Free Trolley Ride
The Kings Street Trolley seems like an institution. It's been around for ever it seems, but it hasn't. It's debut was in 2008. It's a great way to get around Old Town and it takes you to the King Street Metro, as well as the Potomac waterfront. There are about 20 stops, and you can get it about every 20 minutes from 11:30AM-10:00PM, 7 days a week.
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
Parking is Prime!!
Like most very old historical cities, the parking is prime. So you need to know where you can park. There are some that vary from $5.00 to $12.00 (ouch) or metered parking. You may get lucky parking along the street. Did I say lucky?......lol!!
There is parking lot that is underground the Market Square/City Hall on King & Lee Street. There were plenty of spots that day and I think we only paid $2.00.
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
- Arts and Culture
The Metro - King Street & Braddock Road Stations
The DC Metro is a good way to get to and from Old Town Alexandria. There are three stops around Old Town: King Street Station, Braddock Road Station, and Eisenhower Station. King Street Station is at the west end of King Street near the Washington Masonic Monument, about a mile from the waterfront. Braddock Road Station is close to the northern edge of Old Town. Eisenhower Station is at the south edge of Old Town around the Carlyle area.
The Metro is a great way to get around the region once you get over the strange fare system. There are five lines that cover the entire downtown area and stretch into the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. There are several stops in the city center near the famous monuments, landmarks, museums, and government buildings making the metro a great way for tourists to see the city.
The biggest problem with DC's metro is the crazy fare system. Not only do they charge different fees throughout the day ("peak" or "off-peak"), but you never know the fares between any two stations until you look on the fare chart. Prices range from $1.35 to $3.90 (and everything in between) depending on which stations you travel from and to... and the time of day.
Luckily you can buy a pre-paid, stored value fare cards for almost any amount, which takes the guesswork out of figuring out the cost.
The subway closes at midnight on weeknights and 3am on Friday and Saturday nights.
Map of the Old Town Area
This is a map of Old Town to get you aquainted with the area. Most of the Old Town shops and restaurants are within a few blocks on either side of King Street. Take a nice healthy walk as you go from the King Street metro station to the waterfront and take in the charm of Old Town.
Virginia Railway Express
Virginia Railway Express is a commuter train line rather like New Jersey Transit or SEPTA in the Philadelphia area. There are two main VRE lines. One runs from Washington's Union Station (through Alexandria) to Manassas and back. The other runs from Washington to Fredericksburg.
Metro Bus takes you not just all over Alexandria, but all over the Washington, D.C. metro area. It covers the all of the city of Alexandria, the city of Falls Church, Washington, D.C., and parts of Fairfax County, VA; Montgomery and Prince George's County, MD.
DART Buses supplement Metro Bus service in Alexandria to various points and historical landmarks within the city and connects with all of Alexandria's metro stations and the Pentagon metro station during weekday rush. Connections outside the city are provided by Metro Bus. The "Dash About" free weekend shuttles are colourful like this one, but the regular buses have a dark violet stripe and goldenrod lettering.
Parking in Old Town
On summer Saturdays in particular, the crowds pour into Alexandria, and parking can be tough. Four visitors, almost all areas in town have two or three hour parking limits. If you park within a block of King Street, you'll see meters, but go another block and parking is free on the residential streets. The closer to the Potomac or the Metro Station, the harder it is to find parking. The city also owns about 10 or 15 parking garages and lots all located with a block or two of King Street in Old Town.
Tip... Parking enforcement in Old Town is sporadic at best. I have seen cars park for a full week in two-hour spots before being ticketed.
Tip 2... on weekends most two-hour spots can be used all day for free.
Driving Around Alexandria
The Capital Beltway is one of the most famous roads in the country, particularly for those who are interested in politics. The Beltway is also one of the most infamous roads in the DC-Northern Virginia area for local drivers who spend half of their lives sitting in traffic. It is also just one of numerous limited access highways provided transportation to and from the northern Virginia area. On a random Saturday in December 2008, it took me an hour just to cross the damned old Woodrow Wilson Bridge. On a Saturday! Thank god I don't have to drive this freakin road every day.
The Beltway (I-495) - As its name suggests, the beltway forms a ring around central Washington DC, with the road almost entirely in the states of Maryland and Virginia, traveling through DC just over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. It is designated as Interstate 495 though the eastern portion of the Beltway is also the path of Interstate 95. On local traffic reports you will hear the inner loop and outer loop mentioned... the inner loop is the clockwise lanes closer to the city and the outer loop is made up of the counterclockwise lanes. The total route is 64 miles.
