Alexandria is buzzing with more than bees this spring, and this historic city just ouside Washington, D.C. offers endless opportunities to explore the wonders of springtime with new niche tours, restaurant and boutique openings and more ways than ever to see the cherry blossoms. Spring is the perfect time to get outside and explore Alexandria’s outdoor events and tours, Mercy Street-inspired experiences, dog-friendly events and much more. Here are our top 10 reasons to visit Alexandria this spring:
1. Take in the Cherry Blossoms
Image credit: Geoff Livingston
Nothing says spring like the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and it’s super-easy to see these world-famous trees in bloom from Alexandria. Leave your car behind and hop aboard the 50-minute Cherry Blossom Monuments Cruise March 17-19, 2017 and enjoy views of neighboring sailboats and the Washington skyline before you dock steps from the Tidal Basin’s pretty-in-pink photo ops. Potomac Riverboat Company also offers a 30-minute direct water taxi from March 24-April 16, 2017 between Old Town Alexandria and the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It’s an easy way to access events of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, including the Blossom Kite Festival. You can also see more cherry blossoms right here in Alexandria on a Cherry Blossom Photo Tour of Old Town with Fetching Photos. You’ll learn photography tips whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, and walk away with gorgeous springtime photos of Alexandria.
2. Mercy Street-Inspired Tours
Image Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria
With warmer weather ahead of us and the second season of PBS’ Mercy Street ending soon, now is a great time to get outside and explore the real people and stories that inspired the series right here in Alexandria. Choose your own adventure with a wide selection of Mercy Street-inspired tours, including Discover Alexandria’s “Discovering Mercy Walking Tour”, “Freedom’s Fight in Alexandria” tour by Manumission Tour Company, and “The Mercy Walk” by Alexandria Colonial Tours. Check out other Mercy Street inspired exhibits and events happening in Alexandria here.
3. New Restaurant Openings
Image Credit: C. Davidson for Visit Alexandria
While cherry blossoms are blooming, Alexandria’s dining scene is booming (couldn’t help myself). This spring we can look forward to the opening of Meggrolls, named Virginia’s top food truck by Southern Living in 2016 for her quirky and imaginative eggroll flavors, and Portner Brewhouse, serving historic recipe beers and German and American cuisine from Catherine and Margaret Portner, whose great-great grandfather Robert Portner once ran the South’s largest pre-Prohibition brewery right here in Alexandria. Coming to the waterfront this spring is a soon-to-be announced restaurant at Hotel Indigo that will include a 5,000 square foot terrace with Potomac River views.
Check out our full list of 22 new Alexandria restaurants that just opened or are coming soon in 2017 here.
4. New on the Waterfront
Image credit: Hotel Indigo
Alexandria welcomes its first waterfront hotel, the highly anticipated Hotel Indigo Old Town Alexandria opening in spring 2017. Touches of Alexandria’s colonial past blend with contemporary design at the boutique hotel, nestled on a riverside site where a 300-year old ship was discovered and excavated during the hotel’s development. At the city’s marina, new restaurant Vola’s Dockside Grill and Hi-Tide Lounge offers waterfront dining with an oyster bar, seafood classics and tiki-inspired cocktails. More recent expansions on Alexandria’s waterfront include new connections to D.C. via Potomac Riverboat Company’s water taxis and future plans to create a new public plaza at the foot of King Street.
5. Unique Historic Site and Garden Tours
Image credit: Louise Krafft
Discover the secret gardens of Old Town’s 18th and 19th century row houses and historic sites on the 84th Annual Alexandria Historic Homes & Garden Tour, where you can peek behind the brick walls of beautifully preserved homes to see spring flowers galore. That same day, April 22, head to the Carlyle House Garden Day Herb & Craft Sale to shop for culinary and decorative plants, enjoy live music and browse local artisan-made wares. Another springtime favorite is the Historic Alexandria Attics and Alleys Tour, where you can explore rarely-seen spaces at four of Alexandria’s historic sites—Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden and Carlyle House Historic Park—to uncover historic graffiti, architectural fragments and more mysteries of our city that will have you in full-on sleuth mode. Tours are offered Saturdays in May.
