Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Alexandria, VA

  • Published 2022/10/23

Take a glimpse at America’s history and visit Alexandria, Virginia.

This city is an excellent destination for history buffs and architecture lovers.

Primarily known for its rich colonial history, the landscape of Old Town Alexandria is made up of Colonial-era buildings and cobblestone lanes, which are home to outstanding arts and culture, award-winning restaurants, and thriving neighborhood businesses.

Alexandria is situated on the banks of the Potomac River in the most northeastern point of Northern Virginia.

Teeming with history and natural wonders, the city offers a ton of wonderful activities.

With that, here are the best things to do in Alexandria, Virginia:

Pay a Visit to the George Washington Masonic Memorial

Exterior of George Washington Masonic Memorial

Joe Ravi /

Alexandria is home to the George Washington Masonic Memorial, a monument honoring the nation’s first president.

The structure on Callahan Drive was built in 1932 and is devoted to the principles of Freemasonry and the memory of George Washington.

The memorial has a Grand Lodge Room, a theater, a library, and a museum.

The museum showcases the American Revolution, Freemasonry, and George Washington’s life.

View of George Washington Masonic Memorial's entrance

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

The George Washington Masonic Memorial also presents a brief movie about the late President’s life and Masonic ideals you can watch and learn.

George Washington and Freemasonry-related publications and manuscripts can be found in the research library.

Meetings and other special events are held in the Grand Lodge Room.

Statue in George Washington Masonic Memorial


Discover the Artifacts at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum

Located along North Union Street, the Alexandria Archaeology Museum chronicles how archaeologists used research and excavation to resurrect Alexandria’s long-forgotten history.

Through exhibitions, multimedia, publications, seminars, and tours, the museum presents the findings of recent excavations and interprets those of continuing study.

You will be amazed by the museum’s well-preserved artifacts, such as the 13,000-year-old Clovis point, regional pottery from the 18th and 19th centuries, and Civil War relics.

Through interactive group activities using artifacts from the Alexandria Archaeology collection, Alexandria Adventure Lessons show the step-by-step process of archaeology.

Moreover, the Alexandria Archaeology Museum also offers activities like Family Dig Days and a summer camp for teenagers that they will surely enjoy.

Enlighten Yourself with the Tales of the People at the Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden

Exterior of the Lee-Fendall House Museum

The original uploader was Ser Amantio di Nicolao at English Wikipedia., CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden on Oronoco Street illuminates American history through the tales of those who dwelt and worked on the property between 1785 and 1969.

The museum presents a thorough narrative focusing on how American life has changed over the past 200 years.

Stories from the past cover the republic’s early years when the Fendall and Lee families supported the expansion of the area following the American Revolution.

They also feature stories of African Americans who worked in the home throughout the antebellum era, both enslaved and free.

Entrance to the Lee-Fendall House Museum

Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Moreover, it highlights the difficulties people and society had throughout Reconstruction and how labor activist, John L. Lewis, supported the fight for workers’ rights.

The Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden is a recognized contributor to the National Historic Landmark District in Alexandria.

It’s listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

With the stories the museum holds, you will feel spellbound by the past and awestruck by America’s history over the years.

Get Cheesy at Cheesetique

Are you one of the people who love cheese?

Well, you’re bound to satisfy your cheesy cravings at Cheesetique on Mt. Vernon Avenue.

Jill Erber, “Cheese Lady,” created Cheesetique and runs the place.

This place started in 2004 as an old-school cheese shop in the Del Ray district of Alexandria.

To establish a place where cheese and wine lovers could congregate, Cheesetique launched a cheese-focused restaurant and wine bar in 2008.

Today, it’s the place to go for premium cheeses, food-friendly wines, and diverse cheesy dishes.

See the Sophisticated Artworks at the Athenaeum

Exterior of the Athenaeum

Foolish Productions /

If you are into arts and paintings, the Athenaeum is the place you can visit.

It is located on Prince Street, in the center of ancient Old Town Alexandria.

The Athenaeum, named after the Greek goddess of knowledge, Athena, continues to contribute to the cultural life of Northern Virginia.

It was built in 1852 and is listed on the Virginia Trust and the National Register of Historic Places.

