Within a 15 minute metro train of Washington D.C is the fascinatingly and historical town of Alexandria. If you take the metro to King Street there is a free shuttle bus to the water front. What is striking about this town are the cobbled roads and vintage houses all in the beautiful shadow of the Potomac River.
It is easy to imagine how America looked 400 years ago and the Starbucks is actually an old public house with low beamed ceilings.
At the waterfront there is an artists studio centre that was once a torpedo factory. There is a laid back atmosphere to whole area and locals and tourists alike wander through the park at the waters edge. You can take a water taxi to central D.C or over to the National Harbor across the river.
The Capital Bike Share scheme extends into Alexandria so you can rent a bike and cycle along to Mount Vernon, the former home of President Washington on the shores of the Potomac.
The history of Alexandria is rich and you should seek out Christ Church just off from King Street. It is free to enter and the volunteer on duty will explain that both Washington and Robert E. Lee and their families were worshippers. There is a booth that Winston Churchill sat in when he visited Washington during the war. It survives today as did before the Civil War.
The modern town square with it’s ginormous Stars and Stripes is a wonderful place to sit outside and people watch. There is such a sense of community here and the evidence is everywhere advertising the next community events. King Street has boutiques and restaurants to stroll around as you advance towards the waterfront. The Capitol Building and Washington Monument are visible in the distance across the Potomac and the constant drone of descending airplanes into Ronald Reagan Airport is a constant reminder of how close you are to the busy city of D.C.
If you are staying in Washington I would recommend a half day here and because car parking is restricted I would take advantage of the metro to King Street and the shuttle that trundles up and down every 10 minutes or so. The visitors centre is on King Street so pop in and get maps and suggestions and why not join a guided walking tour to learn in depth of the historical importance that Alexandria had during the Civil War?