Guest Author - Janet Collins
It’s true. George Washington really did sleep here. So did legendary pop music drummer Mick Fleetwood. In fact, they slept in the same house on Cameron Street, albeit not in the same century. Today, history buffs, architecture enthusiasts, gourmands, and art/culture vultures of every stripe can find much to enjoy in the Old Town district of Alexandria, Virginia.
Market Square continues to be a public meeting place, especially on Saturdays when the farmer’s market draws a crowd. If you prefer to have history served up on a plate, head to Gadsby’s Tavern (no less than five presidents of the United States raised a glass there) at the corner of North Royal and Cameron Street.
A walking tour is one of the best ways to explore the rest of the area. Stop in at the Ramsay House Visitor Center at the corner of King and Fairfax Streets for tour information. The Center is also a great source for free tourist information and brochures as well as discount tickets for many area attractions and tours.
If your feet get tired, hop aboard the DASH Shuttle bus. For the princely sum of $1, the bus will take you around some of the more popular sections of the Old Town. Check out the DASH website for route and schedule information. www.dashbus.com Note that service is free on special days (see website for details).
Speaking of free things, here are some area sights that are easy on the pocketbook:
118 North Washington Street, Cameron and N Washington Sts, Alexandria, VA 22314 • 703-549-1450
Both George Washington and Robert E Lee attended this church.
George Washington Masonic National Memorial
101 Callahan Drive, King St at Callahan Dr, Alexandria, VA 22301 • 703-683-2007
Washington was a member of this lodge. Visit the Replica Lodge Room to learn more about his life and legacy.
Old Presbyterian Meeting House
321 S Fairfax St, Alexandria, VA 22314-3807 • 703-549-6670
The site of George Washington's eulogy, this is also the home of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution.
Alexandria Black History Museum
638 N. Alfred St, Alexandria, VA, 22314 – 703-838-4356
Permanent and rotating exhibits relating to local African Americans from the 18th- century on.
201 Prince St, Alexandria, VA, 22314 – 703-548-0035
This home of the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association features art exhibits that range from Matisse lithographs to shows of East Coast artists. Performances by the Alexandria Ballet and the Alexandria Classical Guitar Festival also take place here.
Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site
4301 W. Braddock Rd, Alexandria, VA, 22314 – 703-838-4848
Okay, so it’s a short drive from Old Town, but if you’re a Civil War buff the trip is one worth taking. Fort Ward is the best preserved of the surviving Union forts erected to protect Washington, D.C. and the only one with a museum.
107 S. Alfred St, Alexandria, VA, 22314 – 703-838-3891/ 703-838-4994
In addition to firefighting memorabilia dating back to the 18th-century, you’ll find documents that support the Friendship Company’s claim that Washington was a founding member.
The Torpedo Factory Art Center
105 North Union St., Alexandria, VA 22314 – 703-838-4565
This former torpedo factory now houses an array of artists’ studios, most of which are open to the public. The venue offers a unique opportunity to see artists at work. Many studios double as shops. Don’t miss the real torpedo on display on the lower level.
With so much to see and do, you’ll want to stay and play another day.
While there are senior discounts offered at chain hotels such as Days Inn and Comfort Inn, those wanting a bit of luxe in their travel digs might prefer to opt for the tasteful rooms at two area boutique hotels. Both are members of the Kimpton group of hotels, and both offer up seniors/AARP rates:
Hotel Monaco Alexandria
480 King St., Alexandria, Virginia 22314 Toll-Free: 800-368-5047 Hotel: 703-549-6080
Morrison House Hotel
116 S. Alfred St., Alexandria, VA 22314 Reservations: 866-834-6628
Hotel Direct: 703-838-8000
Suggested reading: A Guide to Historic Alexandria by William Seale