Alexandria is most known to visitors for historic Old Town, but is made up of many neighborhoods that offer a rich experience of local flavor. Venture into the city’s West End to the Seminary Hill neighborhood for history, outdoor sanctuaries, innovative arts and hidden gems just off the beaten path. The neighborhood is even home to T.C. Williams High School, whose football team inspired the movie “Remember the Titans.” Whether you have a few hours or a weekend, we’ve rounded up our favorite things to do in this West End neighborhood including the best restaurants, outdoor activities and local favorites.
Alexandria Pastry Shop
Image Credit: Alexandria Pastry Shop Facebook Page
For breakfast, stop by Alexandria Pastry Shop for an extensive variety of fresh, hand crafted pastries that have been a local favorite for decades. You might recognize their croissants, scones, muffins and other baked goods, which are sold at Swings Coffee in Del Ray. Alexandria Pastry Shop is the perfect spot to pick up a quick breakfast or order a treat for a special occasion.
Things to Do
Virginia Theological Seminary
Image credit: Peter Aaron/OTTO for Robert A.M. Stern Architects; courtesy of Virginia Theological Seminary
The Virginia Theological Seminary gives the neighborhood its “Seminary Hill” name. Established in 1823, it’s the largest and second oldest accredited Episcopal seminary in the country, and the beautiful grounds are filled with rich history for visitors to explore. Be sure to visit the Immanuel Chapel, consecrated in 2015 after a fire destroyed the original 129-year old chapel in 2010. Immanuel Chapel was designed by the renowned Robert A.M. Stern Architects—Robert A.M. Stern, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, is credited with first using the term “postmodernism” and has designed notable buildings in New York City and Philadelphia among other places. The combination of 19th-century history and modern architecture make it a wonderful place to spend some time exploring.
Winkler Botanical Preserve
Image Credit: Instagram user sibylrights
The Winkler Botanical Preserve is one of the best hidden gems in the DC region, offering a quiet sanctuary in the woods that’s less crowded than popular places like Great Falls. You can easily spend hours hiking the trails around the 44-acre nature preserve, bird-watching around the pond and waterfall, and admiring the botanical garden.
Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site
Image Credit: C. Mouledoux for Visit Alexandria
Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site is a 45-acre park that includes the museum and historic site as well as a picnic area. The fort, constructed in 1861 and named for the first Union naval officer to die in the Civil War, was part of the Defenses of Washington. The fort never came under attack, which means it’s an extremely well-preserved Civil War fort including almost all of the earthen walls intact. It’s a great place to enjoy a picnic with friends or family and explore stories from the Civil War with special events and exhibits about PBS’ Civil War Medical Drama, “Mercy Street.”
Image Credit: Greenstreet Gardens Facebook page
A top nursery in the region, Greenstreet Gardens has a location on 1721 West Braddock Road, a location in Del Ray and their headquarters is in Lothian, MD just south of Annapolis. Whether you’re a full-fledged botanist or can barely keep a spider plant alive, the West End’s Greenstreet Gardens has everything you could ever dream of and a friendly staff that will help you every step of the way. They’re a go-to for seasonal needs like Christmas trees, wreaths and more.
Ramparts Tavern & Grill
Image Credit: Ramparts Tavern & Grill
Ramparts Tavern & Grill has been a local gem for over 30 years. The cozy and casual dining room is the ideal place to have a burger (half-price on Mondays) or sit down for Sunday brunch. They also have a bar and a sports pub with more than 10 televisions so you can catch every game.
Clyde’s Mark Center
Image Credit: Clyde’s Mark Center
Nearby, Clyde’s is a regional favorite serving up American fare including a raw bar and a special grill menu. Clyde’s is great for families, with a kid’s menu that goes beyond chicken tenders and mac & cheese and offers dishes for more adventurous youngsters like salmon teriyaki and sautéed Maine cod.
Finn & Porter
Image Credit: Finn & Porter Facebook Page
Located inside the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, Finn & Porter offers surf and turf with a contemporary twist. The restaurant serves up fresh seafood, sushi and steak paired with creative cocktails, making it a great choice for date night.
Image Credit: Café Pizzaiolo Facebook Page
Café Pizzaiolo on Fern Street is the perfect place to grab a quick and casual dinner before or after a show at nearby Port City Playhouse. The restaurant features classic Italian pizzas, calzones, subs and more and is great for groups.
Catch a Show
Alexandria Symphony Orchestra
Image Credit: Alexandria Symphony Orchestra Facebook Page
Right in our backyard is the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, a hub for the integrated arts in the DC region that has included partnerships with The Smithsonian Institution, The National Gallery of Art, The Washington Ballet and The Shakespeare Theatre. The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra has also put on “crossover concerts” featuring visual art, dance and film and features regular performances from some of the best national and international musicians. Bonus: you can park for free during performances at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts Center.
Port City Playhouse
Image Credit: Port City Playhouse
Port City Playhouse isn’t your typical theatre group. The all-volunteer run playhouse strives to produce unique and thought-provoking plays that haven’t been onstage in the area within the past five years. Located in the Convergence Lab Studio on the corner of Quaker and Crestwood Lanes, Port City Playhouse is an off-the-beaten-path date idea or a fun way to spend a night with friends.
Header Image Credit: Visit Alexandria