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Alexandria (Virginia)

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Alexandria (Virginia)

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Alexandria's King Street
Alexandria [1] is a city in Virginia, located just outside of Washington, D.C., in the United States of America.

Understand

Originally surveyed in 1749, Alexandria claims some of the richest history in the D.C. metropolitan area. At various points in her past, Alexandria has been part of the District of Colombia, a regional slave trading market, an occupied city, a washed-up post-industrial hamlet, and a hometown to famous American heroes and rebels. Today, the town serves as an interesting day-trip alternative for weary tourist looking to escape the capital, a romantic getaway for metro-area residents, and a bedroom community for the white-collar workers that fuel the Federal labor mills to the north.

Get in

By Plane

Alexandria is accessible from the three Washington D.C. area airports.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), [2] is located right on the edge of Alexandria in Arlington. From Reagan National, take the Blue/Yellow metro line south two stations in the direction of Huntington to King Street.

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), [3] is located at Dulles (pronounced Dull-ess), Virginia, 33 miles northwest of Alexandria. To get to Alexandria, the most convenient option may be the Washington Flyer coach[4], which operates every half hour to and from the West Falls Church Metro (Orange Line). It takes 20-25 minutes and costs $8 one way or $14 round trip. At West Falls Church take the metro line in the direction of New Carrollton to Rosslyn. At Rossyln, transfer to the blue line in the direction of Franconia-Springfield and exit at King Street.

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), [5] is in Maryland and is 40 miles northeast of Alexandria. From BWI take the MARC train (morning and evening only) to Union Station (Red Line). Take the Red Line towards Shady Grove, transfer at Gallery Place/ China Town onto the Yellow Line towards Huntington and exit at King Street. If you arrive at Union Station on a weekday during the daytime you can take the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) directly to Alexandria station.

By Train

Virginia Railway Express (VRE) [6] provides weekday, daytime rail service to Alexandria station from Washington D.C.

By Metro

From downtown Washington D.C., the most direct route to Alexandria is via the Yellow line in the direction of Huntington and exiting at King Street, although the Blue line in the direction of Franconia-Springfield is also available.

Metrorail's Hours of Operation are as follows:

  • Monday-Thursday: 5AM to Midnight
  • Friday: 5AM to 3AM
  • Saturday: 7AM to 3AM
  • Sunday: 7AM to Midnight

Metrorail fares are based on distance and the time of day and range from $1.35 to $3.90.

By Car

Major roads of note:

  • Interstate 95/Interstate 495 (the "Capital Beltway"), a major freeway that serves the southern part of Alexandria and circles the Greater Washington D.C. area. The Capital Beltway section just east of Alexandria, known as the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, is the last major crossing point of the Potomac River in the southern part of the metro area. Currently, the Wilson Bridge and surrounding area are undergoing a ten year construction project scheduled to end in 2012. The combination of a significant construction project and limited route alternatives means that traffic jams and detours are common, particularly on weekends, in and around the bridge area. See the Wilson Bridge Project website [7] for the location and schedule of major construction activities. Heading east, U.S. Highway 1 is the last exit in Virginia. For those going to Old Town Alexandria, failure to make this exit, will result in a long, difficult journey across the bridge and appropriate turn-abouts are spread thin on the Maryland side. If traffic is backed up at the Wilson Bridge or the Beltway/Hwy 1 interchange and you still want to get to Old Town, simply exit north at Telegraph Road and proceed up to the Duke Street exit going east. Take Duke Street a mile or so until you get to around Patrick/Henry and then meander your way north a couple of blocks to King Street. No reasonable alternatives exist for those traveling west out of Maryland.
  • Interstate 395 runs north-south along the western section of Alexandria
  • U.S. Highway 1 depending on where you are, this is the Jefferson Davis Freeway or Patrick/Henry - a major north-south artery into Washington D.C.
  • George Washington Memorial Parkway, [8], known as Washington Street in Alexandria, it runs north-south along the Virginia side of the Potomac River and is an easy and pleasant drive to Mount Vernon.
  • King Street (State Route 7) - runs east-west from Old Town Alexandria out towards Fall's Church, Virginia.
  • Duke Street (State Route 236) - runs east-west into Old Town Alexandria.