Columns of the Athenaeum

Foolish Productions /

It now serves as the gallery for the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association and organizes various exhibitions, from contemporary to traditional, showcasing a variety of media and aesthetics.

A center for dance performances can also be found in the Athenaeum.

This attraction is committed to supporting local artists around the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia area.

They aim to preserve the historic structure as a valuable cultural resource for the community.

Slide and Splash at Great Waves Waterpark

The most distinctive and enjoyable water attraction in Northern Virginia is found at Great Waves Waterpark on Eisenhower Avenue.

Take a plunge down speed slides, catch a wave in the wave pool, or play with pals in the shallow water of the play pool as you twist and turn down four-story water slides.

You can also sample various waterpark favorites such as funnel cakes, hotdogs, burgers, chicken tenders, and ice-cold beverages at the Riptide Cafe.

Great Waves Waterpark is a place where you and your family can enjoy the water in Alexandria.

They also offer various educational activities such as Girl Scout Programs, including the nature program Naturalist and the much-loved Nature Nuts program that aims to reconnect children with outdoor adventures.

Get a Green Thumb at Green Spring Gardens

Gazebo at Green Spring Gardens

David Byron Keener /

The Fairfax County Park Authority manages the 32-acre Green Spring Gardens.

The garden on Green Spring Road features demonstration gardens, walking paths, a horticulture center with a glasshouse, a horticulture library, and a greenhouse.

It also has various meeting spaces, including a historic home built in 1780, local art exhibits, a native plant trail, woods, and ponds.

Pathway lined with plants at Green Spring Gardens

Jon Bilous /

Throughout the year, Green Spring Gardens serves as a wealth of knowledge, a haven for those interested in home gardening, and a must-see park.

You can also enjoy the fresh air and stroll around the area to see the cultured plants or look around the pond to relax.

Sculpture on the grounds of Green Spring Gardens

Branko Hodzic /

Have Seafood BBQ at Vola’s Dockside Grill

Located along North Union Street, Vola’s Dockside Grill is an outdoor dining area in Alexandria.

Besides its sumptuous seafood dishes, it boasts one of the most desired riverfront locations in the area.

Fresh seafood, tacos, and classic American dishes are all on the menu at Vola’s Dockside Grill.

They also serve beer, wine, and other drinks in a calm, family-friendly setting.

Vola D. Lawson, the first female city manager in Alexandria, was honored with the honor of having her restaurant named in her honor.

Weekday lunch and dinner options are available all day at Vola’s Dockside Grill, and on weeknights, there is a happy hour with drink and oyster deals.

Observe Wildlife at Huntley Meadows Park

People at Huntley Meadows Park's boardwalk

Joe Benning /

The beautiful woodland and open wetland sections on more than 1,500 acres of Huntley Meadows Park are protected.

Along with several wildflowers, the park on Lockheed Boulevard is home to local deer, foxes, beavers, herons, and hawks.

The facilities include a tourist center, an auditorium, exhibitions, an educational trail with a wetlands boardwalk, and observation platforms.

The park provides accessible boardwalks, pathways, and viewing areas.

Bird perched on a tree at Huntley Meadows Park

Eric Dale /

Various breeding, migrating, and wintering birds can be found in the woodland.

Views of marsh-loving species like the great egret, hooded merganser, and common yellowthroat are available from an elevated boardwalk.

Through Huntley Meadows Park, you can access the natural habitats of local wildlife.

This region offers some of the best wildlife viewings in the Washington metropolitan area.

Egret and spoonbill at Huntley Meadows Park

Robert A. Powell /

Visit and Support the Local Art Scene at Del Ray Artisans

Nestled on Mt. Vernon Avenue, Del Ray Artisans is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1992 to foster art for the sake of both the community and artists.

The gallery aimed to support new and emerging artists and artisans and to develop and foster community-based art activities, events, and organizations.

Hoping to promote the arts as a resource for community outreach, Del Ray Artisans features various exhibits from renowned and local artists.

The gallery’s rotating exhibits offer a full range of artistic expression and endeavors in the visual, performing, and applied arts.

