They say Virginia is for lovers. If you happen to be drive, fly or float by Virginia, make sure to stop in the city of Alexandria! Close to the capitol of the United States, Washington D.C., Virginia makes for a fun day trip if you happen to be visiting the White House.
You may visit museums, parks, exciting forts as well as native heritage sites and rivers. The town is right by the Potomac River and has water taxis, boat cruises and trails by the waterfront. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. The history and heritage of Alexandria is so rich it may feel like you are traveling through space and time.
Whether you are vacationing, on a road trip, business trip or recently moved there, we have gathered fifteen among all the beautiful places to see that we think are the best to start with.
Let’s start with the countdown to number one:
#15. Torpedo Factory Art Center
The Torpedo Factory Art Center is a time machine to the First and Second World Wars, when it used to make, that’s right, torpedoes.
After the facility stopped making torpedoes and closed, it was transformed by a group of local artists who turned it into an arts studio. Galleries and local art work studios will delight your eyes and maybe inspire you to take a class yourself right then and there.
#14. Dangerfield Island
Now our time machine moves further back, to the days when America was still wild and this area was met by some of the first settlers that began arriving from the Old World. By the Old Town area of Alexandria you will find Dangerfield Island. Local wildlife, species such as colorful kingfishers, graceful herons, turtles, frogs, and snakes are awaiting for your discovery.
#13. The Atheneaum
Moving forward to the year 1851, the times of the Civil War. This is the year The Atheneaum was built in Alexandria, in the Greek Revival style.
This building used to be a bank! History tells us that this bank was frequented by Robert E. Lee, a general who commanded the Confederate Army of North Virginia during the Civil War.
The Atheneaum was also used a headquarters of the Union Army and also operated as a hospital for soldiers wounded in battle.
Nowadays you can enjoy this amazing historical and achitectural gem as well as visit the art gallery that sits inside.
#12. Dora Kelley Nature Park
In modern times, as in days of old, we can enjoy The Dora Kelley Nature Park as a natural sanctuary which spreads over 50 acres and is known for its nature walks, bike trail and hiking.
The hiking trail here stretches over a mile and will take you over leaf carpeted hills, amazing wetlands and soothing streams. Enjoy the fresh air, the trees changing during the seasons and the wildlife that inhabits this magical patch of land. Bicycling is allowed, so bring your bikes kids!
If you make a reservation beforehand, then you can also enjoy a tour here led by one of the park rangers.
#11. Alexandria Black History Museum
There was a time when the civil rights movement took to the streets, and the Alexandria Black History Museum used to then be a library for African-Americans in Alexandria.
Today, the museum will take patrons on a tour regarding African American history in the United States. In this tour, patrons can see historic primary documents and photographs that are part of the collection.
The famous exhibition “Securing the Blessings of Liberty” is available on a permanent basis, and it deals with the end of slavery in the Alexandria community.
#10.Fort Ward Park
The park has Union forts and batteries that have been lovingly restored and used to protect Washington, DC in the days of the American Civil War.
The fort now has an amphitheater, where you can watch performances and concerts about the history behind Fort Ward. Patrons can see Civil War time reenactments here, with actors in full costume.
#9.Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center
An extension of Dora Kelley Nature Park, at the center of it, you will find programs and exhibits of the natural history of Alexandria as well as take you back through the story of how native americans first settled in this land.
You can also see animals here in their natural environment and learn about the flora and fauna in Dora Kelley Nature Park.
#8. Jones Point Park
Jones Point Park is a great place for fishing and canoeing.
The park lies on marshland that used to be the home to the Native Americans in the area, the Powhatan.
There are two main fishing piers in the park where you may fish for catfish, bass, and even eels.
There is also a canoe launching site here that will take you gliding through to the Potomac River like the natives used to do.
#7. Winkler Botanical Preserve
Winkler Botanical Preserve is a stretch of over 44 acres full of the enchanting flora and fauna of the Potomac River Valley.
The preserve here aims to showcase the natural beauty of Virginia, and is open to the public daily.
If you love hiking and nature walks this is the place for you to indulge in. This is a must-see for nature lovers.
#6. Carlyle House Historic Park
A part of the Carlyle House complex, this historic park features a garden that lies over three quarters of an acre. It is a great place to find some peace, quiet and green in the middle of the city.
The garden was designed to mirror the style of gardens in the 18th century and is filled with plants that were popular during the 1800’s.
You can look forward to aesthetic brick trails, cozy wooden benches and a relaxing time with a good book.
#5. Gadsby’s Tavern Museum
Gadsby’s is a tavern and hotel from the 18th century turned into a museum.
The history behind it:
-The site is named after the keeper of the tavern, John Gadsby.
-George Washington’s Birthnight Ball was held here in 1798.
– It also hosted the inaugural banquet of Thomas Jefferson in 1801.
You can sign up for a tour and find out more of what has happened here!
#4. Market Square
Market Square is the place to come on a Saturday morning to get your fresh produce. Local artisans and farmers have been selling meat, fish, dairy, fruits and vegetables since 1753!
The Old Town Market Square is one of the oldest in the country. As a matter of fact, it is said even George Washington farmed and sold his products here! Come see a part of this nation’s history!
#3. The Potomac River Boat Company
Experience the Potomac River up close! Take a cruise or a taxi and drift by the local monuments and historic sites enjoying the fresh air and trees near the river. Why suffer through traffic, when you can enjoy a water ride through the city?
There are several docking stations along the way, so that you get to choose your stop.
#2. Tide Lock Park
A canal system used to exist here and the entire waterfront area of Alexandria would have been dotted with gorgeous locks made of wood.
Unfortunately the locks died out in the 1800s, but if you visit the park you can see a replica of a lock and part of the canal system.
Some parts of the original are still visible here: the stones that would have made up sections of the canal wall are still around.
And finally, the number one place to visit in Alexandria.
#1. The Mount Vernon Trail
The Mount Vernon Trail is the most famous trail in Virginia. It spans 18 miles of land!
The trail begins at the Mount Vernon Estate which belonged to George Washington and then skirts along the Potomac River where it takes visitors past key monuments and sites of interest in Alexandria.
This trail is a bonus trail! You can walk or run along the trail and it also connects to a number of other trails, such as the Potomac Heritage Trail and Rock Creek Trail. This would be the best place to visit first, since it can connect you to many other historic sites and parks.