Alexandria Summer Guide
Whether you’re local, here for a quick visit, or new in town, there is always something amazing to do in Alexandria. Here are our top picks for spending some mandatory fun in the sun in the local Alexandria area this summer.
If you’re looking for something fun to do on a weekend or a day off, there is never a shortage in Alexandria. Head down the George Washington Parkway to visit a historic home like George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Woodlawn Plantation, or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House. If you’re up for it, try biking to one of those scenic locations, and maybe bring a picnic and a couple of friends to stop beside the river and enjoy the fresh air on the way. Or head over to River Farm, the picturesque headquarters for the American Horticultural Society. Here you can smell the roses and stroll through acres of stunning gardens along the Potomac River. If nature is calling, explore Winkler Botanical Preserve or Huntley Meadows Park for a light hike. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of some local wildlife (beavers and deer are not uncommon, particularly in Huntley Meadows.)
Looking for an adventure in the city? Jump on the Water Taxi and ride over to National Harbor for shopping, dining, and a turn around the Capital Wheel for beautiful views of the Potomac and our nation’s capital. Another great option in the heart of the city is Old Town, the historic district of Alexandria. Explore local shops like Hooray for Books and The Lucky Knot, or bigger chains such as Loft, Anthropologie, and Lululemon. Go to the Torpedo Factory and peruse local artisans workspaces and shops; you might get to meet one of the artists!
For the Family
Most Alexandria events are kid-friendly, but there are a couple that we loved going to as kids and love bringing our kids to today.
The fan-favorite Paint This, a paint-your-own-ceramics studio, is great for a rainy day activity. Mom gets a new mug and your little one gets to let their creative spirit soar. Another great arts event is the Old Town Arts and Crafts Festival in July, featuring local and regional craftsmen and their works, as well as fabulous food vendors, all along the Potomac in Waterfront Park.
We love the Fourth of July here in Alexandria, but one important note is that the Washington, DC fireworks are unfortunately not visible from the Old Town waterfront. Come back a week later and you’ll see fireworks that are just as good! Held every year on the Saturday after the Fourth, is Alexandria’s annual USA/Alexandria Birthday Celebration. The City of Alexandria puts on its own fireworks, easily visible from Oronoco Bay Park. The entire community gathers to celebrate its beloved hometown’s birthday.
With such a picturesque water feature, why waste it? A new addition to the waterfront lineup is the first ever Portside in Old Town Summer Festival, This event includes live music, a beer garden from 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 held at the Mount Vernon Recreation center monthly from May to September. Grab a burger from Holy Cow or some quick take-out from Taqueria Poblano and head down past Mount Vernon Community School at 7 p.m. and grab a seat with your blanket. Watch family-friendly movies under the night sky with your neighbors, friends, and family on a massive open-air screen.
Food and Drink
Now what you have all been waiting for: food. Summer is the perfect time to go grab a bite outside at lunch with your coworkers, with your family after work, or snag a babysitter for Saturday evening and head out with friends.
Whether you crave breakfast, coffee, brunch, lunch, or dinner, Alexandria eats have got you covered.
Let’s start with the most important meal of the day. Start your day with breakfast at Stomping Ground in Del Ray with a flaky butter biscuit, or at the new Executive Diner, which serves breakfast all day long. Need a caffeine fix after that filling breakfast? Try Misha’s at its new King Street location or DC classic Swing’s off Route 1 for a cup of joe. If you have time to kill or work to do, stop by St. Elmo’s on the Avenue and slide into a window booth and enjoy some Stumptown coffee. As a central hub for the vibrant Del Ray, 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!
If you didn’t order a delicious pastry at St. Elmo’s, then you’re probably pretty hungry again. You can find the best burger in town just a few doors down at Holy Cow, where with every purchase of a burger they will donate 25¢ to an ACT for Alexandria charity of your choice. If you prefer something a little messier, head over to Rocklands BBQ for, without a doubt, the best barbeque in Northern Virginia. Want real sit down? Walk down to Union Street and stop by Virtue Feed and Grain for a bite from their all-day menu. Grab their outdoor seating and enjoy the breeze from the Potomac and summer sun.
Slept in and need brunch? Well, then bon appétit at Fontaine Bistro, the perfect place for a sweet or savory crepe, or many of the other wonderful options on their menu (we recommend always ordering a side of fries for the table – you won’t find better ones anywhere else). Though technically not in Alexandria, try Palette 22 minutes away in Shirlington. Indulge in its bottomless brunch, which includes waffle and taco bars, for only $25. From Chilaquiles to three different Benedicts to Apple Dutch Babies to sliders and tacos, you’ll certainly find something you will love.
For dinner, try Caphe Banh Mi for some pho or any of its other amazing traditional Vietnamese dishes. Over in the 22305 is Northside 10, where you can find a variety of burgers and other sandwiches. Be sure to start with one of the killer appetizers, like the fried Brussel sprouts with bacon and asiago, or the risotto fritters fixed with Gruyere cheese, parmesan, tomato and bacon gravy. One last favorite is the new Urbano 116. From the group that brought you Mason Social, this new Mexican restaurant combines contemporary flavors with local ingredients. Its open window seating offers the ultimate summer dining experience.
Ready to keep your fun going into the night? Alexandria has so many great bars for you to try on hot summer nights. Head over to PX, an intimate speakeasy fitting only 25 guests at a time, with craft cocktails and a unique setting. Love PX? Try The Reserve, another small plate, cocktail and wine bar with limited seating. The Reserve, located just above the original Del Ray Pizzeria, was recently renovated and reopened after a two-year hiatus. 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! Cupcakes, ice cream, custard, pastries, Alexandria has got it all. An all-time favorite is the Dairy Godmother, where frozen custard — better than ice cream!— sorbet, and all other sorts of delicious treats abound. Get a sundae for yourself or a puppy pop for your canine companion, and take the seat where Former President Obama sat in during one of his visits. Need cupcakes for a summer birthday? Stop by Lavender Moon and try one of their freshly baked daily cupcakes; flourless chocolate, the NOT so Red Velvet, or the classic vanilla with lemon curd. For one last sugar rush, try Sugar Shack, a local favorite. Get a light, fluffy doughnut with a classic strawberry glaze or be adventurous and try a maple-bacon or Girl Scout-inspired samoa doughnut. 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 easily find something fun and memorable. We guarantee that you will find yourself surrounded by familiar faces. 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.