Alexandria, Virginia, is perhaps best known for its identification with George Washington and for Old Town, its well-preserved historic district. But a recent visit showed that this lovely city, just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, has much more to offer than "auld lang syne."
In Alexandria, the "good old days" are a contemporary thing, with a host of restaurants, bistros, pubs, elegant shops and festivals that make it live up to its new tagline, "The fun side of the Potomac." Come to think of it, when George Washington went "to town" in Alexandria, it was often to parties, balls and get-togethers in taverns. Apparently "The Father of Our Country" knew a good thing when he saw it. Some of the attractions, new and not-so-new, that can be enjoyed on a visit to Alexandria include:
Ramsey House Visitors Center - this historic building at King Street and Market Square should be your first stop, since it's the home of the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association.
The Torpedo Factory - a bustling exhibit and working art center (yes, it really was formerly a torpedo factory) that's home to more than 160 artists and craftsmen.
King Street - the heart of Old Town, the street is alive night and day with restaurants, coffee houses, pubs and trendy shops. Some of the favorites include the Hard Times Caf, the Asian Bistro, Murphy's Pub, and Vermilion.
Market Square - in the center of Old Town, it still is the site of a farmer's market, along with art exhibitions, kids' events, etc.
The Athenaeum - a Greek Revival building that once was a bank serving Robert E. Lee and other historic figures, and now is a fine art gallery.
Del Ray - an historic district that's emerging as Alexandria's newest trendy neighborhood. Each October it hosts Art on the Avenue, a multicultural arts festival.
Christ Church - this beautiful English-style country church was attended by both George Washington and Robert E. Lee.
Alexandria City Marina - you can enjoy views of Washington, DC, and the Potomac River from the marina, or take a 40-minute sightseeing cruise to see them by water.
Festivals Galore - Alexandria is becoming as much known for its annual festivals as its historic sites. Some of the most popular are the Alexandria Festival of the Arts and the Virginia Scottish Games, and First Night Alexandria, December 31.
There are a host of fine hotels in Alexandria, including Hiltons, Holiday Inns, Marriotts., and Comfort Inns. A welcoming place near the center of things is the Residence Inn by Marriott on Duke Street in Old Town. In addition to the King Street restaurants listed above, two favorites are the innovative Stardust Restaurant, an extraordinary dining experience, on Montgomery Street, and Bilbo Baggins on Queen Street, where, in deference to Alexandria's history as a trading center, you can taste the beers of the world.
For additional information, contact the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association at 800-388-9119, or log on to their website, www.funside.com. Enjoy!