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Just south of the day-to-day buzz of our nation’s capital, Northern Virginia exudes its own historical charm and cherished character. Immersed in the region’s rich history, travelers can uncover a string of nationally recognized restaurants, unique historic sites, vibrant cities and scenic countryside dotted with wineries and craft breweries.
From the bustling streets of Old Town Alexandria to the rolling hills and vineyards found throughout Loudoun County and the plethora of historic marvels in Arlington, Fairfax County, Prince William County and Manassas, travel in this region encompasses everything travelers would want in a Virginia vacation.
WHAT TO DO
- January 2020 brings the reopening of Arlington House: the Robert E. Lee Memorial. Located at the top of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington House has been closed since mid-2018 for a $14M renovation project. When the project is completed, visitors will see Arlington House as it was in 1860, with rooms restored to their historical appearance. Additionally, the quarters for the enslaved people of Arlington House will be restored to better represent and tell their stories. As visitors move between the mansion and the new museum and bookstore, they will pass along accessible paths that stretch through the restored grounds, including heirloom gardens. People who cannot visit in person will enjoy a robust experience through virtual tours, complete with detailed displays of the rooms and objects that belonged to George Washington and the Lee family.
- The Columbia Pike Blues Festival will celebrate its 25th anniversary in June 2020.
- The Rosslyn Jazz Fest will celebrate its 30th anniversary in September 2020.
- Alexandria’s biggest story is happening at the waterfront. In March 2019, the City opened a new park at the foot of King Street, seamlessly connecting Old Town’s historic retail corridor with the water. At Waterfront Park , visitors enjoy Adirondack chairs overlooking the Potomac, swings, a rotating public art series and special events like the Portside in Old Town Festival, occurring in the fall and summer. In March 2020, the next temporary public art installation in Waterfront Park will be unveiled. Brooklyn-based artist Olalekan Jeyifous, recognized for his 50-foot-tall installation at Coachella 2017 and currently designing a monument to Shirley Chisholm in Brooklyn with Amanda Williams, is the 2020 artist. His work, which will be up until November, will capture Alexandria’s cultural, architectural and merchant history.
- Coming in 2020, visitors can learn more Alexandria’s African American heritage through expanded interpretation and experiences presented by the Office of Historic Alexandria, including expanded interpretation along the Duke Street corridor, a series of film screenings and lectures, expanded programming at Freedom House Museum and special tours such as the African American Cemetery Tour in April.
- Discover Alexandria will launch a new Architecture of Old Town tour in the summer of 2020, focusing on Alexandria’s great architectural history, investigating the built environment and the many layers of history imbued within it. The tour will last 80 minutes and will cost $20 per person.
- Neabsco Regional Park, a new park in Prince William County, is comprised of Julie J. Metz Wetlands Park, Rippon Lodge Historic Property, Kings Highway, Neabsco Creek Boardwalk, Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and Rippon Landing Neighborhood Park. The Neabsco Creek Boardwalk connects Rippon Landing Community Park to the area’s wetlands and has a two-story observation deck where people can walk across the wetlands and take in the natural habitat of Prince William County. The boardwalk is also a part of the Woodbridge Pedestrian & Bicycle Loop.The boardwalk is a part of Prince William County’s plan to complete its section of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, stretching from Pennsylvania to the Chesapeake Bay.
- At the new Legacy Walk Exhibit at The National Museum of the Marine Corps, visitors currently begin their experience of the nearly 250-year history of the Marine Corps on the Legacy Walk. The final segment of the gallery will guide visitors through the evolution of the Marine Corps in the post-Vietnam era. The centerpiece of the new gallery is the “Terror Strikes” exhibit that includes the events of September 11, 2001. In addition to the 9/11 exhibit, the extension includes “No Better Friend,” which explores the non-combat roles of Marines, and “Semper Family,” which speaks about the universal experiences of Marine Corps family members.In the coming years, archways will open from Legacy Walk to new historical galleries that cover the Corps’ history from 1975 to the present.
- The National Museum of the United States Army will open to the public on June 4, 2020. The 185,000-square-foot museum will be located in southern Fairfax County, adjacent to Fort Belvoir, and will be the first and only museum to tell the 244-year history of the U.S. Army in its entirety. The state-of-the-art museum will be a technological marvel incorporating the latest advances in museum exhibits while providing advanced educational opportunities. Admission will be free (timed tickets required) and the museum will be open 364 days per year.
- Fairfax County will commemorate the centennial anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment with two new attractions opening in 2020: In August 2020, there will be a dedication for the new Turning Point Suffragist Memorial at Occoquan Regional Park. The 1.6-acre national memorial to the suffrage movement will feature replica White House gates, 19 informational stops and a beautifully landscaped meditation garden. There is currently no other place in America that tells the complete story of the suffrage movement and this Memorial will do just that. The TPSM will also be a new stop along the “Constitution Trail,” which links sites connected to the Constitution in Washington, DC and Virginia. The Workhouse Arts Center, once a DC prison that notoriously housed incarcerated members of the National Women’s Party, will open the Lucy Burns Museum in early 2020, which will focus on the Party’s efforts to win the right to vote.
