Old Town Alexandria?

Old Feb 22nd, 2015, 06:00 PM
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Old Town Alexandria?

My husband and I are thinking of staying in Old Town Alexandria when we come to D.C. is this a good area to stay in? We want something with some charm, something walkable with some good restaurants. How long does it take to get to D.C. from this area? Is there public transportation that will take us into the city? Any favorite hotels that you can recommend? If you've stayed here, I'd love to know what you thought. Thanks for any guidance you can give me. I think we would like something close to public transportation if we can get it.
volcanogirl is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2015, 06:46 PM
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I live in Alexandria and highly recommend Old Town. It is a very charming colonial port city with lots of shopping and dining. Very walkable and quaint if you like brick colonial architecture.

If you are driving, you can make it into DC anywhere between 15 minutes and 45 minutes depending on time of day and DC traffic. Parking is the problem- it is premium in Old Town (you need a resident's pass or you have to pay on most streets) and in DC, so look for a hotel with a parking package if you are driving in.

There is a metro stop at the top end of King St (the main walking street through town that starts down on the Potomac River). Metro from here into DC is convenient but takes about 45 minutes depending on what train connections you make. Once you get into DC it will be easier not to have a car and just take the metro or the Circulator busses.

Staying anywhere along King St between the metro and the river will be convenient to dining and charm, plus there is the free King Street Trolley (really just a bus made to look like a cute trolley) to get to the metro and back.

In warmer months, there are boat tours that will take you from the docks in Old Town to Mt Vernon (George Washington's estate- worth a visit for history buffs), and across to Nationals Park for baseball games and to Georgetown.

There are lots of hotel choices. There is a Hotel Monaco right down by the town square on King St where we have a big farmers market on Sundays. The Morrison House is a historic boutique hotel right in the heart of Old Town. The Lorien is also quite fancy on King St closer to the metro station, as is a Hampton Inn, a Hilton, and an Embassy Suites.

Be careful when you book- lots of hotels say they are in Old Town but they are out on the highway with no way to walk into town. Check the location on a map- you want to be between the King St Metro and the river on the blocks around King St.

Closer to the river below Washington St, about 4-6 blocks north of King St, there are a bunch of big corporate hotels (some with river views I believe). You are farther from the main dining area there but it is still charming if you don't mind more of a walk.

There are also a bunch of big chain hotels in the Eisenhower Ave area. This is a newer developed area with lots of condos, office towers, a movie theater (AMC Hoffman) and some chain restaurants. It is safe and you can walk to Old Town from here but it is a bit of a hike and I'm not sure I would do it at night. No charm at all in this area.

If you want a charmless but safe area outside of DC proper where you might find better hotel deals, I would recommend Crystal City, VA, right up the river from Old Town. Lots of huge chain hotels and plenty of dining options (and the Pentagon City Mall) but it is an office and condo area of skyscrapers with no real charm at all. The metro from Crystal City is a faster ride into DC from here than Old Town, and you could always cab it to Old Town for dining. Very close to Reagan National Airport too (like right there...you can even dine at Ruth's Chris in Crystal City overlooking the airport-- more interesting and a prettier view than you would think!)

Overall, I would say staying in Old Town would be great if you want two sides to your trip- DC monuments, museums, etc for touring by day, and historic small town charm and walkable dining and shops in the evenings. You can't exactly dash back and forth, so if you are the type who likes to retire to the hotel for a rest mid-day while touring, it wouldn't be ideal.

Have a great trip wherever you decide!
BlueSwimmer is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2015, 08:07 PM
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I think BlueSwimmer has given you an accurate and appealing picture of Old Town, with lots of useful information.

IMO, it depends on whether this is your first trip to DC, and how much time you have. If DC and its attractions are really the priority, I'd recommend a day in Old Town but to stay in DC proper.
NewbE is offline  
Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 07:02 AM
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We stay at the Embassy Suites in Alexandria . . right across the street from the King St. Metro Station which can get you into the mall in about 40 mins if you avoid rush hour times.

