Follow the footsteps of the Founding Fathers as you dine in a pub that first opened in 1770. Just outside the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C., Alexandria’s historic mansions, Potomac boat cruises, trendy boutiques, art studios, upscale restaurants, and chic accommodations await.
Maryland Airport, in Indian Head, Maryland, is 17 nautical miles south of Washington, D.C.’s Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. That means you’ll be flying well within the 60-nm-diameter ring around the DCA VOR that encompasses the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA). Before you fly to Maryland Airport, you must have completed the FAA's SFRA special awareness training course. Carry printed proof of course completion inside your aircraft. If you have already completed the course, you are not required to re-take it, but the FAA encourages pilots operating in the area to review the material occasionally as a refresher. Study the Baltimore-Washington Terminal Area Chart before departure and bring it with you. Maryland Airport is closed to transient traffic after dark. Enterprise can leave your rental car at the airport with prior arrangement, or, grab a taxi or Uber. If you are authorized to operate within the DC FRZ (see caption below right), the closest airport to Alexandria is Potomac Airfield.
Alexandria’s waterfront is perfect for a stroll. Enjoy street performers, music, and al fresco drinks. Mosey in to the Torpedo Factory, where more than 165 artists create and display paintings, ceramics, jewelry, stained glass, sculpture, and other arts. On the first floor, EatsPlace Cafe and Marketplace specializes in the best local food from Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Stop in for a glass of wine or the now-famous Bronut—sort of a cross between a brownie and a doughnut—they’re delicious!
Speaking of food, you might indulge in the Old Town Food Tour: Experience more local flavors like Old Town’s famous Jelly Cake while you learn about Alexandria’s history. Or, hit three to six pubs and taverns on the Old Town Pub Crawl and get the scoop on Washington scandals, historic and otherwise. At least eight other tours ensure there’s something for every taste—cooking classes, too.
To explore the food scene on your own, check out King Street, one of America’s greatest walking streets. It’s loaded with interesting boutiques and restaurants, many of which offer lovely outdoor seating. My favorites? The Columbia Firehouse Restaurant (just off King) and Vermilion. Take the free King Street Trolley, which stops every two blocks, if you don’t want to walk.
Follow the footsteps of George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, and James Monroe to Gadsby’s Tavern, where Thomas Jefferson celebrated his presidential inaugural. Washington elites have dined here by candlelight since 1770; why not you, too? You can also visit the museum next door. A Key to the City Museum Pass gets you in to this museum, as well as seven other historic sites, including the George Washington National Masonic Memorial, the Carlyle House, Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary, The Lyceum (Alexandria’s History Museum), Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden, Alexandria Black History Museum, and Friendship Firehouse Museum—plus a 40-percent discount to George Washington’s Mount Vernon, just 8 miles south of Old Town Alexandria (see photos for details). Don’t forget you can take the water taxi to Mount Vernon from Old Town, April through October. Or, bike to Mount Vernon via the 18-mile paved, multi-use Mount Vernon Trail, which stretches from George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island, connecting to numerous other trails along the way—you can still return by boat.
Accommodations abound, but two stand out. The Morrison House boutique hotel is Alexandria’s only AAA-four-diamond-rated property; its onsite restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The newly renovated Kimpton Lorien Hotel and Spa offers a tantalizing menu of spa treatments plus two exceptional restaurants (Brabo and Brabo Tasting Room), all in a modern, elegant setting.
One of Alexandria’s most surprising and inspiring museums is the National Inventors Hall of Fame, located inside the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office—it’s full of amazing inventions that make our lives better. A pilot friend of mine was inducted there a few years ago for his surgical devices. Visit Alexandria, the surprising mix of old and new, just outside our nation’s capital.
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