20 Best Things to Do in Alexandria, VA

Things to Do in Alexandria, VA

When you've spent as many sunrises and sunsets in Alexandria, Virginia, as I have, it becomes more than just a place on a map.

It's a treasure trove of historical significance, cultural diversity, and breathtaking waterfront views.

Every corner, every brick-lined street, and every local café has a story to tell.

From its vibrant arts scene to its rich colonial history, Alexandria is a city that never ceases to surprise and inspire.

So, fasten your seatbelts as I take you on a journey through the 20 best things to do in Alexandria, Virginia!

About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

See the Nature at Huntley Meadows Park

People at Huntley Meadows Park's boardwalk
Joe Benning / Shutterstock.com

Every day feels like a new adventure when I decide to visit Huntley Meadows Park.

Nestled within my city, this park is my go-to place whenever I crave the tranquillity of nature without straying far from home.

There's something truly magical about the rich wildlife, serene wetlands, and the picturesque observation platform that overlooks it all.

On my frequent walks to Huntley Meadows, my son often accompanies me.

Together, we have grown fond of the wide array of unique birds that call this park home, turning our simple walks into impromptu bird-watching sessions.

Bird perched on a tree at Huntley Meadows Park
Eric Dale / Shutterstock.com

Countless other photographers also flock to capture the beauty of these feathered residents, making the park a vibrant hub of activity.

Contrary to its tranquil facade, Huntley Meadows is brimming with life.

Turtles, hawks, eagles, beavers, muskrats, and swans are all usual sightings during our walks.

Occasionally, we even spot a woodpecker, an event that always adds an extra dash of excitement to our day.

The best part about Huntley Meadows is that its trails are always clean, and there are plenty of spots to sit back and enjoy the views or take memorable photos.

The beautiful sights, coupled with the soothing sounds of insects and frogs, epitomize the raw, untouched beauty of nature right in the heart of our city.

Egret and spoonbill at Huntley Meadows Park
Robert A. Powell / Shutterstock.com

Pay a Visit to Alexandria Black History Museum

Buried deep in the heart of Alexandria, a city of rich historical significance, lies the Alexandria Black History Museum.

This educational establishment, which resides in a noteworthy building from the 1940s, highlights important aspects of the civil rights movement.

Visiting the museum is like stepping back into a time capsule of our nation's past, and it's an experience I've found both enlightening and humbling.

Upon entry, I was taken through a brief orientation that laid the foundational understanding of black history before being allowed to wander through the exhibits.

The museum's dimensions might be small, but it's a treasure trove of information, complete with changing exhibits and displays.

I've visited more than once, and each time there was something new to learn.

On one occasion, I remember being captivated by a small video segment that added another layer of depth to the experience.

The museum recently reopened after three years of closure for renovations.

The outcome? A fresh exhibit, titled Preserving Their Names: The Black Lives Matter Collection was put in place.

Have a Stroll Through Green Spring Gardens

Gazebo at Green Spring Gardens
David Byron Keener / Shutterstock.com

Every time I meander through the sprawling grounds of Green Spring Gardens, I am filled with a sense of peace and tranquility.

As the seasons change, so does the landscape, each bringing a unique beauty to this Fairfax treasure.

In spring, however, the garden truly blossoms into a spectacular sight.

The plethora of plants blooms into a riot of colors, creating a natural spectacle that is simply breathtaking to behold.

The historic house has seen the transformation of Fairfax over the centuries and stands as a testament to its history.

It hosts tea and tours, providing a glimpse into a bygone era while adding a quaint charm to the garden.

But Green Spring Gardens is not just about its natural allure.

It's a hub of activity with garden shops, plant education initiatives, and even a library.

Pathway lined with plants at Green Spring Gardens
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

It's a place where you can learn, explore, and appreciate the beauty of nature all in one day.

What stands out most to me, however, is the garden's versatility as a backdrop.

From engagement photoshoots to family portraits, it provides a stunning setting that adds an ethereal touch to every picture.

The 'upper' level near the entrance, bedecked with a variety of flowering plants and trees, and the tranquil pond with a charming gazebo down the hill, offer a multitude of picturesque spots for capturing special moments.

Sculpture on the grounds of Green Spring Gardens
Branko Hodzic / Shutterstock.com

When it comes to experiencing local art, there's no place like Del Ray Artisans.

