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Bolivian dancers at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town, March 2, 2024 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria is one of the best small cities in the U.S., an argument bolstered by being listed in the top five for the last six years in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2024 Readers’ Choice Awards survey.

Staff from Visit Alexandria just got the city nominated for the seventh year in a row.

Last year, Alexandria was voted third in Condé Nast Traveler’s list of best small cities in the country. The city was also listed in Travel and Leisure’s Best Places to Travel in 2023.

“Consistent high-profile rankings in top national travel publications like Condé Nast TravelerTravel + Leisure and Southern Living have helped boost the city’s visibility to an entirely new level,” Visit Alexandria’s Caroline L. Secrest said in an email.

The voting deadline is June 30. Respondents are asked why they visited Alexandria, when they visited, and to rate their feelings on the city’s sights and scenery, arts and culture, local cuisine, tourist reception, public transportation, shopping, outdoor activities, and resorts and hotels.

According to Condé Nast Traveler:

You’ve spent the last twelve months liking, sharing, and pinning the places that made your trips unforgettable. Now, it’s time to cast your vote for them. So let us know about your all-time favorite hotels, cruises, and resorts, as well as the countries, cities, and islands you escaped to. Plus, we want to hear about what your last travel year looked like. Vote, share, and tell us everything.


Update at 3:35 p.m. — The Interstellar Influencer commemorates the Chesapeake Bay impact crater, not the Chicxulub crater 35 million years earlier that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs

Earlier: The asteroid collision 35 million years ago will be the latest public art at Alexandria’s Waterfront Park.

“Interstellar Influencer (Make an Impact)” will be formally unveiled in March and will be on display at the foot of King Street until November. It’s the sixth temporary installation at the site, and is being created by artist Jason Klimoski and architect Lesley Chang of New York City-based STUDIOKCA.

“At the foot of King Street on the shore of the Potomac River, an interstellar collision that took place not too far away and not too, too long ago between an asteroid and our planet is about to re-appear,” the city’s Office of the Arts announced. “Interstellar Influencer uses metal, water, and light to create a 1:1000 scale representation of the asteroid and the 85-kilometer-wide, 1.5-kilometer-deep crater it left behind that helped to shape the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed and the flow of water through its rivers and tributaries in the process.”

The installation will kick off Alexandria’s 275th birthday celebration programming, it was announced at Visit Alexandria’s annual meeting on Monday.

Chang said she wants the installation to “raise awareness of the fragility of our shared existence on this planet and the extraordinary (and sometime extraterrestrial) foundation of our modern cities and waterways.”

Klimoski said that we all live within the history that has shaped the planet.

“Sometimes you have to look at it from the point of view of an asteroid hurtling through space 35,000,000 years ago to appreciate just how incredible it is we’re here at all,” he said.

Alexandria’s 275th birthday, also known as ALX275, will mostly be recognized from April through mid-September.

According to Visit Alexandria:

The opening of waterfront public art installation Interstellar Influencer (Make an Impact)kicks off the 275th anniversary programming in the spring. Then, look forward to special editions of the 2-day Portside in Old Town Summer Festival in June, which features the ALX Jazz Fest, and the Alexandria City Birthday Celebration with fireworks over the Potomac on July 13.

Alexandria’s award-winning Port City Brewing Company will produce an original hoppy Pale Ale called ALX275, brewed with 275 lbs. of hops, that will be served on draft at the Portside Festival, at Port City’s Tasting Room and Old Town Pub Crawl and at more special events from April through September. Also in September, the 275th anniversary festivities include events for the 10th anniversary of the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial and the 50th anniversary of the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

New exhibits include Alexandria Archaeology’s “The Buried Ships of Robinson Landing” with scale models of the three excavated ships at a temporary new waterfront gallery space. The Alexandria Black History Museum’s Moss Kendrix exhibit will honor the nationally significant visionary who revolutionized how African Americans were depicted in the media in the mid-20th century. The special collection of artifacts will demonstrate how the D.C.-based advertising and public relations pioneer transformed the advertising industry, paving the way for the diversity of actors and models who today are featured throughout marketing creative. Meanwhile, Historic Alexandria’s oral history exhibition, “Mapping Alexandria: Stories of a Changing City,” is coming to The Lyceum in June. Interactive features of the exhibition include a story kiosk where the public can record and upload their own oral histories, an interactive map and more.

