As the air starts to chill, autumn leaves create a scenic canopy above red brick sidewalks in Alexandria, Virginia. 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.
Based on the latest CDC health guidance and the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, it is recommended that everyone wear a mask in public indoor spaces in Alexandria, regardless of vaccination status. Please also bring a face mask for crowded public outdoor spaces. Spending time outdoors is safer than indoor activities.
1. Fall Festivals
Take advantage of fall festival season with plenty of outdoor options. On September 5, 2021, the Old Town Festival of Speed & Style returns to King Street with elements of fashion and a display of more than 100 rare and exotic sports cars and motorcycles. On September 18, 2021, the 19th Annual Old Town Art Festival will host juried artwork to peruse and purchase at John Carlyle Square. On October 5, Del Ray’s 26th Annual Art on the Avenue celebrates the community’s creative spirit with an artistic bonanza along Mount Vernon Avenue. This ever-popular event features more than 300 creators, from quilters to card-makers to cartographers, displaying their one-of-a-kind wares. While in Del Ray, check out the rotating exhibits at Del Ray Artisans, and find more festivals this fall at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
2. Return to the Arts
Experience the return of the arts this autumn, starting with Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s 2021/2022 season. The season starts off with a bang with “Beethoven’s Ninth” on October 2-3, 2021, followed by “Pictures at an Exhibition,” from November 6-7, which incorporates music from the Americana tradition with original film shorts, in conjunction with the Alexandria Film Festival, taking place as a mostly virtual event from November 11-14, 2021. Plus, look for upcoming outdoor shows by Classical Movements at the Rectory on Princess Street.
3. 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 TWIG’s 79th Historic Homes Tour, “Garden Glimpses,” happening on September 25, 2021. This year, the annual walking tour will include gardens and backyard areas of 14 addresses in Southeast Old Town, with docents narrating information about the property That same day, experience the Hollin Hills House + Garden Tour, the largest mid-century modern home and garden tour on the East Coast.
4. 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. Get spooked on a stroll with Alexandria Colonial Tours or Nightly Spirits. Then, break out your canine costumes for the 8th Annual Doggie Trick-or-Treat on October 24, 2021, when dogs and their humans can visit Old Town’s The Dog Park boutique to grab treats, snap a photo and scope out other participating stores for more goodies. That same day, children, pets and strollers in costumes are invited to march and show off their finest and scariest Halloween garb during the annual Del Ray Halloween Parade; awards are given for Best Pet Costume, Best Decorated Business, Best Decorated Home and Best Decorated Stroller.
5. Indigenous People’s Day
Honor Indigenous People’s Day (October 11, 2021) all month with a visit to Intertribal Creatives, which launched in December 2020 as a pop-up gallery and market at Founder’s Hall, located on ancestral Tauxenent and Pamunkey land in Old Town, and celebrated its soft re-opening in late June. This free and fair-trade gallery showcases the artistic, creative and entrepreneurial spirit of Indigenous artists across North America. The gallery features an “Elder’s Spotlight,” highlighting the knowledge keepers in Native communities who were deeply impacted by the pandemic.
6. Revelry on the River
Looking for ways to get out on the water this fall? Try one of tall ship Providence’s new Happy Hour Friday evening cruises, or enjoy City Cruises anchored by Hornblowers’ water taxis to and from The Wharf and National Harbor. New since spring 2021, Potomac Paddle Club, the D.C. region’s only 16-passenger pedal boat launched 2.5-hour cruises from Old Town to National Harbor, features ten cycle stations and a 6-foot paddle wheel. Find more ways to get out on the water here.
7. 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. Take in the sights and sounds of early American life from September 18-19, 2021, 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 Harvest Festival on October 23-24, with 18th-century activities and demonstrations at the Farm at Mount Vernon. During this event, you can explore the farm, meet General Washington, watch beer-making demonstrations, see spinning demonstrations and more. From October 8-10, grown-ups can unwind on the east lawn overlooking the scenic Potomac River at Mount Vernon’s most popular event, the Fall Wine Festival & Sunset Tour. For an endorphin boost, sign up for the Patriot Run on September 26, with virtual and in-person participation options.
8. 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, located in Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood. During Old Town Cocktail Week, from September 10-19, check out a collection of seminars and tastings with a wide variety of topics alongside in-store specials in local boutiques, launching with The Art League‘s Art on the Rocks.
9. 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 24-26, 2021, Old Town Boutique District (OTBD)’s Shop & Stroll event lets you discover new favorites while being entered to win prizes. Pick up a passport at an OTBD shop, then visit six stores to be entered to win a $500 gift card to an OTBD store of your choice, or visit twelve stores to be entered to win a $1,000 gift card to an OTBD store of your choice. Stop by Hummingbird and Fontaine for a signature cocktail or mocktail during the stroll.
Find more ways to enjoy fall in Alexandria here.
Header Image Credits, left to right: Chris Cruz for Visit Alexandria; Instagram user @scenefrommyrun