Wondering what is the best way to explore Alexandria, Virginia during the summer? Here, you can choose your own adventure and discover the storied streets of the third oldest locally designated historic district in the country by foot or bike, or hop on river cruises for iconic views of the D.C. monuments and George Washington’s Mount Vernon. From historic home tours to food tours, ghost tours and everything in between, these excursions leave no cobblestone unturned. Keep reading for all the best ways to explore Alexandria on guided and self-guided tours year-round.


Sightseeing Boat Tours

Canine_Cruises_CREDIT_Potomac_Riverboat_Co2_720x480_72_RGB (1)Image Credit: Potomac Riverboat Co.

Swap your land legs for scenic views with the wealth of boat tours and river cruises departing from Alexandria’s historic harbor. The Washington by Water Monuments Cruise is a fun, no-sweat solution to taking in all of the D.C. highlights with picturesque views from the Potomac River. Dog lovers can’t resist the popular Canine Cruise, which guarantees dog-friendly fun from April through October. History buffs won’t want to miss the narrated George Washington’s Mount Vernon by Water Cruise for an unforgettable trip to Mount Vernon.

Water Taxi to the National Mall, The Wharf & More

Image Credit: K. Summerer for Visit Alexandria

Need to get from Alexandria to D.C.? Turn your trip into a “tour” with the Water Taxi from Old Town to the National Mall or head to D.C.’s newest neighborhood on the waterfront via the Water Taxi from Old Town to The Wharf. En route you get skyline views of Old Town Alexandria and Washington lining the water, making the 30-minute excursion convenient and panoramic. Other popular taxis include the Baseball Boat to Nats games and the Water Taxi from Old Town to National Harbor, or the Water Taxi from Old Town to Georgetown for a leisurely 45-minute cruise along D.C.’s most iconic monuments to the historic neighborhood.

 Mount Vernon by Bike and Boat

Image Credit: George Washington’s Mount Vernon

There are three fun and easy ways to get to and from Mount Vernon, including a combination of boats and bikes. One option is the Mount Vernon by Bike and Boat package with Bike and Roll. How does it work? In the morning, get your reserved rental bike in Old Town Alexandria and pedal down the leafy Mike Vernon Trail along the Potomac River to the first president’s estate. Tour George Washington’s Mount Vernon (admission is included in the package), then catch a boat in the afternoon for a narrated cruise back to Old Town. You can also choose to bike both ways with Bike and Roll or hop on a narrated boat cruise with Potomac Riverboat Co.’s George Washington’s Mount Vernon by Water Cruise


Alexandria Food Tours

Foodies rejoice! You can eat your way through Alexandria on an Old Town Alexandria Food Tour, which lets you take in the neighborhood’s colorful past and some of the best-preserved architecture in the country while sampling celebrated dishes and learning about Alexandria’s culinary heritage. There’s no better way to soak up this city than with all five senses.

History Tours

Image Credit: Evan Michio for the City of Alexandria

Do you know where the Spite House is? Or who plotted the city of Alexandria in 1748? (Hint: his initials are GW.) Find out on one of Alexandria’s guided walking tours, where you can learn the stories behind the red brick facades of our historic buildings. Alexandria Tours covers Old Town’s famous citizens, history, unique architecture and more. Footsteps to the Past also offers a daily 90-minute history tour (plus it’s owned by a ninth-generation Virginian, so history runs in the family). Civil War buffs will love the Civil War tour of Alexandria with Footsteps to the Past. Discover Alexandria offers a number of history tours, including their classic tour called Discover Alexandria as well as history tours with unique themes which you can read about further in the “Specialty Tours” section of this blog post. One of Alexandria’s newest tour offerings, Manumission Tour Company, has already generated a lot of buzz from regional outlets like The Washington Post, and it’s not hard to understand why. Owned by a fourth-generation Alexandrian, Manumission Tour Company offers guided cultural heritage tours designed to highlight Alexandria’s extensive African-American history. “Alexandria’s Fight for Freedom” is a 90-minute walking tour that provides visitors with insight into slavery in Alexandria, and those who fought back and resisted against the “Peculiar Institution.” Tours are offered on weekends and include walking and bus tours that can be personalized with special requests.

Ghost Tours

Image Credit: K. Summerer for Visit Alexandria

For a chilly blast from the past, embark on a lantern-lit ghost tour of Old Town’s haunted historic sites. Follow a costumed guide around Old Town on the Ghost & Graveyard Tour with Alexandria Colonial Tours, regaling visitors with ghost tales, legends and folklore. Or take the Historical Haunts tour from Footsteps to the Past, another great way to get acquainted with Old Town’s spooky side and discover colonial history while you’re at it. You can also take the Nightly Spirits “Frights and Pints” ghost tour in Old Town, following a costumed tour guide walking through Alexandria’s most haunted and historic spots while stopping at 3-4 different pubs along the way.

