Visit a buzzing small-batch brewery, wander through rejuvenating green spaces and savor satisfying Ethiopian platters. Alexandria’s West End is the city’s headquarters for award-winning craft beer, international cuisine and some of the region’s top barbecue spots. Here are our top picks of things to do now.
Award-Winning Craft Breweries
Port City Brewing Company
Pull up a stool at award-winning Port City Brewing Company’s West End tap room, where you can also take a tour, enjoy trivia night or try out activities like Beer Yoga. One sip of craft brews like the Optimal Wit or Monumental IPA, and you’ll understand why the brewery has racked up accolades nationally and abroad.
Aslin Beer Co.
Aslin Beer Co.‘s neon-signed, art-splashed West End headquarters delights the brewery’s diehard fans who love their funky offerings. The beloved small batch brewery rotates through flavors including the “Astro Zombie” and the coconut and coffee-infused “How Now Brown Cow.” The Instagram-worthy tasting room experience includes arcade games, pop-a-shot basketball and eye-catching art, from quirky can designs to full-wall murals.
Sample a smorgasbord of global flavors in the West End, starting with Makeda Ethiopian Restaurant on Van Dorn St. Gather under the Ethiopian artwork-studded walls and use the injera bread to scoop up the Taste of Makeda platter. Kungfu Kitchen in Alexandria Commons specializes in northern-style Chinese food, especially hearty soup dumplings. For CDMX-style street tacos, head to raved-about Taqueria Picoso.
Rocklands Barbecue & Grilling Company is a D.C.-area institution, curating a fanbase over three decades with its wood-smoked barbeque. Regulars at the Alexandria outpost on S. Quaker Lane crave The Pearl, which layers mac & cheese, baked beans and saucy chopped pork into one satisfying stack. On Mondays, snag a free pork barbeque sandwich with the purchase of beer. Nearby on Duke Street, Smoking Kow BBQ is building its own barbecue empire. In 2019, Smoking Kow earned a place in Washingtonian’s annual “Best Places to Eat Cheap” list with dishes like barbeque tacos wrapped with housemade tortillas, the cheesy Bleu Kow brisket sandwich and crave-worthy burnt end platters.
Café Pizzaiolo on Fern Street is a favorite for families and friends gathering over a New York or Neapolitan-style pizza, ideally lounging in the laid-back sidewalk seating. At nautical-themed Clyde’s at Mark Center, customers can partake in a raw bar, creamy shrimp and grits and non-seafood specialties. City Kitchen, on S. Pickett Street, pays homage to the nation’s great cities, from Baltimore Crab Cakes to Savannah Chicken and Biscuits. Sample the crowd-please menu at Silver Diner for your weekend brunch, or take it easy in Van Dorn Diner‘s 50s-style setting.
Looking for an indoor spot where little ones can play and explore? Scramble, Eisenhower Avenue’s European-style play center, boasts everything from rocket ships to reading corners, perfect for blowing off steam and sharpening gross- and fine-motor skills.
From welding to 3D-printing to drones, technology is at your fingertips at The Garden at Building Momentum, a veteran-owned science and engineering consulting group offering teambuilding, coworking and public events at their Eisenhower home base.
Relax and rejuvenate at one of the West End’s outdoor havens. Fort Ward, constructed in 1861 to defend Washington, D.C. during the Civil War, welcomes visitors to engage in historic programming, visit the educational museum or simply pack a picnic to enjoy in the 35 acres of greenspace. For more fresh air, wander through Ben Brenman Park at Cameron Station, containing everything from sports fields to pond-side trails to a Sunday morning West End Farmers Market. Runners and cyclists can zoom through Holmes Run Trail, a five-mile, streamside path with a recently-revamped pedestrian/bicycle bridge. Then, experience flora and fauna up close at the Dora Kelly Nature Park and Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center.
Shows & Entertainment
Soak up the West End’s wide-ranging music and arts scene. Catch the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra at the West End’s Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts or at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Looking for some drama? Monumental Theatre Co. produces new works by millennial artists, performing its shows at Episcopal High School’s Ainslee Art Center. The Washington Post called its 2019 production of “Be More Chill,” a rival to the Broadway production, staged “as it was always meant to be.”
Find more to explore in Alexandria’s West End.
Header Image Credit: Matt Smith for Visit Alexandria