From eye-catching public artwork to an influx of new restaurants to immersive Black history experiences, there are plenty of new things to do in Alexandria, Virginia, just minutes from Washington, D.C., in 2022. Keep reading to learn about delicious dining trends, new spots to shop and create, pet-friendly outposts and more.
New at Alexandria’s Waterfront
Expanded Dining in Southern Waterfront District
Old Town’s new southern waterfront district blossomed last year with the opening of the Robinson Landing development, anchored by outstanding waterfront restaurants BARCA Pier and Wine Bar and Ada’s on the River. New rooftop and balcony dining joined the area in mid-to-late 2021: Misha’s Coffee’s new Prince Street location includes rooftop seating with a river view, while local favorite Chadwicks expanded its outdoor seating with a balcony and new patio area.
These brand-new al fresco dining options are joined by Picnic and Peonies, where picnickers can revel in the photogenic luxury setups with the option of adding Hummingbird’s elevated cuisine. Promising another sophisticated dining experience, Lady Camellia will cross the river from Georgetown to set up an elevated tearoom next to Salon Monte, steps from waterfront Hotel Indigo. Before dining, work up an appetite with Potomac Paddle Club, the first “cycleboat” in the region, which added Alexandria to their cruise line-up in May 2021. The 2022 cruise season will feature a larger pontoon that can seat 10 to 20 people.
Love is in the Air with New Temporary Art Installation
I Love You, the latest temporary art installation on Old Town Alexandria’s waterfront from late March to November 2022, is a luminous declaration of affection from the city to the public, creating a photo-ready postcard of Alexandria which represents the city’s welcoming spirit and a message of hope through the COVID-19 pandemic. Created by award-winning and globally recognized R & R STUDIOS, I Love You is a plaza with the words “I Love You” scripted in rose-hued metal and lighted neon standing 15 feet high above a pink ground mural emulating a giant “magic carpet.” This “social sculpture” utilizes three words at once universal and utterly personal to establish a place of encounter, friendship and camaraderie on the river. Miami-based R & R Studios is helmed by husband-and-wife Argentinian-born, American architects Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt. I Love You is the fourth installation of the City of Alexandria’s annual temporary public art series, “Site See: New Views in Old Town.”
Historical Experiences Along the Waterfront
In spring 2022, look for the launch of the new southern waterfront route of the self-guidedAlexandria African American Heritage Trail. The trail, presented in the form of an online StoryMap, highlights the people, places and neighborhoods along the Potomac, from the time of Alexandria’s founding through the 20th century. A few miles north of Old Town, George Washington’s Mount Vernon holds centuries of history from its perch overlooking the Potomac River. In March 2022, the museum galleries of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum & Education Center will reopen with the innovative permanent exhibition, “Mount Vernon: The Story of an American Icon,” exploring the history of Mount Vernon and the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.
King Street Pedestrian Block and Outdoor Dining Trend
Just steps from Alexandria’s evolving waterfront, locals and visitors alike can relish in scenic views along the 100 block of King Street, a pandemic adaptation made into a permanent pedestrian-only hub in October 2021. Al fresco dining has thrived since the beginning of the pandemic and is ever-evolving as new outdoor dining destinations emerge in Old Town and across various neighborhoods, further enhancing the City’s European flair and appeal. Find the latest outdoor dining ideas here.
Powerful New Exhibitions at Reopened Freedom House Museum
In spring 2022, Freedom HouseMuseum at 1315 Duke Street reopens to the public with three powerful new exhibitions showcasing Alexandria’s Black history and the Black experience in America. The interior renovation and reopening follow the National Historic Landmark’s acquisition by the City of Alexandria in 2020. The museum is located on the site of what was once the largest domestic slave trading firm in the United States, where thousands of enslaved men, women and children were sold and imprisoned before being trafficked to the slave markets in the South.
The new first floor exhibition was designed by D.C.-based firm Howard+Revis Design, whose former clients include the Smithsonian Institution and the National Civil Rights Museum, and tells the story of Alexandria’s role in the American domestic slave trade. The primary exhibition gives voice to the lives controlled, brutalized and suppressed by enslavers and restores the Black presence too often left out of America’s history. The second floor spotlights the traveling exhibition, Determined: The 400-year Struggle for Black Equality from the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, which features profiles of 30 individuals, more than 100 evocative objects and multimedia interpretive content. This exhibition is supplemented with exhibits highlighting Alexandria’s African American history from the 18th century to the present day. The third-floor exhibition features Before the Spirits are Swept Away: African American Historic Site Paintings by Sherry Z. Sanabria. Gifted to the City of Alexandria by the late artist’s family, these paintings represent African American sites across the United States.
