Waterfront fun is a summer mainstay in Alexandria, located on the Potomac River just minutes from Washington, D.C. and named the #1 Best Value U.S. Travel Destination 2018 by Money magazine. Kicking off in the fall of 2018, Portside in Old Town is a new programming series that activates the Alexandria waterfront near King Street with free-to-the-public themed happenings in history, art, music and fitness with activities for families and for adults, plus additional pop-up experiences and events. The Portside series launches as anticipation grows for a greatly expanded park area at the foot of King Street that will open in late 2018. Whether you want to set sail on a boat cruise, dine outside with waterfront views, take the dog along or get a workout on the water, Alexandria is filled with endless options perfect for everything from family fun to date night. Get your slice of summer with the many things to do on the waterfront in Alexandria:
Image credit: K. Summerer for Visit Alexandria
The perfect pairing for your fresh-caught seafood? Stunning views of the Potomac River, of course. Sit under the lights on the patio at Hummingbird, located at the chic Hotel Indigo, complete with Potomac River views that are a perfect pairing for locally-sourced seafood and creative cocktails. The restaurant, from celebrated chef Cathal Armstrong, has earned high praise from The Washington Post and locals alike. Nearby, Vola’s Dockside Grill and Hi-Tide Lounge is a local favorite in the Port City. The patio at Vola’s is the perfect summer hangout spot, great for people watching on the marina while you enjoy classic seafood fare. Just steps away at waterfront hotspot Blackwall Hitch, catch live music, an oyster bar, outdoor dining and regular events happening all summer long. Next door to Blackwall Hitch, Chart House is about as close to the water as you can get without going for a swim, giving you perfect Potomac River views from the patio. The fresh and creative seafood menu is just as good as the view, especially when enjoyed sitting under under the warm summer sun.
Image credit: K. Summerer for Visit Alexandria
Take the scenic route from Old Town Alexandria to the National Mall, The Wharf, National Harbor or Nats Stadium aboard a water taxi. En route you get skyline views of Old Town and Washington on a 30-minute trip that’s not only convenient, but also panoramic. The Baseball Boat is the best way to get to a Nats game, hands down.
Image credit: Evan Michio for the City of Alexandria
You can cruise the Potomac with pets or to the first president’s home on one of our many boat tours and river cruises departing from the Alexandria marina. Fido gets to be a real sea dog aboard the Canine Cruise, and history buffs dive into the past aboard the Alexandria by Water Seaport Cruise. Hop on the Washington by Water Monuments Cruise for a no-sweat solution to seeing D.C. highlights, or take the Water Taxi to The Wharf, D.C.’s newest neighborhood. Head south to our first president’s estate on the Mount Vernon by Water narrated boat cruise or opt to bike there and cruise back on the Mount Vernon by Bike and Boat tour.
Image Credit: Evan Michio for the City of Alexandria
With eight waterfront parks in Alexandria offering ample green space and gorgeous views, riverside picnics are a must. Some of my favorites include Founders Park, with an unfenced dog run, a volleyball court and lots of open space for play; and Oronoco Bay Park for picnics atop the hill to admire national monuments on the horizon. Jones Point Park, part of the National Park Service, is home to the last riverine lighthouse in Virginia and one of the original boundary stones for Washington, D.C. Tide Lock Park in North Old Town is a local secret if you’re looking for views practically to yourself, with an obelisk and a fun water fountain sculpture built at the top of steps that were designed for easy picnics with a stunning view.
Waterfront Attractions & Activities
Image credit: R. Kennedy for Visit Alexandria
Need somewhere cool to escape on a hot day? Wander the hallways and witness artists at work inside the Torpedo Factory Art Center, the city’s visual arts powerhouse and former World War II torpedo plant converted into 82 working artist studios, six galleries and the Alexandria Archaeology Museum—all open to the public. With over 150 resident artists working in media including ceramics, fiber, glass, bubblegum(!) and more, there’s always something new to see at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Or to catch a breeze on the water, you can rent kayaks, canoes, sailboats and even stand up paddleboards at the Washington Sailing Marina.
Mount Vernon Trail
Image credit: C. Davidson for Visit Alexandria
Alexandria’s Mount Vernon Trail beckons runners, walkers and cyclists with 18 miles of waterfront vistas, loads of green space and an easily accessible route that runs all the way from George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate up to Arlington through Old Town Alexandria. A favorite among runners and cyclists, the trail is one of the most popular sections of the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway that extends from Maine to Florida, like the Appalachian Trail for cyclists.
Image credit: Victor Wolansky Photography
Alexandria’s waterfront bustles with dockside performers and entertainers (don’t miss the glass harp player, a perennial favorite) and long-standing annual events like the USA/Alexandria Birthday Celebration and the Annual Friendship Firehouse Festival. Fireworks? Live music? Birthday cake? Food? That’s right, you definitely want to mark your calendar for these signature Alexandria events.
For more information on things to do on the waterfront in Alexandria, click here.
Header image credit: R. Kennedy for Visit Alexandria