Located in Alexandria, I often find myself drawn to its vibrant and ever-changing displays.

Stepping into Del Ray Artisans feels like stepping into a treasure trove of creativity.

Each month, the gallery decks out with artworks from different local artists, each more unique than the last.

From bold and vivid paintings to intricate hand-crafted items, every piece tells a different story.

The best part is, many of these masterpieces are up for grabs!

With a range of price points, it's hard not to take a piece of this artistic splendour home.

But Del Ray Artisans is not just about admiring art, it's also about creating it.

The gallery hosts a variety of workshops, and I've had the pleasure of attending a few myself.

And trust me, there's something incredibly fulfilling about seeing your own artwork displayed in the gallery.

Wander Around Jones Point Park

Lighthouse at Jones Point Park
Albert Pego / Shutterstock.com

Jones Point Park has been my personal sanctuary, a place I visit whenever I need a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Nestled under the shade of towering trees, the park is a beautiful green space dotted with playgrounds, sports fields, and an old lighthouse.

A walk along the interpretive trail is like taking a journey back in time - thanks to the historic signs detailing the history of the area.

Adding to the charm is the fact that this park is pet-friendly.

My pup always enjoys a good run around this large space, and the low water bowl provided is just perfect for her.

The park also boasts a kid's playground that's always a hit with little ones, and it's not uncommon to see families enjoying picnics on sunny afternoons.

One of my favorite parts of the park is the 1800s lighthouse.

Jones Point Park grounds under a bridge
Gary Riegel / Shutterstock.com

It’s quaint and carries with it stories of a time long past.

I usually end up parking near the lighthouse, close to the playground and Old Town Alexandria.

There seems to be plenty of parking available, even on the busiest of weekends.

Jones Point Park also has sports facilities, including a basketball court, making it a great spot for those looking to get active.

And for those who prefer a leisurely walk or bike ride, the park's trails offer stunning views and historical fact graphics to keep things interesting.

There's even a small building with public restrooms, although the men's bathroom did have a leak the last time I visited.

Fishing pier at Jones Point Park
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

A Cheesy Delight at Cheesetique Del Ray

Cheesetique Del Ray is a hidden gem, nestled amidst the hustle and bustle.

This delightful restaurant and wine bar has always been a sanctuary for cheese lovers like me.

The menu here is not less than a cheese bible, ranging from a host of charcuterie to scrumptious main dishes.

The best part? Every dish comes with wine pairing suggestions to enhance your dining experience.

And for my little ones, there's a specially curated kids menu.

They don't just stop at feeding your appetite, but also pamper your taste buds with a multifarious selection of wines and spirits.

But the true magic lies in their attached gourmet cheese boutique. It's like walking into a cheese lover's paradise.

But my personal favorite is their charcuterie board. Crafted with enormous care and creativity, it's like a florist's arrangement, but with meat and cheese.

Step Back in Time at Carlyle House Historic Park

The house at Carlyle House Historic Park
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

Living in the heart of Alexandria, I often find myself drawn to the rich history that surrounds me.

Just a stone's throw away from my doorstep, I discovered the Carlyle House Historic Park, a real treasure of the city.

A stroll through the park takes you back all the way to 1753, right to the heart of the elegant manor home that stands as a testament to our past.

Its opulent architecture and timeless beauty never cease to amaze me.

I've made it a tradition to spend many Sunday afternoons exploring the lush gardens, each visit revealing a new detail I hadn't noticed before.

The scent of blooming flowers and the tranquil chirping of birds always calm my senses, offering a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

But it's not just the natural beauty that captivates me; the expertly guided tours are a history enthusiast's delight.

Every tour is a new learning experience, filled with fascinating stories about the Carlyle family and their deep roots in the city's history.

They weave a captivating tale of the house's construction and unveil its many ties to our beloved Alexandria and beyond.

Garden at Carlyle House Historic Park
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

In fact, it was in this house where the concept of taxation without representation took birth, a pivotal event that led to the New World's separation from English rule.

The significance of this place in our nation's history is simply remarkable.

But the highlight of my visits, undoubtedly, has to be the serene garden at the back of the manor.

It's the perfect backdrop to capture some memorable photos or to lose one's thoughts.