Interstate 395 - I-395 begins in the south where I-95 meets the Beltway at Springfield, VA (this huge interchange is known as the Mixing Bowl). It runs 13 miles northeast through Virginia then over the Potomac and into downtown DC. After passing under the Mall it ends at New York Avenue.
Interstate 295 - I-295 runs just 8 miles from the Beltway at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, along the east bank of the Potomac, then into downtown Washington DC (where it is called the Southeast Freeway, or even Interstate 695 for 1.5 miles) before it merges with I-395. If you continue north on I-295 rather then heading into downtown DC, this route becomes Anacostia Freeway / Kenilworth Ave then the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
George Washington Memorial Parkway - The GW Parkway is a small freeway maintained by the National Park Service. It follows the south and west bank of the Potomac through Virginia from the beltway to George Washington's home at Mount Vernon. The Northern Section runs from the Beltway past the Pentagon and Reagan National Airport to the north end of Old Town Alexandria at North Washington Street. The Southern Section begins at the south edge of old Town on South Washington Street, and runs to Mount Vernon.
Reagan National Airport - Arlington, VA
While I usually fly into gigantic Dulles Airport in Washington DC, I have occasionally been lucky enough to book a flight through cozy little Reagan National Airport nestled snugly on the banks of the Potomac alongside Crystal City in Alexandria, VA.
National Airport opened in 1941 and now handles about 18 million passengers per year. Dulles opened in 1962, and it handles just a few million more passengers at around 24 million per year.
Reagan's benefits over Dulles are primarily proximity to the city and available public transportation options. From Old Town Alexandria you can be at Reagan in 5 or 10 minutes compared to 30-45 minutes from Dulles (or more with traffic). From Dulles your only transportation choices are a few buses and taxis; Regan is connected to the city by the Metro, numerous buses, taxis, and even a jogging/biking trail.
King Street Trolley -- Old Town Alexandria
The King Street Trolley is a free and convenient way to get up and down King Street between the King Street Metro Station and the Potomac River 17 blocks away. The old-looking black and red trolley with wooden benches is actually a modern bus with rubber tires, heat, and air conditioning. Also, the large Plexiglas windows are removable for those nicer days. You can board at any of the 15 or 20 stops along King Street, including a stop on the water's edge and another right at King Street Station.
Throughout the ride there are recorded announcements informing riders of the historic sites, restaurants, and shopping available at each stop. Some of the sites mentioned include Christ Church, the Friendship Firehouse, and Market Square.
The route is 17 blocks, or about 3/4 of a mile each way, and the trolleys run about every 15 to 20 minutes. It runs every day from 11:30am to 10pm and is free for anyone be they visitors, commuters, or local residents. The ride from one end of the street to the other takes about 15 minutes when traffic is light. The trolley stop along the river is just 50 feet or so from the National Harbor-Alexandria water taxi dock.
The City of Alexandria funds the trolley at the tune of some $800,000 a year.
Walk Around and Discover Old Town Alexandria
Old Town Alexandria is a great place to walk around. There are lots of shops and restuarants as well as some beautiful old architecture. So wander around, do some shopping, check outsome fabulous building and grab a bite to eat....you'll be happy you did.
We were visiting my sister in D.C. so we drove to Alexandria to spent the night and see the sights of the town. It was a relatively easy drive about 15 minutes from her house to the hotel.
Parking at the hotel was by valet only so we shelled out twenty something dollars to park.
Next to Richmond's Staples Mill station, I arrive and leave from the Alexandria station at 110 Callahan Drive most often. It's a stone's throw from the King Street metro station where I go to other parts of the Washington DC area. I used to always go home from university by train. A lot of times, I would leave from Alexandria instead of Union Station. This station is basic on the inside with seats more uncomfortable than those of Richmond and only vending machines as a souce for food has more architectural character than many.
Woodrow Wilson Bridge
The original Woodrow Wilson Bridge was completed in 1961. This bridge, just over a mile long, carried six lanes and had a drawbridge in the middle. Due to the relatively low height of the bridge, the drawbridge was required to open about 260 times a year. On most bridges, no big deal; but on the DC Beltway, which handles some 250,000 cars a day, this caused major traffic snarls. In 1999 Maryland, Washington, and Virginia, after years of planning, began construction on a new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, 12 lanes wide and taller than the previous structure. The new bridge has twice the capacity as the original and won't require nearly as many drawbridge openings. The new bridge not only allows more traffic, but it enables future expansion of the train or Metro system, and it has 12-foot wide pedestrian and bike routes along the edge with access to National Harbor.
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