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Alexandria, Virginia
The Fun Side of the Potomac

Alexandria, Virginia is billed as "the fun side of the Potomac", but personally I think that's a bit of an understatement. In fact, compared to somber and straight-laced Washington DC, Alexandria seems downright giddy. Indeed, Alexandria is a fun destination in itself; but because of the availability of accessible public transportation, it's also an ideal home base for visitors to our nation's capitol.

In contrast to hectic Washington DC, Alexandria is a fairly laid back town. The best way to see Old Town Alexandria is to wander through the streets and enjoy the ambiance. The main thoroughfare of Old Town is King Street, and you'll find a bevy of shops, restaurants, bars and galleries along this main drag. You'll also find the Visitors Center at the corner of King and Fairfax Streets. Stop in and get a free Visitors Guide and a map of Old Town, before you hit the streets.

Photo of Historic Christ Chruch
Historic Christ Chruch
Photo by Charles Pannell

Must-see sites in Old Town Alexandria include Gadsby's Tavern Museum, the Carlyle House and Christ Church. Gadsby's Tavern Museum (703-838-4242) is one of the few remaining 18-century taverns in the US. The museum depicts a working tavern of the 1700's. You'll find the accessible entrance on the left side of the building. The first floor of the museum is accessible and there is a video of the second floor. Carlyle House (703-549-2997, www.carlylehouse.org) is located at 121 N. Fairfax St., and was built in 1752 by Alexandria's founder, John Carlyle. Today this Georgian mansion is filled with period furnishings and is open to the public for docent-led tours. The side basement entrance is accessible and there is lift access to the first floor. Top off your tour with a visit to Christ Church (703-549-1450, www.HistoricChristChurch.org) also known as "George Washington's Church". The level entrance is located on Columbia Street. Visit George Washington's pew, and then explore the level paths in the adjacent graveyard for an insightful glimpse into Alexandria's past.

For a different view of Alexandria, visit the revitalized waterfront area near Union and King Streets. Here you'll find the Torpedo Factory Art Center, and The Alexandria Archeology Museum. The Torpedo Factory Art Center (703-838-4565) is home to over 160 working artists in 83 studios. The accessible entrance is located on the waterfront side of the building, and there is elevator access to all floors. The Alexandria Archeological Museum (703-838-4399) is located on the third floor. There is no admission to this working museum, which features local artifacts. Outside the Torpedo Factory, you'll find a wide selection of accessible dining options along the waterfront promenade. Stop in for a quick snack at the food court, or enjoy a more leisurely meal at the Chart House Restaurant.

Getting around in Old Town Alexandria is pretty easy. The brick sidewalks on the main streets are well maintained and fairly smooth. Parking is limited, so get there early for the best selection. Take your placard and park free at any metered space (for four hours), or stop at the Visitors Center for a free all-day parking pass. Lodging is also limited in the Old Town area, but the most accessible choice is the Holiday Inn. The accessible DASH bus (www.dashbus.com) provides service from Old Town to the King Street Metro station.

The Metro (www.wmata.com) features roll-on access and connects to Washington DC and Regan Airport. The closest hotels to Alexandria's King Street Metro station are Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn and the Hilton. For an accessible tour of our nation's capitol, take the Metro to Washington DC's Union Station and buy an all day pass on the Tourmobile. No advance reservations are required for the accessible Tourmobile vehicle, but they are advisable. For more information call 703-979-0690 or visit www.tourmobile.com.

Photo of Accessible boarding on Ninas Dandy
Accessible boarding on Ninas Dandy
Photo by Charles Pannell

And finally, if you'd like to see our nation's capitol by water, then book a lunch or dinner cruise on the very accessible Nina's Dandy. Docked in Alexandria, Nina's Dandy offers roll-on access, ramp access over interior doorway coamings (lips), and an accessible restroom. For more information call (703) 683-6076 or visit www.dandydinnerboat.com. On a personal note, Nina's Dandy is the most accessible "dining cruise vessel" that I've ever seen. It's very nicely done.

Photo of Alexandria Visitor's Center
Alexandria Visitor's Center
Photo by Charles Pannell

For more information about Alexandria, contact the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association at (703) 838-4200 or visit www.FunSide.com. And for information on access throughout Virginia (including Alexandria) get your free Virginia Travel Guide for Persons with Disabilities from the Virginia Tourism Corporation at (800) 742-3935.

Accessible Lodging Choices

Call to make sure these properties meet your specific access needs.

  • Embassy Suites
    1900 Diagonal Rd.
    (703) 684-5900
  • Hampton Inn
    1121 King St.
    (703) 299-9900
  • Hawthorn Suites Alexandria
    420 N. Van Dorn St.
    (703) 370-1000
  • Hilton Alexandria Old Town
    1767 King St.
    (703) 837-0440
  • Holiday Inn Select Old Town
    480 King St.
    (703) 549-6080
  • Sheraton Suites
    801 N. Saint Asaph St.
    (703) 836-4700