Considering moving to Alexandria? Recognized as one of the safest cities in America, one of the best places for veterans, and one of the best small cities in the U.S., Alexandria is an awesome place to plant roots. This Virginia city is just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, and it’s a popular spot for young professionals, families, and retirees. From its growing job market to its must-try restaurants and unique art scene, here are 11 things to know about living in Alexandria!
Enter a Strong Job Market
With an unemployment rate that’s 34% lower than the national average and continued job growth in the tech and STEM industries, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria area has plenty of employment opportunities. You can find work in industries such as government, finance, law, tech, and education here, with the largest employers being the United States Department of Commerce, United States Department of Defense, and Alexandria City Public Schools. The DC metro is also popular for military jobs, as there are several military bases throughout Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, including Fort Belvoir, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, and Joint Base Andrews.
Experience Old Town Alexandria
Marked by cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks, Old Town Alexandria is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods for homebuyers, thanks to its beautifully-restored rowhouses within walking distance of some of the city’s best attractions! This historic center is filled with more than 200 restaurants, bars, boutiques, and antique shops—especially along the bustling King Street, which you can access via the King Street Trolley. Looking for things to do in Old Town Alexandria? Order Wild Boar Chops, Tuna Takitos, or Duck Meatloaf at Virtue Feed & Grain. Pop into stores like Shoe Hive, Red Barn Mercantile, and Mint Condition for some retail therapy. Catch local productions of famous stage plays and musicals at Little Theatre Alexandria. Or stroll through an 18th century mansion at the Carlyle House Historical Park. No matter what you’re in the mood to do, Old Town Alexandria always has something cool to check out!
Travel Back in History
History buffs rejoice! Alexandria has a rich American history that dates back to the 18th century and offers tons of historical landmarks to explore. Visit the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, a nine-story structure with a museum, active temple, and research library. Venture to Gadsby’s Tavern Museum to see where American presidents like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison came to grab a pint or attend a theatrical performance—you might even see the ghost of the Female Stranger! Spend some time at the Alexandria Black History Museum to pay tribute to the African-Americans who helped build and shape Alexandria and America. Go back in time at the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum—one of the nation’s oldest pharmacies—to see over 1,500 original artifacts of herbal botanicals, medical equipment, formula books, and prescriptions from the 1800s and early 1900s.
Check Out Alexandria’s Pop Culture
Though the Alexandria area is better known for its role in American history, it’s also a major player in pop culture. Shows like PBS’ Mercy Street and AMC’s incredibly popular The Walking Dead have both used Alexandria as a setting for their stories (though they weren’t filmed in Alexandria). Film aficionados and sports fans may even recognize the city of Alexandria from the acclaimed sports movie Remember the Titans, which tells the true story of T.C. Williams High School’s integrated football team—you can even visit filming spots like the Ivy Hill Cemetery! You can also visit other filming locations from movies like National Treasure: Book of Secrets, J.Edgar, and 12 Years a Slave.
Explore the Torpedo Factory Art Center
Once a factory that made naval torpedoes during WWII, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is now a must-see in Alexandria. It’s a mecca for all things art! The building is home to 82 studios, seven galleries, and 160 artists working in a range of mediums, gaining recognition for having the largest number of publicly accessible art studios in the nation. Observe contemporary art exhibits from artists all over the U.S. at the Target Gallery, or check out an array of ceramic vases, sculptures, and decorative vessels at the Scope Gallery. Regardless of your skill level, you can take art classes and workshops from esteemed instructors at The Art League School. If archaeology is more your thing, visit the Alexandria Archaeology Museum inside the factory center to learn about the city’s past and how digs are done.
Join the Festival Fun
Whether it’s to celebrate holidays, food, or the arts, those living in Alexandria take their festivals and traditions seriously! Attend the Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend, where you can taste Scottish dishes and see men in kilts playing bagpipes during the parade. Try more than 200 Virginia-made wines, sample food like lobster rolls and BBQ from local vendors, and listen to live music at the Virginia Wine Festival! Admire paintings, photography, sculptures, and other amazing works from artists around the world at the King Street Art Festival. There’s also the annual First Night Alexandria, one of largest Alexandria attractions, where you can enjoy a Kids Karnival, live music from over 100 performers, food trucks, and a giant fireworks display at midnight.
