A stone’s throw from Washington, D.C., historic Alexandria, Virginia, boasts a boatload of one-a-kind summer experiences, from firework-fueled festivals to riverside beer gardens to pet-friendly opportunities. Don’t believe us? Keep reading for 50—count ’em, 50—ways to love your summer in Alexandria as we celebrate 50 years of the iconic Virginia is for Lovers slogan.
Want to narrow your choices from 50? Skip to your favorite summer activities with the links below:
New at the Waterfront — Family Adventures — Waterfront Festivals — Outdoor Activities — Beer Gardens — Restaurant Patios — Barbecue Joints — Summer Treats — Pride Month Events — Boat Cruises — Tours — King Street Boutiques — Dog-Friendly Fun — Instagram Hotspots
Enjoy 3 Waterfront Experiences
Channel your inner pirate, history nerd or craft beer fanatic aboard the tall ship Providence, a full-scale replica of a 1768 Navy warship arriving on Alexandria’s waterfront on July 1, 2019, and opening as a permanent attraction in the fall. Inspired by the ship’s appearances in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, pirate-themed cruises will be offered along with educational history tours and local craft beer cruises. Re-fuel on solid ground with a Caribbean carnitas taco (or three!) from Riverside Taco Company, the coming-soon Airstream trailer and garden steps away from the buzzing Torpedo Factory Art Center. For a different kind of art in action, wander around Mirror Mirror in Waterfront Park to experience the kaleidoscopic, color-drenched temporary public art installation from New York’s SOFTlab studio.
Launch 6 Family Adventures
Alexandria is the perfect launching point for a family outing to explore D.C. Don’t miss the highly anticipated grand opening of the 31,000-square-foot dinosaur and fossil exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History on June 8, 2019, where you can explore 4.6 billion years of our planet’s past. Connect to D.C. by water taxi, discounted Lyft rides for first-time users, and more.
Back in Alexandria, immerse yourselves in American history at George Washington’s Mount Vernon while chatting with period interpreters, catching a 4D movie and visiting animals at the Pioneer Farm. Then, cool off in Cameron Run Regional Park’s waterparks, or putter around the mini-golf and batting cages. With older kids in tow, Go Ape as you zipline through the trees, then try your hand at Alexandria’s Escape Room Live. Unlock Alexandria’s rich culture and history at a discount with a Key to the City museum pass, plus enjoy special events such as the Real World Science Behind Harry Potter on July 28, 2019, at the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, and the Friendship Firehouse Festival on August 3, 2019.
Party at 4 Waterfront Festivals
Get festive at this summer’s biggest waterside parties. New this year, the Portside in Old Town Summer Festival on June 22, 2019, features live music, pop-up dining, kids’ activities, crisp Port City brews and unmatched riverside views. At the annual Alexandria Jazz Festival on Memorial Day, May 27, 2019, groove along to bands like the U.S. Army Blues, VERONNEAU, David Kline Band and Good Shot Judy. On June 1, 2019, attend Alexandria’s Annual D-Day Commemoration with World War II reenactors, history booths, a French market and wine garden, live 1940s swing music and dancers and more. Then, on July 13, 2019, celebrate the USA/Alexandria Birthday Celebration with a stunning fireworks show and performances by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra plus food vendors and birthday cake.
Feel the Breeze with 4 Outdoor Activities
There are plenty of ways to refresh and recharge outdoors in Alexandria. Soak up vitamin D as you bike, jog or amble along the picturesque Mount Vernon Trail, keeping an eye out for flora and fauna above and below. Then, kick back (or kayak) at Daingerfield Island’s Washington Sailing Marina, and contemplate the cloud formations as planes take off and land just overhead at Reagan National Airport. Get off the beaten path and see Virginia’s last remaining riverine lighthouse at Jones Point Park. Pack a picnic for fresh-air dining there or at any number of spots to dine and recline riverside (we suggest Waterfront Park, Founders Park or Oronoco Bay Park).
Chill Out at 4 Beer Gardens
2019 is Alexandria’s year of the beer garden. Spend your summer sipping your favorite fermentations outdoors. Visit three weekend Waterfront Beer Gardens happening late June through early July in partnership with Port City Brewing Company. Then, head up King Street to Augie’s Mussel House on the Patio, opening in the summer of 2019, to savor Chef Eric Reid’s creative Belgian menu and some of the world’s best brews. Finally, take a beer tour along Del Ray’s Mount Vernon Avenue, pairing a grilled cheese with “cheers” at Hops N’ Shine, and lingering at the soon-to-open The Garden.
Dine Al Fresco at 4 Restaurants
Beyond beer gardens, Alexandria is chock-full of restaurants where al fresco dining and top-notch fare go hand in hand. Let the Potomac River breeze ease you into the weekend at Vola’s Dockside Grill, where you can pair the bustling marina atmosphere with lobster rolls and coconut shrimp for the table. Taverna Cretekou’s lush, hidden garden casts a spell with its tranquil environs and exquisite Greek plates, while Virtue Feed & Grain’s brick patio buzzes with friends and families indulging in elevated tavern fare. With its twinkling string lights and buzzing neighborhood locale, it’s all smiles at the Evening Star Café’s Front Porch in Del Ray, especially with a Bourbon slush or frosé in hand. In August, don’t miss special deals and dishes during Alexandria’s Summer Restaurant Week. Check out more places to dine outside.
