From new riverside private dining to immersive group tours on the water, there are plenty of new things to do in Alexandria, Virginia, just minutes from Washington, D.C., in 2021. Keep reading to learn about how Alexandria venues are capitalizing on the micro-wedding trend, new virtual experiences and Alexandria’s expanding hotel portfolio.
New Waterfront Eateries Add Ample Meeting and Event Space
Alexandria’s waterfront dining scene continues to grow with two concepts from Alexandria Restaurant Partners: Ada’s on the River and BARCA Pier & Wine Bar.
Ada’s on the River opened in January 2021, drawing design inspiration from Ada Lovelace, a 19th-century female mathematics pioneer, and featuring a menu centered around meat, seafood and vegetarian dishes cooked to perfection in the wood-burning oven. The 260-seat restaurant has 160 indoor seats at dining tables, including a private 32-seat dining room, plus 100 outdoor patio seats. The private dining room includes a drop-down screen for presentations, river views and flexible seating arrangements. Original art in the private dining space features Ada, her father, the poet Lord Byron, and other figures such as Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Emily and Charlotte Bronte. The kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Randall J. Matthews, a Maryland native who has worked with some of Washington, D.C.’s most celebrated kitchens under Michelin-starred chefs, including Chef Adam Sobel at Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons in D.C., and who worked with James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Sam Fox to open True Food Kitchen.
BARCA Pier and Wine Bar will open near Ada’s in spring 2021. BARCA Pier will be a seasonal outdoor eatery inspired by Barcelona’s beach bars and made from carved-out shipping containers, with a menu consisting of mainly Mediterranean small plates, infused with Greek, Italian and Moroccan flavors. BARCA Wine Bar, which will be open throughout the year, will boast an intimate, sophisticated setting and vast selection of unique and domestic wines from around the world. It will be an ideal spot for cocktail receptions or casual gatherings up to 40 guests indoors. The exterior patio provides outdoor seating for 24 with sweeping Potomac River views.
Experience the Tall Ship Providence with Specialty Group Cruises, Virtual Classes and New Pier
Alexandria’s newest waterfront attraction, tall ship Providence, will continue to set sail with expanded educational programs and cruise schedules in 2021. This celebrity tall ship, which has appeared in the international blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean, is a full-scale reproduction of one of the most renowned ships in the Continental Navy. This year, the Tall Ship Providence Foundation will build a brand-new pier and visitor center at Waterfront Park, bringing Providence closer to the action at the marina and King Street when it opens this summer. In the meantime, Providence will expand virtual classes on topics including maritime, nautical and colonial history. The 2021 cruise season kicks off in April with specialty cruises featuring themed tastings with craft beer, wine, rum and more. Providence also offers private events and charters, including exclusive dinners for eight in the Captain’s Cabin, and offers ALX Insider Perks for additional savings.
New Virtual Experiences Amplify the Hybrid Meetings Experience
Local vendors continue to roll out innovative virtual experiences to give remote delegates a virtual taste of Alexandria from the comfort of their own home. Discover everything from Zoom yoga sessions with Pies Fitness Yoga and customized at-home cocktail curations with Cheers in a Box to virtual cooking classes with Alexandria Restaurant Partners to keep your remote delegates engaged from afar, while also making them feel like they are part of a hybrid meeting here in Alexandria. Get even more creative by elevating your team chemistry with the experienced trainers of Building Momentum through their immersive week-long “Innovation Boot Camps” or “Wine and Welding” after-hours activities. Check out more virtual experiences here.
Our team of destination experts also partnered with local vendors in 2020 to give attendees a virtual taste of Alexandria from home. Stroll through historic Old Town and take in sights of Alexandria’s vibrant waterfront or walk through some of Alexandria’s top hotels and state-of-the-art facilities for executive to midsize meetings. Check out virtual tours here.
Alexandria’s Hotel Portfolio to Expand in Coming Years
Alexandria’ hotel offerings continue to expand with an extensive multimillion-dollar renovation of the Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria on North Saint Asaph Street in Old Town North in June 2020. The renovation will include enhanced landscaping, a refreshed lobby with booths as well as an elevated bar and coffee experience, revamped meeting spaces with tech-enabled studios, mobile food orders and an expanded fitness center to allow for physical distancing during workouts.
