20 Things To Do In Alexandria VA

- This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure.

Settled along the west bank of the Potomac River is a scenic little city that oozes historic charm. Dating back to the 18th century, Alexandria has had centuries to amass a collection of sights and attractions to ensure that any visitor has plenty to choose from.

The town that would grow into the city of Alexandria was founded in 1749. Many of the city’s historic features have been preserved, lending Alexandria an endearingly Old-World feel. The Old Town in particular, is a popular place to wander along cobbled streets and soak in the atmosphere.

Just south of Washington, DC, Alexandria is a perfect add-on for anyone visiting the capital. Alternatively, Alexandria makes a cosy and quiet base from which to explore Washington DC if you’d rather not stay in the bigger, more urban city. As it’s so close to the US capital city, Alexandria has plenty of political history and places where the Founding Fathers frequented.

If you need further convincing that Alexandria, Virginia, is well worth a visit, then you should know that, despite its small size, it is frequently ranked as one of the best cities in the country to visit. In 2020, it was voted by Southern Living to be among the South’s Best Cities and it’s one of the Top 5 Best Small Cities in the U.S., according to Conde Nast.

So now that we’ve thoroughly established that Alexandria is an ideal destination for a city break let’s get into what exactly there is to do there. Here’s a list of the 20 best things to do in Alexandria, Virginia, so you can get straight into exploring this charming city.

Alexandria, Virginia

20 Things To Do In Alexandria, Virginia

things to do in alexandria market square us flag and historic building
Wandering around Market Square is one of the things to do in Alexandria va to get your bearings.

1- See The Historic Jones Point Lighthouse

At first glance, many may not immediately recognise Jones Point Lighthouse for what it is.

A small, wooden lake house with a lantern perched on its roof, it bears little resemblance to the tower lighthouses that most are more familiar with.

Constructed in 1855, it was in use for under a century before being retired in 1926.

Various groups have tried to have the lighthouse reinstated, but have thus far been unsuccessful, so don’t expect to see its light flashing across the river.

If the history of Jones Point Lighthouse isn’t enough to persuade you to visit, then the unobstructed views across the Potomac River should do the trick.

Historic Jones Point Lighthouse is at Jones Point Park, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314.

2- Embrace The Traditional Stylings Of The Old Town Alexandria Waterfront

alexandria waterfront
The picturesque waterfront in Alexandria, VA.

Arguably the prettiest area in the entire city, the Old Town stretches along the waterfront, providing a whimsical, romantic atmosphere and scenic views.

The Old Town is known for its distinctly historic vibe, with cobbled streets, red brick buildings, and local businesses established centuries ago.

The area is packed with small museums and galleries, cosy cafes and leafy parks.

The charming streets are lined with small, independent businesses, from chic boutiques to stylish bars and restaurants.

Home to some of Alexandria’s best attractions, including Jones Point, Stabler-Leadbetter Apothecary, and Gadsby’s Tavern, you’ll likely find yourself in the Old Town anyway.

Even if you only have a day to spend in the city, the Old Town should be high on your list of places to visit.

1 Prince Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314.

3- Enjoy A Day Out In Jones Point Park

If you’re heading out to see Jones Point Lighthouse, you might as well make a day of it and enjoy an afternoon relaxing in this lovely riverside park.

Jones Points has stunning views across the water, making it the ideal setting for a picnic.

Jones Point Park is perfect for a laid-back family day out with two playgrounds, an educational walking trail, and frequent child-friendly events.

There’s plenty for grown-ups to do too.

There are areas for launching canoes and kayaks and several fishing points, so it’s quite the hive of activity on sunny days.

Jones Point Drive, Alexandria, Virginia, 23242.

4- Learn About The City’s History At Carlyle House

things to do in alexandria va this weekend
Exploring Carlyle House in center of the old town is another thing to do in Alexandria VA.

Built around 1753, Carlyle House is a stunning manor located right at the heart of the Old Town.

A beautiful example of the mid-Georgian style, furnished as it would have been in the 18th century, Carlyle House offers a flawless glimpse of the elegance of ages past.

Visitors can tour the house and surrounding ornamental gardens.

Various events are also hosted at Carlyle House Historic Park, from historical re-enactments to concerts and even regular yoga classes.

Carlyle House Historic Park is at 121 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314.

5- Catch A Boat To Mount Vernon Wharf

things to do in alexandria va waterfront
Cruising along the Potomac River is one of the fun Things To Do In Alexandria, Virginia.

Just south of Alexandria is Mount Vernon, once the estate of George Washington.

One of the best ways to travel to the estate from Alexandria is to catch a boat from Alexandria City Marina down to Mount Vernon Wharf.

It’s a laid-back journey that lets you relax and take in the scenic views along the banks as you drift down river.

