Walking just off King Street, we came across an Asian man rolling a legless round table down the sidewalk. It was a lovely honey oak and he saw me admiring it. He asked if we wanted to buy it and I said, “but it has no legs.” He quipped, “Buy the table top and I’ll throw the legs in for free.”
Thus began a lovely day in friendly, historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. After the previous day’s tour at the Holocaust Museum & Memorial, it was good to cross the Potomac River and walk on the sunny streets of this charming city.
Things to know and places to go:
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
This almost Federalist-style home is a mere eight miles away and definitely on a must-do list for springtime. There’s even a service that rents bikes to cycle to Mount Vernon and enjoy a boat cruise back. Make sure to reserve your spot well in advance and expect the cruise to take 1.5 hours. Don’t worry if you aren’t a cyclist, there’s a cruise that will take you there and back again.
Chart House Restaurant
Lunch at the Chart House, located steps away from the Torpedo Factory Art Center, was a delight. This is a chain restaurant that acts like a family-owned affair. Opt for the Cream of Crab Soup and you won’t go away hungry.
Dining at this Tuscany-inspired restaurant was a foodie’s win. Agnolotti alla Fiorentina (homemade pasta filled with spinach, ricotta & Parmesan) as well as Linguine alla Pescatora (an array of fish in a white wine sauce) is enough to send you straight back to Italy—just by shutting your eyes and savoring.
Free King Street Trolley
The Trolley runs daily from 10:00 a.m. – 10:15 p.m. with extended hours on the weekend. As we rounded the corner from our hotel onto King Street, I’d have happily boarded to escape the soaring winds. We soldiered on and in another block it had died to a reasonable gust. The trolley stops every two blocks so folks can hop on/hop off at will.
A great joy in turning the corner and coming upon King is being assaulted with the beauty of fairy lights in ALL the trees from one end of the street to the other! Whoever on the town council thought that up: Brilliant!
Torpedo Factory Art Center
Not two words you’d naturally put together, torpedo and art, but there’s a logical reason for it. The building was founded shortly at the end of World War I—sounds backwards, doesn’t it—and began producing torpedoes. When World War II started, production geared up and additional buildings were added to the location to keep pace with the need. For a while, the building was used for government storage until finally in 1974 it was given new life as the art center. Luckily, it underwent another renovation, central heat and air were added, and it reopened refreshed in 1983.
It’s a treat to walk through the building, see the history and see history being made by 165 artists as they work and display their treasures for sale.
There are various parks plopped every so often along the Potomac River. They don’t connect by path, but you can certainly stroll from one to another along the streets and the Promenade.
Nearby, Captain’s Row (on Prince between Union and Lee Streets) is a fun walk. Pittsburgh still has many cobblestone streets, but these were paved by Hessian Soldiers as prisoners of the Revolutionary War. Besides the stones, the street features Federal style row homes built by sea captains.
Old Town Alexandria is full of quaint storefronts with friendly owners, home made chocolate and tea shops, ice cream and restaurants to coat every taste bud with pleasure.
Going: It’s just off the 495 and across the river from DC. There’s a Metro stop at the top of King Street, so if you’re staying in DC and want to pop over for an afternoon, it’s easy as can be.
Museums: If you plan on doing a lot of museums, check out the Key to the City pass. Eight museums for $15 and a coupon for $40 off a visit to Mount Vernon. Sounds like a deal not to be missed.
Also published on Medium.