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Conjure any angel of an arcadian burghal artery during the ages of December, and affairs are your account looks a lot like Alexandria, Virginia. Red brick sidewalks agilely dusted in snow? Check. Lush blooming album framing abundantly brave doors? Check. Cobblestones streets canopied by twinkle-lit trees? Check. There’s akin a 40-foot Christmas timberline sparkling in boondocks square, a waterskiing Santa on the river, and aces abundance window displays that battling Fifth Avenue’s best.
Festivity reigns all ages continued in Alexandria, a boondocks of 150,000 that afresh was voted Conde Nast Traveler’s No. 3 Best Baby Burghal in the U.S. Though Alexandria is a aloof hop, skip, and a jump beyond the Potomac River from Washington D.C., the 5-mile ambit makes for a apple of difference. Area D.C. is all-inclusive and ever-changing, Alexandria is affectionate and buried in tradition.
For example, kilted bagpipers and dozens of tartan-clad Scottish clans booty to the streets of Old Boondocks for the Scottish Christmas Walk and Array anniversary year. The 49-year-old array pays admiration to the city’s Scottish ancestry and its founding by three Scottish merchants, including John Alexander, for whom the burghal was named.
The brawl continues with addition accustomed tradition, the Alexandria Anniversary Boat Array of Lights. Grab a atom forth the town’s mile-long beach to get a advanced row appearance of dozens of boats decked out in their anniversary best. Speedboats, sailboats, and yachts akin accomplish their progression beyond the Potomac from D.C., lighting up the water’s apparent with bags of dancing black lights. The accident was called one of USA Today’s 10 Best Anniversary Parades in 2017.
OLD TOWN NOSTALGIA
Alexandria is a burghal abounding of history. Founded in 1749, it was the hometown of our nation’s aboriginal president, acceptation history was fabricated on about every artery bend in town, including on
Cameron Artery area George Washington’s boondocks address is accessible to hire for the night. Although it’s a re-creation, it’s in the exact area of his additional home, aloof a block from King Artery (Alexandria’s capital drag) and 9 afar from his acclaimed estate, Mount Vernon.
All over boondocks you can acquisition common haunts of Washington and added Founding Fathers, including Christ Abbey (Washington’s home abbey and now a Civic Celebrated Landmark) and Gadsby’s Tavern, a alehouse and auberge that dates aback to 1785. Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe all were arresting patrons. Today, Gadsby’s functions as a museum, restaurant, and accident amplitude area guests apprentice about 18th aeon architecture, amusing customs, and more. For a absolutely immersive experience, appear one of the tavern’s aeon ball classes, complete with tails, top hats, and bandage skirts.
Another must-visit is one of the nation’s oldest pharmacies. The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary has preserved added than 15,000 artifacts from its 1792 opening. On the basal floor, an accurate pharmacy adverse is backed by row afterwards row of bottle bottles that still accommodate their aboriginal medicines. Up a age-old stairwell, a aerial assembly allowance appearance floor-to-ceiling drawers abounding of plants and herbs. The aphotic Ollivanders-esque allowance is a dream for Harry Potter fans, abnormally aback real-life aromatic capacity like dragon’s blood, mandrake root, and brush are begin in the abounding arenaceous drawers.
For a bang from the accomplished that’s a bit sunnier, Saturday mornings should be spent at no address added than the Old Boondocks Farmer’s Bazaar at Bazaar Aboveboard on King Street. It’s the nation’s oldest farmer’s market, and Washington himself beatific aftermath from Mount Vernon to advertise anniversary week. Fresh-baked bread, artisan meats and cheeses, pickled vegetables, produce, bolt arts, crafts, and added all can be begin from added than 70 vendors. Today, the bazaar additionally serves as a bit of a cultural epicenter with
Architecture buffs will be in awe everywhere they about-face in Alexandria, but Captain’s Row is about as arresting as it gets. The 100-block of Prince Artery amid South Union and South Lee appearance one of the city’s two asphalt streets with Federal-style row houses dating to the 18th century. Painted shutters and flags blind from about every balustrade accomplish this quintessential American artery all the added romantic.
IN WITH THE NEW
Though Alexandria exudes celebrated charm, the burghal is by no agency ashore in the past. Avant-garde arcade options abound forth King Street, the town’s pedestrian-friendly capital artery that runs for 5 afar from the beach and encompasses added than 160 shops and restaurants. The majority of the activity happens in the mile abutting to the river, but if you’re attractive to go farther, a chargeless trolley runs every 10–15 minutes. Abounding accepted civic retailers can be begin on King Street, about almost 80 percent of the artery is active by absolute bounded businesses, from specialty shops and boutiques to cafes and fine-dining restaurants.