Nearby in Old Town North is the major new development in 2019 at 530 First Street from EDENS, a developer known for creating leading-edge dining and entertainment destinations like the Mosaic District in Fairfax and Union Market in D.C. Anchored by West Elm and a stained-glass plinth piece by artist Tom Fruin, and welcoming Oak Steakhouse and Hinata Sushi Bar and Grill in the development’s first year, EDENS is coming to life with a slate of new openings. Nearby, you can explore newly opened Hank & Mitzi’s, available for a first-floor buyout and anticipating a new rooftop event space this spring.
Beyond 2021, a new apartment-hotel – the Sonder property – is under construction on King Street above the Warby Parker store, expanding upon an existing property in Del Ray. Work is underway throughout 2021 to restore the historic George Mason Hotel to its roots. The building, considered one of the best examples of Colonial Revival architecture in the city, served as office space for decades and is expected to open as a hotel, operated by Aparium Hotel Group, in 2022. The hotel will have two buildings located at 699 Prince St. in Old Town and will feature 141 hotel rooms, two restaurants, rooftop dining and outdoor dining. Also under construction is a five-story Holiday Inn Express that will replace the former 1955 Towne Motel in Old Town North. The Towne Motel was torn down in 2020 and a historic townhouse was moved 150 feet to make room for the excavation of an underground parking garage and foundation for the Holiday Inn Express.
The Leadership Collection at Alexandria™ Markets Crisis Recovery
The Leadership Collection, launched by Visit Alexandria in January 2020, showcases the offerings of an exclusive collection of three nationally recognized executive leadership and teambuilding opportunities through the George Washington Leadership Institute at Mount Vernon, McChrystal Group and Building Momentum. In 2021, our meetings team launched a revamped webpage expanding on each partner’s marketing crisis recovery programs, teambuilding programs and facilities. Check it out here.
New Black History & Culture Experiences For Groups
Pre-dating the surge in the Black Lives Matter movement catalyzed by the murder of George Floyd, the City of Alexandria, the Office of Historic Alexandria and Visit Alexandria had a renewed commitment to racial equity, with major projects and programs underway, including the City’s hiring of their first Race and Social Equity Officer, Jaqueline N. Tucker, in 2019. In 2020, new Black history experiences included the Duke Street Black History Trail, Courageous Journey: Alexandria’s Black History Driving Tour, a waterfront African American Heritage Trail and an Underground Railroad-themed tour from Manumission Tour Company. These outdoor tours can enhance a unique meeting break experience for attendees or provide an after-hours activity to be enjoyed at their leisure.
Black history and culture experiences are expanding in 2021. In January, the Office of Historic Alexandria launches a new online video series about African American changemakers called “Agents of Change.” In the spring, look for a new anthology edited by Alexandria Black History Museum director Audrey Davis, Alexandria at War 1861-1865: African American Emancipation in an Occupied City, which examines the African American experience in Civil War Alexandria.
In the summer, the new southern route of the African American heritage waterfront trail will launch in the form of an online StoryMap that can be viewed from home or from a mobile phone while walking the route. Also this summer, Freedom House Museum plans to reopen, following the City of Alexandria’s purchase of the museum in 2020 and a series of renovations and COVID closures, to tell the story of the thousands of men, women and children who passed through the slave trading firm. Upon reopening, and through the end of the year, the museum will feature a traveling exhibition from the Virginia Museum of History and Culture entitled “Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality” which features profiles of 30 individuals, more than 100 evocative objects and multimedia interpretive content.
Micro-Wedding Trend Embraced by Versatile Event Venues
Instead of postponing their wedding, some couples are embracing the micro-weddings trend as opportunity to have an intimate, ultra-romantic day without breaking the bank, and this trend is thriving in Alexandria. Couples can explore Alexandria’s pristine micro-wedding spots from secret gardens at the historic Carlyle House and the tranquil 18th-century English garden with iconic magnolias at The Rectory on Princess Street. Scenic waterfront settings like Hummingbird’s patio are complimented by a delightful oyster roast. Achieve every Pinterest-worthy detail you’ve ever dreamed of at Alexandria’s chic eateries and buzz-worthy rooftops like the rooftop terrace with panoramic waterfront views at Café 44. Find unforgettable intimate spaces in spacious venues such as under the historic tree at George Washington’s Mount Vernon or on the steps of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. You can also take advantage of micro-wedding packages like the one at Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria, accommodating 20 guests on the newly renovated outdoor terrace or Sheraton Club Lounge.
Header Image Credit: CS3 Photography (left); Johnathan Rogers Photography (right)