Get in Touch with Nature
Did you know Alexandria is one of the best U.S. cities for outdoor recreation? With an average of 201 sunny days and temperatures that rarely dip below 40 degrees, some of Alexandria’s best things to do are outdoors! Go on a romantic walk on the trails or find riverfront seating to catch the sunset at Waterfront Park. Get the family together to ride on the bike trails, have a picnic, or play frisbee at Oronoco Bay Park. Head to Ben Brenman Park to skip rocks across the pond, let the kids play on the playground, or practice your swing at the baseball fields. Or spend the day winding through the mile-long nature trail along streams and freshwater marshlands at the 50-acre Dora Kelly Nature Park.
Spend Time with Your Dog in Alexandria
Virginia’s slogan might be “Virginia Is For Lovers,” but the Alexandria area is also for dog lovers! Ranked as one of the most pet-friendly places in the U.S., Alexandria is full of restaurants, activities, shops, and parks that allow four-legged friends to join in on the fun! Play fetch with your pooch at Windmill Hill Park,or go on a sunset stroll through the trails at the 4.67-acre Founders Park. Sit on the back porch at Lost Dog Cafe with Fido to enjoy a Pit Bull Pie or Tiki Vibez Sour. Pick up a new chew toy, flashy collar, or gourmet treats at The Dog Park. Or take in the views with your fur baby along the Potomac River during a Canine Cruise.
Walk Through the Historic Farmers Market
If there’s anything that’s a must-do in Alexandria, it’s attending the Old Town Farmers Market! Held year-round every Saturday, the Old Town Farmers Market has been operating for over 260 years, making it one of the oldest farmers market in America! People near and far come here to peruse and buy a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, fresh pastries, hand-pulled pastas, flower bouquets, jewelry, and more! Fun fact: George Washington even sold produce here from his Mount Vernon home!
Dive into the Food Scene
You don’t have to go to the farmers market to get fresh eats! Incredible restaurants in Alexandria are on every corner! Dine at Bilbo Baggins, a restaurant serving up global foods like Wiener Schnitzel and Giardiniera Chicken Penne (with a side of hobbit hospitality). Stop into Kogiya Korean BBQ to fill up on delicious Korean fare like Kimchee JJgae, Miso Sam Kyup Sal, and Bulgogi. Feast on Fried Cheese Curds, Tot Poutine, or Lobster Mac and pair it with a glass of wine at Cheesetique. Try fresh Oysters on the Half Shell, Old Bay Peel n’ Eat Shrimp, or a Lobster Roll at Hank’s Oyster Bar—one of the best restaurants in Alexandria. Grab a Cream Cheese-filled Pumpkin Muffin for breakfast or Funfetti Whoopie Pie and Buzz Cupcake for dessert at Buzz Bakeshop. Or try new spins on Southern comfort food like the Carolina Shrimp & Grits, Vegetarian Gumbo, and Smoked BBQ Platter at Live Oak Restaurant.
Enjoy a Night on the Town
Looking to spend a night out? There are tons of fun things to do in Alexandria for all types of interests! Pull on your cowboy boots and head to Nick’s Night Club for karaoke, swing dancing, and live country music from local bands. Enjoy a pint of Guinness and watch a football game with some friends at Murphy’s Pub. Dress to the nines and head to PX, a quaint speakeasy that only seats 25 people and is one of the most unique places to go in Alexandria at night. Get a group of friends together and tour Port City Brewing. Sip on one of 15 experimental, rotating cocktails like the Breezeway Cooler or the Egg White Cocktail at Captain Gregory’s. Or get tickets to see a bluegrass, jazz, or rock performance at the legendary Birchmere music hall.
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