With experiential new tours, historic beer, an evolving waterfront and trending food, Alexandria, Virginia continues to make history with new happenings and major openings in 2017. Just outside of Washington, D.C., visitors and locals seeking uncommon experiences will find a wealth of options in historic Old Town Alexandria and off-the-beaten path neighborhoods.
New Things To Do
New Tours for Photo Enthusiasts, Runners and More
Image Credit: Kerinia Cusick from Fetching Photos Instagram
Joining a robust calendar of history, ghost, and boat tours are new niche tours including Fetching Photos, which presents walking photo tours for both smartphone and SLR users (and dogs are always welcome!); Nightly Spirits, featuring a “Frights and Pints” tour for beer fans who love a scare; Manumission Tour Company, which explores Alexandria’s rich African-American history through curated heritage tours; and Discover Alexandria, presenting tours such as “Virginia is for Runners,” visiting iconic sites while on a brisk run, and “Sweet History,” combining history with the city’s best dessert spots.
Experiences Inspired by PBS’ Mercy Street Season 2
Image Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria
As fans of the PBS Civil War-era drama Mercy Street anticipate the show’s return for a second season on January 22, 2017, historic Alexandria, Virginia announces 25 new tours, exhibits and events inspired by the series, launching in 2017 as the new season airs. Mercy Street is inspired by real events of Civil War Alexandria and is PBS’ first original American drama in a decade. Fans are invited to visit the city’s historic sites to enjoy new exhibits and events inspired by the series. Check out Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum’s “Apothecary of Mercy Specialty Tour” (starts Jan. 8), events at Carlyle House including the “Love and Romance Between the Lines” open house (Feb. 11), and Civil War-inspired food events including “Civil War Wine Dinner with Gray Ghost Winery” (Jan. 26) and “Heflebower’s Cobblers and Cocktails” (Feb. 3), both at Gadsby’s Tavern. Check out www.VisitAlexandriaVA.com/mercystreet for more events and tours happening through the spring.
Hub of African-American Heritage Travel
Image Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria
In the fall of 2016, the highly anticipated Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture opened on the National Mall. Days later, George Washington’s Mount Vernon opened a ground-breaking exhibition, “Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon” focusing on the personal stories of Mount Vernon’s enslaved people. Nestled between these two sites on the Potomac River waterfront is historic Alexandria, a city steeped in African-American history since its founding in 1749. Alexandria makes a perfect home-base to explore this history and more including a new Courageous Journey self-guided driving tour and the “Alexandria’s Fight for Freedom” walking tour through the new Manumission Tour Company, which offers curated heritage tours for socially conscious day trippers.
Expanded Key to the City Museum Pass
Image Credit: Mount Vernon
In 2017, the city’s Key to the City museum pass ($15) expands to include 40% off of admission to the most visited historic site in America, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, located just 8 miles south of Old Town, and admission to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial observation deck, which offers breathtaking 360-degree views of Alexandria, Washington, D.C., and the surrounding region from the ninth floor of the memorial. With the Key to the City museum pass, visitors can access eight historic sites—a $49 value—for just $15.
Portner Brewhouse Revives Historic Beer
Image Credit: Portner Brewhouse
Two sisters are launching a new reason to visit Alexandria, already a destination for craft beer lovers, with the opening of pre-Prohibition inspired Portner Brewhouse. Catherine and Margaret Portner are honoring their great-great grandfather’s legacy 100 years later by brewing up historic family recipes from Alexandria’s Robert Portner Brewing Co., the largest pre-Prohibition brewery in the South. Portner Brewhouse, which opens its doors in late February or early March 2017, also serves contemporary German-American cuisine and offers the public a chance to taste and rate home-brewed recipes in the Craft Beer Test Kitchen™.
Port City Brewing Co., which was named the Best Small Brewery in the U.S. in 2015 and put Alexandria on the map by being the first craft brewery in the D.C. region, will also expand in 2017.
New at the Waterfront
Hotel Indigo and Waterfront Dining
Image Credit: Hotel Indigo
Alexandria will welcome its first waterfront hotel, the highly anticipated Hotel Indigo Old Town Alexandria opening in spring 2017. A 5,000 square foot waterfront terrace will welcome locals and hotel guests with fire pits and food and drink service from a soon-to-be announced restaurant serving regionally influenced fare. Nearby 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.
NH2 Bus Connects to MGM National Harbor
Image Credit: WMATA
The D.C. region’s hot new attraction, MGM National Harbor is just a 15-minute ride from Old Town Alexandria on the new NH2 bus and is also accessibleby taking the Potomac Riverboat Company’s water taxi to National Harbor, making Alexandria an easy home base for an MGM excursion, or a destination during an MGM weekend. Use Visit Alexandria’s easy-to-use map to learn more about routes and times.
New in Creative Comfort Food
Image Credit: Alex Martinez
Alexandria’s booming dining scene is trending with classic comfort foods with creative culinary twists. Named Virginia’s top food truck by Southern Living in 2016 for its quirky and imaginative eggroll flavors, Meggrolls will open its first storefront in Old Town in 2017 with menu items such as Chicken Parm, Buffalo Wing, Four Cheese Mac and Chorizo Pablano. Also in Old Town, celebrity pitmaster Myron Mixon will soon open Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster Barbecue, serving up authentic barbeque with signature dishes such as cupcake chicken, peach barbecue beans and baby back mac and cheese. Nearby and new, Hen Quarter puts a creative twist on chicken and waffles by adding compressed watermelon, honey pearl butter and Tennessee bourbon maple syrup. In Del Ray, new restaurants Live Oak and Junction Bakery & Bistro serve up dishes like head-on shrimp and grits and short rib grilled cheese, respectively.
New Sweet Spots for Dessert
Image Credit: Nicecream Factory
Liquid nitrogen meets fresh farm ingredients at made-to-order ice cream concept Nicecream Factory, bringing its newest location to Old Town Alexandria in the spring of 2017, joining nearly 20 artisanal sweets and dessert spots in this already sweet dessert destination. Each Nicecream serving is crafted right before the customer’s eyes with rotating weekly and seasonal flavors such as Mint Mojito, Cran-Orange Dark Chocolate Chunk and Butter Toffee Pecan. Duck Donuts will also bring its signature concept to Alexandria in the spring, offering customers made-to-order doughnuts with their choice of toppings and other warm, freshly made doughnuts of the day such as Maple Bacon & Raspberry Drizzle and Blueberry & Powdered Sugar. Coming to Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood in the spring of 2017, Dolce & Bean is a family owned confectionery shop offering premium artisanal products, including macarons, gourmet fudge, crepes and gelato. Nearby, local favorite The Happy Tart, a gluten-free patisserie created by a classically trained French pastry chef when she discovered she was gluten intolerant, will expand in 2017 with a more extensive menu and more seating.
Stay tuned for our upcoming New Restaurants post for even more dining happenings in 2017!