A gazebo at Carlyle House Historic Park
Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Taste Some Seafood at Vola’s Dockside Grill and Hi-Tide Lounge

Vola’s Dockside Grill and Hi-Tide Lounge's decor is modern yet somehow perfectly at home in our historic city, while the waterfront views of the Potomac are simply unbeatable.

But let's talk about the real star of the show - the food! It's the closest to perfect seafood that you'll find this side of Maine.

Their crab cakes are a delicious combination of golden-brown outside and meltingly tender inside, generously stuffed with delicious crab chunks.

The lobster roll, brimming with fresh, hearty lobster meat, will transport you straight to a picnic table on a wharf in Maine.

Beyond the seafood classics, the creative appetizers really shine.

I have tried the Chesapeake Bay Chowder, Baked Green Torpedo Oysters, and the Smoked Fish Dip, and let me tell you, they were mouth-watering.

With the freshest oysters from their raw bar menu, you'll be spoiled for choice.

And if you're not an oyster fan, then the Cajun Grouper and Shrimp or the Seared Shrimp Tacos are sure to delight.

The service is as warm and welcoming as the food is delicious.

Revisit the City's History at Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum

Signage of the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
Foolish Productions / Shutterstock.com

Stepping into the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum is like stepping back in time.

This charming and compact little museum, nestled in the heart of Alexandria, has been a touchstone of local history since it opened its doors in 1792.

Today, it stands as a testament to a bygone era, offering visitors 30-minute tours that are both educational and entertaining.

The guides aren't just friendly and well-informed, they're downright enthusiastic about the museum's history and the story of its original owners.

They bring the past to life in vivid detail, offering insights not just into the apothecary's operational period, but the broader contextual history of the time.

And then there's the building itself, preserved in its original form, complete with authentic items that are as interesting as they are unique.

There's something about seeing those old potions and remedies that really underscores just how different things were back then.

The gift shop, too, is worth a look, with some very cool souvenirs on offer.

Experience a Little Piece of France in Bastille Brasserie & Bar

Just a stone's throw away from my home, tucked away in the heart of Alexandria, you'll find a chic French brasserie called Bastille.

Boasting a charming patio, a well-stocked bar, and a quaint cafe, it's a place that has become my sanctuary after a long day.

One evening, fresh off a plane at DCA, I decided to forgo the usual traffic battles and popped into Bastille on a whim.

The decision was nothing short of serendipitous.

Gazpacho and onion soup kickstarted the meal, and both were nothing short of spectacular.

The Gruyère in the soup was pure heaven on a spoon.

Moving onto the main course of moules et frites and salade Nicoise, I was once again bowled over by the quality of my meal.

And then there were the desserts - so sublime that they deserve a special mention.

The food at Bastille is top-notch, with high-quality ingredients that shine through in every dish.

It's a delightful little place that brings a slice of France right to Alexandria's doorstep.

Take Some Pictures of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial

Exterior of The George Washington Masonic National Memorial
Joe Ravi / Shutterstock.com

I've been blessed with the privilege of living in Alexandria, a charming city that sweeps you off your feet with its rich history and stunning landmarks.

One such place that never fails to amaze me is the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.

This neoclassical shrine dedicated to the first President of the United States is as majestic as it sounds.

It's a place that you need to experience firsthand, and every visit there offers something unique to discover.

On weekends, I often take a leisurely stroll around the manicured grounds, soaking in the quiet elegance of the monument.

But the true wonder of the Memorial is inside. It's filled with ornate rooms that are a testament to the Freemasons' proud history and their connection to the great George Washington.

You will be fascinated by the numerous artifacts, including the famous trowel and Washington's trunk from the Revolutionary War.

Interior of The George Washington Masonic National Memorial
Joe Ravi / Shutterstock.com

The Memorial is not just a place of historical significance; it's also an active center for community events.

One of my favorite memories is attending a panel discussion held there.

The whole building was lit up for the occasion, and the atmosphere was absolutely electric.

You can even book a guided tour if you're interested in a more comprehensive understanding of the place.

Far view of The George Washington Masonic National Memorial
MichaelDPhotos / Shutterstock.com

Visit Columbia Firehouse

On an unusually frosty evening in Old Town Alexandria, I found myself stepping into the warm embrace of Columbia Firehouse.

A former firehouse, this establishment has been tastefully redone, giving it the perfect blend of old-world charm and modern elegance.

