Alexandria is a city known for its big town feel and small town comforts, with familiar faces at independent stores, dog bowls lining the streets and nine historic sites within one square mile. Astonishing, right? What’s more is three of the top museums are within a mere block from one another, and are affectionately referred to as the “Museums on Market Square,” as they surround the historic square in front of Alexandria City Hall. Want to find out more? Here’s a sneak peek at what you can find in these historic sites, and what you can look forward to over the next few months.
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum
134 N. Royal St.
Known as the 18th century’s hippest politico gathering place, Gadsby’s Tavern has hosted the first five American presidents, and was even George Washington’s stopping place of choice between his journeys from his Mount Vernon estate to Alexandria. These days, Gadsby’s is open for daily tours and still serves diners at its restaurant attachment, which boasts “fine dining since 1785.”
Aside from the popular Civil War Ball (yes, equipped with 19th-century garb and music), an annual Jane Austen Ball (oh, Mr. Darcy!) and other history-centric festivities that spark nostalgia and romance, Gadsby’s brings famed presidents back to life, most recently with James Madison’s Presidential Salon, where the former president discusses life and politics in 1814, in celebration of the citywide commemoration of the War of 1812.
121 N. Fairfax St.
The Carlyle House is famous not for its gorgeous gardens, housing John Carlyle, one of Alexandria’s co-founders, or acting as a meeting place for General Braddock and royal governors to discuss funding the French Indian War—oh wait, yes it is. This eye-catching Georgian Palladian manor manifests the history it has witnessed since its establishment in 1753 with costumed interpreters and thought-provoking historical throwbacks through events and activities.
Taking advantage of its scenic backyard and front lawns, the Carlyle House will celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 with an outdoor concert series, featuring live music of the 1812 era, and special summer camps for kids which include interactive historical activities like candle making, colonial cooking and a first ever Colonial Games Olympics.
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
105-107 S. Fairfax St.
The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum is a hidden gem nestled in a pastel yellow 18th-century style building, and is one of the longest running businesses in Alexandria, and one of the longest running pharmacies in the United States. Back in the day, patrons could purchase anything from herbs to opium, and potentially get the chance to run into the apothecary’s famous customers like Martha Washington and Robert E. Lee.
Today, visitors can tour the apothecary’s two floors (and on special occasions, the extremely rarely-viewed third floor), filled with medicines, potions and medical equipment for curing Alexandrians’ ailments, or take exclusive Herbalism Workshops and learn how to de-stress with key herbs.
See more of Alexandria’s historic sites here.