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Vola's Dockside Grill.{ } (Image: Courtesy Vola's)
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Your guide to the perfect Old Town Alexandria staycation

In case you haven’t already heard, Alexandria has been ranked the top US destination to visit in 2018 by Money Magazine. Lucky for us, that’s right in our backyard, but can feel miles away from Washington, D.C.

While you may have spent an evening at the Old Town Alexandria waterfront, or strolled through the streets on a nice day, the best way to get the full experience is to spend a weekend staycation in the charming city. Here’s your guide to some of the best eats, shopping, and things to do while there!

STAY

Any good staycation begins with checking into a good hotel. Enter The Alexandrian, an appealing luxury hotel right in the heart of King Street. When you walk into the stylish lobby, you are greeted with edgy but comfortable décor, friendly service, a splash of champagne and the smell of buttery popcorn. Help yourself to the popcorn machine and a cup of coffee/tea, and start to feel comfortable. The rooms are spacious, well decorated and nicely appointed with the necessities, perfect for lounging at the end of the day or, let’s be real, lounging all day -- hey it is a staycation after all! Make sure to get one of the rooms with a balcony overlooking the courtyard, as it makes for the best chill zone. The hotel is also pet friendly, which is a huge bonus, and there bikes available for guest use.

DO

April Must Do - Hollin Hills House + Garden Tour

Alexandria is home to an enclave of mid-century modern homes in the Hollin Hills neighborhood. It comprises more than 450 glass-enclosed minor masterpieces built from the late 1940s to the early 1970s by developer Robert Davenport and renowned architect Charles Goodman. It was the first community in the D.C. area to be made up entirely of contemporary homes. Every other year, visitors are invited inside the homes for a behind the scenes tour during the Hollin Hills House + Garden Tour. This year’s self-guided tour showcases 10 stunning examples of mid-century modern architecture and landscape and is a must visit for any design lover. Take advantage of this opportunity on Saturday, April 28 from noon until 6 p.m.

April Must Do -Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House

Visitors can also tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House, just minutes from Alexandria’s Hollin Hills neighborhood. This “usonian” style house was designed by Wright in the 1940s and was one of the first types of affordable housing for the middle class. Tours just became available this month, Friday through Monday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. (last tour begins at 3 p.m.). At just 1,200 square feet, visitors will be wowed by how Wright’s combination of high ceilings, large expanses of glass and an open floor plan creates the illusion of a much larger home.

Torpedo Factory Art Center

Art lovers should make a stop at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a space with artist studios and galleries right on the waterfront. They feature a variety of artsy goods from from stained glass, to paintings and pottery.

Shop boutiques on King Street

King Street has a number of one-of-a-kind boutiques that are absolutely worth a perusal if you have interest in mid-century offerings, or unique pieces of clothing and accessories. This walkable mile in Old Town Alexandria is recognized as one of the “Great Streets” of America. Stop by The Lucky Knot for preppy casual wear with a nautical touch, popular consignment store Current Boutique, and wander into the side streets to find unique shops showcasing all sorts of home décor, fashion, jewelry, apparel, food, wine and gifts.

The Hour Vintage Cocktail Ware boutique

You’ll be transported to the Mad Men era when you step into The Hour, an exquisite vintage cocktail ware and bar ware-filled boutique on King Street. Owner Victoria Vergason took her passions for home entertaining and collecting designer vintage glassware/barware and created The Hour in 2009. This store is dedicated to “all things cocktail,” and specialize in one-of-a-kind, vintage chic barware, glassware and trays.

Furniture shopping at Acme

One of the best parts about a local staycation is that you can easily take home anything that catches your fancy, without having to worry about luggage restrictions or shipping costs. If you are in the market for vintage and modern furniture, lighting, artifacts and other home goods, Acme Mid Century + Modern is what you need to take home something unique.

Old Town Farmers Market

This Saturday morning farmers market operates year-round and is held at the Market Square plaza. Did you know this is the oldest continuously operating farmers market in the country that has been held at the same site? It’s been there for over 260 years!

Biking by the waterfront

The Mt Vernon Bike Trail is a great spot to get some exercise and take in waterfront views of D.C., or venture all the way to George Washington’s estate at Mount Verrnon. The Alexandrian has free bikes for its guests, but you can also pick up one from any of the Capital Bikeshare stations in Alexandria.

EAT AND DRINK

While in Old Town, drinks by the waterfront are a must. I love the happy hour on the expansive patio at Blackwall Hitch, and Vola’s Dockside Grill is your stop for tiki drinks and frozen cocktails by the water. Both spots are right on the waterfront and make for a fun start to the evening, or brunch on a nice day.

For dinner, I favor Hank’s Pasta bar for seafood pastas, delicious ravioli and a buzzing scene. If you are in the mood for barbecue, stop by Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster Barbecue which has an impressive array of meats and sides – favorites are the slow cooked brisket, baby back ribs and the chicken wings.

Jackson 20, the restaurant attached to The Alexandrian, is also a fun spot to hit up for refined Southern favorites. The pulled pork sliders, fried chicken and mac and cheese are all delicious, and their patio brunch is popular on weekends. My suggestion is to try their brunch the day you check out, because what makes for a better ending to a staycation than a full stomach? Plus, portion sizes here are generous so you can always take leftovers home to continue the party.

If you are in the mood to fancy it up a bit, Vermilion or Brabo are the reservations you should be looking for. Vermilion focuses on new American fare – sign up for the reasonably priced $65 tasting menu and enjoy seasonal, farm-driven dishes. Brabo, a brasserie, also has a tasting menu option, but their steak frites and mussel dishes hit the spot as well.

For late night drinks, head to Alexandria’s (not so) secret speakeasy-style bar, PX. Look for the blue light that indicates whether they are open, and prepare for expert cocktails in a classy setting. Reservations are highly recommended or be prepared to wait. Another option is to walk a little bit (or Uber) to Captain Gregory’s, the secret cocktail bar at doughnut shop Sugar Shack, which features an array of cocktails and small plates.

Other long time favorites are Greek focused Taverna Cretekou (beautiful garden patio dining), the Fish Market for fresh seafood and late night specials, and Pop’s Old Fashioned for ice cream.

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