First Night in Alexandria (via Visit Alexandria)

Alexandria’s 29th annual First Night celebration is just around the corner. Here’s what you need to know before the family-friendly event.

First Night runs from 2 p.m. until the fireworks show at midnight at the waterfront on Sunday, Dec. 31.

Tickets cost $10 for daytime activities around town and scale up to $35 per ticket for adults and $50 for a “VIP Fast Pass” ticket to various venues. Kids ages two and below can attend for free.

The alcohol-free event includes performances from Grammy-nominated Culture Queen, a juggling act with local trickster Parris Dineen, and fireworks at 6 p.m. over the Potomac River if you want to take the family home early.

Ticketholders can pick up their wristbands at the venue of their preferred performance.

“At that location you can check in  up to 30 minutes prior to the start of the first performance at that venue and receive your wristband for the Pass level that you have purchased,” according to First Night Alexandria.

On parking and transportation, event organizers are encouraging ticket holders to park near the venues of their choice.

“All of the venues are within a 1 mile walking distance from the GW Masonic Temple to the Potomac River,” First Night Alexandria says on its website. “There are lots of parking garages in the area that you can consider as well as street parking, bikes, scooters and the trolley system, which is available until 11 p.m.”

The free King Street Trolley runs every 15 minutes up and down King Street from the King Street Metro station to City Hall/Market Square (301 King Street).

In the event of a washout, the rain date for the fireworks is 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 1.

The First Night Alexandria schedule of events is below:

GW Masonic Memorial
101 Callahan Dr.

7:30, 8:30 p.m.

Smooth Jazz
The Lyceum
201 S. Washington St.

7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 p.m.

The Lyceum
201 S. Washington St.

3:00, 4:30, 5:00 p.m.

Rocking Family Dance
GW Masonic Memorial
101 Callahan Dr.

2:30, 3:15, 4:00 p.m.

GW Masonic Memorial
101 Callahan Dr.

2:15, 3:15, 4:15, 5:00 p.m.

Country Line Dance
Durant Arts Center
1605 Cameron St.

2:00 p.m.

Irish,Ceili Dance
Durant Arts Center
1605 Cameron St.

*4:15, 7:00 p.m.

Acoustic Roots Rock,Americana,Pop
American Legion Post 2
400 Cameron St

7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 p.m.

Urban Line Dance
Durant Arts Center
1605 Cameron St.

3:00 p.m.

The Little Theater of Alexandria
600 Wolfe St.

*3:30, *4:15, *5:00, 6:45, 7:30, 8:15 p.m.

Russell Woollen’s Alexandria Suite
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
228 S. Pitt St.

*5:00, 6:30, 8:00 p.m.

GW Masonic Memorial
101 Callahan Dr.

2:15, 3:45, 5:00 p.m.

GW Masonic Memorial
101 Callahan Dr.

*2:00-5:00; 7:00-11:00 p.m.

Bob Dylan Tribute
Long & Foster
110 N. Royal St.

7:15, 8:15, 9:15, 10:15 p.m.

A Capella
Old Presbyterian Meeting House
323 S. Lee St.

7:00, 8:00 p.m.

Washington St. United Methodist Church
109 S. Washington St.

6:15, 7:15, 8:15 p.m.

Funk,Alternative Rock
GW Masonic Memorial
101 Callahan Dr.

8:00, 9:00, 10:00 p.m.

Modern Jazz
Principle Gallery
208 King St.

6:30, 7:30, 8:30, 9:30 p.m.

Market Square
301 King St.

4:00-6:00 p.m.

Over the Potomac River

6:00 p.m.


11:50 p.m.

Midnight Fireworks

*Matinee performance

Visit Alexandria CEO Patricia Washington speaks (staff photo by James Cullum)

After a decade running Visit Alexandria, the organization’s president and CEO Patricia Washington announced today that she’s retiring in June.

Washington took over the tourism agency in 2012 and has overseen a growth in city tourism pre-pandemic and a difficult rebound after Covid. Visit Alexandria receives funding from both the city and state sources.

“It’s been such a privilege to lead Visit Alexandria’s vision, culture and content-first marketing strategy for more than 11 years, and this feels like the right time for my retirement both organizationally and personally,” said Washington. “Visit Alexandria is in excellent shape, with a high-performing staff, strong partnerships, clear plans, stable finances and growing tourism revenues.”

