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The George Washington Masonic Memorial Temple in Old Town Alexandria (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

It’s a little below some of its other Best City rankings, but Southern Living Magazine recently put Alexandria at number 23 on a list of The South’s Best Cities 2024.

Alexandria came in ahead of Memphis, Tennessee and Little Rock, Arkansas, but was only the third highest-ranked city in Virginia on the list, behind Charlottesville and Richmond.

The number one spot went to Charleston, South Carolina, Alexandria’s frequent rival in similar listings.

According to the listing:

Just across the Potomac River from sprawling D.C., Alexandria may feel like a small town when compared to our nation’s capital, but there’s tons to explore in this historic city. Walk the cobblestoned streets that are lined with locally owned boutiques, delicious restaurants, and charming storefronts. When the riverfront is sparkling and there’s a nice breeze in the air, you’ll forget why you ever wanted to endure the hustle and bustle of D.C. in the first place.

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The Old Town Alexandria waterfront (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

It’s no surprise that, for the sixth straight year, Alexandria’s in the top five best small cities list in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards: but this year, Alexandria beat out Aspen and reclaimed its third place ranking.

Alexandria is third place behind Santa Fe, New Mexico and Charleston, South Carolina, which has become a tradition of the annual rankings.

The list does use a recycled version of the description from the previous years:

Washingtonians are all in on the secret, but it’s no surprise the rest of the world is catching up: Alexandria, Virginia, the charming, historic city just across the Potomac River from our nation’s capital, draws travelers and would-be residents alike.

Most folks start to imagine moving there immediately after setting foot in Old Town, once they’ve strolled the red-brick sidewalks, clocking street after street of perfectly preserved rowhouses from the 18th and 19th centuries. When you visit, scope out King Street, packed with boutiques, restaurants, and specialty shops; then land at the waterfront, where you can watch the boats bobbing on the water before touring the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a collective of galleries and artists’ studios. End the day at Gadsby’s Tavern, where some of our founding fathers used to drink—don’t mind the actors in colonial garb.

Santa Fe’s listing praises the art scene in the city as one of the draws, with over 250 galleries, so the Old Town North arts district has a lot of catching up to do.

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The Alexandria skyline (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Travel + Leisure readers ranked Alexandria as one of the top ten cities in America for the second year in a row — though Nashville, Tennessee bumped Alexandria down from the eighth spot to the ninth spot.

The cities are ranked on a variety of factors, from shopping and food to culture and landmarks. As with last year, Charleston, South Carolina came in at number one.

Both this year and last year, Alexandria ranked just ahead of San Antonio, Texas, but Nashville swiped the number eight spot.

“Just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., Alexandria offers the charm of a small town alongside the buzz of the nation’s capital,” the magazine wrote. “In this ‘living museum,’ as one reader called it, you’ll find red-brick sidewalks, 18th and 19th-century homes and taverns, and the country’s oldest continuously operating farmers market.”

The magazine lauded the city’s ghost tours in particular.

“Family-friendly ghost tours let visitors travel back to the past, but trendy boutiques, luxury hotels, and vibrant nightlife keep the Port City very much in the present,” the magazine wrote.

https://twitter.com/AmyJacksonVA/status/1678816510217711632

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The Old Town Alexandria waterfront (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Just behind Iowa City but just above Peachtree Corners, Fortune Magazine listed Alexandria as the 18th best place in the country to raise a family.

While it’s not as high as other rankings, Fortune Magazine described Alexandria’s dining scene and lively neighborhoods as major attractions.

The ranking emerged from an evaluation of 1,900 cities, towns, suburbs and more.

“Alexandria offers copious fine dining and shopping choices along its walkable streets and a real sense of community in its many residential neighborhoods, such as Del Ray and Cameron Station,” Fortune wrote. “Lively King Street in the area of Old Town offers shopping from both local boutiques and national retail stores. Outdoor dining along the waterfront is also a favorite seasonal activity come summer.”

Fortune does, however, commit the unforgivable sin of conflating Alexandria and Fairfax.

“Both Fairfax County Public Schools and Alexandria City Public School districts service the kids of Alexandria,” Fortune wrote. “The Thomas Jefferson High for Science and Technology has received numerous accolades for fostering student achievement and college preparedness.”

A City of Alexandria release noted the ranking placed Alexandria as the top city in Virginia. The overall top place to raise a family, according to Fortune, is Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Farmers’ Market (photo courtesy Visit Alexandria)

Old Town Alexandria has another accolade under its belt: boasting one of Southern Living Magazine’s best farmers markets in the South.

The market in Old Town is acclaimed as one of the oldest ongoing markets in the country.

According to the magazine:

When it comes to longstanding tradition, the Old Town Farmers’ Market in Alexandria, Virginia, might take the cake. This Saturday market has been going on since 1753 and showcases local produce, meats, flowers, cheese, baked goods, plants, soaps, and more. It’s America’s oldest farmers’ market held continuously at the same site, and takes places year-round, rain or shine, with more than 70 vendors during the peak season.

The Old Town Farmers’ Market sits on the list next to the Charleston Farmers Market — another list grouping Alexandria with another port that draws in tourism with a very colonial-America downtown.

