From buzzing new restaurants for off-site dining to fresh group tours and experiences, there are plenty of new things to do in 2023 in Alexandria, Virginia, just minutes from Washington, D.C. Keep reading to learn about Alexandria’s expanding hotel portfolio, waterfront experiences and more.
Renovations and Updates to Alexandria’s Hotel Portfolio in 2023
In spring 2023, Hotel AKA Alexandria brings a dramatic new addition to Old Town Alexandria, just steps from the city’s flourishing boutique scene and thriving waterfront, ushering in a new wave of luxury to the city. Hotel AKA Alexandria will be one of world-renowned architect Piero Lissoni’s first U.S. hotel projects. A floating staircase will be the dramatic lobby focal point, and design throughout the property will balance modern minimalism and refined mid-century elements with sleek lines and dark tones. The hotel’s 180 guest rooms and suites will offer residential-style comfort The Zen Garden Suites give guests access to a tranquil garden, as well as spacious sleeping and living areas for the group or transient traveler. The hotel’s terraces will overlook the neighborhood and lush courtyard. The hotel will be able to host boutique-size meetings in their 1500 square-foot junior ballrooms and 750 square-foot board room. The hotel’s a.lounge will offer a refined space and a menu of classic and signature cocktails, as well as renowned wines and light bites. Guests can also dine in sophisticated style at a.café with a contemporary menu of breakfast and lunch. Additional amenities at the hotel include a.cinema with a curated film program and a.terrace, an outdoor area where guests can enjoy a cocktail from the bar or relax to the calming water feature by the firepits.
For a new long-term stay option or another overnight option in the Carlyle neighborhood, WhyHotel by Placemakr opened in 2022. The property boasts modern apartments with 120 hotels units within the luxury building. Amenities include two roof decks, rooftop pool, two fitness centers, a coworking space, a demonstration kitchen and a space for TED-style talks.
The most recent renovation also includes , Alexandria’s largest hotel property, the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center featuring 428 hotel rooms and newly renovated 48,000 square-foot meeting space in the city’s West End. The multimillion-dollar renovation includes the debut of the new Sushi Bar and Marketplace, revitalized lobby and public spaces, guest rooms, and meeting and event spaces including the Plaza Ballroom at 10,200 square feet.
Recharge and reset after a day of meetings with expanded wellness options. Have a wellness group outing and work up a sweat with rentals from Unlimited Biking and Strictly E-Bikes’ new outposts or host the wellness class at PIES Fitness Yoga. Visit Ms. Moxie’s Moon Shop, an Old Town boutique focused on female health and wellness whose founder, Ann Ile, worked as a nurse for several decades. Restore Hyper Wellness in Alexandria’s West End offers a menu of beneficial treatments to reduce inflammation, improve sleep and more. Upgrade your meeting space or networking areas with mood-boosting greenery after a trip to PlantHouse in Old Town North.
Waterside Dining and New Programming in Old Town North
Even more magical riverside views are in the works as Old Town North waterfront eatery Café 44 undergoes a 7,500 square-foot expansion at Canal Center and rebranding as “Jula’s on the Potomac,” in honor of the owner’s great-grandmother and namesake. The upgrade includes a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, customer-facing raw bar and charcuterie bar, central bar with a view of the Capitol and the Potomac, private dining room, social media nook and more. The current and expanded spaces are set to be completed by fall 2023. This restaurant expansion is complemented by the continuation of new events and programming launched at Canal Center in 2022, where you can also host a 300+ reception, mixer or social event.
Dinning Trends and New Restaurants
Italian and Pizza
An influx of Italian eateries include the opening of Thompson Italian on King Street in January 2023 where you can host an intimate event or take their culinary delights off-site with catered group offerings. The second location of the acclaimed husband-and-wife-owned Falls Church venture features the olive oil cake that earned Pastry Chef and Co-owner Katherine Thompson a James Beard nomination, expanded pasta and seafood menus and an infusion of Middle Eastern flavors courtesy of Executive Chef Lucy Dakwar’s Palestinian roots. Find more Italian plates at Michael’s on King, a new Old Town venture since fall 2022 from the teams behind the former Magnolia’s on King and Michael’s Little Italy. Opening this summer closer to the waterfront is a new private event space at Landini Brothers. For the on-the-go attendee or group, grab a slice at new pizza spots such as Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in Alexandria’s West End, Handover by the Slice on King Street, and Andy’s Pizza in Old Town.
Off-Site Group Dining
Private or semi-private dining options have multiplied with tempting new openings such as 1799 Prime Steak & Seafood, a polished but inviting steakhouse in Old Town owned by Jahmond Quander, a member of one of the oldest documented African American families, and co-founded by Chef Sonny Tena. The restaurant can accommodate up to 250 under one roof. Also in Old Town, play sommelier with a wine list focused on female winemakers at Virginia’s Darling Wine Bar, a new “nightly dinner party” at Mae’s Market and Café with a casual indoor/outdoor networking scene, or head to Railbird Kitchen, a small plates, chicken sandwiches and cocktails concept designed to complement its sister establishment, Captain Gregory’s. In Alexandria’s West End near Hilton Mark Center, settle in over ceviche and Peruvian favorites at Lima Bistro Bar & Restaurant, or bring your appetite for traditional Ethiopian fare and live music to Roha Ethiopian Restaurant.
