The Alexandria Staycation
Did you miss the boat on planning a summer getaway? No worries – take a staycation instead! Lucky for us living in the DC area, we are in on the best areas of the county to do so. Exploring our backyards means enjoying our area’s rich history, amazing culture, and fantastic recreational opportunities. If you’re staycationing and don’t even want to leave Alexandria, you’re in luck. Our hometown offers countless options for everyone in the family, from history buffs to outdoor enthusiasts.
Benefits of The Staycation
But first. Why a staycation? Well, the benefits of a staycation are endless. Staycations are significantly cheaper than traditional vacations, since you’ll save money on airfare, gas, hotels, food, and pet boarding. Also, as a staycationer, you’ll experience less stress since you won’t have to deal with packing, airports, flight delays, jet lag, etc. If you’re traveling with small children or elderly parents, having home base nearby is tremendously convenient. Plus, staycations are so easy to plan. It’s not often you get to be a tourist in your hometown — and it’s very fun!
Staycations are particularly special for those of us lucky to live in the Washington, DC area where museums (many of them free), monuments, and cultural activities abound.
The Alexandria Staycation
An Old Town Alexandria staycation means going back in time to our country’s Colonial and Civil War days. Old Town is home to so many historic sites such as George Washington Masonic Memorial, Gadsby’s Tavern, the Carlyle House, Christ Church, the Alexandria Black History Museum, the Lee-Fendall House Museum, and Stabler-Leadbetter Apothecary Museum. Several companies offer tours of Old Town; including tours by bike and even “ghost” tours.
Outside of Old Town, be sure to visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon & Grist Mill, which holds many special festivals and events throughout the year. The Grist Mill remains an active distillery, making Washington’s whiskey to this day!
After Mount Vernon, visit nearby Woodlawn and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope Leighey-House. Both are National Trust for Historic Preservation sites. The Pope Leighey House is one of Wright’s 100 “Usonian” homes built in the mid-20th century. Woodlawn, once part of Mount Vernon, is a Georgian/Federal house designed by the architect of the U.S. Capitol.
The 35-acre Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site (4301 W. Braddock Road) is the best preserved of the system of Union forts and batteries built to protect Washington, DC during the Civil War. Nearly all of the fort’s earthwork walls are preserved and its Northwest Bastion has been restored and reconstructed to its original condition. Its museum interprets the site’s history, offering exhibits on Civil War topics and many educational programs.
For more “must see” historical sites in the area, check out Bonnie’s Top 25 list.
Parks & Recreation
The Mount Vernon Trail is an 18-mile paved multi-use trail along the Potomac River. It runs from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island. The Mount Vernon Trail connects with several other regional trails, including the Potomac Heritage, Custis, Rock Creek, and Four Mile Run Trails. The trail is a great way for families to explore Alexandria’s scenic waterfront. Try to avoid the trail during “rush hour,” as many DC area residents use it as a commuter route!
For some of the best wildlife watching in the DC area, head to Huntley Meadows Park (3701 Lockheed Blvd.) in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. Its majestic forests, meadows of wildflowers, and active wetlands (with a pedestrian boardwalk) delight adults and children alike. The park offers a variety of educational programming as well.
The Dora Kelley Nature Park (5750 Sanger Avenue) offers 50 acres of oak-hickory forest, stream valley floodplain, and freshwater marsh. It is home to a variety of native plants and wildlife. Stop by the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center, which exhibits live animals, holds nature instruction classes, and offers Park Naturalist-guided walks.
For more ideas on enjoying the outdoors in Alexandria, check out our posts on Alexandria’s parks and playgrounds and dog parks.
Need an activity that the kids will love? While in Old Town, check out the Escape Room Live (814 King Street), and its four interactive game rooms, which will challenge you
r group to solve clues and puzzles to escape the room before time runs out. Kids will especially love the “The Wizard’s Apothecary” room!
The kids won’t grumble about sightseeing — when it’s by boat! These sightseeing cruises depart right from the Alexandria waterfront. You can travel to Mount Vernon, the National Harbor, and Nats Park by boat as well. Check out all of the offerings from The Potomac Riverboat Company, including its “Canine Cruise!”
Need to cool off? Round up the kids and head to Great Waves Water Park, located in Cameron Run Regional Park (4001 Eisenhower Avenue). The whole family will enjoy its countless slides, splash pad, wading pool, and 17,500 square-foot wave pool. This 20-acre park also features mini-golf and batting cages.
Here are several more ideas on things to do with kids in Alexandria.
Soak Up Some Culture
There’s no need to head into DC for a dose of culture! There are many fabulous cultural options right here in Alexandria. Visit the iconic Birchmere music hall, where you can get up close and personal with famous country, folk and rock musicians in this cozy venue — with an extensive beer list and dinner menu.
MetroStage, an intimate 130-seat theater, is the oldest professional theater in Northern Virginia. It offers an “eclectic season of contemporary plays and musicals that are chosen to enrich, enlighten and entertain, and that reflect the diverse population of the Washington metropolitan area.”
The Little Theatre of Alexandria (600 Wolfe Street), founded in 1934, is the oldest award-winning theater in the Washington metro area. It is one of the only community theaters in the U.S. with its own building and a full seven-show season. The Little Theatre offers a comprehensive line-up of educational programs as well.
Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center, located on the Alexandria campus of the Northern Virginia Community College, is home to the 981-seat Mary Collier Baker Theater and the Margaret W. and Joseph L. Fisher Art Gallery. A wide range of concerts, events, and conferences, including those of the highly regarded Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, are held in this lovely venue.
Craving some art? Explore the 82 artisans and seven galleries housed in Old Town’s Torpedo Factory (105 N. Union Street), including that of The Art League. Alexandria is home to several other private galleries as well.
For a great museum experience, visit the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum (600 Dulany Street) in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Madison Building. This unique museum honors our nation’s innovators and their inventions. Among other exhibits here, you can take a seat in a one-of-a-kind ride—a 1965 Ford Mustang merged with a 2015 Ford Mustang!
Enjoy a round of golf right here in Alexandria! Staycationers can enjoy the 18-hole Greendale Golf Course and nine-hole Pinecrest Golf Course. Both are very affordable options ($30 for a weekday tee time at Greendale). For something different (and kid-friendly), check out Top Golf in Kingstowne, an outdoor driving range open year round with covered, temperature-controlled bays, a full-service bar and menu, and two miniature golf courses.
If you want to venture beyond Alexandria for your staycation round, check out our post on the best golf courses in the greater DC area.
If pampering is an essential part of your vacation, book a service at one of Old Town’s many salons and day spas. Our team particularly enjoys Sugar House Day Spa & Salon and Serenity Day Spa in Old Town. Looking for yoga? There’s no shortage of studios around town (check out our post, “Your Complete Guide to Yoga Studios in Alexandria”).
Wine & Dine
Alexandria offers some of the finest dining in the DC area! Truly, there is a restaurant for every cuisine and palette! Try something new at one of Alexandria’s newest restaurants. Of course, there is always a new spot to explore for your Alexandria happy hour or wine tasting.
The Bottom Line
There’s no need to board a plane or hit the road for an amazing vacation. Save time, stress, and money and enjoy history, culture, recreation, and more right here in our own Alexandria backyards!
Did we miss your favorite Alexandria staycation spot? Please drop us a line so we can check it out!
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