Alexandria wasn’t the only farmers market in the region to make the list, though. FRESHFARM Dupont Circle Sunday Market also earned a spot on the list.

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Morning Notes

Around Jones Point Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

New Compost Station Opens — “On Sunday, July 17, the Old Town North Sunday Farmers Market officially opened its Compost Cab compost station. The new compost station will be a permanent fixture at this year-round market, every Sunday from 10am-2pm.” [Zebra]

City Ranks as One of the Top U.S. Cities — “Readers of Travel + Leisure appear to have a favorable opinion of Alexandria, because the city made the top 10 of the magazine’s 15 Best Cities in the United States list… Alexandria was ranked eighth among big cities like New York City, New Orleans and Chicago on the national list.” [Patch]

Film Festival Submissions Open — “Calling all #artists and #filmmakers–Join us this November in @AlexandriaVA for the 4th Annual STEM Art & Film Festival at #IFoRE22. Now accepting submissions http://experienceIFoRE.org/stem-art-film-rt-film-festival #art #artstudent #artfestival #filmfestival #scienceart” [Twitter]

It’s Monday — Rain in the evening. High of 87 and low of 75. Sunrise at 5:59 am and sunset at 8:33 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Around Jones Point Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

BARCA Ranks Among Best in Nation — “An Alexandria restaurant has been lauded for its outdoor dining space and is among the top 100 places to dine al fresco, according to OpenTable’s new ranking. The ranking is based on diner reviews on OpenTable. BARCA Pier & Wine Bar made the 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in America for 2022, which was released by OpenTable on Wednesday.” [Patch]

Construction Begins on Old Town West Senior Living Project — “The multimillion-dollar development will feature a six-story building with underground parking, studio, 1- and 2-bedroom living options, and high-end amenities such as a 4,550-square-foot restaurant, 24-hour fitness center, club lounge, business center and media room.” [BusinessWire]

A Last Look Inside Landmark Mall — “YouTubers ‘The Proper People’ entered Landmark Mall just days before demolition started.” [Alexandria Living]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 84 and low of 71. Sunrise at 5:57 am and sunset at 8:34 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A recent ranking by Zillow of fastest-emerging dog-friendly cities — cities where pet-friendly home rentals are on the rise — Alexandria ranked third nationwide.

The ranking looks both at where dog-owners are registered on the dog boarding and walking site Rover and where there are the most page views of pet-friendly single-family home rental listings on real estate marketplace site Zillow.

In their writeup about Alexandria, Zillow said:

It seems that more dog owners are sniffing out Alexandria. Its average daily page views of pet-friendly single-family home rental listings on Zillow are up 70.1% over last year. This D.C. commuter town is home to several dog runs, off-leash areas and plenty of family-owned pet supply stores. Take a look at rentals currently listed on Zillow and you just may find your dog’s next home here.

Boiling Alexandria down to a D.C. commuter town might get some locals barking mad, but overall it’s good news for local dog owners.

Nearby Baltimore was number 2 on the ranking, with Antioch, Tennessee taking the number one spot.

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Alexandria is reclaimed its third-place ranking in this year’s Condé Nast survey of best small cities in the United States after being bumped down to fifth.

The city took 5th place in last year’s survey after winning 3rd in 2019. The survey tallied over 800,000 votes, the publication said.

The publication’s description of the city seems to be almost identical to previous years but adds a few new notes like suggesting a tour of the Torpedo Factory Art Center and visiting Gadsby’s Tavern:

Washingtonians are all in on the secret, but it’s no surprise the rest of the world is catching up: Alexandria, Virginia, the charming, historic city just across the Potomac River from our nation’s capital, draws travelers and would-be residents alike. Most folks start to imagine moving there just after setting foot in Old Town, once they’ve strolled the red-brick sidewalks, clocking street after street of perfectly preserved rowhouses from the 18th and 19th centuries. When you visit, scope out King Street, packed with boutiques, restaurants, and specialty shops; then land at the waterfront, where you can watch the boats bobbing on the water before touring the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a collective of galleries and artists’ studios. End the day at Gadsby’s Tavern, where some of our founding fathers used to drink–don’t mind the actors in colonial garb.

Not mentioned is the city’s new Potomac Yard development or sewer tunnel, but maybe next year.

As in previous years, the city still lingers behind Charleston, South Carolina, in the number two spot. This year’s number one spot went to Aspen, Colorado, citing primarily the city’s access to ski slopes and fine cuisine.

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Alexandria is a good place to weather a recession — potentially good news on a day in which the Dow plummeted more 2,000 points at one point.

The city ranked No. 23 on a new list of the 25 “Most Recession-Resistant Cities” in 2020, according to the website SmartAsset. Nearby Arlington ranked No. 15 on the list.

Alexandria and others on the list — Frisco, Texas was No. 1 — were ranked on the basis of employment, housing and social assistance available to residents.

“The Great Recession wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy, with unemployment peaking at 10.1% in October 2009,” a SmartAsset spokesperson said, in introducing the rankings. “Not all cities, however, were hit equally by this economic crisis and some are better equipped to weather the next downturn.”

Federal employment and growth spurred by Amazon’s HQ2 should help cushion blows from a new recession in Alexandria, though the last major downturn — the Great Recession of the late aughts — did have negative impacts on small local businesses and nonprofits.

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