Alexandria Things to Do

  • Things to Do
    by Yaqui
  • Things to Do
    by Yaqui
  • Things to Do
    by Yaqui

Most Recent Things to Do in Alexandria

  • apbeaches's Profile Photo

    Washington's Mt. Vernon

    by apbeaches Updated Jan 11, 2015

    Mount Vernon is in Virginia, about :15 South of Alexandria and was the plantation home of George Washington, first President of the United States. The estate is on the banks of the Potomac River across from Maryland. The Washington family had owned land in the area since the time of Washington's great-grandfather in 1674, and in 1739 expansion continued under George Washington, who came into possession of the estate in 1754.

    Visiting Mt. Vernon today was very different from when I visited as a child. There is a new educational center, museum, extensive gift shop, food court, restaurant and visitor center. The museum and educational center span Washington's life & display his life with artifacts, films, paintings, and displays in 23 galleries

    The mansion is built of wood constructed by George Washington in stages between 1758 and 1778; it occupies the site of an earlier, smaller house built by George Washington's father Augustine, some time between 1726 and 1735. It remained Washington's country home for the rest of his life. Following his death in 1799, under the ownership of several successive generations of the family, the estate progressively declined. In 1858, the house's historical importance was recognized and it was saved from ruin by The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association; this philanthropic organization acquired it together with part of the Washington estate. Escaping the damage suffered by many plantation houses during the American Civil War, Mount Vernon was restored.

    In 1960, Mount Vernon was designated a National Historic Landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is still owned and maintained in trust by The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, and is open every day of the year. However, admitting the public is not a new innovation, but a tradition over 200 years old begun by George Washington himself; as early as 1796, he wrote that he had no objection to any sober or orderly person's gratifying their curiosity in viewing the buildings, gardens & property

    The present house was built in phases from 1758, on the site of the Washington's' former farmhouse as demonstrated by the off-center main door, which would once have been central to an earlier facade. The secondary wings, house the servants hall on the northern side and the kitchen on the southern side, are connected symmetrical, quadrant colonnades, built in 1778. The completion of the colonnades cemented the classical Palladian arrangement of the complex and formed a distinct cour d'honneur, known at Mount Vernon as Mansion Circle, giving the house its imposing perspective.

    The rooms at Mount Vernon have mostly been restored to their appearance at the time of George and Martha Washington's day. These rooms include Washington's study, two dining rooms parlours, the kitchen and some bedrooms. The interior design follows the classical concept of the exterior, but owing to the mansion's piecemeal evolution, the internal architectural features door cases, moldings and plaster work. We went into Washington's study, a room to which in the 18th century only a few were granted entry. It's simply furnished and combined his bathroom, dressing room and office; the room was so private that few contemporary descriptions exist. Its walls are lined with naturally grained paneling and matching bookcases.

    In contrast to the privacy of the study, since Washington's time, the grandest, most public and principal reception room has been the so-called New Room or Large Dining Room – a two-storied salon notable for its large Palladian window, occupying the whole of the mansion's northern elevation, and its fine Neoclassical marble fire place.

    A determined effort has to be made to restore the rooms and maintain the atmosphere of the eighteenth century; this has been achieved by using original color schemes, displaying furniture, carpets and decorative objects which are contemporary to the house. Throughout, George Washington and his family are evident through portraits and former possessions making it clear that Mount Vernon is as much a personal memorial to the Washington's as a nationally important museum.

    The gardens and grounds contain English box wood trees from 1786, taken from cuttings sent by Major General Henry Lee III "Light Horse Harry". The mansion is skirted by a carriage road with a large bowling green in the center. To each side of the green is a garden, contained by a red brick wall. These Colonial Revival gardens grew the household's vegetables, fruit and other perishable items for consumption. The upper garden, located to the north, is bordered by the greenhouse. The Botanical Garden; the Museum, dedicated to the life and death of George Washington, is on the grounds and contains George Washington's survey equipment, weapons, and clothing, as well as dentures worn by the first President; ice house; overseers quarters; spinning room; salt house and gardener's house are between the garden and the house.

    The lower garden, or southern garden, is skirted by the storehouse and clerk's quarters, smokehouse, wash house, laundry yard, and coach house. A paddock and stable are on the southern border of the garden. The old tomb is located along the river, and the new tomb, containing George & Martha Washington's family, is near the fruit garden with the slave burial ground just off this path. A Forest Trail runs along the property, and a George Washington: The Pioneer Farmer site, a 4-acre working farm that includes a re-creation of Washington's 16-sided treading barn.