Under Washington, Visit Alexandria has pushed for diversifying the city’s tourism marketing, with a Drop In campaign aiming to draw in Black tourists and an Expand Your ALX campaign highlighting global cuisine in the city outside of Old Town.

Visit Alexandria has also frequently highlighted some of the city’s high rankings in various travel magazines.

A search for a new president and CEO is underway, with a formal job posting coming in early January.

The retirement comes amid a shakeup in city leadership over the next year, with Mayor Justin Wilson, Fire Chief Corey Smedley, City Attorney Joanna Anderson and several others retiring this year.

Washington said, after years of promoting tourism to Alexandria, she’s looking forward to doing some tourism herself.

“On a personal level, I’m hoping to do some more extensive travel and have more time to pursue interests at a point in life where I have the passion and energy to fully explore them,” Washington said.


With Alexandria’s consumption tax revenues hitting an all-time high in fiscal year 2023, Mayor Justin Wilson says that the city has emerged from the economic spiral created by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

The city’s consumption tax revenues (sales, meals and transient lodging) peaked at $81 million in fiscal year 2023, a 7% increase over the $76 million collected in FY 2022 and 23% more than the $66 million in FY 2019, according to figures presented at Visit Alexandria‘s annual meeting on Tuesday night.

“We’re back,” Wilson told an audience of hundreds at the Westin Alexandria Old Town. “And now it’s not about planning and recovery, it’s not about figuring out what’s next, it’s not about adapting. It’s about putting the pedal to the metal. This is an exciting moment for our community. And we have an opportunity to seize this incredible opportunity for the city in the future.”

Alexandria was also listed in Travel and Leisure’s Best Places to Travel in 2023 and Best Cities in the U.S. 2023, and was voted third in Condé Nast Traveler’s list of best small cities in the country.

Handing out flags at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town, March 3, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Visit Alexandria CEO Patricia Washington said that her success is largely the result of a series of video advertising campaigns, like the “Best Kept Shh!” campaign, where the city is advertised as a best-kept secret. The campaign garnered a reported 60 million impressions, and contributed to a record 186 million total digital marketing impressions in FY 2023, according to Visit Alexandria.

“Our marketing strategy meets people where they are, whether they’re watching a YouTube video on their computer, a streaming app on their TV, or social media on their phone,” Washington said. “We’ve worked hard to gain national recognition and a national reputation and this is the moment to capitalize on it with a new spot that ties together all the accolades with the ‘Best Kept Shh’ campaign.”

Hotel occupancy rose 18% in Fy 2023, according to Visit Alexandria. That resulted in record revenue per available room of $111, a 4% increase from the previous record of $107 set in 2019.

Visit Alexandria is the city’s tourism bureau, and earlier this year City Council approved $2 million for marketing, advertising, printing and web expenses. The allocation, a 4% increase of $149,800, was directed to be spent at Visit Alexandria’s discretion. A majority of the funding, $1.7 million of it, is budgeted directly toward advertising, with $162,000 for website support and $127,000 for printing costs.

Washington said to expect new video campaigns highlighting Alexandria’s neighborhoods, Black heritage and more. She also said that travel inflation and fears of recession will mean that consumers will want to get the most value from their money in the coming year.

“At a time when so much of our life is lived in the digital world, we need to remember that authentic travel is a refuge that provides meaning, magic and connections,” Washington said.

Wilson said Visit Alexandria’s success allows the city to support critical services and protect an attractive quality of life.

“We’re in a joint venture,” he said. “And we’re going to make sure that joint venture is even more successful in the future.”


Alexandria Restaurant Week, a biannual event where restaurants around the city offer pre-set dinners, is making its return this August.

Visit Alexandria said in a release that the summer Alexandria Restaurant Week is set to run from Friday, Aug. 18, to Sunday, Aug. 27.

The event has $25, $35 and $45 per person dinners at restaurants throughout the city.

“Try out first-time Restaurant Week participants, from the Mediterranean flavors of Elaine’s to the rich pasta dishes of Thompson Italian to the New Haven-styles slices of Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana,” the release said. “Plus, experience eateries debuting rebranded restaurant concepts, such as Jula’s on the Potomac (formerly Café 44) in Old Town North and Alexandria Bier Garden (formerly Village Brauhaus) on King Street. Or, enjoy Parisian plates in a lush courtyard at Josephine, the new concept from Neighborhood Restaurant Group in the former Columbia Firehouse space.”

