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Less than a half hour from Washington, D.C., Alexandria scores high on our list for amenities. Need proof? In addition to modern hotspots like Ada’s on the River (wood-fired steaks!) and King’s Ransom (highball cocktails!), it’s packed with historical landmarks. Examples include Gadsby’s Tavern, an 18th-century tavern and hotel that hosted George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and the Torpedo Factory Art Center, which used to be a munitions plant.
Alexandria may technically be a suburb, but it’s also an economic behemoth. The city just unveiled plans to build a massive new hospital on the West End, and a laundry list of redevelopment projects will soon pop up across the waterfront. Virginia Tech is another newcomer: its Innovation Campus, an interdisciplinary education center currently under construction, will eventually serve hundreds of computer science and computer engineering graduate students. (Alexandria Public Schools, for their part, have faced a fair share of criticism, but the school board introduced a host of new safety and transparency protocols this summer.)
Over in Old Town, there are more than 200 restaurants and shops, all accessible via the free King Street trolley (it runs every 15 minutes). Stop by Old Town Books for an author event, grab an Ethiopian yirgacheffe coffee at Abyssinia Market & Coffee House or pick up zero-waste goods at Mason & Greens. Then link up with the Manumission Tour Company, which gives guided cultural heritage tours showcasing the stories of Africans and African-Americans who spent centuries shaping Alexandria. “We’re historic, but we’re also taking concrete steps to wrestle with what it means to be a city built by enslaved people,” an Alexandria spokesperson tells Money.
Kids can go to the indoor play center at Scramble or learn to shape clay at Kidcreate Studio. Need some adults-only time? Visit the Secret Garden to catch a classical concert or The Light Horse to compete at skeeball with a local beer in hand. — Julia Glum