    George Washington's Teeth Washington Family New Tomb
    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • TexasDave's Profile Photo

    George Washington Masonic Memorial

    by TexasDave Updated Jul 10, 2014

    Chances are you will see this monument before you figure out what it is, as it sits on a hill overlooking the whole city. G.W. is perhaps one of the most famous members of the Masons and this monument was erected by them to honor him. Inside there is a large statue of him standing, and a re-creation of the masonic lodge he presided over which contains some of his personal effects, the clock that was in his bedroom when he died (the hands were stopped at the moment of his death). The monument is interesting in itself, and the view of the surrounding area is unequaled. Guided tours are given frequently and there is no admission charge.

    Replica of Masonic Lodge
    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • cjg1's Profile Photo

    Martha Washington's Wedding Dress

    by cjg1 Updated May 23, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Mount Vernon displays a portrait of Martha Washington in her wedding attire. Her dress is of gold material with a purple overlay and is displayed along with the shoes and necklace. I guess Martha liked bucking the traditional bridal white...

    Was this review helpful?

  • lmkluque's Profile Photo

    History Making Meeting Places

    by lmkluque Updated Feb 4, 2013

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Old Presbyterian Meeting House seen today was built after a fire destroyed the original building in 1835. Though this was and is an active church it is called "Meeting House" as a reference to the time when all other religious congregations, except the Church of England, which was the only recognized church, had to be called "meetings." T

    You'll notice pews with doors at the ends. This is because at the time all "Meeting Houses" were required to keep all doors and windows open during a meeting. People of the congregation brought hot bricks to keep warm and the doors helped to keep the heat in.

    In the church cemetery is a grave marked simply by the American flag. It is the grave of an unknown soldier from the War of Independence.

    This church is not really a tourist site, but anyone interested in history might find it worth a stop. Tread lightly, keep in mind that it is an active church and though they do welcome visitors, they shouldn't be disturbed in their duties or worship.

    Entering Hallowed Grounds
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • Rich62's Profile Photo

    Once torpedoes, now paintings

    by Rich62 Updated Dec 17, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Visit the Torpedo Factory Art Gallery down on the waterfront. Its free.

    This used to be a torpedo factory from the end of WWI through WWII. In fact, after the war this building housed the official transcripts of the Neuremberg Trials! Later they were transferred to the National Archives.

    THE TORPEDO FACTORY ART GALLERY
    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • cjg1's Profile Photo

    Explore Old Town

    by cjg1 Updated Sep 25, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Old Town Alexandria is the oldest section of Alexandria and where most of the historic landmarks can be found in the city. Old Town dates back to 1749 and chocked full of historic houses, shops, parks, restuarants and art galleries.

    Old Town Alexandria is one of my favorite spots in the D.C area and I prefer to stay in the area if the Westin has availability. I truly enjoy walking the streets; there really is something new I see every time we visit. The Waterfront area by the Patomac is quite nice and perfect for a stroll in good weather. There are some nice restaurants and pubs in Alexandria; so it is relatively easy to find a good meal without having to take public transport or driving.

    Walking Old Town provides plenty of opportunity to view the historic houses that line just about every street in the area ; churches, businesses and private residences. If history or architecture is what you enjoy; you will love exploring Old Town.

    Was this review helpful?

  • Africancrab's Profile Photo

    Alexandria Archaeology Museum

    by Africancrab Written Aug 16, 2012

    Located at the Torpedo Factory Art Center on the third floor, the museum has interesting exhibits of the history of Alexandria going back centuries. Now this was not something I sought out to so, I just chance upon it just like the Art center while at the Marina. It does take someone with keen archaeological interest to spend time going through the exhibits. I did find it interesting as I looked at the small bottles, and other pieces of finds that make Alexandria one od the nation's best preserved historical towns.

    The Lee Street exhibit featuring 'A community Digs its past' is currently on display, the other interesting exhibit is the Alexandria Heritage Trail. If you have children with you, they will enjoy some of the hands on activities they have at the museum too. It is worth a stop, should you find yourself in Old town Alexandria.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Africancrab's Profile Photo

    George Washington Masonic Memorial

    by Africancrab Written Aug 16, 2012

    Perhaps one of the more exciting and historic of the attractions in Alexandria is the George Washington Masonic Memorial. Now, you do not need a guided tour to see it all, however, if you are one of those people who likes guides, you will be glad to know that guided tours are offered daily, several times a day to two exhibits; the George Washington Museum on the fourth floor, and the Freemasonry exhibit on the third floor. Once you are done, you are guided to the observation deck from where you have an outstanding view of Washington DC and Alexandria.

