Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Things to do in the summer in Alexandria, Va.

Downtown Alexandria, Va., always has something going on, and summertime is a fantastic time to spend a day, evening or even a week exploring this quaint and happening city. Alexandria rests along the Virginia side of the Potomac River.

Old Town is the part of the city where a lot of the action is at, and visitors taking a stroll along the streets can typically find lots to do. It is a popular section of town for both locals and visitors as there are museums, restaurants, ice cream shops, historical landmarks, live music and all sorts of other activity typically buzzing.

Many scheduled summer events take place in Alexandria. Here are a few of the annual summer events to consider during a visit to Alexandria, or even the Washington, D.C. area, for fun things to do:


Father's Day ideas

Many of the museums, such as Gadsby's Tavern and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary, offer free tours for Dad on Father's Day. These tours are pretty interesting and a must-see if you're a history buff, or have an interest in America's colonial beginnings. The Friendship Firehouse Museum also offers special Father's Day tours. In years past, kids and Dads are given a complimentary photo of themselves and get to engage in other specially-planned activities for the day.

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary
There is no shortage of interesting items to see at the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary

Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site is one of the best preserved forts in the U.S. from the Civil War era. Summertime at Fort Ward brings Civil War reenactments and tours led by soldiers. Additionally, you can tour the museum to see their extensive exhibits and collections. If you want to see the current schedule of events you can visit the Fort Ward website to find out what's going on.

Scheduled events

Friendship Firehouse Museum: The Friendship Firehouse Festival hosts an annual birthday bash which is great fun for the whole family. The Friendship Firehouse Company was established in 1774 and its birthday is celebrated every first Saturday in August. The annual festival is a good time full of fun, history and celebration.

Carlyle House: On June 21, 2014, the annual "Hands on History Tent" event takes place. This year's theme is "A Privateer's Life for Me!" and takes place at this historic home from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is designed for the kids, but adults are likely to enjoy the historical angle shared.

August brings the anniversary of the Carlyle Housewarming. During this event visitors can watch period era interpreters recall the 1753 moving in day of John Carlyle and family to their new elaborate mansion; on this day John and Sarah Carlyle's son, William, arrived. Afterwards there is music and refreshments to celebrate (Note: I do not see this on the calendar just yet for 2014, but this event has occurred during previous years).

Carlyle House
Front view of Carlyle House. Believe it or not this home was almost left to ruin and was blocked by another structure in the front yard, but today it stands beautifully restored

Festival of the Arts: Every year the Alexandria Festival of The Arts happens in September. This year it takes place on Sept. 13 and 14. Stroll down King Street and marvel over the paintings, sculptures, jewelry, photos and more! This event showcases many different styles of art and caters to different budgets. Visitors can browse, purchase and talk with the artists about their work. This event is a big one and many say it is one of the best art festivals in the country. Artists from all over the country attend and the featured artists are hand chosen by an independent panel of judges who sort through all the submissions. This year celebrates the festival's 12th year.

Ongoing summer activities

While there are many traditionally scheduled events in Alexandria, there is also plenty to do for people who like to plan on a whim or just go with the flow of the day. Museum tours are ongoing during the daytime hours and, while sometimes reservations are recommended, most of the tours are catered towards walk-ins. If you drop by the Ramsey's Visitors' Center on the Corner of King and Fairfax Streets, you can get some ideas, pick up brochures or obtain information. Taking one of the ghost tours is a fun idea for a summer night.

Summertime is also a great time to walk around the riverfront area. Visit the Torpedo Factory and learn about its history, then browse through the artists studios and galleries which now reside in the former factory that actually did build torpedoes (you can see one inside). While down at the riverfront you can also watch the boats, purchase tickets for a river tour, or simply sit back and feed the ducks. On your way down King Street, stop by one of the ice cream shops and grab a cone or cup to bring with you.

Torpedo Factory Art Center
The Torpedo Factory boasts 82 art studios and six galleries

The perennial Farmer's Market is another option. The Market, which is believed to be one of America's longest running markets, offers a variety of fruit, vegetables, baked goods, flowers, plants and crafts for sale. The market is open every Saturday from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.

These are only a small sampling of the things you can do in Alexandria during the summer months. Alexandria is a beautiful destination for a summer getaway, or if you're local to the Washington, D.C. region, a trip into town makes a great day trip. You can always also check Alexandria's website for other scheduled events.

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