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Fun Things to do in Alexandria: A Trendy Neighborhood Guide

If you’re looking for cool things to do in Alexandria, look no further than some of its trendiest neighborhoods. As the city continues to grow an impressive art culture as well as a burgeoning culinary scene, Alexandria’s neighborhoods continue to draw people in from near and far for a taste of their unique ability to bring art, history, food and community together.

Arguably Virginia’s most charming city, Alexandria is famous for its cobblestone streets, brick-lined sidewalks and original 18th century homes. It’s also conveniently located along the Potomac River’s waterfront adding yet another dimension of intrigue to this one of a kind place. Although well known as a place steeped in history, Alexandria has so much to offer in the way of modern entertainment and laid-back travel experiences. Whether you’re local or just visiting, these Alexandria neighborhoods will not disappoint.

OLD TOWN

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Old Town is the most iconic neighborhood and the heart of Alexandria. It’s situated along the waterfront and extends down the famous King Street, a shopping and dining paradise. Although relatively expansive, the area has an intimate vibe. The narrow, brick-lined streets are still reminiscent of colonial times and the stunning 18th century buildings have been brought back to life with modern touches while leaving their original charm intact. 

There is a lot to do in Old Town, from strolling down King Street to exploring the waterfront. Check out our highlights below on where to get started and what not to miss!

Shop

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Exploring King Street is one of the most iconic things to do in Alexandria and a great place to start your shopping adventure. You will run into so many awesome local, independent shops but here are a few highlights!

Threadleaf– Focused on fashion-forward, responsibly made clothing, this trendy shop is brought to you by Nicole McGrew a former attorney under the Obama administration with a background in design.

Old Town Books– A community-minded independent bookshop, Old Town Books is not only a great stop to find new and used books but also known for its inviting author events, writers groups and a variety of workshops offered year round.

The Hive– An upscale lifestyle shop, expect notable brands like Citizens of Humanity, Equipment, Current Elliot and more.

Bellacara– The ultimate cosmetic boutique in Alexandria, Bellacara offers all the luxury beauty brands your heart could desire- think Bumble & Bumble, Keihl’s, Smashbox and more.

The Hour Cocktail Collection– The dreamiest collection of highly curated vintage glass and barware, you don’t want to miss this nationally recognized boutique and get started building out your own stylish at-home bar.

With over 100+ local boutiques, you’re bound to find a gem or two shopping in Old Town. For more ideas, check out Visit Alexandria’s ultimate shopping guide here.

Take a Break at Mount Purrnon Cat Cafe

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Whether or not you’re in the market to adopt a furry friend, this cat cafe is a friendly and inviting space that doubles as a bar! What better way to support the local effort to provide cage-free housing for cats looking for a forever home as well as chat with the locals.

Eat & Drink

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

BARCA Pier & Wine Bar– The ultimate waterfront dining experience in Alexandria, BARCA offers Spanish & Mediterranean influenced tapas, small plates, wine and cocktails as well as the best views around.

Bastille Brasserie & Bar– Paris and Alexandria collide in this award-winning French bistro. A traditional French menu with an American twist has been a favorite for locals and visitors alike since the restaurant’s inception in 2006. 

Fontaine Caffe & Creperie– Another little piece of France in Old Town, Fontaine serves up the best crepes and galettes in the area in a charming and friendly environment. 

Kisso Asian Bistro– Asian fusion in a trendy, casual-cool setting.

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Ada’s on the River– An upscale, colorful setting right on the waterfront, Ada’s is built around a wood-burning oven, the inspiration for most menu items.

Mason Social– Hip and industrial, Mason Social is a neighborhood restaurant focused on local, creative food and craft beer and libations.

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

The Majestic Cafe– With an upscale diner vibe, The Majestic serves upscale American comfort food in a beautiful atmosphere reminiscent of decades past.

Hank’s Oyster Bar– A seafood lover’s paradise, this cozy oyster bar not only serves up the freshest east and west coast oysters in the area but also features other tasty seafood dishes like seafood poboys and Maine style lobster rolls.

RedRocks– A casual, cool stop for wood-fired pizza and tasty cocktails.

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Augie’s Mussel House and Beer Garden- A neighborhood staple where creative mussel plates are paired with seasonal ales, Augie’s is one-of-a-kind. If you’re not a fan of mussels, the menu features plenty of other Belgian-inspired, locally sourced dishes that are sure to please.

Captain Gregory’s– Stylish and full of character, Captain Gregory’s is famous for their top-notch craft cocktails- so famous in fact, we highly recommend a reservation.

Sonoma Cellar- A wine-tasting experience in a stunning pre-revolutionary setting, Sonoma Cellar invites guests to come in and experience wine as if you were exploring Sonoma itself.

