Posted February 16, 2015

Following in Washington’s Footsteps in Alexandria, VA

Destinations ALX

Alexandria skyline

As you probably know from the countless mattress sales and appliance discounts, George Washington’s birthday is being celebrated today. And we’d like to give a tip of the tricorn hat to our president numero uno by giving a shout-out to his beloved adopted hometown. Not grand, formal Washington, DC, mind you, but rather enchanting, relaxed Alexandria, VA.

Sometimes staying in the heart of the nation’s capital creates just the type of getaway you’re looking for, and Kimpton has some fabulous DC hotels and restaurants. But other times, staying across the river in a quainter, quieter zone (think cobblestone streets, stately Colonial architecture, and waterside walkways) carries more appeal. Yes, DC has the monuments, but Alexandria has the romance.

George Washington Masonic National Memorial

The George Washington Masonic National Memorial pays homage to Alexandria, Egypt. Photo: Mike Donahue/Alexandria CVA.

George’s roots are deep in Virginia, where he was born, and Alexandria in particular. His older brother Lawrence, a Fairfax County representative who helped establish the town, enlisted his help in sketching the shoreline as a surveyor. George also whooped it up at Gadsby’s Tavern, now a museum; he then bought some headache powder at the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary, also a museum. And if there was any atoning to do, he and Martha did it at Christ Church, which opened its doors in 1773. The George Washington Masonic National Memorial, a striking building patterned after the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), provides a visual focal point for the area. It also features plenty of Washington memorabilia and an imposing 17-foot statue of our first POTUS. And don’t miss the views from the observation deck.

Mount Vernon

The Mount Vernon estate … George Washington definitely slept here. Photo: Lautman for Mount Vernon.

And most famously, the Washingtons made their home at Mount Vernon, the country’s most-visited historic estate, located eight miles south of Alexandria. If you want some exercise to go along with your museumgoing, you can grab a free bike from Kimpton and take the Mount Vernon Bike Trail to George and Martha’s place. April through October you can do a one-way bike ride and then take a narrated boat ride back to town with Bike and Roll.

Alexandria’s storied past doesn’t mean it hasn’t kept up with the buzz of modern times, though. This ever-evolving destination mingles old-school history with current-day zest. With a backdrop of 18th- and 19th-century architecture, visitors will find a thriving boutique scene; acclaimed, chef-driven restaurants; bustling pubs; and a vibrant arts zone. And Old Town Alexandria’s convenient location on the banks of the Potomac River puts visitors only about six miles south of downtown DC.

In the midst of all your Alexandria explorations (or to loosen up after a spooky ghost tour), unwind at Lorien Spa. Here, you can savor delicious services ranging from the caviar dreams facial to a hot-stone massage. The adjoining Lorien Hotel & Spa even features romantic, tranquil rooms designed by Vicente Wolf, plus a critically acclaimed Belgian-American restaurant, BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier.

Jackson 20 Restaurant

Dining alfresco at Jackson 20.

Visitors can also take advantage of Alexandria’s water taxi, which departs from the Old Town pier. It will get you to Georgetown, the shopping and dining at National Harbor, Mount Vernon, or even over to Nationals Park for a Major League Baseball game — and the views are spectacular.

Something tells us that George Washington would be mighty proud of the Alexandria of 2015 — and he would no doubt hitch up his horse to stay awhile.

Banner image: NCinDC/Creative Commons; Alexandria City Hall photo: Christoper Connell/Creative Commons; George Washington portrait, 1795, by Gilbert Stuart, Andrew W. Mellon Collection.

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