Named one of the most dog-friendly cities in the US, Alexandria, VA did not disappoint. We spent the majority of the time in Old Town, a charming and walkable area filled with museums, restaurants, and great shopping. With dog bowls lining King Street, and dogs at every corner, Charlie could not have felt more at home. There’s also a free trolly that runs along King Street, which features a walkable (or trolly-able…) mile through Old Town with 200+ independently owned restaurants and boutiques.
What to do in Old Town, Alexandria, VA:
For starters, visit VisitAlexandriaVA.com or the Alexandria Visitor Center, located in the heart of Old Town at 221 King Street, they are filled with recommendations and able and willing to help you plan your perfect trip. You can also pick up a Key to the City Museum pass which is $15 ($49 value) and includes free passes to the Alexandria Black History Museum, Carlyle House Historic Park, Friendship Firehouse Museum, George Washington Masonic National Memorial Observation Deck, Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden, Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, and The Lyceum: Alexandria’s History Museum, plus a 40% off discount coupon on the George Washinton’s Mount Vernon. Definitely call ahead to the museums for how pet-friendly they are but with Charlie in his bag, we had no problem with any of the ones listed below.
Explore the Waterfront and Founders Park
There are 18 public, off-leash dog parks in Alexandria (not including a bunch of private ones) and while I didn’t visit them all, Founders Park came highly recommended and was on the Alexandria Seaport/waterfront (which is a must visit). With riverside views of the Potomac, it’s a great place to walk the path or run around on the grass with your pup. You can book a boat ride on The Potomac Riverboat Company, which offers a variety of cruises including a 60-minute dog-friendly Canine Cruise on select days from May through September. If you’re in the mood for a picnic in the park, Society Fair and Windmill Hill Park came highly recommended. If you’re looking for a wonderful, pet-friendly seafood dining option on the water, Vola’s Dockside Grill is located in front of the Torpedo Factory Art Center on the Alexandria Seaport and is a great place to sit outside and people watch as the boats leave the marina.
Torpedo Factory Art Center
Across from the Alexandria Seaport, this former World War II munitions factory now serves as 82 working artists’ studios. From oil paintings, pottery to jewelry it’s a grandiose display of local art galleries, where the works are for sale and dogs of all sizes are welcome! Personally, I love creative spaces like this and think that they bring a lot of energy to the communities of which they are a part of. Especially when they are open to the public (including dogs) and free admission.
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
Anywhere that has bottled poison and dragon’s blood in a cabinet that dates back to the late 1700’s is well worth a visit. Located in Old Town, a block from the Visitor Center, this is a completely preserved, family-run medicine shop and manufacturing room that was in operation from 1792-1933. Even the contents of the jars are original!
Carlyle House Historic Park
The Carlyle House is a historic mansion owned by the wealthy merchant, John Carlyle. You can tour John Carlyle’s 1753 House, whose home served as the hub of Alexandria’s 18th century social and political scene. It used to be waterfront, but we learned that was before the land near the water was filled in and extended a few blocks. We also learned that at that time, not many children seemed to reach adult age.
Where to Stay: The Alexandrian, Autograph Collection
Located at 480 King Street in Old Town, on the same street as the visitors center and shopping row, the location could not be more prime! This charming, boutique hotel is colorful with fun decor and comfortable rooms. Named after city founders John and Philip Alexander, the lobby welcomes you with velvet turquoise couches and a complimentary coffee and tea station to get you through the day. The best part is it’s mega pet-friendly, which as many of you dog owners know usually means an extra $100-150 charge but The Alexandrian only charges $25 extra to bring your fur baby!
Destinations outside of Old Town that are worth a visit
While I admit there’s a lot to explore outside of Old town, we were only in town for 2 days. There was so much to do, and Old Town has such great attractions, restaurants, and shopping I didn’t want to rush our time but two worthwhile visits are:
George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon
Visit George Washington’s house located 8 miles away from Old Town, at 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway in Mount Vernon, VA. It’s an easy drive, boat or bike ride away. While dogs are welcome on the property (just not inside), on select Saturdays at 10am in April – June, and September – October, they offer a 1.25-mile dog friendly walking tour that explores canine life from the first president’s dogs to the dogs that live on the estate today. There is a $20 admission to the estate (40% off discount with Key to the City Museum pass, $7 per person in addition to general admission for the walk.
George Washington Masonic National Museum
About 10 minutes away from Old Town, located directly across from the Alexandria Amtrak station, this historic landmark dates back to 1922 on what is now an active Masonic Temple as well as a memorial museum with a great observation deck.
I feel like we did so much and still barely scratched the surface. I can’t wait to go back!
For more destinations and recommendations head to VisitAlexandriaVA.com