It also supports artists’ development at all stages, and it acts as the center of a thriving art community in the Del Ray district.

Tour Jones Point Park

Lighthouse at Jones Point Park

Albert Pego /

Jones Point Park is near Old Town Alexandria on the Potomac River.

It played a significant role in Alexandria’s history as one of the country’s biggest hubs for shipping and transportation.

The only riverine lighthouse in Virginia still exists, and it was established in 1855.

Visitors can explore the gravel interpretive trail that traces Jones Point Park’s natural and human history and see the exhibits showing the American Indians’ utilization of the area’s freshwater marsh environment, shipbuilding, and navigation.

Jones Point Park grounds under a bridge

Gary Riegel /

Other than that, you can also visit the great places to cast for American eels, rock bass, and catfish at two fishing piers in the area.

Jones Point Park also has formal recreation areas with two playgrounds, two basketball courts, and multipurpose fields.

They provide various educational and kid-friendly activities such as Learn to Ride and Lighthouse Life.

You can find this attraction on Jones Point Drive.

Fishing pier at Jones Point Park

Jon Bilous /

Enjoy Sumptuous Food at Columbia Firehouse

Columbia Firehouse, a historic American brasserie and barroom, is located on South St. Asaph Street.

The establishment was built in 1883 and was relaunched as Columbia Firehouse.

The place offers oysters, seafood, mussels, small plates to share, salads, steaks, and nightly suppers in the opulent dining rooms, atrium, and outdoor patio.

The elegant bar offers regional artisan brews, chic wines, and traditional cocktails you will love to drink while enjoying the food served in this diner.

Columbia Firehouse, which is open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, is a must-visit hangout for friends and family.

Learn Alexandria’s African American History at Laurel Grove School Museum

History marker of Laurel Grove School Museum

Elvert Barnes from Hyattsville MD, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located on Beulah Street, the Laurel Grove School Museum plays a vital role in the education rights of the African American community in Alexandria.

The museum tells the narrative of the Laurel Grove Colored School, which was founded to provide education for the first generation of African American children to be born in freedom.

William and Georgiana Jasper started the Laurel Grove School in 1881.

The institution continues to operate as Northern Virginia’s only remaining African American school.

After being renovated to regain its legacy and bring its past to life, it currently stands as a living museum.

Experience a day in the life of a Laurel Grove student in the year 1920 when you visit the Laurel Grove School Museum.

Socialize at Bastille Brasserie & Bar

Alexandrian delicacies and outstanding French cuisine converge at Bastille Brasserie & Bar, where locals and tourists go to eat French cuisine dishes and go for drinks.

With renowned chefs Christophe Poteaux and Michelle Garbee, Bastille in Old Town Alexandria provides inventive twists on traditional French fare that will suit your tastes.

Bastille Brasserie & Bar has received eight RAMMY nominations since it opened in 2006 on the edges of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

It has also been listed in the Washingtonian Top 100 and Northern Virginia Magazine’s Top 50 restaurants.

Chef Christophe uses Mid-Atlantic materials to create reinterpreted versions of traditional French dishes inspired by his French roots.

This restaurant is located on North Fayette Street.

Listen to Music at The Birchmere

Exterior of The Birchmere

Rudi Riet from Washington, DC, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The best stars in the country, folk, and rock perform at this legendary music venue on Mt. Vernon Avenue.

The Birchmere has a famous reputation in the music industry.

This well-known music venue has established many careers of singers around the world.

A performer in The Birchmere

eVanNicole, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Famous artists such as Dave Matthews from the Dave Mattews Band, American Singer-Songwriter Vince Gill, country music singer Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Canadian pop singer k.d. Lang are just some of the artists regarded as close friends and patrons of the Birchmere.

The Birchmere is dedicated to providing the best music performances in a welcoming environment.

Final Thoughts

Alexandria in Virginia is the perfect example of how a city perfectly preserves its history as it keeps up with modern times.

Alexandria also offers a variety of outdoor activities and restaurants that visitors will surely love.

With this list of the best things to do in Alexandria, Virginia, you can take a glimpse of the city’s vibrant history and discover more fun-filled activities that it has to offer.

So what are you waiting for?

Start planning your trip now!

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