The exposed-brick atrium and the patio only add to the appeal.

As soon as you walk in, the tantalizing aroma of traditional American fare wafts over, drawing you in.

The food is delightful, to say the least. From the hearty hash for brunch to the biscuits that are worth squabbling over, each dish had its own appeal.

But what stole the show for me were the Thai Curry Mussels, a dish that I would happily recommend.

The old-fashioned drinks here are splendid, and the bar itself has a certain allure that makes you want to sit down and unwind.

Their selection of beers is quite impressive too. They also offer a genuine happy hour, which is perfect for those after-work get-togethers.

Explore the Torpedo Factory Art Center

Exterior of the Torpedo Factory Art Center
Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com

Walking the cobblestone streets of old town Alexandria, you can't help but be drawn to the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

It's an old navy torpedo plant that has been transformed into a vibrant art gallery.

This historic building, over a century old, still holds the charm and character of its original purpose.

Upon entering, you're greeted by an array of creative expressions.

Different artists have set up mini-galleries, each offering a unique perspective.

From intricate sketches and striking paintings to stunning pottery pieces, it's truly a feast for the eyes.

As you wander through the three-story gallery, you're immersed in a world of whimsical creations and masterful paintings.

Often, you'll even find the artists at work, their brushes or chisels moving in a symphony of creativity.

Interior of the Torpedo Factory Art Center
Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com

They are always happy to chat, share the stories behind their creations, and their enthusiasm is contagious.

The Torpedo Factory is more than just an art gallery. It's also home to an intriguing archeology museum.

Here you can uncover the hidden stories of Alexandria's past, a fascinating journey through time.

What makes the Torpedo Factory a truly memorable experience is the building itself.

The old torpedoes manufactured during WWI are still housed there, a testament to its historic roots.

And the many scenic views from each studio make for some beautiful photo opportunities.

Exhibit in the Torpedo Factory Art Center
Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com

Have Fun at Cameron Run Regional Park

I've lived near Cameron Run Regional Park for years, and it's always a go-to for me whenever I need a quick outdoor adventure.

Nestled right in our neighborhood, this compact yet full-of-fun park is the perfect spot for families and friends looking for a day of fun and relaxation.

One of the highlights of the park for me is the waterpark.

Even though there was a time when the wave pool was out of service, the water slides made up for it.

Just a heads up: you might want to leave your swimming cap at home as they don't allow it on the slides.

For foodies, there’s a food truck that serves some of the best snacks I've ever had.

Another favorite of mine is the picnic area outside the waterpark. It's the perfect spot to bring your own food and enjoy a sunny day in the park.

For the sporty folks, the park offers a batting cage area and a mini golf area.

Lastly, the park also features a firepit, which is an absolute treat in freezing temperatures.

I've been there during winter, and sitting by the firepit while watching the light show was indeed a magical experience.

Pay a Visit to Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site

Entrance gate of Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

It's always fascinating to immerse myself in history, especially at a place as rich in significance as the Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site.

Nestled in Alexandria, this well-preserved fort is a treasure trove of Civil War artifacts and stories.

My visits to the museum are always delightfully quiet, providing a serene atmosphere to explore history.

The museum's layout is excellent, allowing me to navigate seamlessly through the exhibits.

The historian here is extremely knowledgeable and helpful, offering intriguing insights about the Civil War era that always leave me in awe.

It's not just the museum, though. I often take a leisurely walk around the historic site, appreciating the beautiful greenery and the tranquility it offers.

When the weather's perfect, I usually pack a picnic and find a spot among the numerous tables and benches scattered around.

It's also a great place to bring my dog - they are pretty pet-friendly!

One of the most captivating aspects of this site is the best-preserved civil war fort in the DC area.

The fort has been reconstructed with meticulous detail, complete with period replica cannons.

It's a tangible piece of history that sends you back in time.

Discover the City's Hidden History at Alexandria Archaeology Museum

Stepping into the Alexandria Archaeology Museum is like stepping back in time.

Nestled on the third floor of the historic Torpedo Factory Art Center, this quiet trove of history reveals the rich past of our city, one artifact at a time.

I remember my first visit; it felt like I had stumbled upon a hidden gem tucked away amidst vibrant art galleries and bustling creative spaces.

From community digs that lay the foundation of Alexandria's historic preservation to stories of the city's rich history, the museum offers a unique perspective into our past.

