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One Day in Alexandria, Virginia: Day Trip from Washington DC

Alexandria, Virginia is a charming town that’s full of interesting historical sites. At just about 30 minutes from Washington DC, Alexandria makes for the perfect day trip. Here’s how to make the most of one day in Alexandria, VA.

The red brick sidewalks, preserved 18th century buildings, and small town charm of Alexandria make you feel like you’ve just stepped back in time. From boutique shopping along King Street to exploring historic museums to checking out local art at the Torpedo Factory, there are a ton of fun things you can do on a day trip to Alexandria.

Alexandria, Virginia

One Day in Alexandria, VA Itinerary

Brunch at The Majestic & Walk Along King Street

The Majestic Cafe, Alexandria, Virginia

King Street is one mile of independently owned shops and restaurants that runs through the heart of Old Town Alexandria. This is the largest collection of independent boutiques around DC.

King Street is the heart of Old Town Alexandria, and this is where you’ll find some of the best places to shop and eat. We had brunch at The Majestic, an Old Town café that dates back to the 1930s.

They serve contemporary Southern dishes in a funky Art Deco interior. And the neon sign from the original restaurant still hangs right outside.

King Street runs right down to the Potomac River, and everything else on this one day in Alexandria itinerary is just steps away from this historic street!

Visit the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, Alexandria, Virginia

Our visit to the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum was a spur of the moment decision. We wondered what could be in an apothecary museum; turns out, it’s an engaging group of tour guides and some fun history!

The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary was one of Alexandria’s oldest continuously run businesses, and the building has only ever been an apothecary and a museum. On the tour, we learned about the medicines people used to take and which of those remedies we still use today. We also saw documents from some of the business’s high profile patrons, like Martha Washington.

The museum offers guided or self guided tours, and they’re a nice budget price. We opted for a guided tour, and I feel like we learned so much more than we would have on our own. Tours are limited to just a few people at a time since the space is small and fragile.

Browse the Torpedo Factory Art Center

Torpedo Factory Art Center, Alexandria, Virginia

The Torpedo Factory Art Center is housed in 100-year-old a former naval munitions plant that once made torpedoes during World War II.

Now, it’s home to the U.S.’s largest number of publicly accessible artists’ studios located under one roof: that’s 71 studios, 10 galleries, and more than 165 artists.

The building has been an art center since 1974. When you visit, you can find artists creating work in a variety of media, from painting and ceramics to photography and stained glass to jewelry and sculpture.

Walk Along the Potomac River Waterfront

Potomac River Waterfront, Alexandria, Virginia

Take in some fresh air while you walk along the Potomac River waterfront. Waterfront Park is the perfect place to relax and soak up some sun.

Along Waterfront Park, you’ll find statues, monuments, boat docks, a dog park, picnic tables, and a playground.

This is one of the best river walks in the U.S., and its a great place to take in the picturesque views of the Potomac River and Washington DC across the way. You’ll also find water taxis and river cruises that provide a commute between Alexandria and DC (with stops at The Wharf, Georgetown, and National Harbor).

Visit Gadsby’s Tavern Museum

Gadsby's Tavern Museum, Alexandria, Virginia

Gadsby’s Tavern Museum was the 18th century tavern and hotel where George Washington twice attended a Birthnight Ball held in his honor and where Thomas Jefferson had his inaugural banquet in 1801.

The museum offers cheap self guided and guided tours. It doesn’t take long to walk through the rooms on a self-guided tour. You’ll see the 1785 tavern and the 1792 City Tavern and Hotel.

The newer building also houses Gadsby’s Tavern Restaurant, a working restaurant where you can have lunch or dinner.

Walk by George Washington’s House

George Washington's House, Alexandria, Virginia

George Washington used a house in Old Town Alexandria from 1769 to 1776 as an office and overnight accommodation whenever he was in town for business.

The original home was torn down in 1855, but a family in the 1960s rebuilt the house using bricks and stones from an excavation of the site. You can actually rent the home if you’re want to live like George Washington for a few nights.

Visit Christ Church

Christ Church, Alexandria, Virginia

Christ Church is where all the prominent Alexandria townspeople worshiped, including George Washington. You can even sit in the family box pew he rented.

Christ Church was built in 1767, and the building was completed by 1773 when George Washington attended his first service there.

Christ Church is free to visit, and they offer guided tours throughout the week.

See the Skinny Spite House

Spite House, Alexandria, Virginia

523 Queen Street is certainly the skinniest house in Alexandria. It’s only 7 feet wide, 25 feet deep, 2 stories tall, and 325 square feet overall.

The home is known as the Hollensbury Spite House because in the 1830s, John Hollensbury, the owner of an adjacent house, walled up an alleyway to keep out loiterers and horse-drawn carriages. The result is this extremely skinny home.

Someone still owns and lives in the home part of the year, so you unfortunately can’t go inside.

Walk the Historic Cobblestone Street

Cobblestone Street, Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

Captain’s Row is the oldest cobblestone block in Old Town Alexandria.

In the 1700s, most of Alexandria’s streets were cobblestone. These historic streets we see today were restored in the 1970s with original cobbles, and now the city tries to keep the streets picturesque and in good condition.

How to Get From Washington DC to Alexandria

Alexandria, Virginia is really easy to access from Washington DC. That’s part of what makes it such a great day trip!

By Car: Alexandria is about a 20-30 minute drive by car from DC.

By Metro: The best way to reach Alexandria by Metro is by taking the Yellow Line or Blue Line to the King St-Old Town station. It’s about a 20 minute ride.

By Water Taxi: Take the 30 minute Potomac Water Taxi for a scenic ride along the river. You can take the water taxi from The Wharf, from Georgetown, or from National Harbor. Get an Unlimited 2-Day Water Taxi Pass here.

One Day in Alexandria Map

Ready to spend a day exploring Alexandria, Virginia? Use the map below to plan out your day trip to Alexandria from Washington DC.

I hope you have a great day in Old Town Alexandria!

Top Alexandria, VA Tours

Where to Stay in Alexandria, VA

More DC Area Tips

Ready to visit Alexandria, Virginia? Plan your trip with these tips.



One Day in Alexandria, Virginia: Day Trip from Washington DC

Have you spent a day in Alexandria, Virginia or taken a day trip to Old Town from Washington DC? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Hey, didn’t even hear about it. And it’s only 30 minutes away from Downtown Washington D.C.? That’s good to know. 🙂
    I would definitely love the Potomac River waterfront and a visit to Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, that must be interesting to see. I’ve always enjoyed places with such historical importance.
    Thanks for the guide, love the suggestions. 🙂

  2. Alexandria is at the top of my USA bucket list! I’ve visited an apothecary museum in Canada but never in the states. It looks so cool!

  3. Very great photography – it looks beautiful. My boyfriend has never been to DC and we plan on going to Virginia , Maryland and D.C.

    This has just excited me even more 🙂

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