Short walk to Old Town and close to the trolley

Rich is offline  
Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 08:39 AM
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Yellow Line to central DC from Old Town is less than 20 minutes.
BigRuss is offline  
Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 08:43 AM
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I live all three of the Alexandria Kimptons. My favorite is the Monaco, but you will be happy at any of them. If you opt to stay there be sure to join their loyalty program. They are running some good deals right now.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 08:56 AM
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I routinely take the metro from King Street into the District and I can't think of a trip on a normal day that took more than 20-30 minutes to any destination a tourist is likely to go.

For the OP, check a map to see which metro station is closest to your destination. That sounds obvious but the National Mall is over 2 miles in length and there are a half dozen metro stations in proximity.

right across the street from the King St. Metro Station which can get you into the mall in about 40 mins if you avoid rush hour times.

That's inaccurate. During rush hour trains run more frequently and with more cars. And apologies for picking on your post, but the Embassy Suites adjacent to the King Street metro station you mention is in Old Town proper. Blueswimmer makes a good point about the "Old Town" designation getting applied to hotels that are not really in the vicinity. My own personal favorite is the Lorien, but the ES you mention is an excellent choice as well.

If it's not the OP's first visit to the DC area, then I agree that Alexandria offers a very pleasant change up to staying downtown but still having a lot of things to see, do and eat (well) within easy walking distance.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 09:50 AM
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I've only stayed in Old Town Alexandria each time I've visited DC!! There is a MarriottResidence Inn 1456 Duke St, a very short walk to the King St metro and also a Hilton at 1767 King St right by the metro! I've had nothing but good experiences at both. The cheese blintzes at the Hilton's breakfast buffet are excellent, too.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 10:34 AM
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Thank you everyone - this is my second visit to D.C. So far we have a trip to Mount Vernon planned and tickets to a Nationals game. I've done a lot of the tourist monuments, museums, etc. before but will probably do a few on this trip as well. Thanks for the heads up on the Kimpton rewards program. I just signed up. Does anyone know of a good map that shows all the Metro stations? I really appreciate all this good information - thank you so much. It sounds like this would be a good area for us.
volcanogirl is offline  
Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 11:09 AM
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WMATA.com. Good map and trip planner.
obxgirl is online now  
Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 11:12 AM
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Google maps will show you Metro stations on a street map. There's a trip planner there too.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 03:45 PM
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Thank you, obx, that looks perfect.

For people who like the Monaco, do you think a balcony room is better or one with a view of King Street? Is King Street pretty? Would it be loud with a lot of traffic noise? I really think I like that location.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 04:08 PM
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We stayed in the Lorien in December and enjoyed it. I wouldn't describe it as fancy, more along the lines of chic comfort. It's only a few blocks from the Monaco so I'd go with whichever gives you the best rate. We ate breakfast and dinner at the more casual restaurant located at the Lorien and had good meals.

Our room faced away from the street and overlooked parking areas and terraces of private homes. It was pretty quiet until the trash truck came around early on a Saturday morning.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 07:47 PM
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I have to admit, I prefer staying in DC, perhaps at
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Old Feb 24th, 2015, 08:37 AM
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For people who like the Monaco, do you think a balcony room is better or one with a view of King Street?

If there is a choice I'd probably choose a balcony room at the Monaco which will overlook an interior brick courtyard. The view of King Street is nothing special. Noise is not an issue. The on site restaurant is good. I personally like the food at the Lorien more -- both the casual tasting room Birdie mentioned (generous and nicely priced wine flights) and the more formal one, Brabo, which is one of DC's best restaurants.

But you'll not go wrong in either place. I agree with Birdie and would probably go with whichever hotel was offering a better rate during your stay.
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Old Feb 24th, 2015, 11:12 AM
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Thanks, everyone. Glad to hear that noise is not an issue. And thanks, k, for listing some alternatives. I saw that the Monaco will put a pet fish in your room. Is that a Kimpton thing? I thought that was pretty funny and quirky. I think we've settled on staying in Old Town since I've already stayed in D.C.
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