Each visit feels like a mini archeology field trip, where you can touch, feel, and experience our shared history, making it an ideal spot for kids and adults alike.

To top it off, the quaint little museum gift shop is always open during museum hours, offering a charming selection of trinkets and keepsakes.

And if you time your visit right, you can cap the day off with a delightful lunch on the scenic boardwalk.

The museum isn't just a repository of Alexandria's past; it's a vibrant part of our present, offering lessons and activities to groups of about 15 people.

Have a Glimpse of the Past at the Lee-Fendall House Museum & 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

There's a certain charm to stepping back in time, and I felt just that as I walked through the doors of the Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden.

Built in 1785 and beautifully restored to its mid-19th-century glory, this historic gem is a testament to the rich history of the Lee family.

I've spent countless afternoons wandering through the carefully curated exhibits and exploring the lush, meticulously kept garden.

The garden is a highlight of the Lee-Fendall House.

Entrance to the Lee-Fendall House Museum
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I've been lucky enough to attend an outdoor wedding ceremony held in the garden during May.

The garden was a magical setting with blooming flowers painting a backdrop of vibrant colors.

Despite the occasional events, the Lee-Fendall House never fails to welcome visitors for tours, sometimes even amidst their preparations.

Swim with the Waves at Great Waves Waterpark

I still remember the first time I experienced the rush of adrenaline at Great Waves Waterpark.

The sheer range of activities it offers on a sprawling 20-acre land is a complete delight.

It's not just the waterslides and pools; there are mini-golf and batting cages, too, enough to keep you entertained all day long.

Now, right off the bat, let me tell you the value for money at this place is excellent.

On one of my many visits, I took my kids along, and they couldn't get enough of the wave pool and the slides.

It's a paradise for young ones; they love it!

Check out the Various Forms of  Arts at The Athenaeum

Exterior of the Athenaeum
Foolish Productions / Shutterstock.com

Every time I stroll through the heart of Old Town, the elegant Greek Revival building of the Athenaeum catches my eye.

With its sophisticated charm and significant art presence, it remains one of my favorite spots in the city.

The Athenaeum is a unique blend of visual and performing arts, catering to everyone's interests.

I remember wandering through the tranquil back courtyard, bathed in the soft glow of the setting sun.

Columns of the Athenaeum
Foolish Productions / Shutterstock.com

I was there to attend a local art exhibition, and the setting couldn't have been more perfect.

The grandeur of the courtyard, coupled with the stunning art installations, created an ambiance I could only describe as magical.

The Athenaeum isn't just for art enthusiasts; it's also a coveted destination for hosting intimate events.

I've had the pleasure of attending a friend's wedding there, and the entire experience was nothing short of enchanting.

What makes this venue even more appealing, apart from the art and events, is its prime location near hotels, chic boutique shops, and an array of cuisines.

Every visit to the Athenaeum is paired with the excitement of exploring the city.

Explore Gadsby's Tavern Museum

Exterior of the Gadsby's Tavern Museum
Carolyn M Carpenter / Shutterstock.com

What a thrill it is to live just a stone's throw away from the Gadsby's Tavern Museum.

This gem in the heart of Alexandria is a treasure trove of history.

Every visit feels like stepping into a time machine, journeying back to the days when Founding Fathers frequented its rooms.

It's not every day that you can enjoy lunch in the same place where George Washington once dined.

You can check out more about this historical landmark here.

I've visited countless times, and each time I discover something new.

The museum is thoughtfully curated, offering self-guided tours that are both enlightening and engaging.

One of the best parts about visiting the museum is the unique experience of seeing period actors and musicians perform.

Their presence breathes life into the pages of history, recreating the atmosphere and social dynamics of the colonial era.

It's not just about peering into the past; it's about experiencing it.

Next door, there’s the tavern serving Traditional American fare.

And if you're looking for a memento to remember your visit, be sure to stop by the gift shop.

Final Thoughts

Whether you're a history buff, a nature lover, or an art enthusiast, Alexandria surely has something exciting to offer.

The charm of Alexandria lies in its diversity, the blend of history, culture, and nature that keeps me falling in love with this city every day.

So, if you ever find yourself in Alexandria, take some time to explore these places, and perhaps, you'll find your own favorites just like I did!

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