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Road Trip! Destination: Alexandria, Va.

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By Caroline M. Hirt
Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011
 

George ate here. George slept here. George (probably) partied here. The "here" is Alexandria, Va., one of America's oldest cities. And George• Well, he's the first president of the United States of America.

Sitting on the western bank of the Potomac River, just a short jaunt south of Washington, D.C., the compact, historic Old Town district is ripe with Revolutionary history and overflowing with enough restaurants, antique stores and shops to keep everyone entertained.

Spend the day wandering through Old Town, and let yourself get sidetracked with each historic placard noting who was here when and why, and tour through our first president's residence. Details: www.VisitAlexandriaVA.com.

Mt. Vernon

At President Washington's Mt. Vernon Estate and Gardens, you can tour the former plantation grounds and house, which has been restored to how it might have looked when he died in 1799. The rooms reflect his nature and most contain Washington objects collected by the Mt. Vernon Ladies' Association. On Oct. 22 and 23, the estate will host the annual Fall Harvest Family Days with activities geared to all. Participate in early-American games, apple-roasting and wagon rides, wheat treading in the 16-sided barn and 18th-century dancing demonstrations. Tickets to Mt. Vernon: (Fall Harvest included) $15; $7 for ages 6-11; children younger than 5 are admitted free. Details: www.mountvernon.org.

King Street Trolley

Navigating Old Town is quite easy, just follow your feet, but for a quick zip down King Street, hop on the free trolley. From the Potomac River Waterfront to the King Street Metro, the trolley has 20 stops and pick-ups every 15 minutes, operating everyday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. For stops: www.alexandriava.gov/trolley.

Bike Old Town

Alexandria is accessible by the many trails that surround the Potomac. Rent a bike in Old Town from Bike and Roll, and you can ride the 10-mile trail to Mt. Vernon. Rates start at $10. Details: 703-548-7655; www.bikethesites.com.

The Torpedo Factory

Bought in 1969 by the city, the decommissioned World War II Torpedo Factory has served as storage for munitions, federal records and dinosaur bones from the Smithsonian, not to mention producing torpedoes. It languished for a few years and, in 1974, it became an art center offering bright studio space. Now, it's exploding with artist studios, galleries and the Art League School and Archaeology Museum. Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and until 9 p.m. Thursdays. Details: 703-838-4565; www.torpedofactory.org.

Farmers Market

Next to City Hall, the Old Town Farmers Market is a chance to see one of the oldest, continuously operating farmers markets in the county. From 5:30 to 11 a.m. every Saturday, you can buy anything from baked goods to cut flowers and live plants. Details: 703-746-3200.

Let's eat

No matter what you're looking for, a good meal is easy to come by in Old Town, be it lunch or a fine-dining event that is months in the making. Chef Cathal Armstrong has an array of destination restaurants to suit every budget, from the Virtue Feed & Grain, serving pub and comfort food, to Eamonn's: A Dublin Chipper, serving classic fish and chips, among other menu options, and PX, upstairs from Eamonn's, a speak-easy lounge. Restaurant Eve, which recently hosted the president and first lady, is an upscale-dining bistro with reasonable prices and a fine wine list. They offer a "Lickity Split" lunch on weekdays, a great way to enjoy their offerings without feeling too much wallet pinch. Reservations required. Details: 703-706-0450; www.restauranteve.com.

Hotels in Old Town

Morrison House and Hotel Monaco are in the middle of Old Town and closest to the action. Hotel Monaco (703-549-6080; www.monaco-alexandria.com ) has a pool that can be accessed by guests of either property and Morrison House (703-838-8000; www.morrisonhouse.com ) is host to a piano bar and sing-a-long Tuesday and weekend evenings.

Ghost tours

With Halloween fast approaching, a ghost tour of Alexandria is timely. Alexandria's Footsteps to the Past Ghost Tours is just one of the walking tours available. Lantern-carrying guides will give you a "dose of ghost" with early history. Tours leave from Ramsay House Visitor Center, and last one hour. Admission: $10; $5 for ages 7-12. Check website for times. Details: 703-683-3451; www.footstepstothepast.com.

Holiday celebrations

To those with Scotch ancestry, Dec. 2 and 3 are the days to celebrate. The 41st Scottish Christmas Walk on Dec. 3 will be a massive parade of more than 100 clans, pipe-and-drum bands, Scottish dancers, Scottie dog groups, dignitaries and Santa. Beginning at the corner of Wilkes and South Saint Asaph streets in Old Town and ending at King and Royal Streets, the parade is a focal point of the weekend, though the Christmas marketplace also is a gem. In the evening, boats on the Potomac River will get in the spirit for the 11th year in a row by lighting up bows and sterns with twinkle lights. Grab a thermos of hot cocoa, and watch the river sparkle at dusk.

 

 
 


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