria have managed to retain the appearance of another century. Old Town Alexandria, extending westward from the Potomac River, is the major historical area.
The city provides a free trolley service along King Street, with trolley stops every 2 to 3 blocks between the King Street Metro station and the Potomac River waterfront. The trolleys depart every 15 minutes Thurs.-Sat. 10 a.m.-midnight, Sun.-Wed. 10 a.m.-10:15 p.m. In addition the city's DASH bus system connects the King Street and Braddock Road Metro stations with various Old Town locations. The base fare is $1.60 (exact change only), and under 4 with adult are free; phone (703) 746-3274 for route and schedule information.
The Potomac Riverboat Co. offers water taxis linking Alexandria with the National Mall and Georgetown in the District of Columbia; Mount Vernon, Va.; and National Harbor, Md. Phone (703) 684-0580 or (877) 628-5427. The cruise ship Dandy, at the foot of Prince Street, is an enclosed ship offering three-course luncheon and four-course dinner-dance cruises on the Potomac River; phone (703) 683-6076 for information and reservations.
The Alexandria Visitor Center, 221 King St., is staffed by Visit Alexandria employees. Built about 1724 by William Ramsay, a founder and first lord mayor of Alexandria, the Ramsay House moved to the site of the current visitors center in 1749. In 1949, the building was reconstructed after a fire destroyed much of the structure, one of the oldest in Alexandria.
The special events hotline maintained by the Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities provides information about local music events; phone (703) 746-5592.
Visitor InfoAlexandria Visitor Center 221 King St. ALEXANDRIA, VA 22314. Phone:(703)746-3301 or (800)388-9119
ShoppingOld Town Alexandria's streets are lined with art galleries, antique shops and boutiques. The main thoroughfare, King Street, features more than 150 independent stores and restaurants as well as national brands housed in preserved warehouses and other historic buildings.
Antique enthusiasts looking to expand their collections should do some browsing at Eisenhower Consignment (4926-C Eisenhower Ave.), The Antique Guild (113 N. Fairfax St.), Silverman Galleries (110 N. St. Asaph St.) and BW Art, Antiques & Collectibles (108 N. Fayette St.). All are great places to peruse merchandise from yesteryear.
Many of Old Town Alexandria's boutique consignment stores sell high-end pieces by Ralph Lauren, Max Azria, Milly, Valentino and other designers. Give Current Boutique (1009 King St.) or Diva Designer Consignment (116 S. Pitt St.) a try for upmarket finds sold at a fraction of the usual asking price. Modern and eclectic fashions also are sold at shops like Imagine Artwear (1124 King St.) and Lou Lou (132 King St.).
Old Town is a great source for unique home furnishings as well. Fresh and sophisticated Coco Blanca (210 S. Union St.) sells everything from French farmhouse-style lamps to gilded nesting tables that would fit perfectly in a chic urban loft.
Of course, no shopping trip in Alexandria would be complete without a stop at the Torpedo Factory Art Center , an ammunitions plant-turned-visual arts center on Union Street that contains 82 working artists' studios and six art galleries.
Self-guiding toursAmong the visitor center's offerings are walking tour brochures and bicycle trail maps.
Things to SeeAlexandria Black History Museum
George Washington's Mount Vernon