Things to Do in Alexandria’s Del Ray Neighborhood

Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood is the D.C. region’s hometown, known as the place “Where Main Street Still Exists.” Made-for-strolling Mount Vernon Avenue buzzes with a booming scene of locally owned eateries, while eclectic shops, colorful murals and community events like Art on the Avenue lend an artsy vibe. The neighborhood is also known as “Well Ray” for its thriving scene of holistic health businesses. Del Ray’s the place where neighbors know each other and you can still find an independent butcher, hardware store and pharmacy all on one street. The best way to experience a neighborhood like Del Ray? Like a local, of course. So we’ve rounded up some of our favorite things to do here. Whether you’re spending an hour or a weekend, we’ve got you covered.

Get Your Coffee Fix

Image Credit: K. Summerer for Visit Alexandria

The best way to start your day in Del Ray is with a cup of fresh, local coffee roasted right in the neighborhood. Swings Coffee has been a D.C. institution for over 100 years, and it’s roasted in Del Ray (which, as a bonus, makes the entire neighborhood smell like coffee on a breezy day). Stop by their Del Ray Coffee Bar for some of the best coffee in the region, including espresso, pour-overs, cold brew and more. The industrial art-deco space is the perfect spot to plug-in and work for a few hours. For another true Del Ray experience, head to St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub on Mount Vernon Avenue. This recently renovated community gathering place is known as “Del Ray’s Living Room” and features live jazz on Thursday nights. Nectar Coffee & Wine Bistro on the north end of Mount Vernon Avenue is the newest coffee spot in town, and offers prime outdoor spots, which are especially nice if you have a four-legged friend in your group. Dolce & Bean is an ideal spot if you’re looking for coffee after dinner with gelato or one of their chocolate truffles.

Experience Del Ray’s Booming Dining Scene

Creative Comfort Food

Image Credit: C. Davidson for Visit Alexandria

Alexandria is one of the best spots in the D.C. region for creative comfort food, and Del Ray leads the trend with some of the top restaurants in town. Junction Bakery & Bistro has garnered a lot of buzz in the short time it’s been open, named one of “The best veggie burgers in Washington,” one of the “40 most essential D.C. restaurant dishes of 2017” for their General Tso’s cauliflower and the “Best breakfast sandwich in Washington” to name a few. Stomping Ground’s fried chicken and biscuit breakfast sandwiches are consistently named among the best in the D.C. region, but it will take more than one trip to experience all the other delights on the menu like the veggie hash with seasonal vegetables or the breakfast grit bowl with smoked gouda, chorizo, salsa verde, cilantro, pickled jalapeño and a poached egg. The list of buzzworthy creative comfort food in Del Ray continues with spots like Live Oak, featuring Charleston, S.C.-inspired dishes form chef Justus Frank, and Cheesetique, named one of Food & Wine’s “Best Mac N Cheese in the U.S.” with warm, gooey goat gouda, asiago and cacao de roma, topped with truffle-infused bread crumbs. Other favorites for creative comfort food include Pork Barrel BBQ for classic barbecue and award-winning sauces, and Holy Cow for when you want an old fashioned burger and shake with creative toppings.

Ethnic Eats

Image Credit: Bombay Curry Facebook Page

One of the highlights of Del Ray’s dining scene is that you can pretty much eat around the world on one street, from Ethiopian to Japanese, Indian to Mexican and everything in between. Bombay Curry Company has some of the best Indian food in the region, while Taqueria el Poblano is consistently voted one of the best Margaritas in the region, and their authentic Mexican food is just as good. In the mood for Sushi? Sushi Bar is perfect for date night, as the cozy atmosphere is kid-free. Streets Market & Cafe on the north end of Mount Vernon Avenue also serves sushi platters, small plates and wings that are perfect for sharing or catching the big game on one of their TVs.

Local Favorites

Image Credit: K. Summerer for Visit Alexandria

If you really want to eat like a local in Del Ray, these are the restaurants you have to try. Whether they’ve been here for decades or are hidden gems known only to locals, you don’t want to miss out on these spots. Del Ray Cafe is tucked off of Mount Vernon Avenue in a house in one of Del Ray’s neighborhoods, and serves classic French fare. It’s one of the best spots in town for brunch, as is nearby Evening Star Cafe. Be sure to check out the No. 9 Lounge at Evening Star for live music, and The Front Porch for small bites and  Bourbon slushes in the warmer months. Al’s Steakhouse and Market 2 Market are often swarming with locals at lunch, and their sandwiches are worth the wait. Families love Del Ray Pizzeria, which has delicious pizza for the kids, and an extensive beer menu for the adults. Top it all off with dessert from The Dairy Godmother for homemade custard or pick up some delicious treats from The Happy Tart, which is all gluten-free baked goods and pastries.

