Living in Old Town Alexandria
When most people think of Virginia, Old Town is top of mind. This is old Virginia. Think brick sidewalks and brick homes, this was originally part of the capital city. Alexandria resonates with people who move here from the Northeast – Connecticut, Massachusetts. A combination of life near the water and that feel of an old port town feels part New England and definitely part old colonial Virginia.
Old Town is rich in history and is not only a wonderful place to visit, but an amazing place to call home. The real estate is gorgeous and amenities are endless. One unique thing about Old Town is that the small business association in Old Town truly has kept this place friendly to small businesses, which adds to the charm. There are tons of boutique style shops that attract so much business and revenue for the area. The undisputed beauty of this town has captured the hearts of so many people and that is why it remains a very strong micro-market of real estate and commerce.
A good portion of the housing in Old Town is from the 1800’s – which isn’t super common to find in the area. But Old Town Alexandria, just like Georgetown in DC, were the two main ports. You will find houses from the 1800’s in both areas. In Old Town Alexandria, you will find rowhomes, condos and apartments. Old town is – well – old.
There are some newer condos that have popped up in places in Old Town that have been mostly repurposed through conversions of other buildings. Condos can be found in older buildings on the southern edge of Old Town in the $200’s, but the newer condos go from $400,000 up into the millions. It’s all about a water view here.
Rowhomes? The charm here will cost you. Prices are typically $1M and up. Single family detached homes will run you $1M or more depending on the square footage and lot size. Most single family homes are $2M or more. The history of these homes is incredible and many are classified as historic, so you will have to be prepared to deal with historic preservation guidelines when completing renovations or restoration of these homes. Not all are on the list, but a good many are but don’t worry, this is all spelled out to you upfront so you can make an informed decision.
One important thing to know about Old Town is that there are many areas that are located in flood zones, so it is critical to understand where they are located and how much your annual policy will cost you. These are all things that are easy to determine and we can guide you to the right people and resources to determine if a property is located in a flood zone or not. Even if you purchase a condo, you will be paying for flood insurance, just in a different manner through your condo dues instead of directly to the insurer.
Old Town wins again. It’s hard to compete with the waterfront! You can take one of the Potomac River Cruises or a water taxi over to the DC side of the river.
The Torpedo Factory used to be a munitions manufacturing building. It’s now a place for artists to show their work as well as condos.
Old Town has a Farmer’s Market, which happens to be the oldest continuously run farmer’s market. George Washington is said to have sold here. It’s open from 7a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
The AR Workshop hosts art classes for all ages.
The parades and festivals are endless in Old Town – there’s a summer festival, Old Town Festival of Speed and Style (cars and fashion) but our favorite is the Scottish Walk that happens right before Christmas. It is incredibly special and brings out so many people to Old Town. It is a quintessential signal that the holidays have arrived!
Don’t Miss: 523 Queen St – Hollensbury Spite House, built in 1830 by John Hollensbury. He was tired of people parking their horses in the alley so he built a house there.
There is so much in Old Town, it’s impossible to cover it all. Old Town has it all – American, Seafood, BBQ, Sushi, and French.
Some of our favorites include Ada’s on the River, Pizzeria Paradiso, Virtue Feed & Grain, and the Pita House. No matter what your mood is, Old Town has it. One of the things we love is that you have options for anything from casual to upscale fine dining.
For dessert, you have to check out one of Michael’s favorite places, Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Company! Grab some ice cream and go walk or sit along the boardwalk. You could spend all day people watching and taking in the sights.
If you love fresh bread and love a trip to the bakery, you should definitely checkout Fresh Baguette! Their pastries and sandwiches are delicious and their bread is baked fresh daily.
Grocery stores are not lacking in Old Town and the immediate areas. There’s Harris Teeter, Giant, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Balduccis.
What happens when the National Guard’s Armory building burns down? You build a playground there! This is a park for the very little littles, under 5, but a good place to catch a break during the day.
Make sure to bring the kiddos by the Spite House as mentioned, ride the King Street Trolley and hit Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. You’ll want to see the tavern where George and Martha used to dine, then go to the museum to play old-time games and explore the old dining and sleeping areas.
Another hit with the kids, especially Harry Potter fans, is the Stabler Apothecary Museum. You can see some of the ingredients used in the film like dragon’s blood.
Schools in Old Town rank middle of the road. The City of Alexandria isn’t necessarily a place where you hear people say they want to move FOR the schools. They had a rough few years under a prior Superintendent, but they have a new Superintendent.
I asked my lovely friend whose kids are in the City of Alexandria’s schools and she said, “Eh, it’s kind of like the Trump to Biden transition. We heard about the old Superintendent every day but now we hear nothing.” She went on to say that people with means will move or move their kids to private since the High School is currently at an enrollment of 4000, and projected to be close to 5000 in the next few years. It’s like it’s own town.
In general, her opinion was that the elementary schools are good but it slides in middle and high school. No surprise there, it’s like that in DC too. Middle School is the worst!
Old Town is strong on charm and a great place to get lost for a day or a few days. People who live in the area will head to Old Town to just walk around and absorb the sights. You won’t generally hear of people moving to Old Town for the schools, but it’s a place that young professionals and empty nesters love to call home.