SB NOTE: As with all-things-pandemic-related, please visit the CDC website to familiarize yourself with the most up-to-date travel and safety recommendations. And call ahead to restaurants and businesses to get the most up-to-date information on operating hours.
As we start to dream of a post-pandemic life and future weekend trips, Southern cities are top of mind. Nestled just 20 minutes outside of downtown Washington, D.C., historic Alexandria, VA — known for its charming Old Town neighborhood — has all the makings of a wonderful weekend getaway for those who aren’t into the hustle and bustle of the city. Filled with a wide range of restaurants, delightful shops and enchanting row homes, Old Town truly has it all, and this little slice of Northern Virginia is bound to please couples and families alike. Here’s how to make the most of a weekend trip to Alexandria; there’s quite a lot you can enjoy in just 48 hours.
48 Hours in Old Town Alexandria, VA
You’ve made it to Old Town! While there are several boutique hotel options, why not book a room at Alexandria’s only AAA four-star hotel? The Morrison House Old Town is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, and with only 45 rooms, it’s intimate and comfortable. Plus it’s located in the heart of Old Town, making it convenient to the things you’ll want to see and do. Drop your bags and head out for a bite to eat.
Virginia has a pretty spectacular wine country, so go ahead and welcome the weekend with a glass of wine (or two!) at Sonoma Cellar. The tasting room features wines from California and Virginia, and if you need a bite to eat, you’ll find options there as well. If you want something light and share-able, a charcuterie plate or some brie and fig jam crostini will pair nicely with your wine. If you prefer a more proper dinner, the menu runs the gamut — everything from hanger steak and Pacific Coast salmon to veggie cassoulet to a classic burger. With a full belly, it’s time get some rest before tomorrow’s adventures.
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Up and at ‘em! Start your Saturday morning by paying a visit to the Old Town farmers’ market, where you’ll find more than 70 vendors selling everything from fresh fruit to handmade goods. Early riser? No problem. The market is open from 7 a.m. until noon each week. It’s the perfect place to grab a cup of coffee and a pastry — while shopping local — and get some leisurely steps in before prepping for the next event of the day: brunch!
Brunch is a pretty big deal in this area, so you’ll most certainly want to partake while visiting the region. Fontaine Caffe and Creperie is a charming, laidback spot that’s a must-visit when in Old Town. As the name suggests, crepes are the restaurant’s specialty, but brunch patrons will also find traditional brunch fare including quiche, French toast, tartines and salads on the menu. Grab one of the petite bistro tables outside and sip an Aperol spritz or rosemary gin and tonic as you dine and people-watch.
After brunch, you’ll want to carve out some time to take in Old Town’s history — and there’s a lot of it to enjoy! The neighborhood is known for its beautiful row houses, which are centuries old (some date back to the late 1700s) and make for excellent photo opps. (SB TIP: The streets are flat, but some are made of cobblestone, so choose your footwear accordingly.) On your stroll, you’ll want to be sure to snap a picture of the Spite House at 523 Queen Street, which was built in 1830 and measures a mere seven feet wide. It’s painted bright blue, so you certainly can’t miss it! You’ll also want to venture over to Captain’s Row, the city’s oldest cobblestone block, which is also extremely picturesque. If you happen to be in town in the fall, note that Captain’s Row is known for its over-the-top Halloween displays, some of which are straight-up spooky while others are simply festive and fun.
Need an afternoon pick-me-up? Retail therapy may be the answer! Old Town’s King Street is chock-full of amazing shops, including a mix of local and national stores. Those in the market for small gifts and trinkets should head to Red Barn Mercantile, which is full of goodies for the home bar, kitchen and more. Right down the street is the charming Penny Post, a stationery store that is sure to delight papyrophiliacs of all ages. Old Town is also home to antique stores of all kinds. If going the vintage route strikes your fancy, note that many of these places can be pricey. However, such retailers are always worth a browse when in town. And if you enjoy shopping for chic secondhand clothing, Old Town has plenty of spots for that, too. Continue strolling through the neighborhood and make a stop inside women’s consignment boutiques Mint Condition and Encore, where you’re likely to find everything from Lululemon to Louis Vuitton. Note that Encore is located right near Captain’s Row, which you will have passed on your morning walk. However, it’s certainly worthwhile to make the trek back to that area, as it means you’ll end up right near The Creamery, where you can close off your afternoon with a cone from the cherished Alexandria staple.
When you’re ready for dinner, Magnolia’s on King is the place to go. Offering Southern cuisine, this restaurant is an excellent place to grab dishes like Cajun pimento cheese dip, buttermilk biscuits, or shrimp and grits. The all-day brunch menu features classics such as chicken and waffles and a crab cake benedict if you’re craving something a bit outside-the-suppertime-box. If you still have room, round out your meal with a delectable dessert — banana bread pudding, anyone?
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Kick off your Sunday with a satisfying brunch at Virtue Feed & Grain, located right near the Torpedo Factory Art Center (your next stop!). The menu features items ranging from avocado toast to taquitos, so there’s truly something for everyone. Traveling with a furry friend? The dog-friendly establishment even features special menu items just for pups.
Now, it’s time to explore the Torpedo Factory, which is home to 82 working art studios that are open for observation (and shopping!). The space also features nine galleries and attracts nearly half a million visitors annually — it’s an attraction you can’t miss when in Old Town. Whether you’re a major art buff or just want to take a look around, the Torpedo Factory is certainly worth a visit.
Take a break from heartier Southern cuisine and grab a taco lunch at Tequila & Taco. It’s about a 30-minute walk from the Torpedo Factory, so again, bring comfy shoes! Reward yourself with one of the restaurant’s refreshing margaritas, and choose a selection of tacos and dips to tide you over for the afternoon. Don’t miss the fried chicken or spiced sweet potato varieties!
You’ll find yourself near the Crate & Barrel outlet store, which is one of only 11 nationwide, so if you’re a home decor fanatic, it’s certainly worth a visit. While the store isn’t Old Town-specific, of course, it’s filled with some amazing finds. The selection includes housewares, furniture and other accessories from Crate & Barrel and CB2, and you never know what you might stumble upon.
Before hitting the road, grab a treat to go from Lavender Moon Cupcakery or Alexandria Cupcake. If you have more time, you could even enjoy a snack while cuddling kittens at the Mount Purrnon Cat Café and Wine Bar. Talk about the purrfect ending to the weekend!
Learn more about Old Town Alexandria HERE. All photography by Sarah Lyon.
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