Specialty Tours

Image Credit: C. Davidson for Visit Alexandria

Discover Alexandria is a veteran-owned business that offers an incredible variety of experiences for every tour-goer. Visitors can choose from a range of specialty tours including their newest offering, “Women of Civil War Alexandria,” a women’s history tour offered in partnership with the National Women’s History Museum; “Sweet History,” where you’ll visit some of Alexandria’s best sweet spots and learn about local history; the “Historical Pub Crawl,” where the area’s best beers and history meet; and the “Virginia is for Runners” 3-mile running tour that takes you off the main streets of Alexandria to explore Old Town’s hidden past. Other tours include their signature “Discover Alexandria” historical walking tour, “Shop Alexandria,” “Colonial and Revolutionary Alexandria,” and “Ghosts of Alexandria.” Dogs are welcome on many of the tours and guests can work with Discover Alexandria to customize private tours to fit their interests. Check their website for the latest schedule and special offerings.

Beer Tours

Alexandria is well known as a craft-beer destination and a historical hotspot with some of the best ghost tours in the region. What do you get when you combine the two? The Nightly Spirits “Frights and Pints” ghost tour in Old Town. On this 2.5-hour-long tour, visitors follow a costumed tour guide walking through Alexandria’s most haunted and historic spots while stopping at 3-4 different pubs along the way. It’s a fun and unique way to spend a night with friends, and can be booked for private groups. Discover Alexandria offers a regular “Historical Pub Crawl” where visitors can learn more about the history of the city, its beer, brewers and more.



Brew Tour

alexandria-va-tours-beer-brewery-port-cityImage Credit: Mike Pak of BeerlyInFocus

For those of us who prefer to drink in Alexandria’s rich history at their own pace, there’s Alexandria’s Historic Breweries Self-Guided Walking Tour and Pub Guide. Written by Capital Beer author Garrett Peck, this brochure directs beer-lovers through nearly 250 years of brewing in Alexandria, with designated “Hop Stops” pointing to top places to pause for a pint. Did you know that the capital region’s burgeoning craft beer scene has its roots in Alexandria? See the sites of 10 historic local breweries and then head to Port City Brewing Company for a tour of its modern craft brewery. Hoppy trails!

History Tours

Image Credit: K. Summerer for Visit Alexandria

Where did Martha Washington get prescriptions? Where did George Washington go to church? What was his favorite drinking spot? Walk in Washington’s footsteps on this self-guided tour through historic Old Town to discover the Alexandria our first president knew and loved. Visitors with smartphones can also download the Geotourist app for self-guided audio tours in multiple languages right on your smartphone. Simply download the Geotourist app on the Apple or Google app stores to access the tours. Be sure to check out the Exploring Alexandria tour in the Visitor Guide for even more exciting history to explore.

African-American History Tour

 Image Credit: Geoff Livingston

From colonial times to the Civil War to civil rights, Alexandria has seen African-American history being made. On this walking tour you learn about Alexandria’s role in the Civil War, the nonviolent sit-in protest that occurred in Alexandria decades before the 1960s, Alexandria’s connection to Solomon Northup and 12 Years a Slave, and the stories of African-Americans who shaped our city and our nation at Alexandria’s many sites steeped in Black heritage.


Image Credit: K. Summerer for Visit Alexandria

As Old Town Alexandria’s historic main thoroughfare, King Street offers 17 blocks brimming with anything-but-cookie-cutter finds. But with more than 160 independent retailers lining the brick sidewalks, where do you start? Lucky for you, we created a handy guide to shopping King Street so you don’t miss out on a great find.


Home Tours

Image Credit: Louise Kraft

Now in its 84th year, Alexandria’s Historic Homes & Garden Tour takes visitors inside the brick walls of 18th and 19th century row houses and historic sites, with peeks into lush courtyard gardens full of spring flowers and grand parlors that are sure to enchant. The Historic Alexandria Homes Tour takes place in the fall, and The Campagna Center Holiday Designer Tour of Homes happens each December.

Architecture Tours

From Georgian to Art Deco, the range of architecture in Alexandria merits a tour all its own. Each spring, experts from the Northern Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects lead free tours of the city’s architecture and urban design and their related history. Make sure you book well in advance! You can also take Visit Alexandria’s self-guided architecture tour  to learn more about one of the country’s oldest historic districts. For more niche architecture tours, try Visit Alexandria’s Art Deco Walking Tour of Del Ray.

Cherry Blossom Tours

Image Credit: C. Militzer for Visit Alexandria

In the spring, take the Potomac Riverboat Company’s Cherry Blossom Cruise for a crowd-free, relaxing tour of the pink buds in bloom along the Potomac.


In addition to the tours listed above, don’t miss the individual tours offered at many of our historic sites and museums. And if you’re traveling in a group, there are even more private tours you can schedule that let you dive in Alexandria’s rich history and culture.

To find out more about Alexandria tours, click here, or stop into the Alexandria Visitor Center for information and tickets to many tours.

Header image via Potomac Riverboat Co. Flickr

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