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Historical Alexandria, VA
By: Zdenko Kahlina
Walking tour of old town Alexandria
When Vera and I purchased Metro daily passes while visiting Washington, we had to use them to get our money worth. We rode in the Metro for hours, visiting places such as Bethesda and Alexandria.
We really enjoyed our visit to Old Town Alexandria, as it is very quaint and extremely busy little place. We enjoyed all the little shops and numerous restaurants.
Old Town Alexandria is a quaint historic town just on the other side of the Potomac River from Washington, DC. Dating back to 1749, Alexandria’s riverfront was an important colonial port during the colonial, revolutionary and Civil War periods. Today Old Town Alexandria is a revitalized waterfront with cobblestone streets, colonial houses and churches, museums, shops and restaurants.
Torpedo factory in the Alexandria harbor
Zdenko in the Alexandria harbor
Torpedo factory in the Alexandria harbor
Alexandria, Virginia is an independent city located along the Potomac River, six miles south of downtown Washington, DC. Regan National Airport is just seven minutes away.
The historic center of Alexandria, known as Old Town, is the third oldest historic district in the United States. The charming neighborhood contains more than 4,200 historic buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, including homes, churches, museums, shops, small businesses and restaurants. Alexandria is the center of nightlife in Northern Virginia and is a popular destination for tourists as well as residents of the DC/Capital region.
According to the 2000 census, the City of Alexandria is home to 128,283 residents.
How to get to Old Town Alexandria
We took the metro and get off at the King Street stop and walk about 10 blocks to the east. If you’d rather save your feet for your sightseeing tour, take a DASH bus for a dollar or pop up the Circulator bus for free. This is a busy tourist area, so start out early and plan to spend several hours exploring, shopping and enjoying a meal.
Walking Tour of Old Town Alexandria
Once in Alexandria, step aboard the free King Street Trolley, which travels along the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, making many stops, so it’s easy to hop on and off.
If you are walking, begin your walk at the Ramsay House Visitor Center at the corner of King and Fairfax Streets, in the heart of the Old Town Alexandria Historic District. Pick up a map and some brochures of the many museums and businesses in the area.
Head north on Fairfax Street and turn left on Cameron until you come to the redbrick buildings across Royal Street, known as Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. Gadsby’s is an Early American-style restaurant and a museum of 18th-century antiques. George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had temporary quarters here. The buildings are noted for exquisite Georgian architecture, preserved and restored to a late eighteenth century appearance. You can take a 30-minute guided tour of Gadsby’s or come back here later for lunch or a snack.
From Gadsby’s, continue west on Cameron Street and turn right on St. Asaph Street. You will cross Princess Street. The cobble paving stones are original and traffic is banned here. Go one block farther on St. Asaph, and turn left at Oronoco Street. The house on your right at number 607 was The Boyhood Home of Robert E. Lee . It is now a private residence.
Across Oronoco Street, at the corner of Washington, is the Lee-Fendall House . the home of several generations of Lees. The tour here is brief and interesting, including a display of Lee family documents, among which is the original copy of Harry Lee’s eulogy of George Washington. For doll house enthusiasts, the third floor displays a wonderful antique doll house collection.
Continue on Washington Street and you will come to the Lyceum , a city historical museum. This free museum is worth a short visit browsing the two galleries, historical exhibits of Alexandria and a gift shop.
Next, head to the intersection of Washington and Prince Streets to view the bronze sculpture of The Confederate Soldier. In 1861, when Alexandria was occupied by Union forces, 800 soldiers marched out to join the confederate army. This statue marks the point at which they gathered. This is a memorial to the fallen soldiers. One hundred names are carved onto the base.
Restaurants are lined up on the King Street
We had a lunch at “The Warf” restaurant – very good food (and service)!
Continue walking east on Prince Street and turn left on Fairfax Street to the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop which displays a collection of early medical supplies and hand-blown glass containers.
Head south on Fairfax Street to Duke Street to the Old Presbyterian Meeting House. The graveyard here has a marker commemorating the Unknown Soldier of the Revolutionary War.
Retrace your steps back to Prince Street and turn right. Cross Lee Street to Captain’s Row. This is a cobblestone section of Prince Street that runs along the Potomac riverfront. Stroll down to the waterfront park to see the scenic view of the river.
Continue north on Union Street. You will come to the Torpedo Factory. Torpedoes were manufactured here during World War I and II. Today, the building houses the studios of about 160 artists. You can watch printmakers, jewelry makers, sculptors, photographers, painters and potters at work. This popular attraction is a great place to find unique gifts and decorative items for your home.
We spent only several hours in Alexandria, but we loved the old town warm ambience of yesteryear with the modern comforts and conveniences that today’s travelers crave.