- Fairfax County and Washington, DC will soon be even more accessible than ever as Phase II of the Silver Line Metrorail extension is set to open in July 2020. This extension will finally connect Washington Dulles International Airport and several new stations in Herndon and Reston with the existing Washington Metrorail service, which feeds Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
- Alexandria will welcome a vibrant new dining district off the revitalized Robinson Landing pier in south Old Town. Restaurants will include Barca, a Mediterranean-inspired wine bar carved out of shipping containers and The Mill, a southern kitchen and market in 1800s-era warehouse. Learn more at
- Adding to Alexandria’s vibrant waterfront in 2019 was the opening of Riverside Taco Company, located on Alexandria’s Marina and offering delicious tacos and cocktails from an airstream trailer, and a new ghost tour waterfront route by Alexandria Colonial Tours that will continue in 2020.
- Two new restaurants are also arriving on the scene in Arlington:
- Sfoglina: From celebrity chef Fabio Trabbochi, the restaurant opened Oct 2019 in Rosslyn and is named for the female artisans and Italian cultural icons who carry on the tradition of rolling sheets of pasta by hand with a rolling pin, a technique passed through the generations. Sfoglina serves delicious handmade pastas, small plates and a few meat and seafood entrees.
- Happy Endings Eatery will feature multiple fast-casual food stalls serving Asian food. Among those to be included are a Vietnamese grill, a fusion tea house and a Vietnamese coffee stand.
- The Black Sheep | Whiskey + Wine + Noshery (Located on Farm Brew Live’s campus) is a spectacular, two-story, historic dairy barn with exposed-beam vaulted ceilings and will house the rustic industrial The Black Sheep whiskey + wine + noshery and terrace. The vintage barn will also feature a dedicated arts and entertainment space as well as private dining rooms in the lower level barrel-aging quarters. The company is committed to promoting locally sourced food and supports local farms and farmers. The restaurant will offer seating for more than 215 patrons, with two full service bars (inside and outside) as well as multiple private dining spaces.
- Loudoun County is seeing a rise in joint wineries and breweries. Thanks to new legislation, the two craft beverages can finally unite, and local winery owners are venturing into the craft beer business. The newest on the block include Notaviva Craft Fermentations, which offers mixed wine and beer flights, and Hillsborough Winery & Brewery where the Baki brothers bring their winemaking and craft beer backgrounds under one roof.
WHERE TO STAY
- A new hotel is coming to King Street in Alexandria. The Hyatt Centric Old Town Alexandria, Hyatt’s first hotel in the city, will open in January 2020. The hotel will include 124 guest rooms and a French, southern inspired restaurant.
- Throughout 2020, work will also be underway to restore The George Mason Hotel to its roots. The historic hotel built in 1926 served as an office building for decades and is expected to open as a hotel, operated by Aparium Hotel Group, in 2021. The hotel will have two buildings located at 699 Prince St. in Old Town and will feature 141 hotel rooms, two restaurants, rooftop dining and outdoor dining. The building is considered one of the best examples of Colonial Revival architecture in the city. Aparium Hotel Group prides itself in hotels that offer unique experiences in distinctive places. They believe in authentic flavor and celebrate true neighborhood character. Their growing collection of independent hotels are unique, engaging, inspiring and individual.
- Beginning in 2020, Lansdowne Resort and Spa will enhance guest experience by interweaving new ideologies dedicated to total mind and body well-being. This enhancement will be done through its wellness brand Harmony which is the fusion of eastern and western wellness practices.Harmony will offer guests the opportunity to redefine what wellness and relaxation truly is by taking a holistic approach to golf, spa, recreation, music, food, beverage and fitness. In coordination with these new ideologies Lansdowne Resort is currently undergoing renovations that will transform its 55,000 square feet of meeting space into a luxurious and state of the art location for team building, conference or group meeting space.
- The George, an historic property in Old Town Alexandria once owned by General George Washington has found new life as an eight-bedroom B&B. The 6,000 square foot townhouse features eight stunning suites—each named for each of the U.S. Presidents that hailed from Virginia (Washington, Monroe, Madison, Jefferson, Harrison, Tyler, Taylor and Wilson.) The property sleeps up to 20 guests and can be rented as individual rooms or the full townhome. Each stay includes four complimentary tickets to Mount Vernon.
- The Hyatt Regency Dulles has begun a top to bottom multi-million-dollar renovation on its rooms, restaurant and meeting space, aiming to finish by February/March 2020.
- The Tysons Corner Marriott began a major renovation of its rooms and meeting space (replacing the pool with space) in late winter 2019 with a completion goal of early spring 2020.
- The Sheraton Reston has begun work on an exterior facelift, plus will be renovating rooms and meeting space (also turning its outdoor pool into outdoor event function space for weddings/receptions/etc) with a completion date of mid-2020.
- The Westin Tysons Corner is doing a major renovation of its meeting space with a completion goal of mid-2020.
IN OTHER NEWS
- Announced in late 2019, The Leadership Collection™ at Alexandria is a new meetings offering by Visit Alexandria. Now affordable access to several of the most recognized leadership programs in the country, including the George Washington Leadership Institute at Mount Vernon, McChrystal Group and Building Momentum, is at your fingertips. From groundbreaking curriculums and facilitators, to thought-provoking spaces to boutique accommodations, Alexandria is a hidden gem for business events up to 150, making it the ideal location to inspire and prepare your people to help your organization achieve its best future.