A Charming Winter Evening in Old Town Alexandria

18 Nov
November 18, 2010

When the thermometer drops and the wind turns brisk, many people head indoors for the comfort of a soft couch and a crackling fire.

But some places are made for visiting when the mercury is low and jackets, scarves, and mittens are a must. In the D.C. area, no winter season is complete without an evening out in Old Town Alexandria.

Built in colonial times, Old Town retains a great deal of the original feel and character of the 1700s. And while it’s a delight to visit any time of the year, cold winter nights really bring out the charm of the neighborhood.

To begin a wonderful evening enjoying Old Town, park near the corner of Union Street and Wales Alley. From there, head to a brick building with wrought iron lanterns outside. If Union Street Public House feels like something out of the Revolutionary War, it’s because it is. The restaurant was built inside an old Colonial warehouse and still feels like one with exposed brick interior walls.

Union Street Public House

When your meal is over, walk a block down Union Street to the Torpedo Factory. While no longer in service, the building really was a missile manufacturing plant during World War II.  It now houses studios for local artists and a gallery that’s open six days a week. Be sure to check online to see what exhibit is on display (Currently showing is “5 x 5” a small works photography collection that is part of FotoWeek DC). The best day to visit the Torpedo Factory is Thursday, when the gallery stays open an extra three hours, until 9 p.m.

After viewing the gallery, head out the back of the building to witness an Alexandria institution. Set up on a pier overlooking the Potomac River you’ll find Jamey Harper making beautiful music using just stemware, water and his own fingers. He conducts amazing symphonies with wineglasses and it’s a sight that needs to be seen to be believed.

Continuing along the pier, you’ll find Founders Park, where gravel paths meander along the banks of the Potomac River. Gaze across the water and see the newly constructed Wilson Bridge and the ever-expanding National Harbor. Look up and you can catch planes landing at Reagan National Airport. When you’ve finished strolling through the two-block park, turn around and head back toward King Street for one of the prettiest walks in all of America.

A few blocks west, the massive monolith that is the George Washington Masonic Memorial comes into view. Rising well above the surrounding area, the brightly illuminated building is stunning at night, and can be seen from any spot on the road. It’s wonderful to walk all the way up King St., surrounded by quaint shops and restaurants, and sit on the steps of the temple and look at the expanse below. If the winter chill is getting to you though, a warmer treat awaits.

George Washington Masonic Memorial

At the corner of King and Washington sits a Cosi. The chain is ubiquitous in Washington nowadays, but the King Street location was originally an XandO and it retains the charm from its pre-chain days. Sit in the lounge and grab an order of S’mores, which comes to the table with a tiny fire pit and burning flame, over which you can roast marshmallows.

A fine way to end a crisp, cold night.

-David

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