From vibrant public art to viciously hot chicken, discover what’s new and happening now in Alexandria, VA’s Old Town North neighborhood, situated north of Oronoco Street between the east side of N. Washington Street and the Potomac River waterfront. The burgeoning arts and cultural district is home to an influx of new dining destinations, plus virtual and performing arts spaces, with the help of grassroots organizations such as the Old Town North Community Partnership, Old Town North Alliance and more. Keep reading for ways to experience Old Town North.
Sip and Savor Old Town North
EDENS development at 530 First Street
The EDENS development serves as an anchor of the newest additions to Old Town North. First on the scene was Oak Steakhouse, part of a Charleston-based franchise offering a modern take on the classic American steakhouse. Sisters Thai and the Magnolia Dessert Bar boasts an Instagrammable interior, drinks and cuisine. Pick up one of Chef Moo’s Thai specialties, such as pla yum mango—crispy tilapia topped with spicy mango salad—followed by decadent, decked-out desserts like lychee raspberry cheesecake. Plus, fans of the Del Ray community hub St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub will love the brand-new Old Town North location for their caffeine fix.
Around the Neighborhood
Farther up Montgomery Street, Hank’s Oyster Bar opened with an expansive rooftop patio in 2022 from acclaimed regional restaurateur Jaime Leeds. In addition to hand-crafted pasta plates, dig into oven-fresh pizzas and classic Italian desserts from “Chopped” winner Chef Chris Edwards. Enjoy expansive Potomac River views when you dine on Café 44’s fourth-story balcony, or savor classic comforts from Haute Dogs & Fries and T.J. Stones. Head to The Italian Place for subs and sweets for a riverside picnic.
Dr. Zongmin Li of Yunnan by Potomac brings the “soul food” of her childhood in China’s Yunnan Province all the way to Old Town North. The menu’s signature silky, gluten-free mixian noodles form the perfect base for braised beef, shiitake mushrooms and more craveworthy combos. Meanwhile, Sunday in Saigon serves up dishes such as bánh khot (savory mini crepes), bánh cuốn (steamed rice rolls with sweet potato fritters) and phở. Check out its sister shop Yagút St. for everything from fresh-baked pastries to house-made boba.
Find Artistic Inspiration
It’s no secret that Old Town North hosts more than its fair share of the city’s arts scene; after all, The Art League school, MetroStage and Alexandria Symphony Orchestra are all headquartered in Old Town North. The Art League will expand its footprint in Old Town North beyond its school at Montgomery Center, which offers a variety of classes in painting, ceramics, fiber arts and jewelry making, to an indoor arts center at The Muse luxury condo development. While MetroStage is currently streaming shows virtually, the new theater space will open as part of The Venue residential complex.
For a taste of the neighborhood’s public art, start at Tide Lock Park at 1 Canal Center Plaza, home to the “Promenade Classique,” a neoclassical sculpture by French artists Anne and Patrick Poirier. Amidst waterfalls and pools, discover marble eyes, a jaw fountain and an obelisk doubling as a miniature Washington Monument. Make your way westward past Gables Old Town North to see the 2019-installed public art. Inspired by the historical shipping canal that once occupied the site, sculptor Tom Fruin created an 18-foot-tall glass mosaic sculpture of steel, acrylic and lights called Plinth.
The “Come Together” mural on the side of Rubini Jewelers at 632 N. Washington was painted by Alexandria high school students Shelby Bavin and Caroline Mitchell in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement in July 2020. The painting offers a twist on Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam,” as the Black and white hands meet as a symbol of solidarity. Later in the year, look for colorful commissioned artwork on Old Town North’s stormwater manhole covers.
Get Outside and Active
Old Town North offers plenty of ways to feel the fresh air, including riverside greenspaces such as Oronoco Bay Park and the Mount Vernon Trail, which snakes its way north into D.C. At Montgomery Park, you can spend a Thursday evening al fresco browsing the vendors at the Old Town North Farmers’ Market or improving your groundstrokes at one of the public tennis courts. For an endorphin boost, pedal off on a rental from Wheel Nuts Bike Shop or a Capital Bikeshare steed, or say “namaste” at River’s Edge Yoga.
Stay a While
Looking for a longer visit or a staycation? Book a room at Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria or Holiday Inn & Suites, and look for the upcoming Hotel AKA at the former location of Towne Motel on N. Washington Street.
Header Image Credit: Torch Pictures for Visit Alexandria