Top 10 Reasons To Visit Alexandria This Summer

Against the backdrop of a vibrant waterfront and historic streets, summer in Alexandria sizzles with boat cruises, fireworks, outdoor dining and more. We’ve got cold brews and summer treats, scenic parks and outdoor tours–ALX is practically swimming in windows-down, music-up summer living. Lucky for you, we’ve got your guide to the top 10 things to do this summer in Alexandria right here:

1. New Restaurant Openings

Waterfront_Market_CREDIT_R_Kennedy_for_ACVA_720x497_72_RGBImage Credit: R. Kennedy for Visit Alexandria

There is a mouth-watering lineup of new restaurants opening throughout Alexandria all summer long. Nothing says summer like waterfront dining, and Alexandria Restaurant Partners (Virtue Feed & Grain, Majestic, Lena’s Woodfire + Tap) has you covered with Vola’s Dockside Grill coming to the waterfront in June. In Del Ray, Junction Bakery & Bistro will serve American cuisine with a twist. In Old Town, the newly opened Ashlar Restaurant and Bar is located adjacent to the recently renovated Morrison House (a Kimpton Hotel), serving Mid-Atlantic inspired food with flare. In August, look out for Whiskey & Oyster opening in the Carlyle neighborhood, featuring a 20-foot oyster bar, a 50-foot bar, and outdoor dining with fire pits perfect for summer nights.

2. Waterfront Activities 

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The Alexandria waterfront is a summer hotspot for foodies, art lovers, dog owners and hopeless romantics alike. Catch live music and fresh seafood at Blackwall Hitch, picnic in one of our scenic waterfront parks, sip on dockside drinks or explore the Torpedo Factory Art Center to complete your perfect summer night.

3. Boat Cruises 

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Everyone knows the recipe for a perfect summer day is “just add water,” right? Hop on the Baseball Boat to Nationals Stadium to catch a game or climb aboard the water taxi to the National Mall to explore DC events like the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and Independence Day festivities. Take a narrated cruise to Mount Vernon or enjoy the views on the Alexandria Seaport Cruise.

4. Alexandria Birthday Celebration 

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Alexandria turns 267 years old this July (meanwhile, the U.S. turns 240) so of course we celebrate with a huge birthday bash along the Potomac waterfront at Oronoco Bay Park in Old Town. No gifts, please, but expect live music from the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, food vendors, patriotic birthday cake and a dazzling fireworks display over the river.

5. Summer Tours 

Alexandria, Virginia, spring day people enjoy outdoors.Image credit: R. Nowitz for Visit Alexandria

Sunny skies and summer breezes practically beg you to get out and explore our historic city, whether by bike, by boat or on foot. Plus these Alexandria tours aren’t just for tourists. Take a “hop stop” on the historic breweries walking tours (May 17 and July 11; self-guided option here), bike or boat down to Mount Vernon, or bite into Alexandria’s buzzworthy culinary scene on an Old Town food tour for a guaranteed good time.

Fans of PBS’ Civil War drama “Mercy Street” can explore the city that inspired the series on a number of tours offered throughout the summer in Alexandria. For summer, the Medical Heroism in Alexandria tour is ideal, as part of it takes place by boat on the Potomac River.

6. Outdoor Dining 

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Summer hasn’t officially started until you’ve hit the patio for some al fresco dining. Luckily, Alexandria is chock-full of restaurants offering outdoor dining, from romantic riverside views at Blackwall Hitch to vibrant streetscapes at the Front Porch from Evening Star in Del Ray. My favorite is the garden patio with Greek food at Taverna Cretekou. Now all you have to do is choose between that rosé or the IPA.

7. Dog-Friendly Things To Do

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Dogs love summer in Alexandria. Why? They get to sniff and mingle at local favorite Doggy Happy Hour, feel the wind in their hair on the Canine Cruise, explore Alexandria’s many dog-friendly parks and gobble doggy treats like puppy pops and pupcakes. Oh, and strolling bustling King Street is always fun on a sunny day for pups and bipeds alike. Check out all 21 dog friendly things to do in Alexandria here.

8. Summer Treats

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Beat the heat with chilled sweet treats from Alexandria eateries specializing in ice cream and other frozen delights. Just a taste: find Wisconsin-style frozen custard and popsicles (root beer float popsicle, anyone?) at The Dairy Godmother in Del Ray, handcrafted artisan gelato including banana split and dulce de leche at Casa Rosada Artisan Gelato, frozen fruit pops at Whim Pop, healthy sorbetto (sorbet) in flavors like roasted plum and jasmine pear at Killer E.S.P., and classic homemade ice cream at The Creamery and Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream.

9. Harry Potter at the Apothecary

Harry Potter Image_Apothecary_AlexandriaImage Credit: City of Alexandria

For Harry Potter fans who wish they could step into Professor Snape’s classroom at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the historic Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum in Alexandria, Virginia, may be the next best thing. Parents Magazine named the apothecary one of the Top 8 Places to Take Your Harry Potter Fan, and this summer is the perfect time to visit.

The weekend of July 30 and 31 celebrate Harry Potter and J.K Rowling’s birthday and the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts I & II, the latest addition to the Harry Potter series, with weekend-long celebrations at the renowned Apothecary, where you can see ingredients dating back to the 1800s that were mentioned in the Harry Potter books and movies, including dragon’s blood, mandrake root, lavender and more. Can’t wait until July? See the containers for dragon’s blood, unicorn root and mandrake root on the regular tour. You can also host a Harry Potter themed birthday party at the Apothecary be a wizard for a day, including making your own potions.

10. Summer Deals  

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From the annual Summer Sidewalk Sale to summer hotel packages, all the stars are aligning for that weekend shopping trip you’ve been planning. Old Town’s chic independent shops offer deep discounts throughout the summer in one-of-a-kind personalized shopping experiences. In one walkable neighborhood, you can get fashion advice and expertise from independent boutique owners at shops like The Shoe Hive, take knitting classes or pick up handmade yarns and fibres at Fibre Space, or experience an olive oil tasting at Olio Tasting Room. At the end of the day, prop your feet at one of Alexandria’s top-rated boutique hotels.


Find more things to do this summer in Alexandria here.

Header image by R. Kennedy for Visit Alexandria

Special thanks to Kelsey Michaels, who contributed her writing to this post.