Beer, Wine and Mocktails in Unique Group Venues
Creative drinks abound among new openings. D.C.-based Atlas Brew Works will soon bring its artisan beer to Carlyle Crossing. The 6,000 square-foot space will include the brewery with a production capacity of 2,000 barrels and an adjacent tap room with food from Andy’s Pizza with 16 draft lines and roughly 1,500 square feet of outdoor patio space. Meanwhile, Carlyle’s Lost Boy Cider, a unique venue for events up to 200, recently debuted a woman-led brand, Lost Girl Wine.
In Old Town, Wine Gallery 108 has expanded at a new location, offering weekend tastings and event space for boutique tastings for to 35 in their private space, featuring fine wines, craft beer, artisanal foods, local art and handcrafted gifts.
For crave-worthy non-alcoholic beverages, try Port City Brewing Company’s new line of hop-infused sparkling water, HOPWELL, the venue offers private space to accommodate up to 100 or semi-private space in the taproom and outside, or bring an elevated drink station to your next event with the zippy mocktails from Umbrella Dry Drinks’ Old Town bottle shop.
Destination Attraction Updates
Group Tour Experiences
Coordinate a group tour at The Alexandria Black History Museum, which will reopen in 2023 with a new exhibition, Preserving their Names: The Black Lives Remembered Collection, featuring digital images and artifacts donated from the community and DMV following the murder of George Floyd. The updated Before the Spirits are Swept Away exhibition, showcasing Sherry Zvares Sanabria’s paintings of African American sites, emphasizes the personhood of enslaved individuals, centering them in the sites where they lived and worked. The new children’s area offers thought-provoking and age-appropriate activities for young visitors. You can already plan a visit to Freedom House Museum, a National Historic Landmark which reopened in spring 2022 with three new exhibitions showcasing Alexandria’s Black history and the Black experience in America.
In February 2023, the new southern waterfront route of the self-guided Alexandria African American Heritage Trail debuted with nearly double the number of stops as the northern route. The southern route, presented in the form of an online StoryMap, highlights the people, places and neighborhoods from the time of Alexandria’s founding through the 20th century and was developed as a volunteer community initiative with support from the Office of Historic Alexandria. Corresponding signage and markers will be installed along the route in summer 2023.
Waterfront Public Artwork
In late March, Two Boxes of Oranges and Admonia Jackson will be unveiled as the fifth temporary public art installation on Old Town Alexandria’s waterfront, on display until November 2023 as part of the City of Alexandria’s Site See: New Views in Old Town series. Created by Jamaican-born, New York-based award-winning artist Nina Cooke John of Studio Cooke John, the installation is inspired by the ships uncovered on Alexandria’s waterfront in 2015 and 2018 and the many layers of history that are not readily seen. The installation forms an abstracted ship’s hull with steel vertical elements that rise and bend, referencing the curve of the hull’s frame. Visitors can stand within the space and imagine a time in Alexandria’s history when the ships carried not only cargo like tobacco, molasses, rum and limes, but also enslaved people who were traded as part of the transatlantic and domestic slave trades. The outer blue of the installation is contrasted with an orange inner surface depicting text pulled from ships’ manifests listing items like herring, coconuts and gin, alongside names and descriptions of enslaved people, such as “Jane Tailor, female, 5’ 2”.” Also listed are “two boxes of oranges” and “Admonia Jackson.”
Walkability and Transportation
Just steps from these new experiences along Alexandria’s waterfront, locals and visitors alike can enjoy the expansion of the permanent pedestrian-only zone on King Street, with the 0 block joining the 100 block of King Street. Meanwhile, the City’s parklet program was recently made permanent, allowing for streeteries and outdoor retail areas to continue thriving into 2023 and beyond.
Visitors looking to explore the region will find Alexandria is the perfect home base for an afternoon visit into Washington, D.C., via water taxi, Metro or bike, including The Wharf’s Phase 2 along the District’s Southwest waterfront.
Metro’s highly anticipated Potomac Yard Station is slated to open in the first half of 2023 and will connect locals and visitors to the evolving Potomac Yard neighborhood in National Landing, a location set to become a key economic and educational draw in the coming years as the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus opens in fall 2024 and Amazon’s headquarters develops nearby in Arlington. Expected in May 2023, the Yellow Line will reopen following bridge and tunnel repairs that closed the line for nearly nine months. In November 2022, the 3-billion-dollar Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport opened for service, linking the nation’s capital and Northern Virginia to Dulles corridor’s international center for travel.