In Alexandria, some things never change. For centuries its cobblestone streets have inspired romantic strolls, artisans have sold handmade goods, and beer lovers (including George Washington) have downed pints of locally made brews. But Alexandria is also a dynamic city, ever-evolving, and in 2015 it’s just going to keep getting better, with hot new dining and a waterfront renaissance that is already underway.
Excited? Here are our top 5 picks for things to look forward to in Alexandria in 2015:
New waterfront dining at Blackwall Hitch
Image credit: Blackwall Hitch
The next chapter of Alexandria’s waterfront evolution is new restaurant Blackwall Hitch, taking over the old Food Pavilion this spring with an oyster bar, craft beer, abundant views of the Potomac and live acoustic and jazz performance performances by local musicians. Expect this rustic, elegant restaurant to fit right in to Old Town’s historic setting: its name comes from a 19th century nautical knot that allowed ships to dock and set sail more quickly as they headed from London to the sandy coasts of Virginia, and its food will be sourced from local waterways. How’s that for turning Alexandria’s waterfront renaissance up a notch?
Donut speakeasy at the Sugar Shack
Image credit: Visit Alexandria
Surely you’ve had a Sugar Shack donut by now (and if you haven’t, high-tail it over to North Old Town’s hottest new sweets spot stat). After all, no one wants to miss out on delicious handmade donuts in flavors ranging from chocolate glaze to Port City Porter.
But did you know that coming this spring, Sugar Shack will share a space with a new speakeasy-style bar? In a nod to both Alexandria’s history as a port city and the legendary ship captain who converted his mother’s hazelnut-filled pastries into donuts when he stuck them on the spoke of his steering wheel, Captain Gregory’s will serve handcrafted cocktails and donut-inspired bites behind a secret sliding door in the Sugar Shack. We got a sneak peek at the top-secret space, which will feature seaport-inspired décor including a boat made by the Alexandria Seaport Foundation. Rumor has it that when the nautical flag for “out of rum” is flying, you can slip back into Captain Gregory’s to bring your night to an extra-sweet close.
First U.S. location for Italian restaurant and market Carluccio’s
Image via Carluccio’s Facebook
Late this spring, European restaurant chain, café and market Carluccio’s is opening its first location this side of the Atlantic, right in the heart of Old Town Alexandria. At 100 King Street, in a lovingly restored Italianate building, you’ll find authentic food from all 21 regions of Italy, including house-made ravioli at the restaurant, rich espresso and olive oils in the Market, and cooking classes, fine wine tastings and more at this hub for gourmet goods.
Chef Alfio Celia was born into a Sicilian restaurant family but hails from DC, and after working for Top Chef Brian Voltaggio, he is returning to his Italian roots. Want to meet him? That’s easy—just visit the 2nd floor open kitchen, where you can sit at the kitchen bar and chat with the chefs while you dine. And as if that weren’t good enough, Celia is teaming up with the Alexandria Farmers Market and area growers to keep Carluccio’s produce fresh, local and seasonal. When you pair those fresh veggies with a glass of Italian wine from handpicked vineyards, la vita è bella!
Alexandria’s first waterfront hotel, Hotel Indigo, breaks ground
Image c/o Carr Hospitality
With a groundbreaking in 2015, here’s a sneak peek at Alexandria’s first waterfront hotel scheduled to open in June of next year. Hotel Indigo’s construction will transform the former Cummings warehouse site just below Waterfront Park with a design evoking Alexandria’s historic wharves during the harbor’s heyday. My favorite detail? A 5,000 square foot terrace on the exterior of the hotel with fire pits and food and drink service for guests and the general public. Guests can also enjoy incredible views of the Potomac and fine dining sourced locally and seasonally.
French tall ship L’Hermione visits Alexandria
Image via Flickr user VV-17
From June 10-12, 2015, the French tall ship Hermione will dock at Alexandria’s historic harbor, offering public visits on board the ship and a traveling exhibit on the pier that will tell the story behind the nearly 200-foot-tall vessel. Never heard of the Hermione? Here’s a teaser:
The year was 1780. Americans were fighting their war for independence from Britain, and General Washington’s troops had just undergone the harshest winter of the 18th century. But Washington’s friend, the Marquis de Lafayette, was on his way from France in the vessel Hermione to bring good news: the French government had agreed to send troops to aid the American cause.
A few decades later, Lafayette visited Alexandria and was greeted by adoring fans who honored the war hero with multiple balls and events in his honor. (AKA an early Alexandria rock star!)
Now, nearly 200 years after Lafayette’s visit to Alexandria, an exact replica of the ship that brought Lafayette to America in 1780 and launched a long-lasting partnership between America and France will sail across the Atlantic for the U.S.—and Alexandria is one of its ports of call. What better way to celebrate Alexandria’s—and America’s—heritage?
To find out what’s happening right now in Alexandria, keep your eyes on Extra Alex or follow us on Twitter for the latest buzz.
Header image credit: Francis Latreille