The Visit Alexandria Visitor Center at Ramsay House, 221 King St., at Fairfax Street (tel. 703/838-5005), is open May through August, Sunday to Thursday 10am–6pm and Friday and Saturday 10am–7pm (10am–8pm June–Aug); in April and September through October, it’s open daily 10am–6pm, and November through April, daily from 10am–5pm (closed Thanksgiving, Dec 25, and Jan 1). Here you can pick up a map, self-guided walking tour, or brochures about the area and buy tickets to tours, shuttles, and nearby attractions. Consider buying a $20-per-person Key to the City Museum Pass (here or in advance online through the tourism board’s website, valued at $60), which includes admission to nine historic sites; 40% off coupons for admission to Mount Vernon and round-trip water taxi passes from City Cruises; and a 10% off coupon to use toward museum store purchases at 11 Alexandria attractions. Note that coupons can only be redeemed in person at each attraction, not when booking tickets online.
By Plane -- Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) is about 30 miles west of Alexandria (tel. 703/661-2700; www.mwaa.com). Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) is 2 miles north of Old Town via the George Washington Memorial Parkway (tel. 703/685-8000; www.mwaa.com). Washington's Metrorail provides easy transport from Reagan National to Alexandria via its Blue and Yellow lines. Taxis are available at both airports, and SuperShuttle (tel. 800/BLUE-VAN [258-3826]; www.supershuttle.com) operates frequent van service.
By Bike -- One of the nicest ways to see the Washington, D.C. skyline is from across the river while biking in Virginia., a journey complete with stunning views of the Potomac and grand landmarks. Rent a bike at Unlimited Biking’s location near The Wharf (there’s another in Old Town Alexandria). Hop on the pathway that runs along the Potomac River and head toward the memorials and Arlington Memorial Bridge. Note that in Washington, D.C., this is called Rock Creek Park Trail, but when you cross Arlington Memorial Bridge near the Lincoln Memorial into Virginia, the name changes to the Mount Vernon Trail. Cycling is also a great way to see Old Town Alexandria and Mount Vernon. The trail carries you past Reagan National Airport via two pedestrian bridges that take you safely through the airport’s roadway system. Continue to Old Town, where you should lock up your bike, have a look around, and grab a bite. If you’re proceeding to Mount Vernon, note that the section from Arlington Memorial Bridge to Mount Vernon is 17 miles and takes roughly 90 minutes to cycle.
By Car -- All the major car-rental firms are based at the airports. If you’re driving from the District, take the Arlington Memorial Bridge or the 14th Street Bridge to the George Washington Memorial Parkway south, which becomes Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria. Washington Street intersects with King Street, Alexandria’s main thoroughfare. Turn left from Washington Street onto one of the streets before or after King Street (southbound left turns are not permitted from Washington St. onto King St.), and you’ll be heading toward the waterfront and the heart of Old Town. If you turn right from Washington Street onto King Street, you’ll still be in Old Town, with King Street’s long avenue of shops and restaurants awaiting. Parking is inexpensive at nearby garages and at street meters, but if you want to pay nothing, drive a couple of blocks to streets off King Street, north of Cameron Street or south of Duke Street, where you can park for 2 or 3 hours for free. The town is compact, making it easy to get around on foot.
By Train -- The Amtrak station (tel. 800/872-7245 or 703/836-4339; www.amtrak.com) is at 110 Callahan Dr., at King Street.
By Metrorail -- Yellow and Blue Line trains travel to the King Street–Old Town station. From there, you can catch the free King Street Trolley, which operates every 15 minutes daily 11am–11pm, making frequent stops between the Metro station and Market Square. The Old Town Circulator routes 30 and 31, aboard the blue-and-gold DASH bus, (tel. 703/746-3274) will also take you from the King Street–Old Town metro station to the City Hall/Market Square stop, right across from the Alexandria Visitor Center. As of September 2022, DASH bus fares are free. You can also walk 1 mile from the Metro station into the center of Old Town.
By Water Taxi -- For a memorable ride across the Potomac River, consider taking a water taxi. City Cruises (tel. 800/459-8105) operates year-round water taxi service between the Wharf and Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria, and National Harbor. The 35-minute ride is not cheap ($35 adults, $33 seniors over 62 and military members, $28 children over 2, round-trip), but is scenic for sure. Check the website for schedule and reservations.
Old Town Alexandria is laid out in a simple grid. The original town grew north-south along the Potomac River, but most of what you will want to see and do today is on, or a few blocks off, King Street, the main east-west drag, between the waterfront and the King Street Metrorail station. Until a few years ago, visitors to Old Town seldom wandered west of Washington Street. But the Metro has spurred development near the station, and new stores and restaurants have sprouted up all along King Street, and a large commercial real estate development known as Carlyle resides south of the station between Duke Street and Eisenhower Avenue.
Going west from the Potomac River, Union to Lee Street is the 100 block; Lee to Fairfax, the 200 block; and so on. Numbers on the cross streets (more or less going north and south) are divided north and south by King Street. King to Cameron is the 100 block north, Cameron to Queen the 200 block north, and so on; King to Prince is the 100 block south, and so on.
As a glance at the walking tour map later in this chapter will indicate, Old Town's prime historic sites are contained within several blocks. Park your car for the day, don comfortable shoes, and start walking -- it's the easiest way.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.