About Old Town

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Alexandria’s History

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Alexandria’s history reaches back more than 13,000 years. From the first Native Americans to settle here, to the bustling city it is today, the timeline of Alexandria’s history is filled with events that helped shape the United States of America into the country it is today.

Alexandria was founded in 1749 by Scottish merchants and was named after Scotsman John Alexander. Alexandria is known as being the adopted hometown of America’s first president, George Washington. As a teenager, George Washington surveyed the city. Later, he owned a townhouse here in Old Town. You can see a replica of the townhouse today on Cameron Street. He also worshiped at Christ Church (you can tour the site and sit in his pew – number 60), and frequented Gadsby’s Tavern.

The prosperity of Alexandria and the United States was inextricably linked to the work of enslaved and free African Americans. A horrific part of Alexandria’s history is that, prior to America’s Civil War, Alexandria served as one of the largest domestic slave trading ports in America. Most of Alexandria’s leading businesses and properties could not have operated without the unpaid labor of the enslaved men, women, and children who lived and worked here.

Yet to walk through the streets of Alexandria is to walk through America’s timeline of African-American history from colonial times to the Civil War and from Civil Rights to today. You can learn empowering stories of individuals and communities that overcame adversity and even pushed our society forward as you explore the city’s historic sites and take part in walking tours from Manumission Tour Company.

The best way to learn about Alexandria’s history is by purchasing a Key to the City Attractions Pass. Explore 9 historic sites for $20 plus receive 40% off admission to George Washington’s Mount VernonPotomac Riverboat Company by Hornblower and the tall ship Providence.

There are also numerous tour companies that offer in-depth looks at Alexandria’s history. From walking tours to boat tours to bike tours, immerse yourself in Alexandria’s history. Want to choose your own adventure? Follow our self-guided tours of Old Town, Alexandria’s African-American history, Mount Vernon and more.

Take a Tour

Alexandria’s Original Ghost & Graveyard Tour. Follow an 18th century costumed guide by lantern light through the charming streets of...
221 King Street
Alexandria the Great offers Segway, walking and food and drink tours. We offer a 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Alexandria...
Old Town
African Americans escaping slavery found refuge in Alexandria after Union troops occupied the city in 1861. The Rev. Clement “Clem”...
320 S. Washington Street
At Blue Fern Travel – Fork & Fizz Tours, we believe travel should give back to the local community while...
4220 Nicholson Street Hyattsville, MD 20781
Runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 11:30 a.m. and lasting three hours. Meet your guide and the rest of...
Starting location provided at time of ticket purchase
Every April, five of Old Town Alexandria’s private homes and gardens will open to the public, as part of the...
Alexandria Visitor Center 221 King Street
Nightly Spirits offers a 2.5 hour haunted pub tour. Guests will be led by a costumed tour guide along a...
480 King Street
Iconic orange trolleys and duck tours highlight the best of Washington, D.C. with 25 stops and more than 100 points...
Welcome Center 1001 E Street NW Washington, DC 20004
Explore the D.C. metro area the right way–on an electric bike from Pedego Alexandria! Pedego Electric Bikes are the most...
210 N. Lee Street Suite 102
See Old Town Alexandria the best way possible- by bike! Ride through this historic district along the Potomac, stopping to...
421 King Street
USA Guided Tours, LLC™  is a sightseeing and transportation company based in Washington, DC and Falls Church. We offer fully...
1155 F Street, NW 10th Floor Washington, DC 20002
Award-winning and picturesque, Blue Valley Vineyard offers an ideal place to soak up some sunshine, clink glasses of regional wines,...
950-B South Pickett Street Alexandria, VA 22304

Visit Historic Attractions

Step right into the museum’s laboratory where archaeologists reconstruct Alexandria’s history, fragment by fragment. The museum’s exhibits highlight the process...
105 N. Union Street, Torpedo Factory Art Center Third Floor, #327
This City Hall was built in 1871-74, with Market Square and the Colonial-inspired additions that face the plaza built in...
301 King Street
Founded as a subscription library in 1794. Alexandria’s public library since 1937.
717 Queen Street
African Americans escaping slavery found refuge in Alexandria after Union troops occupied the city in 1861. The Rev. Clement “Clem”...
320 S. Washington Street
The Captain Rocky Versace Plaza and Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial honors the service and supreme sacrifice of the 67 men from...
Mount Vernon Recreation Center 2701 Commonwealth Avenue Alexandria, VA 22305
The Lee-Fendall House Museum is a historic house, located in Old Town, Alexandria. Since its construction in 1785, the house...
614 Oronoco Street -2308
Opened in 1792 by young Quaker pharmacist Edward Stabler, the family business operated until 1933. Patrons included George & Martha...
105-107 S. Fairfax Street
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial is a memorial and museum, an active Masonic temple, a research library, a cultural...
101 Callahan Drive Alexandria, VA 22301
USA Guided Tours, LLC™  is a sightseeing and transportation company based in Washington, DC and Falls Church. We offer fully...
1155 F Street, NW 10th Floor Washington, DC 20002
Visit two iconic homes on one site, both designed by preeminent architects of their respective ages. One used his architecture...
9000 Richmond Highway Alexandria, VA 22309
Originally the segregated library for Alexandria’s African American residents, the museum documents the local and national history, culture and contributions...
902 Wythe Street
Bring the whole family along for Alexandria’s Original Ghost & Graveyard Tour. Follow an 18th century costumed guide by lantern...
221 King Street

Historic Attractions and Museums

Alexandria Black History Driving Tour

Black History & Culture

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