The wharf is of historical significance, having been the main entry point to the estate for centuries.

The charming wooden pier understandably needed some restoration work by 1991, the completion of which was commemorated by a visit from Queen Elizabeth II.

6- Explore The Stabler – Leadbetter Apothecary Museum

Built in 1775 and established as the local apothecary in 1792, the Stabler-Leadbetter apothecary has been a landmark of Alexandria almost since the city’s founding.

The apothecary remained as a family business, passed down through the generations, until it was sadly driven to close by the Great Depression.

Immediately recognised for its historical significance as one of the oldest apothecaries in the country, it reopened as a museum in 1939.

It has since been exquisitely preserved, with the store furnished and presented as it would have been when it was last trading, right down to having the products displayed in the same spots.

Stabler – Leadbetter Apothecary Museum is at 105-107 South Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314.

7- Soak In The Exhibits At The Gadsby’s Tavern Museum

I mentioned earlier that Alexandria has several locations linked to the founding fathers, and the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum is one of them.

As the name suggests, the museum was once a bustling tavern where the founding fathers are known to have dined on at least one occasion.

Most of the tavern buildings have been converted into a museum to protect and display the site’s historical significance.

Costumed actors and tour guides help add to the immersive experience and to really immerse yourself in history, stop for a meal.

Some of the tavern’s dining rooms have been converted into a fine-dining restaurant offering excellent food and a stunning atmosphere.

Enjoy a cosy, candle-lit lunch or dinner where the founding fathers once did the same.

The Gadsby’s Tavern Museum is at 134 North Royal Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314.

8- Explore The Lee – Fendall House Museum & Garden

things to do alexandria va aerial view with river in the background
You’ll find plenty of things to do in Alexandria Virginia.

The Lee-Fendall House is another beautiful, historic location in Alexandria’s Old Town.

Built in 1785, and boasting various additions and modifications from over the centuries, Lee-Fendall House is a lovely example of the different architectural fashions the area has seen.

The house was a family home for most of its existence, having been passed down through various generations and several prominent families.

The house and surrounding gardens were converted into a museum and opened to visitors in 1974.

Between its charm and history, the Lee-Fendall house is an important cultural location listed on registers, including the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

Lee – Fendall House is at 614 Oronoco Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314.

9- Visit The Alexandria Black History Museum

For a look into another side of Alexandria’s history, wander around the Alexandria Black History Museum.

Housed in the 1940s Robert Robinson library, the first in the city to welcome African Americans, the museum has exhibits about Alexandria’s black population.

Regular events are also held here to educate visitors further and enrich the local community.

Alexandria Black History Museum is at 902 Wythe Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314.

10- Take A Trip To The Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site

things to do in old town alexandria va
The Wilson bridge in Alexandria, Virginia.

A little way outside of the city centre, the old Fort Ward in Alexandria West has original buildings and stations that have been preserved, providing a look back at what a civil war era military post would have been like.

You can explore the grounds, various buildings and even full-sized cannons.

Frequent civil war re-enactments are also held here, offering an even more immersive experience.

Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site is at 4301 West Braddock Road, Alexandria, Virginia, 22304.

11- Be Amazed By The George Washington Masonic National Memorial

best things to do in alexandria va
Visiting the Washington Masonic Temple and memorial tower (completed in 1932) is one of the things to do in Alexandria VA.

Another celebration of George Washington’s legacy, the Masonic National Memorial commemorates the first president’s contributions to the masonic order.

The grand halls are lined with marble pillars, impressive murals, and various statues and portraits.

Look through the exhibits to learn about this unique aspect of Washington’s life and the masonic traditions.

Events are held throughout the year too, so there may be something for you to get personally involved with.

The building alone is worth visiting, and with its classical, columned hall topped with a four-story tower soaring 333 feet (101 metres) tall, you’ll have no trouble spotting it.

George Washington Masonic National Memorial 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, Virginia, 22301.

12- Witness The Beauty Of Alexandria’s Washington Monument

washington masonic national memorial alexandria va aerial view
Visiting the Washington Masonic National Memorial is one of the top things to do in Alexandria va.

Alexandria’s Washington Monument is an understated yet elegant installation, perched right by the waterfront of Canal Centre Plaza in the Old Town.

The monument consists of a single marble obelisk set amongst the trees.

The Washington Monument shares the plaza with a sculpture garden, so you can enjoy the contrast between the clean lines of the obelisk and the more intricate details of the abstract sculptures.

13- Study The Architecture Of Mount Vernon

things to do in alexandria virginia George Washington's home at Mount Vernon with candle framing entrance
Visiting George Washington’s home is one of the best things to do in Alexandria VA for history lovers.

