As fall foliage emerges, Alexandria, Virginia’s historic brick-lined streets are the perfect backdrop for the city’s fall festival season, filled with outdoor art festivals, Halloween haunts, events to toast the season and more. Plus, the tall ship Godspeed from Jamestown visits in October as part of the Portside in Old Town Festival kicking off the Portside in Old Town series of free waterfront happenings.
Minutes from Washington, D.C., Alexandria welcomes autumn with more than 60 seasonal events, including events for art lovers, wellness enthusiasts, history buffs, beer-lovers and more. With so many things to look forward to, we’ve rounded up our top 11 reasons to visit Alexandria this fall.
1. Portside in Old Town Festival Featuring Tall Ship Tours, Beer Garden and More
Image Credit: Jamestown Settlement
This fall don’t miss the launch of Portside in Old Town programming, free-to-the-public themed weekend happenings in history, art, music and fitness with activities for families and for adults, plus additional pop-up experiences and events. The Portside in Old Town Festival kicks off the fun Friday, October 12 through Sunday, October 14, 2018, with activities along the Potomac River near King Street. Festival-goers will enjoy free tours of the tall ship Godspeed, a waterfront beer garden from Port City Brewing Company, a pop-up Pizzeria Paradiso, Portside History from the Office of Historic Alexandria, plus live music, art activities, an outdoor fitness class and more.
2. King Street Art Festival
Image Credit: R. Nowitz for Visit Alexandria
The King Street Art Festival has been rescheduled to September 22 & 23, 2018 from original dates of September 15 & 16, 2018 due to Hurricane Florence. Historic King Street in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, from Washington Street to the waterfront is transformed into an outdoor art gallery with original fine artwork by more than 200 artists from around the country. Enjoy live music, and interactive art activities, as well as The Art League’s Ice Cream Bowl Fundraiser. The 16th Annual King Street Art Festival takes place Saturday, September 22, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, September 23, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Beer & Wine Torpedo Garden will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days of the festival.
3. Festivals at George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Image Credit: Mount Vernon
One of the best times to visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon is in the fall, not just for the foliage and weather, but also for the spectacular fall festivals. At the annual Mount Vernon Colonial Market & Fair on November 10 and 11, 2018, Colonial-attired artisans demonstrate 18th-century crafts and sell traditional wares such as baskets, woodcarvings, tin and ironwork, leather-workings, weavings, furniture, and more. There’s also 18th-century entertainment including music, a balloon-launch, fire-eating, puppet and magic shows and more. Another seasonal favorite is the Fall Wine Festival and Sunset Tour from October 5 through 7, 2018, where visitors learn about our Founding Father’s wine endeavors, enjoy live music, meet “George and Martha Washington” on the Mansion’s piazza and tour the Washingtons’ home and basement where he stored his wine. Don’t miss out on the Fall Harvest Family Days at Mount Vernon on October 20 and 21, 2018, a family-friendly 18th-century celebration at Mount Vernon’s Pioneer Farm. You can take a wagon ride, play early American games, walk through a straw bale maze, catch 18th-century demonstrations and more. On September 9, 2018, you can also dash through history during the George Washington Patriot Run, a 10K and 5K course that takes runners up and down the scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway and traces Washington’s footsteps through the historic area at Mount Vernon.
4. Historic Alexandria Homes Tour
Image Credit: The Twig
The TWIG’s 77th Annual Historic Alexandria Homes Tour on September 22, 2018 provides the opportunity to tour 18th and early 19th century homes in Old Town and learn about their historic pasts. This year’s homes are located in the heart of Old Town, in easy walking distance, and underscore the area’s continuing evolution as a vibrant, livable community. Behind historic facades are a diverse mix of decorating styles. Tour a home whose interior is reminiscent of New Orleans, enjoy a light-filled treasure trove of African-American art and visit a contemporary open-air guest house overlooking a fabulous outdoor space.
5. Art on the Avenue
Image Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria
Art on the Avenue is a multicultural arts festival celebrating our community’s diversity through the arts in the Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia. This festival is held on the first Saturday in October, rain or shine. Every year, over 50,000 visitors stroll down Mt. Vernon Avenue in Del Ray between Bellefonte and Hume Avenues. People are greeted by more than 300 artists, from jewelers to woodworkers and from glass makers to painters. Plus, there’s live music and food vendors including hot dogs, BBQ, Indian, crab cakes, chocolate bananas dipped on a stick, and homemade cider donuts. Activities for children include stuff-your-own scarecrow, paint-a-pumpkin, lotus flower design and weave screen art to name a few.