New Art Experiences
Good Night Moon Room
Extended to March 13, 2022, head to the Torpedo Factory Art Center to check out the Good Night Moon Room, created and curated by artist Lisa Schumaier and featuring the works of multiple Torpedo Factory artists. The immersive installation is a cozy creation meant to share a “literary hug” during days when you are feeling on edge, while also nodding to the importance of reading to keep our world safe.
New Galleries in Old Town
Explore King Street’s art scene as two new galleries join Kyo Gallery along the middle of King Street. Peruse exclusive hand-painted art, vintage and antique rugs, and glass and acrylic furnishings from high-end Zinat Gallery, just opened in November 2021. Engage with contemporary and visionary art at Galactic Panther Art Gallery which opened in August, featuring changing exhibits and regular events.
Al Fresco Art Attractions
Several new and upcoming outdoor art installations add visual appeal across Alexandria, joining luminous I Love You, the latest temporary art installation on Old Town Alexandria’s waterfront from late March to November 2022.
Del Ray builds on its artsy reputation with an eponymous, highly Instagrammable floral wall adjacent to Kaizen Tavern. Just blocks away, find a colorful, 15-foot neighborhood marker by Kirk Sees at Pat Miller Square, installed in fall 2021. In the West End, Burke Branch Library boasts Project One Studio’s new piece entitled “Confluent Threads,” representing the different people, cultures and ideas that come together and intertwine at the library.
New murals add eye-catching pops of color across the city. In South Old Town, see portraits of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and poet and activist Amanda Gorman, outside The Linder Academy. In summer 2021, artist Joanna Kosmides Edwards paired quotes with paintings of each iconic individual as a child as a nod to the school inside. Bookworms can bask in Old Town Books’ “City of Readers” mural created by artist Sarah Apple in September 2021, while runners will feel a new spring in their step when they see Pacers Running’ “For Every Run” display, designed by Kathrine Campagna of No Kings Collective in October. At ESP Tea and Coffee, mural lovers can check out the back courtyard to peep artist Zen Xaria’s psychedelic piece, while Pedego Alexandriafeatures a grinning Cheshire cat on its periodically changing mural by Elise Ketch. In the Eisenhower Valley, catch “A Bright Idea,” a swirl of cascading colors on Building Momentum’s façade painted by Nicholas Zimbro and Shepard Norman last fall.
Emerging “Shop Small” Experiences and New National Retailers
Discover (and Join) Artisans and Makers
In 2021, new storefronts, pop-ups and an e-commerce business, many with meaningful missions, emerged throughout Old Town. Shop Made in Virginia, the highly anticipated sister store to Shop Made in DC, opened in November, showcasing the talents of VA-based designers, artists and makers, plus offering virtual and in-person workshops and crafty classes. In October, Old Town welcomed The B.E.S.T. Gift Shop, promoting and supporting artisans with disabilities from across the U.S. with products such as scarves, jewelry, soaps and candles, along with MANSE, a housewares and lifestyle showcasing artisan-made products just off King Street. Recently expanded e-commerce business Bashford & Pitt offers scented soy wax candles inspired by moments in history that are available online and at the Alexandria Visitor Center.
Pop-Ups on the Move
Made in ALX, a collective of more than 40 Alexandria-based crafters, artists and makers, will present a pop-up later this spring/summer and again during the 2022 holiday season, while continuing to showcase artists at its online store year-round. Launched as a free and fair-trade pop-up gallery and market at Founder’s Hall in December 2020, Intertribal Creatives‘ recently opened permanent space in Old Town continues to showcase the work of Indigenous creators from across North America. New this year, they will host more beading classes and plan to begin publishing “how to” crafting videos. Also, in addition to featuring products through their online store, they are carrying new, in-store exclusives with a variety of home goods and food items.
New and Coming-Soon National Retailers
On King Street, newly opened national retailer Simon Pearce introduced Vermont-based glassware in May 2021. Meanwhile, sportswear brand Athleta has just opened on King Street and beloved grocery store chain Wegmans is anticipated to open at the Carlyle Crossing development in May.
