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The Alexandria Health Department is asking residents to stay up to date on vaccinations and to travel safe this spring break.

The guidance was issued in the city’s weekly COVID-19 update.

“The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to stay up-to-date on your vaccinations,” AHD advised. “If you will be spending time with individuals at higher risk of severe COVID-19, consider getting tested one-to-three days before you travel to see them. Monitor yourself for symptoms after you travel.”

There has been an uptick in Covid cases this month, and the number of cases is now 30,655, an increase of 89 cases since Monday (April 11), according to the Virginia Department of Health. The seven-day average of new cases is now 46.6 — up from 40.9 on Monday. The number of deaths remains unchanged at 185.

Face masks are still mandatory on public transportation, including on buses, planes and trains.

Alexandria is currently at a low COVID-19 community level according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Spring gets into full swing in Alexandria this month, and there are dozens of events around the city to get you out of the house.

Visit Alexandria has compiled a list of events this month around town, including Easter egg hunts, book signings, a film screening and musical performances.

April events in Alexandria:

  • Outdoor cello concert: Listen to cellist Amit Peled at The Rectory in Old Town on April 7 (Thursday), from 5 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets cost $45 apiece for adults and $25 for children
  • Book signing at Alexandria Visitor Center: Meet John Adam Wasowicz, the Author of the Old Town Mysteries, Daingerfield Island, Jones Point, Slaters Land and Roaches Run. Two book signings will be held on April9 and 10 (Saturday and Sunday) from 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Easter Egg Hunt with the Old Town Business Association: On April 9 (Saturday) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Historic event at Carlyle House: On April 9 (Saturday), learn from costumed interpreters about how Major General Edward Braddock, Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North America, landed in Alexandria in 1775. Tickets are free, and the event is from 12 to 4 p.m.
  • Cherry Blossom Jubilee: On Sunday (April 10), enjoy live performance by taiko drum group Nen Daiko on the waterfront side of the Art Center, followed by an Art Center-wide exhibition of cherry blossom-inspired works by resident artists and galleries
  • Outdoor vocal recital: On Thursday (April 14), Mexican soprano Judy Yannini makes her Secret Garden debut in a program of selections from vibrant zarzuelas to beloved operas, from 5 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets cost $45 apiece for adults and $25 for children
  • Easter Egg Hunt at Lee-Fendall House: On April 16 and 17 (Saturday and Sunday), there will be Easter egg hunts at the historic property, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for children ages 2 to 12, $5 for accompanying adults
  • Outdoor bluegrass concert: On April 21 (Thursday), listen to father-son team Ken & Brad Kolodner, from 5 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets cost $45 apiece for adults and $25 for children
  • Advance screening of ‘TRASHY: a zero waste film’: The feature documentary follows its director as she tries not to throw anything away over the course of a year. The free screening at the Torpedo Factory Art Center starts at 6 p.m.
  • 89th Annual Old Town Alexandria Homes & Garden Tour: The long cherished event will be held on April 23 (Saturday), from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost $55 apiece if bought online and $65 at the Alexandria Visitor Center to tour the Carlyle House, Lee-Fendall House, River Farm, Gunston Hall, Mount Vernon and Green Spring Gardens
  • Alexandria Symphony Orchestra performance: The ASO will perform the music of Barber and Brahms at its April 23 (Saturday) concert. The event is from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. and costs $20-$85 for adults, $5 for children and $15 for students
  • Rocklands BBQ meat and greet party: The April 23 (Saturday) event features School of Rock performances and local vendors
  • Soul Food Saturday: On April 23 (Saturday), explore the contributions of African American innovation and tradition to American cuisine with a unique walking tour around Old Town. The event is from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and tickets cost $95 apiece
  • Earth Day tree planting: Join the Alexandria City Council on April 23 (Saturday) for a tree planting on Earth Day in Old Town, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.
  • History discussion on African American housing crisis in Alexandria: On April 28 (Thursday), Dr. Krystyn Moon will examine how segregationist practices impaired Alexandria’s African American residents. The event is virtual
  • Old Town Alexandria Fine Art And Design Festival: On Saturday (April 30), more than 100 artisans, crafters, independent consultants and other local small businesses in John Carlyle Square
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Hyatt Centric Old Town now has an option to spoil your pooch with its “Bark, it’s your Birthday!” package (courtesy of Nano Betts)