    About the memorial; the giant structure was built to honor the memory of the founding father George Washington as the name suggests. He was a free mason and so the memorial preserves the history of American Freemasonry as well. Inside the memorial are a museum, Freemasonry exhibit, research center, theater and a library. The architecture is reflective of ancient Roman and Greek styles of building, the interior hall is composite. The three levels of the tower ascend in levels of complexity with Doric features at the bottom. It is a landmark in Alexandria and can be seen from all four corners.

    You will want to see the memorial hall; entering it feels like entering the temple of Apollo and Zeus. On either side of the portico are tablets engraved with passages from Washington's correspondences. Next to memorial hall is the lodge rooms, and beyond the hall is the classical theater, massive enough to accommodate nearly four hundred people.
    The Grand Masonic hall is directly below the Memorial Hall, it is something to see. The Founders hall Exhibit is adjacent to Memorial Hall. It features Charles Callahan the force behind the creation of the entire memorial. I found the black and white squares on the floor quite exciting; enhancing everything on the walls and on display.

    For souvenirs, there is a gift shop located off the main entrance. I believe they have group tours too, as we were leaving, there were two huge tour buses arriving, and at the entrance were a man and woman dressed up like they had just walked out of year 1776.

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Africancrab's Profile Photo

    Alexandria Historic District

    by Africancrab Written Aug 15, 2012

    Alexandria is a beautiful charming seaport town. The middle portion of it was declared a Historic Landmark in 1966. It has 18th and 19th century buildings that add charm and intrigue to it. Some of the attractions that qualify it as a landmark include Christ Church, Gadsby's Tavern Museum, Bank of Alexandria, Alexandria City Hall, Art Deco, the Courthouse and Burke and Herbert Bank.

    This is a great place to visit. The coffee shops, restaurants, people and attractions make it worth while to visit.

    Was this review helpful?

  • rmjiv's Profile Photo

    Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum

    by rmjiv Written May 2, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum is a former apothecary (pharmacy) shop located in Alexandria, Virginia. It operated continuously for almost 150 years. After shutting down it was eventually converted to a museum and is operated by the City of Alexandria. You can pay a nominal fee to tour the shop. The tour takes about 30 minutes and among other exhibits are the work / storage room still filled with pharmaceutical herbs.

    Shop counter
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo

    Christ Church

    by Yaqui Updated Aug 14, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Christ Church was the first Episcopal Church in Alexandria and has played an important role in the life of the city since its completion by John Carlyle in 1773. The church was designed by James Wren in the colonial Georgian style. George Washington and Robert E. Lee were regular worshippers. Other prominent persons have worshipped here, including many U.S. presidents.http://www.historicchristchurch.org/VisitUs/VisitorsHistory.aspx

    One of the photographs of the headstone reads:
    Erected in memory of Eleanor Wrenn the wife of Mr. Daniel Wrenn, who departed this life in the 7th day of April in the year of our Lord 1798, aged 32 years. Revelations Chapter 14, verse XLII. This stone was placed over her by the order of her disconsolate husband, who was left with two children to lament his loss - John Renweld, her son being only three years old when his mother departed this life, and Dinah Eleanor the daughter aged seven days.

    Alexandria Visitor Center
    221 King Street Alexandria, VA 22314
    (703) 746-3301

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Historical Travel
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo

    Ramsay House (Visitor Center)

    by Yaqui Written Aug 14, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Mrs. Ramsay was a cousin of George Washington; and her husband William Ramsay was one of the founders of Alexandria. He was a Scottish merchant and had his house built facing the river because back then he could see his ships come and go out of the harbor. During the 18th & 19th century the house had been a tavern, grocery store, rooming house, and cigar factory. Sadly a fire destroyed most of the original buidling in 1942, but the city saved it and had it restored. It now houses the Visitor Center.

    9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Road Trip
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo

    Carlyle House Historic Park 1753

    by Yaqui Updated Aug 14, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Plaque Reads:

    The Carlyle house completed in 1753, was the residence of one of 18th century Alexandria's leading citizens John Carlyle a properous merchant and landowner.