Get around

The historic center of Alexandria is known as Old Town. This is where you find the most notable restaurants, shopping, and tourist destinations.

A good plan of action (if you are not staying in Old Town) would be to take the Metro to King Street, catch the DASH to the waterfront then walk from there. On Friday evenings and weekends, there is a free "Dash" shuttle that runs between the King Street metro station and the the historic town square on King Street. The local "DASH" system also operates many buses that will take you from the King Street Metro station to the historic center.

Two hour parking is often available a few blocks away from King Street (though it can be harder to find on weekend evenings), but read the parking signs carefully. Some parking is free, some is metered, and some is for locals only. Tires are frequently marked and if you exceed 2 hours you WILL get a ticket. If you plan on leaving your car for more than a couple hours it would be wise to use one of the many parking garages.

A water taxi runs from the waterfront at the end of King Street to Georgetown in Washington D.C.

You can also rent bikes in Old Town at Big Wheel Bikes located near the waterfront just south of King Street. The Mount Vernon Trail runs through Alexandria (although the Old Town part is streets) and goes all of the way to Mount Vernon, as well as connecting with the greater D.C. area.

Getting around Alexandria beyond Old Town and the Duke Street business district is a little more difficult, and will require bus transit or a car. Taxis are available anywhere for door to door service, just call to be picked up and you can expect one within 15 minutes anywhere. Expect to pay on average about a dollar a minute for travel by taxi.

See

George Washington Masonic Memorial

The Alexandria Visitor's and Convention Bureau operates a visitor's center from 9am to 5pm daily (except selective holidays) in the old Ramsay House at 221 King St., in Old Town near the river.

Old Town

  • George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive, +1 703 683-2007, just west of the King Street metro stop, [9]. Designed and built by Freemasons in the 1930's, this monument to George Washington was made to resemble the Lighthouse at Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Free tours are available daily except on major holidays. The tour takes visitors through a unique series of rooms each designed to illustrate some element of Freemasonry and presents visitors with artifacts from the group’s past. At the end, visitors are treated to an outstanding view of Washington D.C. and Old Town Alexandria.
  • Lee-Fendall House, 614 Oronoco Street, +1 703 548-1789, [10]. Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM, Su 1PM-4PM, A few blocks north of King Street. Three houses east of the Lee-Fendall House on Oronoco Street is a state historical marker in front of the boyhood home of American Civil War General Robert E. Lee. Please respect the fact that the home itself is now a private residence.
  • Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 North Union Street on the corner of King Street near the Potomac River, +1 703 838-4565, [11]. Daily 10AM-5PM, open 6PM-9PM every second Thursday. A former World War I munitions depot that once housed the Nazi war archives after World War II , the Torpedo Factory has been turned into an artist studio/learning center for local artists.
  • Christ Church Alexandria, 118 North Washington St., +1 703 549-1450, [12]. Both George Washington and Robert E. Lee were members of this historic church. In 1942, President and Ms. Roosevelt, along with Winston Churchill, declared the first National Day of Prayer here.
  • Cameron Street, the section just east of Washington St near Christ Church. At 508 Cameron is the location of George Washington's town home and office. Washington's original town house burned down in the 1850s and was reconstructed from plans in the 1960s. Also on this block are the homes of "Light Horse Harry" Lee, a famous cavalry officer of the American Revolution and father of Robert E. Lee, and Lord Fairfax. Please respect the fact that all the homes are private residences.
  • Carlyle House, 121 North Fairfax St., +1 703 549-2997, [13]. Former home to a successful local merchant, the house served as the headquarters of British Maj. Gen. Braddock before his ill-fated 1755 campaign in western Pennsylvania. The house also served as the site where several colonial governors met to discuss financing of the French and Indian War.
  • Old Presbyterian Meeting House, 321 S. Fairfax St., just south of Duke Street, +1 703 549-6670, [14]. Location of original meeting house where memorial services were held for George Washington following his death in 1799. In the courtyard to the west is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the American Revolution.