Restaurant week has digital menu flip-book for those looking to browse the offerings this year. The event launched in 2009 and now runs both in late summer and January, where it sometimes buts up against the larger, regional restaurant week.

According to the release:

  • Settle into Oak Steakhouse in Old Town North for a luscious Italian burrata starter followed by mouthwatering steak Diane, priced at $45 per person.
  • Carlyle favorite Tequila & Taco’s $35 menu lets you choose between sizzling fajitas or nachos paired with four tacos of your choice, and a sweet finish of tres leches or key lime pie.
  • Just-opened Josephine off King Street lets you choose your own adventure with its $45 menu offering French-infused flavors like foie gras mousse, duck confit and cardamom crème brûlée.
  • At $25 per person, Junction Bakery & Bistro in Del Ray offers your choice of one small plate and large plate options including a vegan coconut curry bowl.
  • Take your taste buds on a trip to Alexandria, Egypt, when you explore new Old Town eatery Elaine’s $45 Mediterranean-inspired menu.
  • Beloved West End eatery Clyde’s at Mark Center offers hearty plates such as New England clam chowder, chicken fettucine and bread pudding, set at $35 per person for three courses.

Image via Thompson Italian/Facebook

The Portside in Old Town Summer Festival at Waterfront Park in Old Town. (Via Facebook)

Alexandria’s summer will kick off this weekend with the Portside in Old Town Summer Festival. Here’s what you need to know.

The free event, which includes the 45th annual Alexandria Jazz Fest, will be held at Waterfront Park (1A Prince Street) on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 9 p.m.

“This free festival features an array of live music, local craft beer from Port City Brewing Company and fun for the whole family on the Alexandria waterfront,” said Visit Alexandria.

The musicians were chosen by the 2023 Alexandria Jazz Fest Activation Team, which includes John Hasse, a music curator at The Smithsonian Institution, Suraya Mohamed of NPR Music and Jeremy Castillo, the director of Performance and Contemporary Music at the Levine School of Music.

Food will be provided by Borinquen Lunch BoxChalkboard Wings & BBQ, Kungfu Kitchen, Dolci Gelati and The Italian Place.

Port City Brewing Company will provide the beer, as well as:

The Portside Festival is organized by Visit Alexandria and the City’s Office of the Arts and is sponsored by Ting Internet.

The Portside in Old Town Summer Festival at Waterfront Park in Old Town. (Via Facebook)

Friday schedule

Poetry will be read between sets by:

During the performances, muralist Aniekan Udofia will paint a new piece from 6 to 9 p.m. Udofia is best known for the mural at Ben’s Chili Bowl in D.C.

Saturday schedule

Image Via Facebook

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Alexandria City Hall (staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Personal security cameras, speed cameras in school zones, summer youth employment programs and eviction prevention funding are just a few of the final additions included in the fiscal year 2024 budget by the Alexandria City Council on Tuesday.

Council approved funding a $20,000 program to encourage businesses and homeowners with a “small incentive” to set up security cameras to deter crime, as well as increase their coordination with the Alexandria Police Department.

“I like the concept,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “I think we want our residents to partner with us in providing this kind of neighborhood visibility.”

Other additions include $490,000 for five speed cameras at school crossing zones around the city. Last year, Council approved $400,000 for the speed camera program in five school zones.

Not all of the requests made the final cut. Vice Mayor Amy Jackson’s request to give the Alexandria Commission for Women $20,000 for it’s 50th anniversary event failed to gain consensus.

Council also took $657,629 from the budget that was intended for the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center (200 S. Whiting Street), pending proposals from City Manager Jim Parajon to find alternative uses for the facility, pursue regional partnerships for facility use and optimize capacity for the underutilized space.

The full list of additions to the budget are below.

