Posted April 20, 2016

Old Town, New Discoveries: Ravishing New Looks and Alexandria’s Latest Hot Spots


We’re thrilled to let you in on a secret: Old Town Alexandria is a hidden gem that keeps getting better and better. Our country’s forefathers got the ball rolling when they settled into a Colonial port city just across the Potomac River from downtown D.C., and this charming Virginia outpost has been evolving ever since.

Red Barn Mercantile, Alexandria VA (Matthew Chenet Photography)

Delightful home goods on display at Red Barn Mercantile. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Chenet Photography.)

Part of Alexandria’s special sauce is an ability to seamlessly blend the best parts of its history – the architecture, traditions, and culture – with contemporary luxury. This beautifully preserved historic destination constantly reinvents itself, and the new-and-improved Kimpton Morrison House proudly joins that lineup. Today, Alexandria’s only Four Diamond hotel unveils an Old Town classic that has been elegantly and playfully reimagined. Within a replica of an 18th-century manor house, guests will find modern sophistication sprinkled with touches of irreverence, and bright hues with new design inspired by beloved American literary masterpieces set on and around water. With 45 guest rooms, over 2,000 square feet of event space–including the new Watermark Ballroom–and a welcoming new tavern-meets-cocktail-bar, Ashlar Restaurant and Bar, the hotel truly earns the term “boutique.“


The newly refined palate and style of the Morrison House guestrooms.

So what to expect of these raved-about renovations? Morrison House’s beloved guest rooms now feature soft hues with pops of color and modern designs, resulting in a contemporary update on Federalist sensibilities. Floor-to-ceiling windows let in streams of natural light, while bright blue chairs and artwork bring a sense of whimsy to otherwise refined spaces. And the location can’t be beat: it’s the perfect launch pad to bustling King Street, home to boutiques, restaurants, and a stone’s throw from the waterfront.

When you’re ready to get a taste of local culture, we’ve rounded up ideas on how to get the most out of your time in the new Old Town:

Dine on Historic Fare with a New Twist:
Our on-site restaurant ASHLAR Restaurant and Bar pays homage to Alexandria’s freemasonry history, and the restaurant lives up to its name as the modern-day cornerstone of the community. Executive Chef Bobby Surdam, a master at his craft, uses a rustic-meets-fine-dining approach with tavern cuts of locally-sourced meats and fresh seafood. Relish the Duck Confit Mac & Cheese with spaetzel and mornay, Snapper Crudo with jalapeno, spring onion, and baby beet chips, Black Bass with cockles, mussels, and smoked tomato broth, or the Port City beer-braised pork cheeks with pickled maitake natural jus. A tasty beverage menu that harkens back to Alexandria’s founding in the 1700s features madiera, sherry, port, and rum offerings plus local Virginia whiskey, beer, and wine.


ASHLAR’s irresistible Port City beer-braised pork cheeks with pickled maitake natural jus.

Please Your Palate:
Ashlar is only the beginning: you can also sate your appetite at new culinary finds ranging from Hank’s Pasta Bar to Magnolia’s on King with craft cocktails and Southern immersion cuisine. Afterward, indulge with decadent desserts at venues that uphold Alexandria’s reputation as a sweets mecca. Try Buzz Bakeshop, Casa Rosada or Whim Pop, where global flavors like churros, or strawberry-basil or horchata popsicles, reign supreme.

Raise a Glass:
See for yourself why Port City Brewing Co. has been deemed the “Best Small Brewery in the US” by taking a tour (Thursdays through Sundays), or pop into the tasting room to try flights of brews like Optimal Wit and the Monumental IPA. Also check out other hoppy locations like Portner Brewhouse, a pre-Prohibition inspired brewery. For in-the-know fun, savor cocktails at Captain Gregory’s, a speakeasy hidden inside the Sugar Shack donut shop.

Lights, Camera, Action:
If you’re a fan of the PBS drama series “Mercy Street,” based on real events of the Civil War in Alexandria in 1862, visit Carlyle House (which also inspired the bright green hue found inside Morrison House’s entry). If you have a finger on the pulse of literary happenings, you already know a new book is coming out from J.K. Rowling’s immensely popular series this July–so it’s the perfect time to take the Harry Potter Tour at the Stabler Leadbeater Apothecary Museum. Get immersed in Harry’s world as you see “dragon’s blood” and other historic, real-life ingredients.

Alexandria harbor  (Matthew Chenet Photography)

Boats harbored at the Potomac waterfront. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Chenet Photography.)

Water World:
Head down King Street to the Potomac for stunning views of the river and D.C.’s iconic skyline. Enjoy alfresco drinks, dining, and street performers, or hop into a water taxi or river cruise to enjoy scenic commutes between Alexandria and the Georgetown waterfront, George Washington’s Mount Vernon and National Harbor.

Wherever your journey takes you, we’re sure you’ll find endless inspiration in Alexandria’s captivating history and modern sensibilities.


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  1. Nancy Reid says:

    Looking forward to my upcoming visit!

  2. Randy says:

    Coming in November for 2 Patty Griffin Concerts @ The Birchmere Looking forward to staying in your Hotel