AlexandriaPlaque.JPG Historic Buildings Survey

Many of the houses throughout Old Town display oval shaped plaques granted by the Historic Alexandria Foundation. Starting in 1977, the determining basis became a street by street listing in Historic Alexandria written by Ethelyn Cox. The plaques indicate that the building is at least one hundred years old, as documented by a combination of records (title search, tax records, wills, etc.), and the principal facades of the building visible from the street or any public right of way maintain integrity of form, materials, and architectural features consistent with the dominant period of the building.


  • Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary, 105 S. Fairfax St., +1 703 838-3852, [15]. A local museum which recreates the apothecary/pharmacy that stood at this location from the late eighteenth century through the early twentieth.
  • The "Spite House", 523 Queen St. 2 blocks north of King Street Dating from around 1830, this private dwelling is only 7 feet wide and a residence unique to Old Town Alexandria. Built over a former alleyway, it is believed to be a so called "spite house"; built for the purpose of spiting those who passed through the alley without permission. Because of its diminutive size, this house has been featured on HGTV, and other similar shows and publications. Please respect the fact that the home itself is a private residence.
  • The Ice Well, located on the southwest corner of Cameron and Lee Street. Renovations at this spot uncovered a previously unknown underground ice well. Until the invention of refrigeration, large blocks of ice were brought down the river and kept here for storage. Small chukns were broken off and presumably sold to citizens. There is no sign or other marker at the site - just a small staircase and guardrail that from the street, does not appear to go anywhere.
  • Captains Row and Gentry Row, Located on the 100 and 200 blocks of Prince Street (respectively) 1 block south of King Street. Captains Row contains many of the oldest residences in the city, mostly consisting of Federal style houses built by wealthy merchants and sea captains. Complete with cobblestones and charming architectural details, this is probably one of the most picturesque colonial village blocks anywhere. The 200 block of Prince Street is Gentry Row where you will see house after house marked with Historic Alexandria Foundation plaques. Houses along this block were owned by such prominent figures as William Fairfax, one of Alexandria's founding trustees, and Dr. James Craik, surgeon-general during the American Revolution as well as George Washington's personal physician.

Off The Beaten Path

  • Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street about a mile north of Old Town near the Braddock metro stop, +1 703 838-4356, [16]. Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM.
  • Fort Ward, 4301 West Braddock Road, +1 703 838-4848, [17]. Though never the site of a battle, Fort Ward is one of the best preserved Union forts designed to protect the capital during the American Civil War.

Do

  • Stroll down King Street. The main Old Town section begins about a half mile east of the King Street metro stop and provides a combination of restaurants, art and antique shops, souvenir traps, and public buildings. With its French style open air cafes, gas lamp styled lights, red brick sidewalks, and historical, old-style architecture, King Street provides one of the most romantic settings in the DC metro area.
  • Visit the side streets of Old Town as well. More than just a tourist destination or open air museum, Old Town is a vibrant community of residents who take great pride in their city. The streets north and south of King Street near the river boast nearly 4,000 18th and 19th century buildings still used as private residences today. Unlike many of the planned communities promoted by new urbanism, Old Town side streets simply ooze a sense of charachter and authenticity normally reserved for the best cities in Europe.
  • The Farmers Market at 301 King St. The Farmers Market is held weekly each Saturday morning from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., year round. It is a tradition that has been going on at Market Square for 240 years. A favorite for local residents, Alexandria's Farmers' Market is the oldest market in the country which has been meeting continuously at the same site.
  • Alexandria Colonial Tours, +1 703 519-1749, [18]. Historic Ghost Tour of Old Town Alexandria
  • Doggie Happy Hour, Hotel Monaco Alexandria, [19]. Apr-Oct Tu,Th 5PM-8PM. Known as a very dog friendly community, Old Town's newly renovated Hotel Monaco continues the tradition of doggie happy hour. The event draws an interesting mix of locals and tourists who bring their dogs to socialize and have a few cocktails. The season culminates with the doggie hallowe'en contest in late October.

Buy

The best shopping in the area is on King Street in Old Town, although there are a few interesting little shops up and down Washington Street.

The only mall in Alexandria is Landmark Mall [20], 5801 Duke Street, +1 703 354-8405, on the west side of town by Interstate 395. Landmark is your average shopping mall but often has a fair in the parking lot during the summer. Other nearby malls include Springfield, Pentagon City, and the expensive, but impressive Tysons I & II on the west side of D.C.