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Union Street Public House– Nestled in a gorgeously renovated 1790’s warehouse, this upscale pub is a local favorite for its charming atmosphere, memorable American dishes, and perfectly crafted cocktails.

Fun tip: Head down to King Street, between Union Street and Lee Street, to experience Alexandria’s “streetery” program, developed during the height of the pandemic, where certain stretches of popular streets are closed to vehicle traffic, making room for more outdoor seating for restaurants and sidewalk stands for shops. 

Check out America’s Oldest Apothecary

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum is a one of a kind look into the history of American medicinal practices. The space itself is home to the original apothecary opened in 1792 by Edward Stabler which was forced into bankruptcy in 1933 with the introduction of synthetic medications and new regulations. The museum opened shortly after preserving the original machinery, prescription books, ledgers and interiors.

Stop by Torpedo Factory Art Center

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With 82 studios, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is the nation’s largest collection of working artists’ open studios in one space. Visitors are welcome to stroll through, watch the creative process, ask questions as well as purchase works from the artists on-site collections. Hands down one of the coolest things to do in Alexandria for art lovers.

Take a Walk

Our friends at Visit Alexandria have thoughtfully curated self-guided strolls for visitors to best experience Old Town and everything it has to offer. Check out one of the walks below during your visit for a unique take on the area.

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Old Town Photo Art Walk– Grab your camera and head out this curated mural stroll starting on Cameron Street, moving up the waterfront and ending on Wythe Street.

Duke Street Black History Trail– The Duke Street corridor of Old Town is rich in cultural significance, particularly for the telling of Black stories and Black experiences throughout time in the area. This walk will shares those experiences with you as you explore historical landmarks

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Waterfront Walk– Starting in Old Town North, this stroll will guide you along the waterfront through all of its must see spots including Waterfront Park and its annual temporary art installation.

Want more Old Town? Head to Old Town North and explore the cool things to do in Alexandria’s up-and-coming arts and dining district. Grab a bubble tea from Yagút St while exploring murals and art installations. Don’t miss the Instagrammable Sisters Thai and the Magnolia Dessert Bar or tasty Italian from A La Lucia. Shop chic barware and home decor at Goldfinch and take in the view at Café 44. For more ideas, check out this guide to Old Town North.

DEL RAY

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Eclectic, artistic, idyllic- these are just a few words to describe the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. As soon as you arrive, you are overwhelmed by a strong sense of community, welcoming and ease. The neighborhood is centered around a picturesque “main street” called Mt. Vernon Ave which is perfect for strolling and stopping in at local shops, wellness boutiques and eateries. As you stroll be on the lookout for unique Art Deco architecture and creative murals on every corner. When it comes to cool things to do in Alexandria, Del Ray is full of them.

Eat & Drink

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub- You won’t see St. Elmo’s on a slow day as this neighborhood fixture is always bustling with locals and visitors alike. Casual and cool, St. Elmo’s is a perfect stop for morning coffee or afternoon wine and easy eats are always an option.

Swing’s Coffee Roasters– Stylish coffee joint with an airy, industrial vibe and a variety of coffee offerings.

Cheesetique– A local cheese shop and eatery perfect for cheese tasting or stopping in for a cheese-driven meal and a glass of wine. I mean, does it get better than that?

Evening Star Cafe– With a fierce local following, this neighborhood staple serves up creative classics in a stylish diner setting.

Planet Wine– Although only dine-in for special events, this wine shop is the sister to the Evening Star and worth a stop in to explore their impressive collection of 2,000 specialty beers and wines. Keep an eye out for their unique events as well!

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

The Front Porch & Back Yard– The Evening Star’s outdoor dining experience, The Front Porch is an incredibly charming sidewalk-adjacent patio with eclectic seating that winds around back or a more private al fresco option. Their bourbon slushies are a must try!

Barkhaus– Did you bring your pup along for the ride? Barkhaus is the greater DC area’s first dog friendly bar and restaurant. Stop by to let your dog off leash or pop in for a drink or a snack from Laughing Pig, the on-site restaurant.

Pork Barrel BBQ– What started as a successful line of Missouri-style BBQ rubs, sauces and jerky (made famous thanks so a little show called Shark Tank), turned into a cult favorite dining option for BBQ lovers when the owners opened a full blown restaurant in 2011.

Kaizen Tavern– A welcoming local gem offering traditional and creative sushi as well as other street-style eats.

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Junction Bakery & Bistro- Fun and casual with counter service, Junction Bakery focuses on fresh, local breads and pastries as well as tasty options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Spice Craft Indian Bistro– The ultimate Indian dining experience in Del Ray, think classic Indian staples with a modern flare. Plus, their samosas are all the rage.

Del Ray Cafe– Housed in a quaint, converted 1925 house on Mt. Vernon Ave, Del Ray cafe serves French- American cuisine in an inviting setting.

