Your Guide to Free Things to Do Outside in Alexandria
Looking for an outdoor adventure? Follow our guide for completely free activities in Alexandria, VA, from finding hidden photo spots to taking historic walking tours to relaxing in natural escapes. Keep reading to learn more.
NOTE: Hours and accessibility at some parks and attractions may be affected due to COVID-19. Please check the current status before visiting.
Go on an Architecture Photo Adventure
Alexandria is dotted with photo-ready architectural gems across the city—here are just a few spots to get you started.
Spite House: Cobalt-blue Spite House, America’s skinniest historic home, clocks in at a diminutive 7 feet wide. Pose with arms wide in front of the doorway on the 500 block of Queen Street.
Captain’s Row: Feel transported on Captain’s Row, the colonial streetscape on the 100 block of Prince Street, with the smoothed-down cobblestones beneath your feet and light dappling through the arched tree canopy.
Christ Church: Stroll outside centuries-old Christ Church on N. Washington Street, built in the English country style and outfitted with a courtyard and cemetery which opens up into a sacred escape filled with magnolia trees, azaleas and more.
George Washington Masonic National Memorial: Take a sensational sunset shot at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, the Egyptian-inspired tower offers a sweeping vista eastward of Carlyle, Old Town and the Potomac.
Wilkes Street Tunnel: Overgrown ivy sprawls over this former railroad tunnel, hauntingly evocative of its mid-19th-century origins. Scout both entry points, about two blocks apart, to find your favorite view.
Find more Insta-worthy locations, from doors with decorative details to waterside photo-ops, plus the route for another architectural expedition on foot.
Explore Free Historical Experiences
Experience history where it happened as you embark on the self-guided experiences below, then find more to explore.
Courageous Journey African American History Driving Tour: Embark on a Washington Post-endorsed ten-site driving tour to start exploring Alexandria’s wealth of Black historic sites, from the Edmonson Sisters’ Duke Street statue to the Southern cornerstone of D.C. laid by Benjamin Banneker. Prefer a walking tour? Follow our Duke Street Black History Trail.
Self-Guided Old Town Historic Walking Tour: Explore our self-guided walking tour of Old Town Alexandria’s iconic historic sites, from Freedom House Museum to the Athenaeum to Murray-Dick Fawcett House and more.
Historic Cemeteries: Visit tranquil Ivy Hill Cemetery, dating back to the early 1800s in Alexandria’s Rosemont neighborhood. Then, head to the Contrabands & Freedmen Cemetery Memorial on S. Washington St., where some 1,800 African American men, women and children were buried after fleeing enslavement to Union-occupied Alexandria during the Civil War.
See Bursts of Color and Art Around the City
Visit al fresco artwork splashed across the city, and explore more with our Old Town Art Walk.
Temporary Public Art Installation: Visit Old Town’s newest public art piece, Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies, by Olalekan Jeyifous, until November 2020 at Waterfront Park. The contemplative installation frames Alexandria’s African American history through the lens of the city’s industrial and merchant history from the 17th to 20th centuries. Learn more about how Jeyfious’ work stitches Alexandria’s story together here.
*While this installation’s run at Waterfront Park has ended as planned, you can find it for a limited time near the Old Town Pool at 1609 Cameron Street where it has been relocated.*
Tide Lock Park: Head to 1 Canal Center Plaza and encounter sculptural surprises at Tide Lock Park, home to the “Promenade Classique,” a neoclassical sculpture among waterfalls and pools designed by French sculptors Anne and Patrick Poirier.
Rainbow-Hued Murals: Enjoy bursts of color throughout Old Town and Del Ray, from the ombre-orange Beaded Curtain mural at Torpedo Factory Art Center, by Erin Elizabeth Curtis, to the galaxy gal painted outside fibre space by Matt McCullen. Discover more murals around the King Street Mile here. In Del Ray, stroll by murals capturing Alexandrian’s history, such as the old St. Asaph Racetrack on Cheesetique’s “postcard” painting, by Chad Brady, and see the Peter Pan-inspired silhouette outside Carlyle’s Lost Boy Cider, by Keith Grubbs.
Enjoy Refreshing Green Spaces
Find fresh air and scenic views with the ideas below, and experience more outdoor activities across the city.
Waterfront Parks: From Oronoco Bay to Founders Park and from Waterfront Park to Jones Point Park, Alexandria is filled with riverside green space. Take your pick and play, picnic or plant yourself on the grass to soak up some vitamin D—and don’t forget your four-legged friends.
Mount Vernon Trail: Catch a cool breeze off the river along with glimpses of wildlife as you explore sprawling Mount Vernon Trail, spanning the George Washington Memorial Parkway from Rosslyn to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
River Farm: Known as a wedding destination for a reason, The American Horticultural Society’s River Farm offers a magical escape just four miles south of Old Town, with 25 acres of landscaped gardens and panoramic Potomac River views.
Find deals and discounts here, plus more free things to explore.
Header Image Credits, left to right: Laura Hatcher Photography for the City of Alexandria; Instagram user @scenefrommyrun; Misha Enriquez for Visit Alexandria