Eat

Old Town

As a rule of thumb, prices in Old Town get more expensive as you approach the waterfront. A typical meal for one might run $7-$12 near the King Street Metro and $15-$30 near the Potomac.

  • Union Street Public House, 121 S. Union St., +1 703 548-1785, [21]. For 20 years, The Union Street Public House has been home to locals and tourists, singles and families, students and professionals. The building itself is historic, dating back to when George Washington used it as a warehouse. The restaurant includes several small dinning rooms, a grand dinning room, a non-smoking OYSTER BAR, and an even more lively TAPROOM bar that houses a blaring jukebox every night of the week. Some of the best things on the menu: Oysters, Beer Cheese, Carpetbagger Sandwich, Fish and Chips, Seasame Tuna Salad. Don't forget dessert - all made in house!
  • Bilbo Baggins, 208 Queen St., +1 703 683-0300, [22]. Light / fancy - no dress code. Advertised as a wine bar. Recommended is their homemade bread and the Bilbo's salad (greens, with apple slices, mandarin orange slices, caramelized walnuts, crumbled Feta cheese with a raspberry vinaigrette - it's delicious, almost a dessert - yet healthy and light. The dining area is a little cramped - but the look and feel of the place has its own draw, exposed timbers in the ceiling, old stone work and the like. Or... just get the salad to go!
  • Eamonn's Dublin Chipper, 728 King Street, +1 703 299-8384, [23]. Fish n' chips, Dublin style, in a cozy pub setting. Seating is hard to come by during lunch and dinner hours.
  • Gadsbys Tavern, 138 N. Royal Street. Historic dining spot for the first five U.S. Presidents. Thomas Jefferson celebrated his 1800 election victory and George Washington celebrated several birthdays in the upstairs ballroom. The museum [24], +1 703 838-4242, is in the old 1785 portion of the tavern and has access to the historic ballroom. Tours times very but usually end at 4pm in the Winter and 5pm in the Summer. The restaurant [25],+1 703 548-1288, occupies the bottom floor of the relatively new 1792 section and provides a setting and food styles influenced by the original tavern. The tavern may be a classic but the food is just ok.
  • Hard Times Cafe, 112 S West St., +1 703 451-7555, [26]. Cheap food (mainly chili), Western ambiance.
  • King Street Blues, 112 N St Asaph Street, +1 703 836-8800, [27]. A southern/bbq restaurant with an unusual and bold decor. Restaurant is known for their ribs, po-boy sandwiches, and homemade potato chips. Entrees run in the $7-15 range.

Off the Beaten Path

  • Hee Been (Korean BBQ), 6231 Little River Turnpike, +1 703 941-3737. The quality of food here is excellent, you can prepare it yourself at the table on the provided grills or you can ask the cooks to prepare it for you (good for a first try and they don't mind!) and you will be amazed at how much you enjoy it. Standard recommendations are "Kal bi" - thick slices of meat in a tangy-sweet sauce (not like American bbq, but a similar idea), or "Bul go ki" - thinner slices almost like the way a Philly cheese steak is prepared - but with a sweeter seasoning. Their salmon is excellent and the "Bim bim bop" or Korean friend rice is delicious. (For a treat ask for "Dol Sot bim bim bop" - which is the same dish in a hot stone pot but unmixed, you get to mix it together with as much (or as little) spicy seasoning paste as you want and it's much fun.
  • House of Dynasty, 7550 Telegraph Rd., +1 703 922-5210. The finest Chinese in Virginia, if not North America. The food is amazing, you can't order anything bad. Try their sesame eggplant. They have a ginger soy sauce for their steamed meat dumplings which you'll want to drink straight. Their house mustard and duck sauce are worth the trip. Their chicken and corn soup is unique and amazing. Some favorite meals: Kung pao anything, sesame chicken (sweet and delicious), crispy prawns and walnuts (you can get the walnuts as an appetizer if you like), Schezuan string beans and their "Banana Delight" for dessert. After appetizers they bring out a small serving of lemon sorbet "to cleanse the pallet" and let you come fresh to the main courses. After dinner they bring out steamed wash cloths to clean up with. The place serves large generous servings at very reasonable prices. You can get out for surprisingly cheap, especially during lunch hours.
  • Paradiso, 6124 Franconia Road on the edge of Alexandria towards Springfield, +1 703 922-6222. Excellent Italian. You can't really go wrong in here ordering anything, and they have a very respectable atmosphere of a high class establishment - but they accept casual dress and are completely welcoming of all - in fact they have a children's play room with Disney videos and toys for families, Sunday morning's they have a Brunch with some delicious selections (try their bruschetta) and (if they're still doing it) karaoke Thursday nights on the bar/patio side.
  • Southside 815, 815 South Washington Street, +1 703 838-6222, [28]. This local favorite features cuisine from the low country region of the American South, with generous portions at reasonable prices.