  • Out of School Time Program (OSTP) staffing ($200,000) This increases paid leave and benefits for part-time staffing with the city’s Out of School Time program.
  • Fee waiver for OSTP participants ($15,000) — This would fund a waiver for program participants eligible for SNAP and TANF.
  • Speed cameras in school zones ($490,000) — This adds five photo speed cameras to school crossing zones prioritized by the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services
  • Childcare services ($50,000) — This will provide child-minding services at City COuncil town hall events, as well as select board, committee and commission meetings.
  • Additional eviction prevention funding ($150,000) — This would increase the current funding level of $100,000, all of which will “reasonably assist 40 households in FY24,” according to the city.
  • Central coordinator for immigrant affairs/refugee settlement ($110,000) — This would explore a new position or series of positions that could advance efforts to connect immigrant communities with information, resources and services and address the city’s challenges with immigrant populations.
  • RPCA Mental Health Pilot position ($75,000) — These funds would go toward developing a Department of Recreation Parks and Cultural Activities pilot program for youth mental health services.
  • Summer youth employment program ($214,943) — This would expand the program by 50%, to serve 255 children (85 more than the current program).
  • Study for local housing voucher program ($250,000) — This would add funding for a study on a voucher-like program that stabilizes housing and enables access for low-income housholds across the city’s private rental market.
  • City library security ($70,000) — This funding maintains library security staffing at current levels.
  • Department of Aging and Adult Services ($19,000) — This fills the gap created by Virginia budget formula changed related to the Older Americans Act.
  • DASH service line expansion on Line 33 ($120,000) — This would expand DASH Line 33 service from once every 60 minutes to 30 minutes on Sundays, easing connections to the new Potomac Yard Metro Station.
  • Visit Alexandria advertising ($78,000) — This additional funding can be used by Visit Alexandria for any sort of media, online or print advertising, either regionally or nationally at their discretion.
  • City Council aide compensation increase ($5,300) — This is a 2% scale compensation adjustment.
  • Private security camera incentive program ($20,000)
  • Continuation of AEDP economic recovery manager ($147,208) — The ERPM is responsible for creating and administering AEDPs Business Association Grant program, which supports Alexandria business associations as well as other ARDP rogramming to promote economic recovery.
  • Rental inspection program enhancement ($136,000) — This allows staff to evaluate non-compliant multi-family rental properties.

The budget will be approved on May 3 and go into effect on July 1.

New Alexandria logo by Visit Alexandria (courtesy photo)

Yesterday, the tourism bureau Visit Alexandria presented a new logo to be used in marketing for the city. Reception online was mixed.

The logo features the city’s name in lowercase with the most notable feature being a representation of a sunrise in the middle “a”.

Visit Alexandria presented the new logo at a meeting yesterday morning.

“Our new logo is sophisticated yet inviting and embraces our identity as a waterfront city that is continually evolving,” said Patricia Washington, President and CEO of Visit Alexandria, in a release. “Even as our brand changes, we’re continuing to highlight our city’s historic character both visually and in our storytelling with a bold new destination advertising campaign that will surprise people and offer potential visitors a glimpse at all there is to know and love about Alexandria.”

What do you think of the new Alexandria logo? Is there any aspect of it you would change?

New Alexandria logo design (via Visit Alexandria)

Tourism bureau Visit Alexandria has debuted a new logo as part of an advertising campaign for the city.

The logo features the city’s name in lower case, with the “a” in the middle filled in like a sunrise and sun-lit ripples emanating below it. It was unveiled this morning (Thursday) at a Visit Alexandria meeting.

“Our new logo is sophisticated yet inviting and embraces our identity as a waterfront city that is continually evolving,” said Patricia Washington, President and CEO of Visit Alexandria, in a release. “Even as our brand changes, we’re continuing to highlight our city’s historic character both visually and in our storytelling with a bold new destination advertising campaign that will surprise people and offer potential visitors a glimpse at all there is to know and love about Alexandria.”

Washingtonian senior editor Andrew Beaujon first reported the change on Twitter this morning.

The new logo is part of a paradoxical “Best Kept Shh” marketing campaign aimed at creating a sort of mystique for Alexandria.

“The ‘Best Kept Shh!’ campaign is a nontraditional marketing campaign that seeks to grab attention and spark curiosity as it plays on the idea that Alexandria is so special, it might be too good to share,” a Visit Alexandria release said. “Video executions ‘bleep’ or censor the word ‘Alexandria’ in a humorous way to make viewers stop and wonder what is being said until it is revealed at the end of the ad.”

The previous logo had a more historical styling, with the word “Alexandria” written in a lavish cursive.

The logo for Visit Alexandria (via Visit Alexandria)

Last year, Alexandria City Public Schools mulled changing its logo but after months of work, two logo redesigns were sent back to the drawing board.

Updated 12:15 p.m. — A previous version of the article described the sunny logo as looking like a ‘sunset’. The waterfront does, in fact, face east.


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