As the air starts to chill, warm-hued leaves crunch on red brick sidewalks in Alexandria, Virginia, within eyesight of Washington, D.C. Locals load up at farmer’s markets and fall festivities pop up in Old Town, Del Ray and beyond faster than the tree-lined streetscapes fade into shades of gold. Sip local cider and spirits, stroll King Street for seasonal finds and Halloween treats, explore historic homes and take advantage of the bounty of autumn activities below.
1. Riverside Revelry
Enjoy a day of live music, maritime history, nautical demonstrations and children’s activities on the Old Town Alexandria waterfront at the Portside in Old Town Fall Festival. Savor local food, beer and wine while experiencing boat building demonstrations from Alexandria Seaport Foundation Apprentices and knot tying from tall ship Providence. Explore Portside History from the Office of Historic Alexandria, highlighting the archaeological findings of 18th-century ships uncovered along the Old Town waterfront. Continuing Alexandria’s fall tradition of Seaport Day, select activities benefit the Alexandria Seaport Foundation’s mission.
2. Historic Homes and Seasonal Color
Take advantage of cooler autumn days to snap photos of the bright-hued foliage fluttering around the city’s historic homes and brick-lined sidewalks. Use our fall foliage guide to inspire and inform your leaf-peeping, from sweetgums to sugar maples. Then, peek behind the façades of architectural gems at the 78th Annual Historic Alexandria Homes Tour, happening on September 28, 2019. This yearly walking tour highlights the city’s evolution as a vibrant, livable community.
3. Art Festivals
On September 21-22, 2019, Alexandria’s historic King Street corridor transforms into an outdoor art gallery during the 17th Annual King Street Art Festival. More than 200 artists from around the country converge in a collage of styles and mediums, from sculptors to jewelers to painters and everything in between. Experience live music, interactive art activities and activations like The Art League’s Ice Cream Bowl Fundraiser, where you can purchase an artisanal ceramic bowl and a scoop. A year-round anchor of Alexandria’s arts scene, the Torpedo Factory Art Center offers space to unwind with a refreshing glass at their Beer & Wine Torpedo Garden.
Taking place on October 5, 2019, Del Ray’s 24th Annual Art on the Avenue epitomizes the community’s creative and inclusive spirit as more than 300 artists display one-of-a-kind wares along Mount Vernon Avenue. Weave your way through artists of every ilk, from quilt-makers to silk screen-printers, and pick up a favorite piece to take home. Food vendors range from Nigerian kabobs to Del-Ray based barbeque and beyond. Arrive with an appetite and check out the children’s activities, including scarecrow-stuffing and pumpkin-painting, set to the soundtrack of live music along the avenue.
4. Mount Vernon Fall Festivities
With its vast green landscape tinted red and gold, George Washington’s Mount Vernon makes the perfect backdrop for fall festivities. New this year, the George Washington Whiskey Festival features 18th-century whiskey fermentation at Mount Vernon’s Distillery & Gristmill. On November 9, 2019, sample George Washington’s Rye Whiskey and spirits from 12 Virginia distilleries and other nationally known brands.
Take in the sights and sounds of early American life from September 14-15, 2019, at the Colonial Market & Fair, where 18th-century artisans sell traditional food and wares and demonstrate techniques such as colonial ice cream-making. Gather again for the Fall Family Harvest Days on October 19-20, 2019, for a horse-drawn wagon ride, colonial games, activities at the Pioneer Farm and a straw bale maze.
From October 11-13, 2019, grown-ups can unwind on the east lawn overlooking the scenic Potomac River at Mount Vernon’s most popular event, the Fall Wine & Sunset Tour. Bring a blanket and soak up live music while sampling from Virginia’s finest wineries. Snap a photo with George and Martha Washington on the piazza as you tour the mansion and cellar.
5. Boozy Happenings
Beyond Mount Vernon, raise a glass this autumn around Alexandria. Toast to apple season at Lost Boy Cider, Northern Virginia’s first urban cidery, open since June 2019 in Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood. Savor flavors like the raspberry-infused Wingman and IPA-inspired Hazy Hopped in anticipation of the Alexandria Cider Festival, hosted at historic Lloyd House on November 23, 2019. There, taste-test 10 Virginia ciders while enjoying live music, fall activities, food trucks and more.
On September 21, 2019, newly-opened Village Brauhaus celebrates its first Oktoberfest in Old Town, ceremoniously tapping a German-sourced Hofbräu München keg, according to Munich tradition. You’ll find giveaways, a special menu, games and live music. Port City Brewing Co. honors the Bavarian bash with their malty Oktoberfest lager, culminating in a tasting room celebration on September 28, 2019. Then, join Port City for a drink on the darker side at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum’s Female Stranger Beer Dinner, October 14, 2019, featuring their Long Black Veil brew, inspired by the mysterious woman who died at the tavern on that date in 1816.
6. Spooky Celebrations
From cobwebbed and cobblestoned Captain’s Row to year-round, lantern-led ghost tours, Alexandria’s historic charm contains its fair share of haunts. On October 26, 2019, Carlyle House will host a day filled with Tim Burton movie magic. The day begins with Carlyle House’s Wonderland, featuring a costume contest and characters from Burton’s kid-friendly flicks, from “Alice in Wonderland” to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Evening brings Carlyle House’s Nightmare, a grown-up soiree reveling in Burton’s scarier side, from “Beetlejuice” to “Edward Scissorhands” and beyond.
Also on the evening of October 25, 2019, Potomac Riverboat Company launches two Canine Halloween Tours where four-legged friends can get decked out and set sail. Keep those canine costumes handy for Doggie Trick-or-Treating on October 27, 2019, when dogs and their humans can visit Old Town’s The Dog Park boutique to grab treats and bargains, snap a photo and scope out other participating stores with sales. That same day, families of little Elsas, Harry Potters and more can join in Del Ray’s 23rd Annual Halloween Parade, complete with pet costume prizes.
7. Shopping Along the King Street Mile
Whether you’re looking ahead to the holidays or shopping seasonal sales, stroll Old Town’s King Street mile, the largest collection of independent boutiques in the D.C. region. From September 12-15, 2019, this year’s Shop & Stroll transforms twenty Old Town Boutique District shops into a Passport Destination offering shoppers VIP swag, activities, discounts and refreshments representative of their chosen location, city or country. Experience everything from a Parisian-style flower and macaroon bar at Periwinkle to Oktoberfest at Patina and a KAThmandu-themed celebration at The Dog Park.
8. Dress-to-Impress Balls
With a historic backdrop dating back to 1749, it’s easy to see why Alexandria’s historic attractions host some of the most unique events in any season. Case in point: The Jane Austen Ball at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, one-time stomping ground of George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and more. Expect 18th-century English country dancing and empire-waist frocks at the September 21, 2019 event, and more promenading at the tavern’s Fall Harvest Ball, November 9, 2019. Guests in glamorous guises will dance the night away at first president’s estate MVUnderground Masquerade, September 21, 2019, replete with music, dining and a fireworks show over the Potomac.
On November 16, 2019, break out your black-tie best once more for The Torpedo Factory Art Center Anniversary Ball, celebrating the building’s centennial and the 45th anniversary of the Torpedo Factory Art Center. The gala will premiere the “45: An Anniversary Exhibition” at the Target Galley as well as a new documentary on the history of the Torpedo Factory Art Center.
Still curious? Find out more to explore this fall in Alexandria.
Header Image Credit: Evan Michio for Visit Alexandria