D.C. Dining Influencers
Some of the shining stars of D.C.’s kitchens have crossed the Potomac to bring their culinary stylings to Alexandria. Kismet Modern Indian, open in Old Town since fall 2021, showcases the MICHELIN award-winning fare of Chef Ajay Kumar, known for his elevated Indian fare at Karma Modern Indian in Chinatown. Meanwhile, Jack Caminos borrows from his boozy ventures at Compass Rose and Thip Kao to debut new creations at Old Hat Bar, alongside business partner Tim Prosser, when the highly anticipated gastropub reopens in early 2022.
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Find mouthwatering booze-free beverages at Umbrella Dry Drinks, a non-alcoholic bar and bottle shop debuting a February 2022 pop-up in Old Town, with the possibility for establishing a permanent location in the future. Or, visit ESP Tea and Coffee for non-alcoholic herbal elixirs including Kava, a calming alcoholic alternative with origins in the Pacific Islands.
Rooftop and Balcony Dining
In addition to a newly debuted balcony at Chadwicks and Misha’s Coffee’s Prince Street location, two Old Town eateries promise rooftop views to sip and dine. In early 2022, Hank’s Oyster Bar, by regionally-acclaimed Chef Jamie Leeds, will migrate to the former Hank & Mitzi’s location in Old Town North, complete with a brand-new rooftop dining experience. Meanwhile, Village Brauhaus promises an al fresco penthouse perch to Bavarian brews and plates, starting in spring 2022.
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Coffee lovers have plenty of new options to explore—Here’s a taste of the caffeine-infused openings throughout the city. To visit just-opened Turkish Coffee Lady is to travel to the West Asian nation by mug. As of January 2022, guests can sip coffee prepared in a “cezve” and spiced with cardamom and mastic, see intricate artwork crafted with coffee grounds by an in-house artist and more. Meanwhile, Cortado Café, which opened in fall 2022 in the West End, is inspired by the owners’ Moroccan heritage and the tradition of gathering to sip and socialize. Later in 2022, the team behind Chop Shop Taco and The Peoples Drug will debut a dazzling new outpost, Electric Café, inside the West End’s Brandywine Building.
Pet-Friendly Experiences Abound
Alexandria has certainly earned its place among America’s top dog-friendly cities and is the only community in Virginia recently designated as a BETTER CITY FOR PETS by Mars Petcare in 2022. New this year, Old Town Alexandria’s waterfront will host the inaugural ALX Dog Walk event on Saturday, April 2, 2022, a two-mile dog walk organized to raise funds towards protecting the City’s environment and educating the community on sustainability practices. Happy Cat Hotel and Spa opened in November 2021 featuring luxury hotel rooms and a kitty spa, and coming-soon indoor dog park and bar Snouts & Stouts will join many local businesses including 2020 newcomers Barkhaus and Mount Purrnon Cat Café & Wine Bar. Explore more pet-friendly things to do here.
Wedding Trends Include Hyper-Local Vendors and Indoor-Outdoor Venues
Alexandria is wooing engaged couples with on-trend wedding choices including micro-wedding options and more. Couples are striving to support and promote local businesses, while also seeking vendors that represent their respective communities and/or orientations. Unique venues like Building Momentum’s charming rustic pergola in The Garden or the new ALX Community – Atrium’s rooftop space on S. Washington Street make for an authentic celebration. Duos can shop for one-of-a-kind party favors or gifts for bridal and groomsmen parties the newly opened Shop Made in VA, while also hiring local sweet treat distributors such as Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats or getting pampered at local salons like Salon Monte or the new Holistic Hair Studio. When it comes to catering, you’ll continue to see individual servings trend from DC region catering companies including Windows Catering Company and Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company.
In 2021, apartment-style hotel brand Sonder expanded their Alexandria footprint from The Avenue Flats in Del Ray to include a King Street location called The Grace. New in 2022, Alexandria’s largest hotel property, the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation slated to open by the end of January. Meanwhile, the Lorien Hotel and Spa, formerly the Lorien Hotel and Spa by Kimpton, is now an independent hotel managed by Davidson Hotels & Resorts’ luxury collection, Pivot Division. The Lorien will embark on an updated modeling concept in 2022 and reopen Brabo Tasting Room as a new concept this summer. The property will continue its successful partnership with the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra. Later this fall, the former Holiday Inn Suites Hotel is anticipated to be converted into an AKA property. The AKA brand offers a long-term stay option with sophisticated, spacious hotel accommodations.
Header Image Credits, left to right: Building Momentum Facebook page; Evan Michio for Visit Alexandria; Adedayo “Dayo” Kosoko for Visit Alexandria