Alexandria Summer Guide
Whether you’re a local, here for a fleeting visit, or new in town, Alexandria is always bustling with exceptional experiences. Here are our top recommendations for soaking up some delightful summer sun in the local Alexandria area this year.
Alexandria is packed with enjoyable activities for your weekend or day off. Take a drive down the George Washington Parkway to explore a historic home like George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Woodlawn Plantation, or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House. How about biking to one of these scenic locations? Consider a picnic with friends by the river to revel in the fresh air on the journey. River Farm, the picturesque headquarters for the American Horticultural Society, beckons you to bask in its stunning gardens along the Potomac River. If nature is your calling, explore Winkler Botanical Preserve or Huntley Meadows Park for a leisurely hike. You might be fortunate to spot some local wildlife like beavers and deer, particularly in Huntley Meadows.
Looking for an urban adventure? Hop on the Water Taxi to the National Harbor for shopping, dining, and a spin on the Capital Wheel for beautiful views of the Potomac and our nation’s capital. Another great option is Old Town, the historic district of Alexandria, where you can explore local shops such as Hooray for Books, The Lucky Knot, and larger chains like Loft, Anthropologie, and Lululemon. Visit the Torpedo Factory to peruse local artisans’ workspaces and shops; you might even get to meet one of the artists!
For the Family
Most Alexandria events are kid-friendly, and here are a few we loved as kids and love taking our kids to now.
The fan-favorite Paint This, a paint-your-own-ceramics studio, is perfect for a rainy day activity. Mom gets a new mug, and your little one gets to express their creative spirit.
We adore the Fourth of July here in Alexandria, but please note that the Washington, DC fireworks are unfortunately not visible from the Old Town waterfront. However, the city’s annual USA/Alexandria Birthday Celebration, held every year on the Saturday following the Fourth, makes up for it with its own firework display at Oronoco Bay Park, where the entire community gathers to celebrate its beloved hometown’s birthday.
Taking advantage of the waterfront, we recommend the now well-established Portside in Old Town Summer Festival. This event features live music, a beer garden from the award-winning Port City Brewing Company, other local flavors and goodies, and hands-on arts and historical activities. It is sure to be a fantastic time for the whole family.
Outdoor movies at the Mount Vernon Recreation center are held monthly from May to September (also check out where else you can watch outdoor films here). Grab a bite from Holy Cow or some quick take-out from Taqueria Poblano and head down past Mount Vernon Community School at 7 p.m. Bring a blanket and enjoy family-friendly movies under the night sky with your neighbors, friends, and family on a massive open-air screen.
Food and Drink
Summer is the perfect time to grab a bite outside. Whether you’re looking for breakfast, coffee, brunch, lunch, or dinner, Alexandria has got you covered.
Kick start your day with breakfast at Rubia’s Tacos (the former Stomping Ground) in Del Ray or at the Junction Bakery and Bistro, which serves breakfast all day long. For a caffeine fix, try Misha’s at its King Street or Prince Street locations or DC classic Swing’s off Route 1. If you have some time to kill or work to do, stop by St. Elmo’s at its original location on the Avenue or try their new Old Town North and Farilington locations. St. Elmo’s hosts many community events like art shows, poetry slams, and music benefits, and serves as an informal gathering place for the neighborhood. Check out our Best Coffee in Alexandria post for more options!
Need brunch? Fontaine Bistro is the go-to place for sweet or savory crepes. Another excellent option is Palette 22 in Shirlington, known for its bottomless brunch, which includes waffle and taco bars. If you really want to go all out, head to Ada’s on the River for an elegant brunch including lemon and ricotta pancakes and Maine lobster omelettes.
When you’re ready for lunch, barbecue lovers should head to Rocklands BBQ or Myron Mixon BBQ. For a sit-down meal, try Virtue Feed and Grain for a variety of options from their all-day menu. Enjoy their outdoor seating to relish the summer breeze from the Potomac. For tapas and cocktails head to Barca Pier and Wine. Check out this blog for the best outdoor dining in Alexandria.
For dinner, Caphe Banh Mi offers a variety of traditional Vietnamese dishes. Northside 10 offers a variety of burgers and other sandwiches, with killer appetizers like fried Brussel sprouts with bacon and asiago, or risotto fritters fixed with Gruyere cheese, parmesan, tomato, and bacon gravy. Don’t forget Urbano 116 for a Mexican culinary experience with contemporary flavors and local ingredients.
Ready to keep the fun going into the night? Alexandria offers many great bars for those hot summer nights. King’s Ransom, an intimate speakeasy on King Street, offers craft cocktails in a unique setting. If speakeasy’s are your thing be sure to also try Captain Gregory’s, a fun speakeasy hidden inside a donut shop in North Old Town that serves small plates and one of a kind cocktails. Craving Champagne, classic wines, cheese, and charcuterie? Just off King Street on S. Royal Street, pop into Brut, a Champagne and wine bar.
Save some room for dessert! Alexandria has got it all. Try the Dairy Godmother, where frozen custard, sorbet, and other delicious treats abound. For cupcakes, stop by Lavender Moon. For a sugar rush, try Sugar Shack, a local favorite, known for its light, fluffy doughnuts with various glazes and adventurous flavors. Pair it with a traditional cappuccino or experiment with an amazing honey lavender latte. Your sweet tooth will certainly be satisfied in Alexandria this summer.
The Bottom Line
No matter what you’re doing in Alexandria this summer, you will undoubtedly find something fun and memorable. Community is the heart and soul of Alexandria, and it becomes particularly apparent during the summer. Did we miss your favorite summer outing in Alexandria? Please share it with us so we can check it out.
For more articles on life in Alexandria, be sure you’re getting our blog roundup.