A short way south of Alexandria is Mount Vernon, George Washington’s old estate, which you can get to either by car or by boat from Alexandria City Marina to Mount Vernon Wharf.

The grand house and grounds are available to tour by the public.

The estate is furnished and presented in the style of the period in which George Washington lived, with many of his own personal items on display.

Mount Vernon is at 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, Alexandria, Virginia, 22121.

14- Experience Rural Side At River Farm

Take a break from the city and the rush of sightseeing by escaping to River Farm.

Just south of Alexandria, the farm is located right on the banks of the Potomac River.

The generous gardens of River Farm are perfect for enjoying the view across the water in a more peaceful setting than the city’s parks can provide.

As the home to the headquarters of the American Horticultural Society, you can be sure that the gardens will always be exquisite, whatever the season.

You can also look around the historic River Farm manor house along with the tranquil gardens.

River Farm is at 7931 East Boulevard Drive, Alexandria, Virginia, 22308.

15- Relax And Enjoy The Views In Founders Park

things to do in alexandria va red and blue brick buildings
Admiring the architecture is one of things to do in Alexandria VA to soak up the atmosphere. These are classical brick homes.

Another great spot for when you want to kick back and relax is Founders Park.

Located right at the heart of Alexandria Old Town and overlooking the Potomac River, Founders Park is surrounded by cafes, shops, and museums.

It’s ideal for when you need a quick break from sightseeing.

Located right next to the Old Town Harbour, you can often sit and watch the boats drifting in and out of the little marina.

Founders Park is at 351 North Union Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314.

16- Discover The Past In The Washington Family Tomb

On the grounds of George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate lies the Washington Family Tomb.

The tomb was built as per requested in George Washington’s will and is now the final resting place for over 25 members of his family, including the man himself.

The tomb can be visited by those wishing to pay respects to the first president of the United States.

The stone sarcophagi of George Washington and his wife Martha can be seen through the tomb’s iron gates.

The Washington Family Tomb is at 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, Alexandria, Virginia, 22309.

17- Go For A Walk Around The Ford Orientation Center

Stop by the Ford Orientation Centre to make the most of your time at Mount Vernon.

The centre provides visitor information, guides, and resources to help you plan how to spend your day around the estate.

Along with the information desk, the Ford Orientation Centre also exhibits various artefacts of its own.

Some of the displays you can enjoy are bronze statues of the Washington family, miniature replicas of the estate buildings, and stained-glass murals depicting moments from George’s life.

The Ford Orientation Center is at 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, The General’s Store, Alexandria, Virginia, 22309.

18- See The Exhibits In The Donald W. Reynolds Museum

romantic things to do in alexandria va
The weathervane at Mount Vernon.

Just next door to the Ford Orientation Centre is the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Centre, with over 700 artefacts and exhibits displayed in 23 rooms.

The museum offers the perfect introduction to the history of the Mount Vernon estate.

Various events and special exhibitions are held here, too, so make sure to check the schedule to see what’s on during your visit.

Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Centre is at 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Alexandria, Virginia, 22309.

19- Step Back In History At The Alexandria History Museum

things to do in alexandria virginia lyceum
Seeing the exhibits at the Alexandria History Museum at the Lyceum is one of the things to do in Alexandria Virginia.

Pay a visit to the Alexandria History Museum at the Lyceum to learn more about the history of the city of Alexandria itself.

Housed within an imposing 1830s house, the museum chronicles the development of Alexandria from its founding through to the present day.

With over 5000 artefacts to peruse, you’re sure to learn some interesting secrets about Alexandria’s past.

The Alexandria History Museum is at 201 South Washington Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314.

20- Visit The Nation’s Capital In Washington D.C.

alexandria va
Taking a day tour to Washington, D.C. is one of the top things to do from Alexandria, Virginia.

As I mentioned earlier, Alexandria is just a few miles south of Washington, DC and a short journey to the other side of the Potomac River, where you can immerse yourself in the political history of the United States capital city.

With its massive white dome, the United States Capitol Building is among the most recognisable structures in the country.

Located in the National Mall, it is surrounded by other major attractions like the Smithsonian museums, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and, of course, the White House.

With so many hugely iconic attractions, a trip into the capital is a must when you’re this close.

Helpfully, with most of Washington, DC’s big sights packed into such a small area, you won’t need to set aside too much time to see everything.

For more places to visit in the Southern states, see:

Previous article20 Things To Do In Birmingham AL
Next article20 Things To Do In Corpus Christi
steve burden photo
Steve Burden is an avid traveller and experienced writer. As a former pro wrestler, Steve used to travel frequently for work throughout the USA and Europe. Having spent the last decade travelling all over the world in search of new sights and experiences, he has turned his love for travel into a new career helping others decide on the best places to visit, as well as what to see when they get there.