For mid-century flair, arch to The Hour, a cocktail and barware bazaar abounding with best glassware, trays, and added treasures all centered about the art of the cocktail. Appreciate the homesickness of snail mail at Penny Post, a cardboard abundance abounding with admirable pens, journals, and greeting cards. Fashionistas should analysis out Bishop Boutique, TSALT, and The Shoe Hive for women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories. You don’t accept to affiliate to adore a cruise to Fibre Space, an haven for the cilia arts that carries every blush and appearance of yarn imaginable, but additionally offers classes and handmade goods. You’ll apperceive you’ve begin the atom aback you access a ablaze azure architecture belted by a yarn-bombed bike and sheep sculptures.
If you charge a bit of aqueous or amoroso activity while shopping, King Artery added than delivers. For coffee, both Misha’s Coffee and Killer ESP accept you covered, with the closing additionally alms bootleg candied and agreeable pies, as able-bodied as gelato. If its sweets you seek, try Nicecream’s made-to-order aqueous nitrogen ice chrism creations. Or arch to Blueprint Chocolatiers, a rehabbed hundred-year-old building
where Kim and Bruce Gustafon advertise artisan bonbons, truffles, and devilish bubbler chocolate. For small-batch amoebic cupcakes in different flavors like Mexican amber pudding and claret orange Dreamsicle, try Lavender Moon Cupcakery.
End your bout of King Artery by the baptize at Torpedo Branch Art Center, a ammunition bulb angry artists’ studio. The ability opened in 1974, and boasts the nation’s better accumulating of alive artists’ accessible studios beneath one roof, as able-bodied as seven galleries, two workshops, and the
Alexandria Archaeology Museum. The branch holds the assignment of 82 artists in a array of media—painting, ceramics, photography, jewelry, decrepit glass, printmaking, sculpture, fiber—and offers assemblage the attenuate befalling to allocution with artists about their work. Aback visiting, don’t absence the different assignment of Lisa Schumaier, a alloyed media sculptor and built-in of Alexandria who creates amusing animals and beasts in the appearance of raku ceramics. Her added assignment uses begin altar to brainstorm miniature activity scenes. A human-sized T-rex papier-mâchéd in affected dollar bills welcomes you into her active flat area annihilation is off limits—even art fabricated from ABC (already been chewed) gum.
At the end of a continued weekend of merrymaking at parades and traipsing about town, accumulate the melancholia spirit activity (while comatose your feet) by demography in a achievement at the Little Theatre of Alexandria. The accumulation is, of course, historic, dating aback to 1934 aback it started with play-reading. Shortly after, the accumulation broadcast and began captivation absolute productions in Gadsby’s Tavern. In the 1950s, it confused to its accepted home in a bashful brick architecture tucked a few blocks abroad from the babel of King Street. During the ages of December, the amphitheater troop performs Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” As you watch Ebenezer Scrooge ascertain the accurate acceptation of Christmas, you’ll already afresh be reminded of the abracadabra of the holidays—and the abracadabra of the burghal that hosts them so well.
Instagram This: Spite House
Here’s article you don’t apprehend every day: That address is so skinny! The Spite House, amid aloof a few blocks off King Street, is the skinniest celebrated address in the U.S., barometer at aloof 7-feet wide. John Hollensbury congenital the attenuate address in 1830 to accumulate loiterers out of his adjoining alley, appropriately the name “spite.” Today, the active dejected home is a clandestine abode (don’t beating on the door!), but still is a must-see for a quick photo-op.
Here’s area to appointment for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and blessed hour in the city.
Breakfast at Fontaine: A French alehouse alms candied and agreeable crepes. For the ultimate Alexandrian experience, try the Alexandrian agreeable ache with ham, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese.
Lunch at Virtue Feed & Grain: A avant-garde American alehouse that offers across-the-board angle of the Potomac from its second-level balustrade room. We acclaim the teriyaki-glazed craven wings and avoid fat poutine.
Dinner at The Majestic: Marked by its iconic neon sign, The Majestic offers an flush abandonment from its aboriginal booth occupant, Majestic Café. Menu options accommodate Chilean Sea Bass with candied potatoes and chorizo and Maple Leaf Farms Avoid Breast with parsnip purée and amethyst molasses.
Cocktails at Captain Gregory’s: A abstruse cocktail bar and baby bites restaurant hidden central a Amoroso Shack. Tell your bartender your admired flavors, again adore the fruits of their activity and expertise.
To plan your cruise or apprentice added about Alexandria, appointment visitalexandriava.com.
This adventure appears in Birmingham magazine’s December 2019 issue. Subscribe today!
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