(updated at 4:45 p.m.) While more than half the hotels in Alexandria are pet-friendly, one hotel has added a package to go above and beyond for your furry friend.

The “Bark, it’s your Birthday!” package from Hyatt Centric Old Town Alexandria figuratively rolls out the red carpet for your pooch.

The package that comes at a price of $250 ensures Fido’s favorites are awaiting him at your hotel stay. Ahead of check-in, the hotel will call the dog parents and ask about all the pet’s tail-wagging favorites from treats to toys, and deck out the room with the assistance from local “bonetique” The Dog Park. Also included in that additional fee is a pet-friendly itinerary created by the hotel.

Visit Alexandria says that there are more than 2,000 pet-friendly hotel rooms in the city. And there’s plenty for owners to do once they do get to Alexandria with their best furry friend from pet-friendly patios, dog happy hours, pet salons and doggie gyms.

Alexandria is known for its pet-friendly accommodations. U.S. News and World Report lists the top four hotels in Alexandria for Fido as The Lorien Hotel & Spa, The Alexandrian Old Town Alexandria, Morrison House Autograph Collection and the Westin Old Town Alexandria. Hyatt was not included — Perhaps next year.

The U.S. News list includes hotels where pets stay for free by taking into account “amenities, reputation among professional travel experts, guest reviews and hotel class ratings,” according to its website.

Hotels nationwide are embracing amenities that cater to dogs. During the Covid pandemic, many people stuck at home adopted pets and many in the travel industry, eager to capture an increased demand, have leaned into making it easier for people to travel with pets.

“The pandemic created just the right recipe for an uptick in pet-travel,” a spokesperson for the Hyatt stated. “Starting with the puppy adoption boom during the initial weeks of lockdowns and the stay-at-home orders that followed, parting with a pet seemed more dreadful than ever. On top of that, COVID led to a decline in air-travel, the most difficult type of pet-travel, and an increase of more accommodating modes of transportation such as road trips.”

Hilton’s CEO said on an earnings call last year that he hoped the surge in pet ownership would help the hotel chain appeal to those would be customers through a partnership it announced with Mars Petcare in an effort to make its hotels more pet friendly, according to the Washington Business Journal.

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Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series have another treat on Sunday (March 6) in Old Town. In addition to the season 6 premier on Sunday, there will also be an Outlandish Tour of the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum.

The Apothecary Museum is known for incorporating popular culture into their work. For years, their Harry Potter tours have been popular for potions-masters-in-the-making.

The Outlander romance series is about a World War II-era British nurse who is transported back in time to the Scottish Highlands in 1743. The Apothecary Museum first opened for business in 1792, and operated until 1933.

This Sunday’s tour begins at 11 a.m. and a guide will talk about some of the herbal medicines that are featured in Outlander series, as well as the role of apothecaries and women in medicine in the 18th century.

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With spring and summer on the horizon, tourism-troubled Alexandria has gone full steam ahead with public events.

City Council, on Tuesday, unanimously approved a waiver to the Special Event Policy to allow for programs and events on consecutive weekends in Old Town.

The waiver supersedes a 2010 Council action that limited such events. According to the policy, “Events in Old Town with anticipated attendance over 500 (people) are limited to no more than one such event every other weekend (Friday at 5 p.m. to Sunday at 6 p.m.) in a calendar year.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said that there should be future community conversations about how the waiver will impact residents and the environment.