Drink

Straight-up bars or nightclubs are not in the area because Virginia requires liquor be served with food. Therefore, restaurant-and-bar combination places are the norm.

Old Town

  • Murphy's Grand Irish Pub, 713 King Street, +1 703 548-1717 [29]. Come in and knock back a few pints. You'll inevitably find yourself singing along to the live Irish music, which the many regular patrons often pepper with their own "creative" lyrics. Food is traditional Irish fare. Even though there are two floors, seating is hard to find on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Pat Troy's Ireland's Own, 111 North Pitt Street, +1 703 549-4535 [30]. Both Pat Troy and his restaurant have become old town institutions. The latter features live Irish music on most nights and a dog-friendly patio. Come in and see the (now proudly encased) table where former president Ronald Reagan enjoyed a brew during his impromptu visit on St. Patrick's Day 1988.

Coffeehouses

  • Misha's Coffeehouse and Coffee Roaster, 102 South Patrick Street, +1 703 548-4089.
  • Old Town Coffee Tea and Spice, 215 South Union Street, +1 703 683-0856.

Off the Beaten Path

  • Birchmere, 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave, +1 703 549-7500 [31]. A locally famous musical hall which has had a spectrum of artists from country acts such as Charles Daniels to classic rockers like George Thorogood.

Sleep

  • Hilton Alexandria, 1767 King St., [32]. A convenient location for visitors of Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., or the surrounding area. Situated in historic Old Town Alexandria, this hotel blends colonial charm with contemporary comfort.
  • Best Western Mount Vernon, 8751 Richmond Highway, +1 703 360-1300, Fax: +1 703 799-7713, [33].
  • Courtyard Alexandria, 2700 Eisenhower Avenue, +1 703 329-2323, Fax: +1 703 329-6853, [34].
  • Courtyard Alexandria Pentagon South, 4641 Kenmore Avenue, +1 703 751-4510, Fax: +1 703 751-9170, [35].
  • Hawthorne Suites, 420 N. Van Dorn Street, +1 703 370-1000, Fax: +1 703 751-1467, [36].
  • Holiday Inn, 2460 Eisenhower Ave, +1 703 960-3400, [37].
  • Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, 625 First Street, +1 703 548-6300, [38].
  • Hotel Monaco Alexandria, 480 King Street, +1 703 549-6080, [39].
  • Residence Inn Alexandria Old Town, 1456 Duke Street, +1 703 548-5474, Fax: +1 703 684-6818, [40].
  • Westin Hotel Alexandria, 400 Courthouse Square (in the Carlyle Row area)(703) 253-8600. Dogs under 40 pounds are allowed. [41]

Stay Safe

Alexandria, particularly Old Town, is a safe city with considerably less crime than its neighbor, Washington DC. While you are unlikely to be the victim of a crime here, you should take normal precautions that you would in any urban area, such as keeping your car and hotel room locked at all times.

Be aware that the metro subway system closes at midnight from Sunday-Thursday and at 3:00am on Friday and Saturday nights. The time of the last train is posted in each station. Metro busses operate 24 hours a day but on a greatly reduced schedule at night. If you anticipate being out very late at night it is a good idea to carry the phone number of a taxi company with you.

Get out

  • Arlington - Location of the Pentagon, Marine Corp War Memorial (Iwo Jima Statue), and Arlington Cemetery.
  • Mount Vernon - George Washington lived here in the mansion by the same name which overlooks the Potomac River.


This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!