    Although the earliest know engraving of the Carlyle House appeared in Harper's New Monthly in 1880 it showed the house at an earlier time. The simplicity of the landscaping in front is in keeping with the style of the mid-18th century. The large pointed trees are either Lombardy poplars or cedars planted on a lawn reserved for funtional actrivities. The lack of shrubbery, especially as foundation plantings, is also typical of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

    The flanking outbuilding on the right was Carlyle's kitchen in the southern colonies, kitchens were in a separate building to keep the smoke, heat, and odors of cooking away from the main house and to lessen the danger of fire, the kitchen stood approximately where the law building is today.

    The left outbuilding was Carlyle's office and counting room for his extensive mercantile operations attached to the left of the office were a store and a warehouse along Fairfax Street approximately where the 1807 Bank of Alexandria now stands.

    Carlyle House, Harper's New Monthly, February 1880. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

    Toward the rear of the Bank of Alexandria was the site of other Carlyle outbuilding such as the stable, couch house, necessary, smokehouse, dairy, and storage sheds. This plan drawn from a 1756 insurance policy, show the relative locations of the outbuildings.

    Assurance policies of William Herbert, March 1796 Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia Courtesty of the University of Virginia, Alderman Library Composite Drawn by Donald Stumpe.

    House Museum, Gardens and Gift Shop
    Open
    Closed Mondays
    Sat - Friday 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
    Sunday 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM
    Park Closed
    8PM-6AM

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo

    Alexandria City Hall (Market Square)

    by Yaqui Updated Aug 14, 2011

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    When I can, I like to include information of city halls since so much is in direct relation with them as far as the tourist industry and activities. We came upon this night while they were having a evening concert here in the City Halls court yard. I couldn't help take the picture of that wonderful glorious flag.

    Alexandria's city hall was founded in 1749. The tall, steepled tower, which contrasts with the building's Second Empire-style massing and detailing, is a reconstruction of a tower designed by Benjamin H. Latrobe that was part of Alexandria's 1817 town hall. That hall burned in 1871. In 1960-61, an addition was built on City Hall, filling in the old courtyard. The building was reoriented toward the south with the new entrance facing King Street and Market Square, an open, landscape plaza with central fountain, completed in 1967 as part of the Gadsby Commercial Urban Renewal Project. Beginning in 1981, the building was renovated to link the 1871 building and the 1961 addition with new elevators, stairs and corridors.

    Washington drilled troops here for both the French and Indian and the Revolutionary Wars. At Arell's Tavern, once located on this site, Washington chaired a committee in 1774 that adopted the Fairfax Resoves.

    Hours of Operation: M-F 8 AM to 5 PM

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • msbrandysue's Profile Photo

    Carlyle House

    by msbrandysue Updated Apr 4, 2011

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    I did not anticipate stopping at this house but as I was waiting for some of the other tours I decided to stop here. It was a beautiful house, although I had no idea who this Carlyle person must be. :)

    However, I had some time so I went on a tour led by a nice guide. It was just her and I so it was more of a private tour. :) You begin the tour in the gift shop/basement/slave quarters. Then you see a video about John Carlyle and his upbringing. After the video you tour his living areas and bedrooms. Each room has lovely artifacts and are decorated in time period antiques.

    Monday CLOSED
    Tuesday - Saturday 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
    Sunday 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM

    Ages 4 and Under Free
    Age 5 - 12 $3.00
    Age 13 & Over $5.00

    History copied from the website:

    Carlyle House stands as a reminder of Alexandria’s prosperity and growth during the mid-eighteenth century. One of the founders and first landowners in Alexandria, John Carlyle and his first wife Sarah Fairfax, moved into their completed house on August 1, 1753. That same night, she gave birth to their first son, prompting John to write to his brother George “its a fine beginning.” Sadly, John's beloved wife Sarah died on January 22, 1761 after giving birth to their seventh child, a daughter named Anne. On October 22, 1761 John then married the daughter of town trustee, Hugh West.

    The story of Carlyle House parallels the early history of Alexandria, colonial Virginia, and America. Restored during the statewide celebrations for the Bicentennial, the house is owned and operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. Carlyle House interprets the lifestyle of an 18th-century Virginia family and their servants and slaves.

    Outside the house Video at the beginning of the tour Master Bedroom-I believe he died in this bed Mrs. Carlyle's Dresses Children's bedroom (The son)
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Women's Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Alexandria

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

27 travelers online now

Comments

Alexandria Things to Do

Reviews and photos of Alexandria things to do posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Alexandria sightseeing.

View all Alexandria hotels