From new restaurants with indoor-outdoor space and coming-soon rooftops 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 this year’s wedding trends, Alexandria’s expanding hotel portfolio and more.
Expanded Dining Experiences Along Alexandria’s Waterfront
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, both with ample indoor-outdoor seating offerings for groups. 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. Experiences can be indoors or outdoors and as small as two people or as large as 120 people, making them a perfect option for weddings, celebrations and more. 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.
New Outdoor and Rooftop Meeting Spaces
In addition to a newly debuted balcony at Chadwicks and Misha’s Coffee’s Prince Street location, two Old Town eateries promise rooftop views for private events. Hank’s Oyster Bar, by regionally-acclaimed Chef Jamie Leeds, has migrated to the former Hank & Mitzi’s location in Old Town North, complete with a brand-new rooftop dining space. Meanwhile, Village Brauhaus promises an al fresco penthouse perch to Bavarian brews and plates, and Café 44 will expand its indoor footprint this summer.
King Street Pedestrian Block and Outdoor Dining Trend
Just steps from Alexandria’s evolving waterfront, meeting attendees 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.
Renovations and Rebrands to Alexandria’s Hotel Portfolio in 2022
Hotel renovations and openings will proliferate in 2022 and beyond. Alexandria’s largest hotel property The Hilton Alexandria Mark Center just revealed the majority of its multimillion-dollar renovation including renovations to all of the property’s event and meeting spaces encompassing over 55,000 square feet of space. Visitors can anticipate new furniture and artwork enhancements in all meeting spaces, plus a new café near the lobby.
The former Holiday Inn Suites Hotel will be converted into the AKA Hotel, anticipated to open winter of 2022. The AKA brand offers a long-term stay option with sophisticated spacious hotel accommodations. The hotel team is working diligently to share details of the transformative renovation.
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 has embarked on an updated modeling concept in 2022 with an “Elevated Dream State” theme and continuation of its overall luxury experience. The Brabo Tasting Room will reopen in summer 2022 with a new concept. While the property itself was recently renovation, minimal guestroom updates and concept renovations in the lobby area, room amenities, spa and fitness center are also slated for 2022. The property will continue its successful partnership with the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra.
Hyper-Local Vendors and Unique Venues Trend for 2022 Weddings
While the micro-wedding trend might be here to stay for a while, brides and grooms-to-be will also be looking for hyper-local vendors and out-of-the-box venues with indoor and outdoor components in 2022. Couples are striving to focus on how they can 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.
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.” Engaged couples, newlyweds and more can visit this Instagrammable destination and snap away to capture their memorable day.
Enhancements to The Leadership Collection at Alexandria™
The Leadership Collection at Alexandria™, launched in early 2020, is Alexandria’s exclusive collection of three nationally recognized executive leadership and teambuilding opportunities – the George Washington Leadership Institute at Mount Vernon, McChrystal Group and Building Momentum. The collection welcomes a few enhancements in 2022 as it continues to revolutionize the future of leadership training.
Building Momentum recently expanded its corporate training offerings to include wedding team building, boat regatta, full day team building and custom sessions.
The Fred Smith National Library at George Washington’s Mount Vernon will re-launch The Situation Room: Experience Washington’s Cabinet this year due to the inability to launch as planned in March 2020 as a result of COVID-19.
Meeting Break or After-Hours Experiences for Attendees
Experiences Along the Waterfront for Groups
In 2022, look for the launch of the new southern waterfront route of the self-guided Alexandria 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, making for an outdoor meeting break experience for attendees, or an after-hours activity to be enjoyed at attendees’ leisure. 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. After your meeting, 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.
Powerful New Exhibitions at Reopened Freedom House Museum
In spring 2022, Freedom House Museum at 1315 Duke Street reopened 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.
Header Image Credits, left to right: Michelle Ison, Hank’s Oyster Bar, Christine Halsey