Catch a Show at The Birchmere, “The Best Listening Club in America”

Image Credit: Lisa Walker for The Birchmere
On the north side of Del Ray, follow the Avenue to The Birchmere: America’s Legendary Music Hall, described by the Washington Post as “the best listening club in America.” The world-famous concert venue is known for its nightly lineup of classic and up-and-coming jazz, country, folk, bluegrass and R&B artists in an intimate setting, and has hosted acts like Johnny Cash, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dave Matthews, Emmylou Harris and Ray Charles. The Birchmere is located in the area known as Arlandria, also popularly known as Chirilagua, for the El Salvadoran village that was at one time home to many of its residents where now, small shops and restaurants with an international flavor line its streets. The Birchmere celebrated 50 years in 2016 and keeps getting better with age. Check out their calendar for artists and bands coming to Alexandria.

Hit the Farmers Market

Image Credit: C. Davidson for Visit Alexandria

Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. year-round, the Del Ray Farmers Market fills the Pat Miller Neighborhood Square with fresh fruits and vegetables in season, as well as baked goods, meats and cheeses, dairy products, artisan goods and much more. Alexandria-based vendors include Marcela’s Bakery for Central and South American pastries and baked goods, Together We Bake for granola, cookies and more (and for a good cause!) and Switch Doctor for switchel in fruity flavors. It’s a fun way to spend the morning with a cup of coffee and pick up groceries and gifts. The list of Del Ray’s market vendors can help you plan your visit.

Bring Fido

Image Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria

Del Ray is all about dogs with most of the restaurants offering dog-friendly outdoor dining and some of them even catering to canines, like Dairy Godmother, which has a regular rotation of Puppy Pops just for Fido. You can also pick up special gifts and dog toys at The Dog Store (conveniently located right across from Dairy Godmother) and natural treats and food at Nature’s Nibbles.

Find Eclectic Shopping

Image Credit: Kiskadee Facebook Page

Del Ray’s walkable Mount Vernon Avenue is sprinkled with independently owned and unique shops. Kiskadee has been a Del Ray fixture for over a decade, with clothing, gifts, monogrammed goods and more. There’s a great selection of shops for babies and kids, from Purple Goose for toys and clothing to Bellies & Babies for maternity clothes, gifts, gear on consignment. The Exotic Planterium & Comic Collectorama is a one-of-a-kind shop with a lot of character that sells succulents, comics and collectibles all in one tiny shop. VéloCity Bicycle Cooperative is probably one of the only shops where you can actually build your own bike out of used parts. You can also buy fully built bikes, attend workshops and learn DIY repairs during open hours at the bike shop. Brighten your day with a visit to Greenstreet Gardens, which is filled with beautiful plants and home gifts for anyone with a green thumb. Anyone with wedding bells in their future should visit Fabulous Frocks, where you can have a personalized experience picking out gorgeous and discounted wedding dresses.

Walk Unique Streetscapes

Image Credit: K. Summerer for Visit Alexandria

Some of the best places to explore in Del Ray are off Mount Vernon Avenue, where there’s often a surprise around every corner. Take a walking tour of Del Ray’s street murals, or explore the neighborhood’s Art Deco architecture. Wander down Dewitt Avenue to find a fence by Windsor Avenue that stretches with poetry, words of wisdom and other inspiring words or images. It’s one of those uniquely “Del Ray” things to do that will brighten any day. Around the corner, there’s a Little Free Library, one of a few hidden throughout the neighborhood.

Tap Into “Well Ray” Health Scene

Image Credit: Ascend Cycle

Del Ray is known locally as “Well Ray” for its active health scene. The neighborhood is filled with yoga studios like Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga, Ease Yoga and Cafe and Yoga in Daily Life. There’s also Ascend Cycle if you’re looking to sweat it out, as well as numerous parks and trails that are great for running or biking.

Attend Local Community Festivals and Events

Image Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria

Del Ray hosts a variety of community festivals and events throughout the year that are worth planning ahead. Art enthusiasts don’t want to miss Art on the Avenue every fall, where artists fill the street and live bands play along the way. The Del Ray Halloween Parade is also a tradition for all ages (and species), whether you want to watch or participate.The Turkey Trot is over 40 years old and a fun way to start the holidays, followed by the Holiday Tree Lighting, one of the holiday highlights every year. In the summer, the Del Ray Music Festival is a fun way to hear local musicians and enjoy special food and drinks. Be sure to check out the Del Ray Artisans gallery, open year-round with regular special events listed on their calendar.

Getting There and Getting Around

Parking is always free in Del Ray. The neighborhood is bike-friendly and has several Capital Bikeshare stations. The closest Metro is Braddock Metro on the Blue and Yellow lines. The Metro is very close to Mount Vernon Avenue, but to get to the main commercial area of the street, take a 15 to 20 minute walk, a short ride on Capital Bikeshare, or the 10A or 10B Metro bus.

Video: See Del Ray

Check out this video from HD Bros to see what Del Ray is like:

 

Find more on Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood here. And be sure to check out places along the edges of the neighborhood, where new spots are constantly popping up. Two standout places that are worth visiting in the Potomac Yard area are Souvlaki Bar for quick and delicious Greek food and the Department of Beer and Wine for a wide selection of drinks or a growler refill.

 

Header Image Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria