LAST UPDATED: SEPTEMBER 18, 2020
Old Town Alexandria, Virginia is known for its historic old town, with its red brick sidewalks and well-preserved 18th and 19th century buildings.
It’s small town charm evokes a sort of European flair with its gorgeous streets lined with specialty shops and boutique stores.
There are so many activities in Old Town Alexandria for the whole family, and you can easily explore the town in one day.
But if you want to make the most of your visit, I suggest spending the weekend in Old Town Alexandria.
You can spend one of those days visiting George Washingtons estate at Mount Vernon, and his nearby Gristmill.
On the blog, I will share top things to do in Old Town Alexandria with kids, so you can plan that weekend getaway and explore one of America’s most charming town.
*Read our Guide to Washington DC here. I share all the must see and do on your trip to the Nations Capital.
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How to get to Old Town Alexandria
If your driving into the city, there are many parking garages, as well as street parking in the city.
Make sure to download the ParkMobile App, it’s the best way to pay for metered parking spots in Old Town Alexandria, and in the DC area.
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Best time to visit Old Town Alexandria
Old Town Alexandria is beautiful in any season, but is absolutely stunning at springtime during the Cherry Blossom season.
The city comes alive with spring blooms everywhere and it’s just so pretty!
A visit in the Fall is just as amazing as well! The fall foliage against the historic streets is just so beautiful, plus the city really knows how to do Halloween with it’s over the top Halloween decor.
There are also some fun Halloween events to look forward to during the spooky season, and is definitely something to experience!
During the holidays, Old Town Alexandria transforms into a Christmas wonderland and it’s just so magical!
Plus there are so many fun Holiday events to look forward to, including the annual Scottish Christmas Walk, and holiday boat parade.
Top things to do in Old Town Alexandria
Stroll through King Street
One of the top things to do in Old Town Alexandria is a stroll through the brick lined sidewalks of King street.
Recognized as one of the “Great Streets” of America, it’s a great place to take a stroll, or shop with its many boutiques and specialty shops.
You will also find a huge variety of restaurants to choose from. Some of our favorites are Virtue Feed and Grain, Mia’s Italian Kitchen, and the seafood at the Wharf.
Make sure to stop by Kilwin’s or Pop’s Old fashioned ice cream Co. for some yummy treats, or grab a gelato and espresso from Dolci Gelati.
You can also get on the Free King street trolley, with stops every two blocks from the waterfront to the King St-Old Town Metrorail station.
*Read our Guide to the Best things to do at springtime in DC. I share all the fun things to do and events during the spring.
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Go on a walking tour of the Historic district
The spirit of George Washington lives on in the streets of Alexandria. Go on a walking tour and explore Washington’s stomping ground.
One in particular is his townhouse located in the historic district. It’s an unassuming little house that’s easily missed without the plaque in front and a statue of Washington’s bust on the window.
George Washington would stay at this house on his visits to Alexandria. Today, it is now a private residence, and has been restored.
Simply stroll along the streets of Alexandria and admire some of its most historic buildings and architecture.
You will find streets full of charming little townhomes, cobblestoned streets and little alleyways to explore. It was one of the most beautiful little towns we’ve seen in America.
Visit Gadsby’s Tavern
- One other place that Washington usually frequented during his visits to Alexandria is Gadsby’s Tavern. Gadsby’s tavern is a National historical landmark in the Old town.
- Built in 1785, the tavern consisted of two buildings, a hotel and a tavern. Some of its famous guests included George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Today the tavern is still in use, and the hotel is now a musuem.
Sit in George Washington’s Pew at Christ Church
- One other historical sight worth visiting is Christ Church. Located in Old town, the church was built around 1765. Until the twenty-first century, it was tradition for sitting presidents to attend a service. Some of it’s most notable parishioners are George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
See the smallest house in Old Town
- One of Old Town Alexandria’s most unusual home is the Spite house, which is located in Queen street. Named the smallest house in America, the Spite house was built in 1830 to keep horse drawn carriages and loiterers out of an alleyway owned by an adjacent house. The house is only 7 feet wide, and about 325 square feet in two stories and is now a private residence.
- Just a short walk away is another tiny little house located on Prince street. This one is a little bigger being 8 feet wide, but still very small and cute. We thought that they were such a unique little landmark in the area. If only they turned them into museums or little Airbnb’s for people to rent out, it would’ve been so cool to take a tour of these tiny houses!
You can find Spite house at 523 Queen St., and the bigger one at 403 Prince St. close to St. Mary’s basilica.
Admire the beautiful gardens at the Carlyle House
Visit the Carlyle House Historic Park and it’s beautiful gardens. Carlyle House is a restored Georgian mansion built in 1753 by merchant and city founder John Carlyle.
It is architecturally unique as the only stone 18th-century Palladian Revival style residence in Alexandria.
You can go on a tour of the mansion or just relax and admire it’s beautiful gardens. It was absolutely beautiful and one of our favorite places in Old town.
* Read our blog on the some fun Spring things to do in the Washington DC area here, including a visit to Old Town Alexandria when the town is covered in Cherry blossoms and tulips.
Explore Old Town Alexandria’s Waterfront Park
If you haven’t been to Old Town Alexandria lately, the Waterfront has been completely revitalized.
The new Waterfront Park features an open plaza, complete with swinging chairs and shady areas, perfect to sit and relax while you enjoy the river views.
The Waterfront park also features a temporary art installation, with a new theme every year.
The very first one was the Mirror Mirror installation, which was a sound responsive art installation.
In 2020 you can look forward to a new installation called the Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies, which will be on view from March-November.
Go on an Alexandria Waterfront Walk
One of the best things to do in Old Town Alexandria is a stroll along the Potomac on the Alexandria Waterfront Walk.
The Walk connects eight waterfront parks, and goes for about a couple of miles from the Jones Point Lighthouse up to the Tidal Locke Park.
Some of the parks along the way are a perfect place for an afternoon picnic, with amazing Potomac River views.
If you want to explore more of the trails in the area, the walk also connects into the Mount Vernon trail.
Rent a bike and explore the trail, which goes from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island.
Visit one of the oldest running Farmers Market in America
Visit the Old Farmers market. The market was where local farmers and artists have been selling their products since 1753.
It is thought to be one of the nation’s oldest continually operating farmer’s markets.
One of its most famous vendors was George Washington, who sent his produce from Mount Vernon to be sold here. We visited in a Saturday morning and it was pretty cool.
There are stalls selling fresh local produce, beautiful flowers, and delicious foods to sample.
If your ever in the area make sure to visit this historic market and take part in this ongoing local tradition in Alexandria.
Take a cruise on the Tall Ship Providence
Take a cruise in Alexandria’s newest waterfront attraction, The Tall Ship Providence.
The ship is docked at the Old Town Alexandria waterfront, and is a reproduction of the first ship authorized to serve in the Continental Navy and John Paul Jones’ first American command.
You can take a tourof the ship, or go on a cruise and experience what life was like aboard an 18th-century ship.
Daily tours are offered Friday to Sunday each week, and you have the option of a public or private tour, as well as a private boat cruise as well. The cruises last about 75 minutes, while the tours go for about 45 minutes.
Visit the Torpedo Factory
One of our little ones favorite place is the Torpedo Factory. The Torpedo Factory was once a Naval Munitions factory and has been converted into an art center.
It is home to one of the largest number of artists studios than you can visit. Our little one loves exploring the many different studios and interacting with the artists.
There are also seasonal activities here, like a visit with Santa during the holidays and much more. Make sure to visit the website for more events going on throughout the year.
Visit the Wilkes Tunnel
On your sightseeing stroll around Old Town Alexandria, you will come across the Wilkes Tunnel.
Built in 1856, the tunnel was originally used by the Orange and Alexandria rail company, and is one of only a few structures left associated with Alexandria’s railroad history.
At the end of the tunnel you will come across the Windmill Hills Park with playgrounds for the kiddos.
Visit Jones Point Park
Visit another one of the historic spots in Old Town Alexandria at Jones Point Park.
The park was once the largest centers for shipping, manufacturing, and transportation in the nation.
It is also home to the last remaining riverine lighthouse in Virginia, which was built in 1855.
There are so many opportunities for outdoor adventures here.
The kids will enjoy the playgrounds, hiking, fishing, a canoe launch, basketball courts, and a big open space to ride bikes or scooters.
Visit the George Washington Masonic Memorial
Make sure to visit the George Washington Masonic Memorial on your trip to Old Town Alexandria.
The Memorial is dedicated to the memory of George Washington and is fashioned after the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt.
You can go on a one hour guided tour that you have to reserve online.
The tours runs daily with the last tour at 4pm. Admission costs $18 per person, while children 12 and under are free.
Where to eat in Old Town Alexandria
There are so many places to eat when visiting Old Town Alexandria, especially if you’re a foodie.
Some of our favorite places are Ichiban Sushi House, and they’re yummy Ramen.
Virtue feed and Grain for their wonderful ambiance and yummy food. You can also find Chart House at Old Towns waterfront for some yummy seafood.
On Saturdays, the farmers market sells an amazing array of foods, produce, and pastries to sample. For Dessert we love the yummy pastries, coffee and gelato from Dolci Gelati.
The amazing cupcakes at Lavender Moon Cupcakery and their cute little shop.
We also love that there’s a taste of Belgium in Old Town at Le Pain Quotidien. So many choices to satisfy your cravings here in Old town Alexandria!
These are just some of the main sights to see in Old Town Alexandria with kids. Visit the stomping grounds of our founding fathers and admire the cities historic charm. It is one of the most beautiful small towns we’ve seen and is so worth a visit!