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

The Garden– Perfect for an outdoor hang, The Garden has a cool, relaxed vibe with 16 beers on draft as well as wine, cocktails and delicious snacks. 

Try Wisconsin-Style Frozen Custard at The Dairy Godmother

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

People travel far and wide for a taste of the Dairy Godmother’s special custard treat. Unique processes used to make the Wisconsin-style custard result in an unforgettable dense and creamy treat that blows traditional ice cream out of the water. 

Shop Local

As you stroll down Mt. Vernon Ave, pop into any local shops that tickle your fancy. You will find a wide range of eclectic boutiques from vintage housewares to locally designed clothing and accessories, plus wellness shops and wine stores to boot!

Del Ray’s Mural Stroll

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Once again our friends at Visit Alexandria have put together the perfect self-guided mural stroll outlining all the must-see murals in the neighborhood.

Check out the Local Art Exhibit at Del Ray Artisans

Del Ray Artisans is a creative space on a mission to make art more accessible to the community and in turn use art to bring the community together. Their exhibits are ever-changing so be sure to swing by and experience local art in Del Ray.

Hot tip: Keep an eye out for funky local happenings such as Art on the Avenue, First Thursdays and the monthly Del Ray Flea Market.

Want more Del Ray? Pop up to North Del Ray or “Arlandria” for a show at The Birchmere and international eats like Peruvian classics at Huascarán, pupusas from El Pulgarcito, and mouthwatering dumplings from Royal Nepal. Grab a drink al fresco at Hops N Shine or Northside 10.

WEST END

A little more spread out, the West End of Alexandria has a residential vibe with pockets of industrial areas and green spaces. Home to a couple nationally recognized breweries, the West End is also a hot spot for international dining with some of the best Thai, Vietnamese and Ethiopian restaurants around. Although less bustling than Old Town and Del Ray, the West End has some of the most unique things to do in Alexandria.

Hit a Brewery or Two

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Port City Brewing Company– Located in an industrial area of the West End, Port City brewing is the oldest operating brewery in the metro D.C. area and offers a large indoor and outdoor space as well as some tasty brews.

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Aslin Beer Co.- Bright and funky, Aslin Beer Co. brews a variety of mouthwatering beers in a fun, indoor environment.

Dig in to International Dining

Alexandria’s West End is home to a wide variety of people from around the world, creating a melting pot of delicious, authentic international cuisine. Vietnamese and Ethiopian restaurants are the shining stars of the West End food scene in that there are a handful of each in this small spot and they are all exquisite. There are plenty of awesome options to choose from including Sora Ethiopian Market and Tsedey Restaurant & Grocery for Ethiopian and Pho 95’s and Pho Viet Flare for Vietnamese.

Other international options:

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Indochen– A casual space for Indian- Chinese fusion.

Sardi’s Pollo a La Brasa– A small Peruvian chain, Sardi’s is famous for its mouthwatering Peruvian chicken and bold sauces.

Taqueria Picoso– Taqueria Picoso brings traditional Mexican street food to Alexandria in a stylish yet casual setting. 

Grab a Classic Bite

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Cameron Cafe– A friendly, independent cafe located in the residential area of Cameron Station right next to Ben Brenman park. Stop in for a tasty, casual breakfast, lunch or brunch!

Clyde’s at Mark Center- An ode to life on the water, Clyde’s serves American classics in a uniquely traditional atmosphere.

City Kitchen– City Kitchen is a love letter to cities around the country with a focus on celebrating American cuisine in an industrial setting.

Tempo Restaurant– Tempo is undeniably stylish and serves up a blend of Northern Italian and French influences as well as fresh seafood.

Get Outside

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

Ben Brenman Park– Take a stroll with the locals around Ben Brenman Park, a 59-acre park with paved pathways, benches, a dog park and a picnic pavilion.

Dora Kelley Nature Park and Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center– Dora Kelley Nature Park is a nature preserve carefully carved out in the middle of Alexandria’s urban sprawl to conserve the naturally occuring flora and fauna of the region. It’s a beautiful place to take a walk through the forest and keep an eye out for birds or go fishing. 

Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site– A great stop for history buffs, Fort Ward was a Union Army installation during the civil war that played an important role in protecting Washington D.C. and was one of the largest forts of its kind. With about 90% of its original earthen walls intact, Fort Ward gives you a real glimpse into life at that time.

This article was written by Hannah of Bad Tourist Lifestyle & Travel Blog, a Virginia native who is passionate about local art, food and culture- the essentials that make a place what it is.

The post Fun Things to do in Alexandria: A Trendy Neighborhood Guide appeared first on Virginia’s Travel Blog.

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Hannah Armstrong

We are FUN! We are RVA! We support local business and charities! Life is good!