6. Boozy Events to Toast to Fall
Image Credit: Port City Brewing Company
Toast to fall with a number of fun and unique booze-filled events, including local favorite The Art League’s Art on Tap on November 2, 2018. At the annual event, visitors can enjoy craft beers from local breweries that have been artfully paired with a work of art from an Art League instructor. Plus, local restaurants have chosen a brew/artwork coupling to serve as their muse to create the perfect complementary appetizer. Get in the Halloween “spirit” on October 12, 2018 at the Female Stranger Beer Dinner with Port City Brewing Company at Gadsby’s Tavern with specialty beer inspired by the famous tale of the Female Stranger, who died at the tavern on October 14, 1816. Don’t miss the Alexandria Cider Festival on November 17, 2018 with a selection of ciders from more than 12 Virginia cideries, plus live music, food trucks, fun fall activities and more. You can also catch A Mansion House Whiskey Tasting on September 29, 2018 at Carlyle House Museum, and taste extraordinary whiskeys paired with delectable food, harkening back to the days when the Mansion House Hotel stood on the property.
7. Farmers’ Markets
Image Credit: C. Martin for Visit Alexandria
Celebrate the fall harvest season with a visit to one of Alexandria’s five farmers’ markets, where booths brim with seasonal produce, homemade jams and jellies and freshly-baked artisan bread. Have you tried Amish cheese? How about salty empanadas or sweet apple cider doughnuts? You’ll find them and more at the markets—and can pick the perfect pumpkin while you’re at it.
8. Halloween Events
Image Credit: Potomac Riverboat Co.
Celebrate the spookiest time of year in Alexandria, a city with a remarkable past whose spirits continue to haunt its streets today. Alexandria has earned its reputation as a Halloween hotspot with nearly 20 events that stretch across the month of October. Brave souls partake in spook-tacular events including late-night ghost tours along Old Town’s cobblestone streets, the Bark or Treat Halloween Canine Cruise and the dog- and family-friendly annual Del Ray Halloween Parade at the end of October for a guaranteed “ghoul” time.
9. Fall Fashion and Shopping
Image Credit: M. Chenet for Visit Alexandria
In the fall, shoppers stroll Old Town’s brick-lined streets in search of the perfect seasonal treat, home decor, scarf or cozy sweater at one of the city’s many independent boutiques tucked into historic row houses. It’s a shopping adventure—and it amps up with the Old Town Boutique District’s Shop & Stroll event September 20 to 24, 2018.
10. Fall Leaf Peeping
Image Credit: M. Chenet for Visit Alexandria
Fall in Alexandria is one of the best times to get outside and enjoy our city’s historic trees washed in the colors of autumn. When it comes to leaf peeping in Alexandria, you can choose your own adventure and take a stroll through Old Town, hit the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River, drive the George Washington Parkway or hit other parks in the city like Jones Point Park, Fort Ward Park and Monticello Park.
11. Fun Fall Fitness
Image Credit: M. Chenet for Visit Alexandria
Whether you’re in search of a new wellness routine or fun ways to get your workout in, there’s endless opportunity to sweat it out in style in Alexandria this fall. The Old Town Waterfront Fitness + Wellness Festival on September 22, 2018 gives attendees the opportunity to experience first-hand some of the best local fitness studios and wellness companies along the Alexandria waterfront with 8 to 1o minute workouts every 20 minutes. From healthy food and drinks to mindful yoga and meditation to chiropractic treatments and massages, there will be something for everyone. You can also dance your way through fall with Masquerade Ball Dance Classes at Gadsby’s Tavern, leading up to the big ball on October 27, 2018. Choose from three dance classes and learn 18th-century English country dancing from experts. For a more relaxed vibe, you can choose from several yoga classes in unique venues, starting with Yoga and Sound at the Torpedo Factory Art Center where visitors can take part in a gentle yoga series with crystal bowl and gong meditation inside art space. Or, plank it out on a piece of history with Yoga on the Magnolia Terrace at Carlyle House Museum, for an hour-long Vinyasa Flow Yoga class. Run through history during the annual George Washington Patriot Run at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
Find more information about fall events in Alexandria here.
Header image credit: E. Michio for Visit Alexandria