The Port of Alexandria is one of the United States' most popular tourist destinations. The Port of Alexandria blends colonial history with modern recreation for all. The Port of Alexandria is home to several award-winning restaurants, quaint boutiques, and many specialty shops. Lined with 250-year old brick streets and 18th and 19th Century architecture, the Port of Alexandria's Old Town is perfect for a day trip, a romantic diversion, or a corporate meeting and events.
The Port of Alexandria's Old Town contains art galleries, antique shops, restaurants with open-air seating, and souvenir shops. Old Town's King Street is one of the most enchanting settings in the capital area. The Port of Alexandria's Old Town is also a proud residential community where almost four thousand buildings from the 18th and 19th Centuries are still used as homes, reminiscent of historic cities in Europe.
The Port of Alexandria has a humid subtropical climate with hot humid summers and mild-to-cold winters. Summer brings high humidity and afternoon thunderstorms. Located relatively near the Chesapeake Bay via the Potomac River, the Port of Alexandria is slightly cooler than surrounding areas. Temperatures in the Port of Alexandria range from an average high of 32°C (89°F) in July to an average low of -2°C (29°F) in January. Rainfall is relatively stable throughout the year, peaking at almost ten centimeters (3.8 inches) in June and falling to about seven centimeters (2.8 inches) in January. Humidity levels range from around 70% from December through April to just over 80% in September. Snow comes to the Port of Alexandria from November through early April, peaking in January and February at about centimeters (5.75 inches).
Visitors to the Port of Alexandria can pick up brochures and maps and purchase tickets to historic attractions and tours at the Alexandria Visitors Center at Ramsay House. The Port of Alexandria contains more historic sites than tourists can visit in several days. The Port of Alexandria owns and operates seven historic sites: the Lyceum, Gadsby's Tavern Museum, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, Alexandria Black History Museum, Fort Ward Museum, Friendship Firehouse, and Alexandria Archaeology Museum.
Other historic sites include The Athenaeum, the George Washington Masonic Memorial, Carlyle House, Christ Church, the Port of Alexandria's Torpedo Factory Art Center, Lee-Fendall House, Old Presbyterian Meeting Museum, and the US Patent & Trademark Office Museum. In addition to historic sites, the Port of Alexandria's waterfront offers a beautiful place to walk and enjoy scenic views of the Potomac and Washington DC. The Port of Alexandria waterfront is also popular for its street performers and live music, top-quality restaurants, and street vendors.
The Port of Alexandria's Gadsby's Tavern & Museum occupies two buildings that include the 1785 tavern and the 1792 City Hotel. John Gadsby operated these facilities from 1796 until 1808. Gadsby's was a center for the Port of Alexandria's business, social, and political communities. George Washington attended the Birthnight Ball honoring him twice. Other familiar faces included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, the Marquis de Lafayette, James Madison, and James Monroe.
Gadsby's Tavern & Museum in the Port of Alexandria sponsors events throughout the year that include ladies' teas and a Civil War Ball as well as many other events celebrating the Port of Alexandria's rich history. Tours are available from April through October on Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm and on Sunday and Monday from 1pm to 5pm, and Gadsby's is closed on Tuesday. The last tour begins at 4:45pm. From November through March, tours are conducted from Wednesday through Saturday from 11am to 4pm and on Sunday from 1pm to 4pm. Off-season, the Port of Alexandria's Gadsby's Tavern & Museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday. The last tour begins at 3:45pm.
The Port of Alexandria Black History Museum was created to stimulate appreciation of the diversity of African American experience in the United States, particularly in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This Port of Alexandria complex contains the museum, a reading room, and a heritage park. The museum is dedicated to local and regional history and includes the Robert H. Robinson Library as a gallery. The library was built in 1940 after a sit-in at the Port of Alexandria's segregated public library. The Watson Reading Room offers documents that cover the diversity of the cultural traditions of African America. The African American Heritage Park is a nine-acre wetland and green space promoting quiet reflection.
Exhibits at the Port of Alexandria Black History Museum include "African Encounters: Coast to Coast," a collection of collagraph prints that explore the people of Africa and related landscape and architecture. The works in the collection were created by artist Kathleen Stafford, one of five Americans who escaped (with her husband) from the American Embassy during the 1979 revolution in Iran. (Stafford's story is told in the award-winning movie Argo.)
The permanent exhibit entitled "Securing the Blessings of Liberty" documents how African Americans survived and helped to destroy slavery and how they influence modern society. Enslaved African Americans built much of historic Virginia, and their experience still haunts American consciousness. The Port of Alexandria Black History Museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 10am until 4pm. A nominal admission fee is charged.
One of the Port of Alexandria's most popular places is the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a three-floor center with open studios and art galleries, housing more than 165 visual artists. The US Navy began construction of the original building at the end of World War I to serve as the US Naval Torpedo Station. The factory produced torpedoes in the Port of Alexandria until 1923 and was used to store munitions until World War II when operations began again in earnest. The green torpedo that hangs in the mail hall was created here in 1945. After World War II, the US Government used the Port of Alexandria buildings for storage of many Smithsonian collection art objects and archaeological artifacts, Congressional documents, and vaulted German war films and records. The Port of Alexandria purchased the building in 1969, but it was not developed until 1974 when it opened as a public facility.
About 500 thousand people visit the Port of Alexandria's Torpedo Factory Art Center each year. The center contains 82 artists' studios, six galleries, two workshops, the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, The Art League School, and the Bread & Chocolate Café. Port of Alexandria artists working in the center produce a wide range of media including ceramics, painting, photography, sculpture, stained glass, jewelry, printmaking, and fiber. Visitors can enter their studios to watch them work and questions.
This Port of Alexandria building is open from 10am until 6pm (except when rented for private evening events - closes at 5pm) every day. On Thursday, it is open until 9pm, and there is a 6-9pm 2nd Thursday Art Night each month. The Port of Alexandria Torpedo Factory Art Center is closed on New Year's Day, Easter, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Artists' studio hours vary, so visitors should check the webpage for specific artists' schedules. Most of the six galleries are open from 10am until 6pm daily and until 9pm on Thursday.
In addition to easy browsing, visitors can tour the Port of Alexandria Torpedo Factory Art Center. School groups cannot exceed 50 people and must include one adult per every ten students. Free guided tours led by artists begin every Friday at 1pm. Small groups can ask for unscheduled group tours any day with a minimum notice of two weeks.