Old Town is the area of downtown Alexandria
(on the western bank of the Potomac
and on the border between Maryland
) that contains a mix of
historic and contemporary sights and elements.
If you go down lower Prince street there are original cobblestones and historic
homes of gentry and sea captains. Down King Street there is a lot of present-day
shopping and restaurants, with plenty of live entertainment. Because of it's
mix of both the old and the new, with museums and great dining, as well as sights
and a great atmosphere, it's a great place for not only those in Northern Virginia,
but also for first-time travelers.
Makes for a good evening with your significant other - but you'll find Friday
and Saturday night to be over-packed with couples and small groups of businesspeople
though; it's too crowded on such nights, and often difficult to find legal,
free parking spots. In any case, the water (if you're fortunate enough to own
a boat there) and the water front is very pretty, where you can sit on the grass
or on a bench or out on the piers and even watch the airplanes in the sky approach
Ronald Reagan National Airport.
There are many points of interest in Old Town you might want to see:
- The Ramsay House Visitors Center - It's the oldest house in Alexandria
and once housed the founder of the city, by the name of William Ramsay. It's
now a visitor's center, where you can find information about sights, events,
and more about Old Town. Admission is free.
- Gadsby's Tavern Museum - This museum is in the place that was once popular
during George Washington's term, and you can get 18th century food there,
as well as see plenty of artifacts and things from the time period. You have
to pay admission though.
- The Lyceum - Originally a Civil War hospital, a private residence, and
an office building, this building has lots of exhibits about life in Alexandria.
Admission is free.
- The Old Presbyterian Meting House - This place is the site of the Tomb
of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution. Admission is free.
- The Torpedo Factory Art Center - This facility was once used to make torpedo
parts for the U.S. Navy in the World War I and World War II. Right at
the waterfront, the Torpedo Factory is now a collection of studios and galleries
where you can watch artists at work, attend classes, and view a large collection
of artwork. Alexandria Archaeology is also inside the art center. Admission
- Market Square and City Hall - City hall was the original place for the
Fairfax County Courthouse, as well as fire engine companies and a jail.
George Washington would bring goods from his plantation at Mount Vernon
to Market Square. Now in Market Square you can attend live entertainment
and there's a Farmer's Market on Saturday, I think it's from 5 AM to 9 PM.
Admission to these sites are free.
- The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop - It's a historical science museum,
which sounds strange, but it houses Quaker and Native American remedies, and
once provided treatments for George Washington, Robert E. Lee, and other
casualties of war. The shop closed during the Great Depression, but now
you can see the thousands of items in original condition there. You do have
to pay admission, though.
- The Athenaeum - Originally built for the Old Dominion Bank, this is a gallery
of fine arts by the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association. Free admission.
- Lloyd House - Before the Civil War, Robert E. Lee came here a lot.
It used to be a school, a barracks, and a rooming house. Now it's a branch
of the Alexandria library system, a museum, and a repository for historical
and genealogical research. Admission is free
- The Mount Vernon Trail - This goes all the way from Roosevelt island
to Mount Vernon, winding through Old Town Alexandria, through several
parks, and along the waterfront. It's part of the George Washington Memorial
Parkway, and anyone is welcome here.
- Boyhood Home of Robert E. Lee - Well, the name really says what it was,
a big mansion where Robert E. Lee spent his early years before he got nominated
to West Point. The house has been preserved and there are a lot of items
from the Lee family and antiques. You have to pay to get in.
- Alexandria Black History Resource Center - There are a lot of exhibits
and activities highlighting the history of African Americans in Alexandria
and Virginia here. The admission is free
- The Lee-Fendall House - This house was created by Phillip Richard Fendall
and housed many generations of the Lee Family. This is the place that lighthouse
Harry wrote this line you may have heard about George Washington - "First
in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen." You
have to pay to get in.
- Friendship Firehouse - this was the firehouse for the first volunteer fire
company in Alexandria, and here you can see authentic period firefighting
machines and other things of interest. Admission is free.
- Christ Church - This is the oldest church in Old Town, where George Washington
and Robert E. Lee went to church, their pews preserved. There are also historic
gravesites here. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.
- George Washington Masonic National Memorial - Here you can take a guided
tour of the events of Washington's life as well as a cool view of Old Town
and Washington, DC from the memorial tower which is 333 feet tall.