Fall Edition – 2020
Alexandria is best known for its historic charm and delicious restaurant scene. Since I have been grounded due to COVID-19, I wanted to take a deeper look into my own backyard and check out some of the great attractions Alexandria has to offer. Get ready to learn, see and do in this small city by the Potomac River.
- Manumission Tour Company: A black owned and operated company gives you a glimpse to the glossed over aspects of Alexandria’s African American history. On this particular adventure I signed up for their Duke Street walking tour which focuses on the area of Alexandria which was prominently known in the 1800’s for it’s slave trading businesses and slave pens. The first stop on the tour was the Freedom House. Recently purchased by the City of Alexandria and added to the Office of Historic Alexandria, this building housed the thriving slave trading business of Franklin & Armfield Slave Pen. Today, Freedom House is a museum that documents the lives of those that were enslaved. Due to COVID-19 the museum is currently closed. One of the highlights of the tour for me was visiting the Alexandria National Cemetery. This military cemetery predates and is the blueprint for Arlington National Cemetery. Our tour guide, John Chapman, constructed an elegant story of how African American veterans of Alexandria fought for those who served in the U.S. Color Troops during the Civil War should receive the same honor as their white counterparts to be buried in the designated military cemetery. The demands of the African Americans veterans were granted and the African American veterans who had passed, were exhumed and interred in Alexandria National Cemetery in 1865. To learn more about this story, I suggest you read the book, Alexandria’s Freedmen’s Cemetery: A legacy of Freedom by Char McCargo Bah. Overall, this tour was eye opening and aspiring to know that against all odds, African Americans will always find a way to presaveer. The cost of the tour was very reasonable ($15) and on an easy walking path for all levels of walkers to enjoy.
Munch Tip: Due to the pandemic, the company is only offering tours on the weekend. There are three tour options and whichever one you decide to choose you will not be disappointed.
- Harambee Books & Artworks: This unassuming bookstore located on Prince Street is a treasure trove of all literature and artwork from the African diaspora that relates to culture and history. When you first walk into the store you are welcomed with the aroma of incense and a hello from the owner, Bernard. Though the bookstore is small, I spent more than 30 minutes just browsing and leafing through the abundance of books that were on the shelves. I left Harambee with a small haul and had one book on pre-order. This is a great excursion to add to your day trip plans, so you can stock up or add to your fall reading list.
Munch Tip: Can’t find the book you’re looking for in the store? Harambee Books & Artworks has an extensive online store. Log on to https://harambeebooks.org/ to start browsing.
- Wrought, Knit, Labors & Legacies Art Installation: Alexandria is a big art town and their enthusiasm for creativity has spilled out to the waterfront in Old Town. The latest public art installation was commissioned by the City and created by acclaimed artist Olalekan Jeyifous. These larger than life metal profile structures showcase Alexandria’s African American community (free and enslaved) in the merchant and manufacturing trades that were held by this community during the 17th-20th centuries. I was privileged enough to meet the artist back in December 2019 and I was honored to see how the renderings came to life. This exhibit is FREE to the public to view all year round.
Munch Tip: To avoid the crowds, head down to the exhibit in the morning to watch the sunrise above the Potomac River. This will also provide ample time to take some awesome pictures.
- Torpedo Factory Art Center: Once a U.S. Naval Station that constructed torpedoes during World War II, it was converted to artist galleries in 1983. The Torpedo Factory is now home to the Art League, an organization that offers art classes to novices and professionals alike. This is an inspirational venue that allows you browse the various art forms that are spread throughout the three floors of this building. You can even purchase one of a kind pieces from one of the galleries. The Torpedo Factory has no entrance fee and is always FREE to explore.
Munch Tip: Head to the third floor. There you will find Alexandria’s Archaeology Museum. This small museum explains historical preservation efforts of the City. It’s FREE to enter, however donations are highly encouraged to help support the museum’s ongoing initiatives.
- The Old Town Shop: Whether you’re on a staycation or doing a day trip, you always have to leave your destination with a special token. This shop is the perfect souvenir destination to obtain all things Alexandria. If you are looking for a history book, they got it. Want a wine glass to drink your Virginia wine in, they have that too. My usual go-to collectibles when I travel are magnets. They are easy to transport and are little pieces of art that are unique. I’m glad to say that The Old Town Shop had plenty to choose from.
Munch Tip: Head to the back of the store to see all the delicious foods that are made in Virginia. Food memories are the best and the ones that count the most.
- Woodlawn Press Winery: A 15 minute drive from Old Town Alexandria, you will find Woodlawn Press Winery, an urban oasis with an abundance of delicious wines. This small business makes all of their wines utilizing stainless steel barrels, which brings a crisp taste to each bottle of wine. Opt to do the full flight tasting that only cost $7. After the tasting, the bonus is you get to keep your glass as a token souvenir. There are two tasting menus to pick from, so I chose the sweet menu that allowed me to sample a multiple of fruit wines. When the time came to purchase, I had a hard time making a decision and ultimately decided on the Fall’n for Apples seasonal wine. I ended up walking away with two bottles.
Munch Tip: Due to COVID-19 Woodlawn Press Winery is only doing tastings by reservation. The good thing is one reservation can be used for up to four people.
- Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats: Located outside of an old house, you can find a retro style van that was converted into an ice cream truck. The old school R&B songs emitting from the truck kept the excited crowd calm until it was their time to order this one of a kind treat. When it was my turn I ordered the popular Maple Bacon Donuwich and a bottle of ginger beer to wash it down. The salty sweet combination of the bacon with the ice cream was the perfect treat for a humid fall day in Alexandria. Goodies was recently named one of Food Network’s top 5 food trucks in the nation. I am so glad that this black owned business is right in my backyard, so I can indulge in their sweet treats whenever I want too.
Munch Tip: Make sure to download Cash App or Venmo before placing your order. Goodies does not accept credit cards. Even though the vibe is old school, they are totally 21st century when it comes to easy payment options.
Ian 'Sandy' Clark
Thank you. 🙂
This is great!!!! Thank you for profiling these businesses and exhibits!!
Thank you for your kind words. 🙂
What a great web site. Very informative to residents as well as visitors.
Thank you Char! It is very much appreciated. 🙂
Hi, Im from northern virginia and was unaware of all of Alexandrias offerings, thanks so much. Keep up the good work 🙂
The Munch Traveler
Thank you. I’m glad you found my content interesting. 🙂