Washington, D.C., may be the prototypical long weekend for New Yorkers. But not even 10 miles south of the nation’s capital, across the Potomac River, lies Alexandria, Virginia, which draws visitors for its 18th-century architecture, unique boutiques, waterfront views and growing restaurant scene. If you’re looking for a low-key escape filled with history, good food and charming streets, here’s your guide.
If you arrive in town just in time for lunch, eat on the second-level porch at Virtue Feed & Grain (106 S. Union St., 571-970-3669, virtuefeedgrain.com) and take in views of the Potomac. Then walk it off along the mile-long commercial strip King Street, where the action is in Old Town. Weave through the art galleries, cafes and boutiques like The Hour (1015 King St., 703-224-4687, thehourshop.com), stocked with vintage glassware.
If you need a cool treat under the Southern sun, one of Alexandria’s newest dessert spots is Nicecream Factory (726 King St., 703-908-0225, nicecream.com), where the ice cream is frozen right in front of you with liquid nitrogen. With flavors like mint mojito and cran-orange dark chocolate chunk, you’ll likely come back before you leave town.
In the summer, Friday night means there’s a free concert at Market Square (301 King St.). Afterward, have a handcrafted cocktail at PX (728 King St., barpx.com) before sitting down to dinner nearby at Columbia Firehouse (109 S. Saint Asaph St., 703-683-1776, columbiafirehouse.com), an American brasserie with specialties like beef short rib stroganoff and Maryland crab cakes. Finish the night back on King Street for live music at the Basin St. Lounge (219 King St., 703-549-1141, 219restaurant.com) or Murphy’s (713 King St., 703-548-1717, murphyspub.com).
Grab something from the Old Town Farmers’ Market (Saturdays from 7 a.m.-noon; Market Square, 301 King St.), the oldest farmers market in the country. Then head to the Torpedo Factory Art Center (FREE admission; 105 N. Union St., 703-746-4570, torpedofactory.org), which boasts the largest collection of working-artists’ open studios in the United States, to watch the creative process in action.
For some colorful local history, visit the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum (admission $5/adults, $3 ages 5-12; 105-107 S. Fairfax St., 703-746-3852, apothecarymuseum.org), which once doled out medications to George and Martha Washington and General Robert E. Lee. The museum still has jars with their original contents. For more historic sites, try the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum (admission $5/adults, $3 ages 5-12; 134 N. Royal St., 703-746-4242, alexandriava.gov/gadsbystavern) and Carlyle House Historic Park ($5/ages 13 and up, $3 ages 6-12; 121 N. Fairfax St., 703-549-2997, novaparks.com).
In the evening, sample award-winning brews at Port City Brewing Company (3950 Wheeler Ave., 703-797-2739, portcitybrewing.com). When your appetite calls, there’s the buzzy Hank’s Pasta Bar (600 Montgomery St., 571-312-4117, hankspastabar.com), which serves 13 types of fresh, handmade pasta. After dinner, grab a (strong) nightcap at the speakeasy Captain Gregory’s (804 N. Henry St., captaingregorys.com).
Don’t leave town without a spin through the neighborhood Del Ray. You’ll find art deco architecture and fab food. Remember these names for all manner of goodness: Junction Bakery & Bistro (1508 Mt. Vernon Ave., 703-436-0025, junctionbakery.com), Stomping Ground (2309 Mt. Vernon Ave., 703-364-8912, stompdelray.com) and Cheesetique (2411 Mt. Vernon Ave., 703-706-5300, cheesetique.com).