6. Baseball Boat
Image credit: Potomac Riverboat Co.
Who’s excited for baseball season? With the Potomac Riverboat Company’s Baseball Boat, you can get from Old Town Alexandria to Nationals Park by water, avoiding the crowds and soaking up views of the Washington skyline. It’s literally the easiest way to get to the game—the boat docks just outside the stadium, and makes the trip back to Old Town 20 minutes after the final pitch, and you can enjoy popcorn, beer and soda available for purchase. Plus you get free parking near the Port of Alexandria when you purchase your tickets online. I’d say that’s a home run! The boat begins on opening day, April 3, 2017.
7. Spring Shopping at Independent Boutiques
Image credit: M. Chenet for Visit Alexandria
The best way to kiss winter goodbye? Swap your layers for some spring sandals at one of King Street’s independent boutiques, or people-watch as you stroll along Old Town’s bustling main thoroughfare. In warm weather, this brick-lined corridor hums with energy as street performers entertain passersby and adorable pups stretch their legs. This spring, after having a successful holiday run, 116 King Seasonal Pop-Up will reopen on March 16 with preppy brands and clothing perfect for new spring additions to your wardrobe.
8. Farmers’ Markets
Image credit: R. Kennedy for Visit Alexandria
There’s no better way to ring in the spring than a Saturday morning at the Old Town Alexandria Farmers Market, a local tradition going back to 1753 (George Washington sent his produce to be sold here). Head to Market Square to treat your senses to a lively scene overflowing with fresh seasonal produce, as well as local meats, cheeses, breads, flowers and art, or hit up the Del Ray Farmers Market on Saturdays for everything from Amish cheese to fancy nuts. (See a full list of Alexandria Farmers Markets here.)
9. Waterfront Parks, Trails and a Parkway Race
For a breath of fresh air, visit one of Alexandria’s eight waterfront parks, where you can enjoy all the benefits of the great outdoors just steps from bustling King Street. Between the beautiful views of the Potomac and the spring flowers in bloom, these parks make for the perfect picnic (and great dog-walking, too). For those looking to get more active during the longer days, Alexandria’s award winning Mount Vernon Trail beckons: it’s got waterfront vistas, loads of green space and it’s easy to get to, making it the perfect escape for a quick bike ride or nice long run. You can also get out on the water by renting sailboats, kayaks or stand up paddleboards at the Washington Sailing Marina at Daingerfield Island in Alexandria. Take part in one of the region’s most picturesque runs on April 23, the George Washington Parkway Classic, renowned for its lush scenery and gorgeous river views. The 10-mile race takes runners from Mount Vernon along the parkway to Old Town Alexandria – or choose the shorter 5k route in Old Town.
10. Outdoor Dining
Image credit: R. Kennedy for Visit Alexandria
More than 30 Alexandria restaurants feature sidewalk or patio seating, ample reason to dine al fresco and people-watch along Old Town’s bustling streetscape or the scenic waterfront. Crepes, pad thai, burgers, seafood—oh, and dog-friendly menus—all of it tastes better outdoors, am I right?
BONUS: Doggy Happy Hour
Image credit: Kimpton Hotels
Everyone in Alexandria know dogs just wanna have fun too, so why leave Fido at home when Happy Hour rolls around? Thankfully you don’t have to in our dog-friendly city. An Old Town institution beloved by locals and visitors alike, Doggy Happy Hour kicks off at Jackson 20 at The Alexandrian, Autograph Collection hotel in April and continues on Tuesdays through the fall, offering specials on cocktails and beer plus treats for canine companions.
For more information about things to do this spring in Alexandria, click here.
Header image credit: M. Chenet