Spring is one of the most picturesque times to visit Alexandria, Virginia, located just outside Washington, D.C. on the Potomac River waterfront. This historic city buzzes with renewed energy each spring as hues of pink wash over 18th- and 19th- century architecture and cobblestone streets, signaling cherry blossom season and longer, warmer days. Visitors will find endless ways to explore the wonders of springtime and awaken the senses in Alexandria, whether it’s taking a boat cruise on the Potomac River or jogging alongside it on the award-winning Mount Vernon Trail. You can find new shops and restaurants, attend “spirited” seasonal events, catch spring arts performances, or hop on an historic tour. With so many happenings it can be hard to choose, so we’ve got you covered with our top 10 reasons to visit Alexandria this spring.
1. Cherry Blossoms
Image Credit: Geoff Livingston
Nothing says spring like the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and it’s super-easy to see the world-famous trees in bloom from Alexandria. With the National Park Service predicting peak bloom from March 17 to 20 and blooms potentially remaining in view through April 1, we recommend Potomac Riverboat Company’s water taxi service. First, The Wharf Water Taxi is a relaxing 25-minute ride from Old Town Alexandria to the new Wharf development in Washington, D.C. From the dock at The Wharf, it’s a 10-minute walk to the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin. This taxi launched on March 1, 2018, and is running 7 times a day, 7 days a week, weather permitting. There is also the National Mall Water Taxi, a 30-minute direct water taxi running daily three times per day from March 24 to April 15, 2018 between Old Town Alexandria and the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Disembark just steps from the famous trees at the Tidal Basin. These water taxis are also an easy way to access events of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, including the Blossom Kite Festival. You can also hop aboard the 45-minute Cherry Blossom Monuments Cruise between Old Town and Georgetown on Saturdays and Sundays March 24 through April 15, 2018, and cruise past monuments and cherry blossoms at Hains Point. Check out our blog post for even more ways to see the cherry blossoms in Alexandria.
2. “Spirited” Spring Events
Image Credit: George Washington’s Mount Vernon
This spring, Alexandria is host to some very “spirited” events. Toast the season with wine, beer and cocktails at special happenings at art galleries, historic sites and Port City Brewing Company. It all starts at the Torpedo Factory Art Center on March 23, 2018 at the Target Gallery’s 8th Annual March150 Art Party. Sonoma Cellar will be sponsoring a wine bar at this popular spring event, which will also have hands-on activities, a green-screen photo station, and a live music set. Art enthusiasts will also love Art on the Rocks on May 4, 2018 from The Art League. Art on the Rocks is a one-of-a-kind event that challenges local mixologists to each select an installation from the Biennial Ikebana Show as inspiration to create the most artistic cocktail and appetizer pairing. On March 31, 2018, basketball fans don’t want to miss Malt Madness at Port City Brewing Co. in Alexandria’s West End. For the first time ever, Port City is bringing NCAA March Madness to the brewery with outdoor games and plenty of beer. History lovers can enjoy three boozy events happening this spring, including Carlyle’s Perfectly Paired Chocolate & Wine Tasting at Carlyle House on May 5, 2018, History by the Glass: Gin at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum on May 11, 2018 and the Spring Wine Festival & Sunset Tour at George Washington’s Mount Vernon from May 18 to May 20, 2018. Finally, don’t forget Fido at Doggy Yappy Hour starting April 3, 2018 at Jackson 20.
3. New Restaurant Openings
Image Credit: Alexandria Restaurant Partners
While cherry blossoms are blooming, Alexandria’s dining scene is booming (couldn’t help myself). This spring we can look forward to Mia’s Italian Kitchen coming in April 2018 from Alexandria Restaurant Partners. The new concept at 100 King Street includes an alley take-away window offering pizza by the slice. The dramatic rework of the restaurant space will also feature a dine-in pizza bar, second floor lounge and a delectable menu of house-made pastas, wood-fired pizza and other family recipe-inspired Italian specialties. Coming to the West End in March is Smoking Kow BBQ, “D.C.’s first and only American BBQ taco food truck.” Smoking Kow’s tacos delight BBQ fans with barbecue meats served in a homemade tortilla topped with coleslaw. Also offering platters and sandwiches, Smoking Kow’s best seller is the Mac ‘N Meat, with Smoking Kow’s signature meats served over mac ‘n cheese. Coming to Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood on Mount Vernon Avenue in April 2018 is Charlie’s on the Avenue, from Jeremy Barber and Justice Frank of Live Oak. The new concept will be a neighborhood spot where folks can grab locally sourced lunches throughout the week, or catch the big game on the weekends.
Check out our full list of 21 new Alexandria restaurants that just opened or are coming soon in 2018 here.
4.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 22, 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.
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 85th 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 21, 2018 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. The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum is also offering several “Geek Tours” this spring with various themes, including The Civil War on April 8, 2018, Pharmacy Nerds on April 15, 2018 and Outlandish for fans of the popular series “Outlander” on May 6, 2018.
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 Alexandria Marina when you purchase your tickets online. I’d say that’s a home run! The boat begins on opening day, April 5, 2018.
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, check out newly opened shops like Wear Ever Jewelry from artist Jennifer Jordan Park, representing 20 American artists and offering classes in an intimate studio setting. Fans of 116 King Pop-up Boutique will find the evolving concept at a new spot this spring. In May, 116 – The Collection will open at the new Founders Hall, a creative multi-use space opening in Old Town at 106 N. Lee Street. Featuring everything from yogawear to jewelry, 116 – The Collection will be the first pop-up concept at Founders Hall, a former warehouse that will also be home to South Block Juice and Vikriya Yoga on the ground floor, and a co-working concept called ALX Community on the second floor. Check out our Ultimate King Street Shopping Guide for a more in-depth look at Alexandria’s shopping scene.
8. Spring Arts Performances
Image Credit: Birchmere
Take in the sounds of spring with various arts performances happening around the city, including a spring solo series at MetroStage featuring two performances celebrating work by women, about women, and starring women. From March 8-25, 2018, George…Don’t Do That! is a musical entertainment celebrating the wit and wisdom of one of Britain’s most beloved comediennes, as performed by Catherine Flye, one of Washington’s favorite actors, and From April 13-29, 2018, I Did It My Way in Yiddish (in English) features the internationally acclaimed Jewish Canadian, comic performer, musician and writer Deb Filler, a one-woman tour de force in a jam-packed, music-filled show. On April 7 and April 8, 2018 you can also catch Concerts with the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra for the season finale including three pieces spanning three centuries. In the Arlandria neighborhood, The Birchmere: America’s Legendary Music Hall has a lineup worthy of at least one visit this spring, including Lee Ann Womack on March 23, 2018, Ronnie Milsap on April 5, 2018, Don McLean on April 14, 2018 and the Taj Mahal Trio on May 30, 2018.
9. 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). It was also named one of the 25 Food Markets Around the World You Should Visit Once in Your Life by Brit + Co. 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.)
10. Outdoor Dining
Image Credit: K. Summerer 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?
For more information about things to do this spring in Alexandria, click here.
Header image credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria