Seeing as how the Cherry Blossoms are in bloom just in time for the annual festival in D.C., I began reminiscing about the times I spent there visiting my boyfriend when he was working there. He was so busy working that we loved getting out to explore when I would visit. We loved this area. So much to see and do...and THE FOOD. He lived in Alexandria, Virginia, so this was our stomping ground. I even recommend that if you take a trip you should stay in Alexandria and take the METRO into D.C. for exploring. Our favorite hotel is the Lorien Hotel and Spa on King Street, Alexandria's main street. We had the opportunity to stay here prior to him moving in and it is lovely. A relaxing, refreshing place to stay. Also, it's right down the block from the King Street METRO station for easy hopping into the city.
The bonus here is that there are two fantastic restaurants and one gourmet market as part of this establishment. We would come to these restaurants every time I visited. Brabo is the place to get a fine meal, have a business dinner, or go for a special occasion. Try the pork shank. I'm sharing a personal pic here from my birthday dinner. See, you can wear jeans and a nice top or a business suit here and the prices are fair for such great food.
Our regular spot was Brabo Tasting Room next door. A casual neighborhood spot with a wood fired oven. I would go here just for the delicious bread and butter with pink salt. The mussels are to die for, as are the soups, salads, and wood grilled pizzas (tarts).
There is also a gourmet market next door called The Butcher's Block. Pop in here for great wine, cheese, artisan meats, or the makings of a picnic. A couple of times my boyfriend stopped here and picked up some of their delicious pork shanks already cooked and in their sauce, individually vacuum sealed with ice and brought them on the plane to see me in Florida. We just heated them in boiling water, cut open the bag, plated and served with a nice side dish for a fantastic meal at home (in another state!).
Alexandria is a beautiful, historic place. Grab some good walking shoes and go up and down the streets and see the architecture. Take one of the many guided historical walking tours. If you are there in the Spring, look at all of the beautiful trees and flowers in bloom.
Another favorite place to eat is a local chain, Austin Grill, that serves up great casual Tex-Mex. We usually went here for brunch on the weekend. I love Tex-Mex, Mexican and everything in between. So, that combined with my favorite meal of the day, breakfast, and I'm a happy girl. There are several locations, but we always visited the one on King Street.
The D.C. area has great public transportation and is very bike friendly. If you don't have your own bike, as I didn't, you can rent bikes in many places. Occasionally, we would rent bikes near the water on King Street and ride them along the Mount Vernon Trail. This is an 18-mile trail that runs along the Potomac River. You can ride out to see historic Mount Vernon, George Washington's home, or ride into Georgetown and park your bike while you explore. There are some great spots to stop along the way, including one park where you are perfectly lined up with the runway at Reagan National Airport and you can watch the planes take off right above your head.
Georgetown is must-see and fun place to explore. It can get very crowded, so be prepared. Some favorite spots are Georgetown Cupcake for great cupcakes, and the line out the door to prove it.
Also, Sweetgreen is a great healthy salad and fro-yo shop started by some Georgetown students. It's become very popular with multiple locations and a mobile truck that roams the city. This company is committed to sustainability and being earth-friendly. It's evident from the design of their spaces to the packaging.
Another great place not too far from Georgetown is 2Amys, a true Neapolitan pizzeria. You know you have stepped into someplace good when you walk in the door. This place is always busy, great pizza, great desserts, and a great artisan beer selection. Try the oven roasted olives for an appetizer.
On a visit to D.C. for the 4th of July, which I highly recommend, we were looking for a place to get a good steak for our visiting Italian friend. We didn't want to go to the traditional steakhouses. So, we took a gamble on a place we read about, Bucks Fishing and Camping, and we were not disappointed. They made their own cottage cheese, the onion rings were made from sweet Walla Walla onions, and the steak was delicious. The atmosphere here was so charming, we couldn't get enough.
Of course, the museums in D.C. are world class, and the monuments are breathtaking. Go to the places that interest you. I had to visit Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian. And there are so many places I haven't had the chance to see yet. A great idea, as I mentioned before is renting bicycles, but especially as a way to see the monuments and museums, because you could walk yourself to death. Grab a bike and ride from one to the other. (Or, if you're more adventurous, take one of the many Segway tours offered. We did a night tour for my birthday. A neat way to see the city at night when it's lit up.) Especially if you visit during the summer, it's hot. I mean, it's really hot. Take lots of water. But if you can go once during the 4th of July and see the fireworks, you won't forget it. There's nothing more patriotic than sitting outside the White House on the lawn and celebrating our nation's birthday.
I can't believe I spaced on some other favorites in Alexandria, so let me remedy that by sharing those now:
Grape and Bean was one of our first discoveries in Alexandria. It's a cozy wine bar/coffee bar/specialty shop. Go have a glass of wine and something to snack on like the nut and olive plate, or perhaps some great artisanal cheeses and charcuterie. This is a small spot with only a couple of tables outside. We really enjoyed it.
Misha's Coffee is a local coffee shop that roasts their coffee on site and sells it at different places around town. There's a great relaxed vibe with people of all ages here.
My favorite shop in Alexandria is probably The Hour. They have an incredible collection of vintage cocktail glasses and sets, along with barware and accessories.