Taste-Test 5 Barbecue Joints
For a scrumptious summer challenge, taste your way through Alexandria’s lip-smacking barbecue scene. Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster Barbecue brings world-class barbecue renown to Old Town. In the West End, Rocklands Barbecue and Grilling Company serves up classic cuts and cornbread while Smoking Kow BBQ innovates with brisket tacos and mac ’n meat. Search out more smoked meats and eats at Del Ray’s Pork Barrel BBQ and Carlyle’s saucy Sweet Fire Donna’s.
Cool Off with 3 Summer Treats
To round out the perfect summer evening, take your pick from more than a dozen places to grab a cone, cup or shake in the city Forbes calls “ice cream cone capital of the United States.” For authentic Italian gelato, head to Old Town Dolci Gelati Café, where Italy’s “Ambassador of Homemade Gelato,” Gianluigi Dellaccio, riffs off his homeland’s sweetest export. Or, watch ice cream take shape before your eyes at Nicecream on King Street as liquid frozen nitrogen is added to the farm-fresh ingredients. For an even creamier treat, frozen custard fans can find dense and silky-smooth Wisconsin-style specialties at The Dairy Godmother in Del Ray.
Celebrate Pride Month with 4 Experiences
From your Alexandria home base, take a daytrip into D.C. during the Capital Pride Celebration, May 31-June 9, 2019, for concerts, dance parties and other festivities. In Alexandria, celebrate Pride Month with special happenings and food and drink specials throughout June. Head to Alexandria’s iconic craft beer brewery for Priday Night at Port City on Saturday, June 1, 2019, to enjoy musical entertainment, outdoor games, Torpedo Factory Art Center artists and a drag show from the Brewery Babes.Then, on June 6, 2019, get to know others from the local LGBTQIA community at ALX Pride 2019 Mix & Mingle at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.
Restaurant-hop around Old Town to partake in Pride-themed food and drink specials, including a rainbow Baked Alaska at Brabo Brasserie, “Ariadne” cocktail at Vermilion, “Pride and Spirits” at MoHo Kitchen + Cocktails and Buzz Bakeshop’s “Baked This Way” Cupcake and chocolatey Pride Yo-Yo’s.
Embark on 3 Boat Cruises
For prime, hassle-free viewing of D.C.’s iconic monuments, take Potomac Riverboat Company’s narrated Monuments Tour from the Alexandria Marina up to Georgetown, cruising past the Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument and more. Or, hop on the high-speed water taxi for an even quicker jaunt to the lively Wharf, a ten-minute walk to the National Mall, or to National Harbor for an afternoon of paddle boarding and Ferris wheel riding. Sail to a home game in style on the Baseball and Soccer Boat, which lands steps from the Nationals’ and D.C. United’s stadiums.
Explore the Region on 5 Tours
There are plenty of new ways to explore the region and learn something along the way. Pedego Electric Bikes’ Old Town opening lets riders of wide-ranging abilities cruise through the city and surrounding area on their 2- to 3-hour guided tours. Try the Old Town at Night tour for sweeping views of the city lights while crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Carpe DC’s brand-new Boutique Old Town Alexandria Food Tour lets visitors eat up Alexandria’s history with a snack at five top eateries. Manumission Tour Company adds a Duke Street-themed tour to its African American history repertoire, while themed tours via Discover Alexandria and Alexandria Colonial Tours range from Revolutionary Alexandria to a Ghost and Graveyard Tour.
Stroll 1 Mile of Shopping
Old Town Alexandria’s walkable King Street mile is home to the largest collection of independent boutiques in the D.C. region. Snag curated finds from fashion and jewelry to books and home décor. During August’s Sidewalk Sale, snap up bargains outside dozens of participating shops. Creative kids can craft their way through Alexandria’s art shops at the Makers Mile “Mini” event, July 19-21, 2019.
Pamper Your Pup with 4 Outings
Named the country’s canine capital by Forbes and one of Expedia’s most dog-friendly vacation destinations, Alexandria’s countless pup-centric opportunities make it a favorite for four-pawed friends and their humans. Hop aboard the Potomac Riverboat Company’s popular Canine Cruise, where dogs board free and chew on complimentary treats. For happy hour, head over to Jackson 20 for their Thursday evening Barks, Brews and Bites, where pooches mingle in the outdoor courtyard with pup-tinis and doggie treats, and owners savor human-friendly cocktail specials and dinner options. Or, elevate Fido’s fare with doggie menus at restaurants like Virtue Feed & Grain, Lena’s Wood-fired Pizza + Tap and Vola’s Dockside Grill.
Snap Your Way Through 1 Instagram Tour
For a shareable summer scavenger hunt, embark on our Instagram tour of local landmarks and tucked-away treasures. When you visit these sites and discover your own, remember to tag #VisitALX for the chance to see your captures credited on Visit Alexandria’s Instagram feed, @VisitAlexVA.
Book the Love Your Summer Hotel Package
After a jam-packed summer day in Alexandria, you’ll need a place to rest and refresh. Book the Love Your Summer hotel package, available Memorial Day through Labor Day, with rates starting as low as $89 per night, plus a $200 value in perks like free overnight parking, two-day unlimited ride water taxi passes for two and free Key to the City museum passes.
Get inspired by even more things to do this summer here.
Header Image Credits: Kristian Summerer for Visit Alexandria (left image) and Sam Kittner for Visit Alexandria (middle and right image)