Wander along Mount Vernon Avenue for raved-about restaurants, outdoor drink spots and al fresco festivals to see how Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood earned its motto, “Where Main Street Still Exists.” Minutes from Old Town Alexandria and steps from neighboring Arlandria, home of the famous Birchmere, Del Ray is known for its Wellness District, a large community of holistic health businesses and a creative streak energizing made-for-strolling streetscapes. Here are our top picks for how to experience Del Ray.
Grab Coffee and Morning Treats
Pick up a cup of joe on the go or linger at one of Del Ray’s buzzing breakfast and coffee spots. St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub, the neighborhood hub on Mount Vernon Avenue known as “Del Ray’s living room,” serves pastries and pick-me-ups to fuel book clubs, musicians and those craving company while working remotely. Stay through lunch for sandwiches from next-door Market 2 Market.
Set in a bright-lit industrial space just off the avenue, Swing’s Coffee Roasters has drawn coffee connoisseurs since opening as the D.C. roasters’ new headquarters in 2013. At Junction Bakery and Bistro on Mount Vernon Avenue, pair your latte with a buttery croissant, Brioche cinnamon roll or fresh-baked monkey bread.
Dine and Unwind Along the Avenue
Del Ray’s dining scene is brimming with tempting options, from casual hang-outs to date-night destinations. Brunch on French bistro fare at Del Ray Café, set in a 1920s historic home. Sample Chef Autumn Cline’s creations at Evening Star Café, or revel in the dairy-rich offerings at Cheesetique, including their award-winning pimento grilled cheese and crave-worthy Mac ‘N Cheesetique. New since 2020, Piece Out slings both foldable New York-style slices and deep-dish Detroit pies, while Spice Kraft Indian Bistro serves raved-about samosas and palaak chat.
Grab a burger with sweet potato waffle fries and marshmallow dipping sauce at Holy Cow, and choose a charity where the restaurant will donate a portion of your payment. Next door, sushi bar is a chic, adults-only spot tailor-made for a date night over sashimi and sake, while Pork Barrel offers crave-worthy barbecue with all the fixings. Pick up a satisfying sub from Al’s Steakhouse, or take your four-legged friends to Barkhaus—part dog park, part restaurant and bar—near Potomac Yard. End your evening on a sweet note at The Dairy Godmother, a regional destination for creamy Wisconsin-style frozen custard and confections.
Raise a Glass al Fresco
Say “cheers!” as you watch the world go by at one of Mount Vernon Avenue’s signature outdoor drinks spots. Relax under twinkling lights at Evening Star Café’s patio, The Front Porch, complete with bourbon slushies in the summer and table-side firepits in the fall. The Garden blends an extensive drinks list with a family and pet-friendly atmosphere.
Practice Self-Care with the Wellness District
Del Ray’s Wellness District is a wide-ranging community of more than 40 holistic health businesses. Experience healing in body and mind with practitioners at Chrysalis Chiropractic and Tranquil Healthcare. Get an endorphin boost with non-profit Vélocity Bicycle Co-Op, plus pilates and yoga spots, and look for wellness events year-round.
Experience Community Events and Festivals
All year round, Del Ray’s festivities bring together locals and visitors alike. Monthly April through October, First Thursdays bring a transformation to the streets with outdoor themed parties ranging from “Show Your Spirit” to “Dog Days in Del Ray.” Shop for unique treasures at The Del Ray Vintage & Flea Market, held on the second Saturday of every month. Art on the Avenue, occurring with the first tinge of fall the first Saturday of October, showcases the community’s creative spirit in an artistic bonanza of more than 300 creators along Mount Vernon Avenue. In addition to regular happenings like the weekly farmers market, the seasonal fun continues with events that draw a crowd from Halloween through the holidays.
See Bursts of Creativity Along Unique Streetscapes
Del Ray pops with personality and color that sets it apart from the rest of the city. Stroll by murals capturing aspects of Alexandria’s history and character, from the old St. Asaph Racetrack on Cheesetique’s “postcard” painting to famous former Alexandrian Jim Morrison mugging on St. Elmo’s exterior to the brand-new puppy portrait mural at 2309 Mount Vernon Avenue. While Old Town stands out for its colonial and Victorian architecture, Del Ray contains Art Deco details hidden in plain sight, including walls studded with decorative stone pilasters.
Stop by the neighborhood’s creative headquarters, Del Ray Artisans, to see their monthly exhibits and engage hands-on at a workshop. For more hidden treasures, wander over to the fanciful Poetry Fence at the corner of Windsor and Dewitt, and keep an eye out for fairy homes housing Del Ray’s tiniest inhabitants.
Header Image Credits, left to right: Misha Enriquez for Visit Alexandria; Instagram user @hungrytara; Kristian Summerer for Visit Alexandria