“This policy is now over a decade old, we’ve invested millions of dollars and millions more to come in some of the park spaces on our waterfront,” Wilson said. “I think it’s probably time for a community conversation about the the nature of this policy and kind of how this policy should be applied in the future.”

Alexandria is home to a number of large-scale shindigs, including the recent George Washington Birthday Parade, the Scottish Christmas Walk, Art On The Avenue, the city’s birthday celebration, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade — the latter of which is postponed until September. Many of the events, including two New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations, have been canceled or altered over the last two years under the pandemic.

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The cherry blossoms are an annual regional highlight, and Visit Alexandria has announced a suite of new and returning events around the city to experience the season.

Guidance on exploring during cherry blossom season was a little more tepid last year owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, but such concerns were notably absent from the this year’s announcement and downward-trending case counts.

Visit Alexandria recommends biking or boating for seeing the cherry blossoms.

Unlimited Biking at 421 King Street has cherry blossom packages running from March 20 to April 12, with options for $15 rentals or to join a $44 guided tour.

“Pedal from Unlimited Biking: Old Town Alexandria along the Potomac River to the famous cherry blossoms of Washington DC with Unlimited Biking’s bike rental package that provides you with all that you need for your journey — maps, helmets, bike bags and locks. Hybrid bikes, road bikes, eBikes, kids bikes and kids attachments are available,” Visit Alexandria said.

The guided tours start and end at 998 Maine Avenue SW. Visit Alexandria said the tours are two hours long and run multiple times during the day.

Alternatively, Pedego Electric Bikes (210 North Lee Street) has tours from Old Town up into D.C.

The tour season runs from March 19-April 17, with tours leaving at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on weekends and tours only availably by appointment on weekdays. Tickets are $69 per bike.

“Join a three-hour guided tour from Old Town Alexandria to the cherry blossoms, including a ride through the blossoms around East Potomac Park,” Visit Alexandria said. The views of the blossoms from a Pedego are fantastic, and you don’t have to fight traffic or find a place to park downtown. Tours will run as long as there are blooms on the cherry blossom trees.”

The release said tours can be booked by calling 571-312-5168 or emailing [email protected]

By boat, Visit Alexandria said the best options are the Water Taxi or a monuments cruise.

The Water Taxi runs from the Wharf to Old Town — with other stops at National Harbor and Georgetown — with departures starting at noon and running about 25 minutes. Trips are $23 one-way or $39 round-trip. Trips depart from the Alexandria Marina at 1 Cameron Street.

“From the dock at The Wharf, it is a 10-minute walk to the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin,” the release said. “The water taxi docks at the Transit Pier, 950 Wharf Street SW, near the Tidal Basin, the National Mall, Hains Point and a Capital Bikeshare station.”

There is also the Washington Monuments Cruise to the Cherry Blossoms, which starts March 19. It also departs from the Alexandria Marina, with $26 one-way tickets and $42 round-trip tickets. The cruise is 45 minutes and ends in Georgetown.

The release also included information on some local food and drink offerings themed around cherry blossoms:

  • Common Plate Hospitality’s Cherry Blossom Cocktails and Murals at Augie’s Beer Garden (1106 King Street) and Mason Social (728 N. Henry Street) — Both restaurants have custom cherry blossom-themed items on the menu: a black cherry Bellini with gold glitter and a cherry pie old fashioned. Items are available through March 31.
  • Special cherry blossom blend at Turkish Coffee Lady (1001 King Street) — local coffee shop Turkish Coffee Lady has a special cherry blossom-themed coffee presentation available through April 30.
  • Winter in Tokyo menu at Captain Gregory’s (804 N. Henry Street) — The speakeasy will have Japanese gin, whiskey and vodka along with sake cocktails and menu items featuring Japanese-inspired dishes. The Winter in Tokyo menu is available through March 31.
  • “The Blossom” cocktail at Lena’s Wood-fired Pizza & Tap (401 E. Braddock Road) — The pizza restaurant will have a new cherry blossom themed cocktail that’s a mix of Rhum Barbancourt, plum-rose syrup, Luxardo, lemon juice and a floating edible blossom. The cocktail will be available from March 1 through April 17.
  • Cherry blossom cider from Lost Boy Cider (317 Hooffs Run Drive) — Starting March 2, Lost Boy Cider will be producing a cherry blossom cider available in-house or from a few local grocery chains like Whole Foods.
  • Cherry blossom sangria from Alexandria Restaurant Partners — From March 15-April 15, various Alexandria Restaurant Partners’ locations will have a seasonal sangria with brut rosé, Blanc Vermouth, cherry juice and orange flower water.
  • Cherry blossom gelato at Dolci Gelati (107 N. Fairfax Street) — Dolci Gelati is bringing back a cherry blossom gelato in limited supply from March 20-April 20. The gelato is available in-person, for pickup and delivery.

A full list of local cherry blossom experiences is available at the Visit Alexandria website.

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As plans move forward to revamp the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a petition is gaining steam to get support to save spaces for artists.

As of Today (Monday, Nov. 15), more than 3,200 people have signed a petition asking the city to keep artists in studios on the first floor instead of replacing those studios with amenities, including a completely remodeled first floor, a new restaurant and a roof deck.

“Some of these plans include reduce the number of individual artist studios in the building by up to 40%, as well as sweeping aside ALL artist studios on the first floor and replacing it with cheap money-making venues such as restaurants,” notes the Change.org petition, which was launched three weeks ago by artist M. Alexander Gray.

Per the plan, the second floor of the art center would be artist studios, and the Art League school would move up to the third floor.

“Make your voice heard!” states the petition. “DO NOT let hardworking artists get booted out and replaced with cheap entertainments! DO NOT let the City tamper with this unique cultural treasure!”

City staff acknowledge that there will be a reduction in space for artists, and Council will review the plans in December.

The art center, which receives an estimated 500,000 visitors annually, has been managed by the City since 2018, taking over for the nonprofit Torpedo Factory Art Center Board, which ran it for five years. For a dozen years before that it was managed by the Torpedo Factory Artists Association, and previously was managed by the City for more than two decades.

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After sailing through perilous economic waters, the Tall Ship Providence just shored up weekly tours until next spring.

The nonprofit is still tabulating the numbers, but expects that since launching in June 2020, thousands of visitors have been welcomed aboard the Tall Ship for tours and cruises. The Providence is a replica of the first naval warship commissioned by the Continental Congress in 1775, and visitors are welcomed aboard by an actor portraying Captain John Paul Jones.

“We were delighted to be able to have as many guests and customers aboard the ship as possible this summer and fall,” Claire Sassin, president and CEO of the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, told ALXnow. “It was a great joy, but there was also sadness because we just want to keep sailing.”

In August, the ship passed inspection with the U.S. Coast Guard and can now coast without a motor along the Potomac River with its sails unfurled. While still open for weekend and private cruises through next spring, the ship recently closed during the week.

“Being able to put the sails up is a completely different experience, and you do get to see what sailing was like back during the American Revolution,” Sassin said.

The pandemic forced the Foundation to alter its business plan to focus on small events, like private tours, wine tastings and beer cruises.

“We had not thought really about doing private tours until the pandemic came about,” Sassin said. “We’ve also added a whole layer of sanitizing in between every single tour, both at our Visitor Center and on the ship.”

In the days ahead, Sassin hopes to see the Tall Ship move to Waterfront Park by 2023, as massive plans are in the works to construct a barge, a new pier and cottages to house the ship and the Senator John Warner Maritime Heritage Center.

Future travelers in the cold months ahead can rest assured, as the ship has heating in the lower deck. In the short term, on December 11, 12, 18 and 19, Captain Jones will tell visitors the Christmas tale of the Schooner Rouse Simmons, which made perilous runs to deliver late-season Christmas trees, until it sank in a storm.

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If you missed the rare tour opportunity for the defunct GenOn plant back in June, Hilco Redevelopment Partners (HRP) has announced a new set of tours for later this month.

The vine-overgrown plant’s days are numbered: HRP is hoping to spearhead redevelopment of the site starting with demolition in 2023.

While the building isn’t safe to go inside, earlier tours guided visitors around the grounds while outlining plans for future mixed-use development. The one part of the site still in active use is a Pepco substation, which will remain in operation throughout redevelopment.

HRP said tours will be hosted on Saturday, Nov 13, and guests can register for the tour online.

“On November 13th, Hilco Redevelopment Partners (HRP) will host guided tours of the Potomac River Generating Station (PRGS) site in Old Town North,” HRP said. “The tours will offer members of the public an opportunity to visit the site, which has been closed off from Old Town North and the waterfront for decades and hear about HRP’s plans for redevelopment.”

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Alexandria has a rich tradition of ghost sightings. Stories of paranormal experiences have been passed down and enthralled and terrified listeners for generations.

But where have these sightings occurred? Many buildings in and around the city dating as far back as the Colonial Period have added to that rich tradition of spooky stories.

Below is a list of four reportedly haunted houses in Alexandria, inside of which anyone in search of ghosts can try their luck. Are you brave enough?

The John Douglas Brown House

This property, also known as the Fawcett-Reeder House, located at 517 Prince Street, has stood since it was first constructed in 1772. According to the website Virginia Haunted Houses, in addition to boasting having been visited by George Washington during his lifetime, witnesses visiting the house have claimed to have sighted apparitions that appear to be Revolutionary War-era soldiers.

The Lee-Fendall House

Located on 614 Oronoco Street, the house served as a hospital during the Revolutionary War. Beginning as the former home of Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee until he sold it to his relative Phillip R. Fendall in 1784, many stories of spectral occurrences have come out of this place which includes sightings of a female aspiration dressed in period nurse’s clothing, a woman and child who appear on the back stairwell, and the unusual sound of an antique telephone, according to Haunted Places.

The house has served as a museum since 1974 and was featured on an episode of the SYFY Channel’s Ghost Hunters. The house is open for tours and events so if you decide to rent the place for a celebration, expect a few unexpected guests to attend the festivities.

The Ramsey House

Located at 221 King Street, this 18th century building was the home of William Ramsey, and currently serves as a visitor center for the City of Alexandria.

Ramsey was a Scottish merchant, a city founder, and served as the lord mayor of Alexandria. Many stories of ghostly manifestations have included sightings of male specters that may be that of Ramsey himself, or of another his relative Dennis Ramsey. This spirit has been reported to be found on the upstairs floor looking out the window, according to Haunted Houses.

Other spirits supposedly inhabiting the house include the wives of the Ramsey men, all of whom are dressed in 18th-century clothing and can be found roaming the basement.

Gadsby’s Tavern

Possibly the most well known location for spectral happenings in Alexandria, the building at 138 North Royal Street has been a presence in the city since being built in 1785. The location is known for having been visited by many of the founding fathers but is also known for a certain long-term resident. Famously known as the “Female Stranger“, observers have speculated the identity of this spirit to be wide of a bill-hopper, a con artist, and even the daughter of Aaron Burr, Theodosia.

Regardless of her identity, the stranger has been reported to be a gentle soul dressed in an evening gown who likes to crash events in the ballroom. Other reports have found her walking in the hallways, waiting to be seated in the dining hall, and in her old hotel room, room number eight.

The Tavern still operates today and chances are good that the curious may get to have a face-to-face encounter with the Female Stranger herself, especially if everyone is having a good time.

If you’d like a guide to Old Town’s haunts, there are ghost tours available through Alexandria Colonial Tours.

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