By George, there was quite the birthday bash in Alexandria, Va., as this storied American center celebrated the 286th anniversary of Virginia’s own George Washington.
Honored with a parade through Old Town Alexandria on Feb. 19, 2018, Washington would have felt right at home.
Third oldest behind Charleston and New Orleans, Alexandria’s historic district, dating to 1749, features many of the city’s 200-plus structures built before 1820. Washington was also feted with cherry-centric dishes at local restaurants, including Jackson 20 at the group-capable Alexandrian Hotel.
Featuring a ballroom where Washington and Thomas Jefferson once danced, the circa-1785 Gadsby’s Tavern Museum hosted George Washington’s Birthnight Banquet & Ball.
The “General” and wife Martha were also toasted at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, where group programs include tours, functions and whiskey tastings at the historic on-site Distillery & Gristmill.
“Alexandria is most known as George Washington’s adopted hometown,” said Lorraine Lloyd, Visit Alexandria’s senior vice president of sales. “Our nationally designated historic district is filled with new offerings, from restaurants to boutiques to group experiences, all set within 18th and 19th century architecture. Attendees are often wowed by our unique venues and our walkable city just minutes from our nation’s capital.”
The city, in heritage-rich Fairfax County (276 this year), is serious about historic preservation. Other heirlooms include the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, founded 1792. The Lyceum, Alexandria’s history museum, dates to 1838. Originally manufacturing torpedoes for WWI, the Torpedo Factory Art Center, which opened in 1918 and transformed into an art hub in 1974, offers flexible spaces for small and large events.
Across Northern Virginia, the past, preserved and protected, remains very much present for meetings.
At 26 square miles, Arlington County is geographically the nation’s smallest county. For historical military sites, though, it could not rank larger. The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, Marine Corps War Memorial and U.S. Air Force Memorial are all here. And, hallowed Arlington National Cemetery.
For their “service to country” in conflicts from the Civil War to the present day, more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their immediate family members lay at rest in the cemetery’s 624 rolling acres. Established in 1864, the site remains active with daily funeral services. Interpretative tours by bus visit key historic sites, including the Kennedy gravesites and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, perpetually protected by elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment sentinels in the stirring Changing of the Guard ritual.
For on-site functions, The Women’s Military Service to America Memorial offers a 33,000-square-foot education center accommodating 500 seated guests and receptions for 1,000. Venues include a 196-seat theater, 50-seat conference room and catering kitchen.
In nearby Rosslyn, the recently renovated 583-room Key Bridge Marriott has anchored the Virginia side of the Key Bridge since opening in 1959. Marriott International’s second-ever flag and longest continuously operating property, the hotel offers 15,560 square feet of space, including the panoramic top floor Capital View Ballroom.
Home to Washington Dulles International Airport and the Dulles Technology Corridor, Virginia’s pastoral Loudoun County, an hour west of D.C., features wine, horses and heritage venues like this sprawling National Historic Landmark estate on the outskirts of Leesburg.
Developed as a plantation by original owner George Carter starting in 1798, the property became the country home of prominent Washingtonians William and Edith Eustis in 1903. Following Edith’s passing in 1964, the family donated the land to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
From April through November, guides lead interpretative tours of the first floor of the Oatlands mansion, constructed in stages from 1804 to the 1820s. Other guided tours explore the property’s ornamental gardens and the history of its former enslaved community.
Wide-ranging hosting includes company picnics, family reunions, 5K races and equine events. Available year-round, the on-site Inn at Oatlands Hamlet is ideal for corporate groups. With five bedrooms and diverse indoor and outdoor spaces, the 19th century Inn is available for buyouts of a maximum of 25.
For larger meetings and events, the luxurious 168-room Salamander Resort & Spa in nearby historic Middleburg (1787) is the region’s premier group base. Groups can also dine at Middleburg’s landmark Red Fox Inn & Tavern, from 1728.
Visible from I-95, the 210-foot, Iwo Jima-inspired mast of this star Prince William County attraction is a striking call to attention. Inside, exhibits showcase the valorous history of the United States Marines Corps (USMC), founded in 1775 and based in neighboring Quantico since 1917.
Set on 135 acres, the museum is marching ahead with its 115,000-square-foot “Final Phase” expansion.
Intended to “complete the Marine family story and get it right,” the multiyear project doubles the museum’s size with new galleries and facilities. Openings last year included a giant-screen movie theater and expanded education suite. Future additions include the Hall of Valor and Marine Corps Sports Gallery and Hall of Fame, both targeting 2020.
“There are very few reflective moments in American life, but the National Museum of the Marine Corps creates many such moments,” stated Major Gen. Timothy Hanifen (USMC retired) on the museum’s website. “The new galleries are an opportunity to tell the rest of the story for a new generation while they’re still here to experience it.”
Five venues for co-sponsored events include the Tun Tavern, after the Philadelphia tavern where the first Marines were recruited in 1775. Hung with vintage aircraft, the spacious Leatherneck Gallery accommodates 1,000 guests for standing receptions, with space for 100 on the second-level Overlook.
The cafeteria-style Devil Dog Diner offers Mess Hall-inspired menus, and the award-winning Semper Fidelis Memorial Chapel is for weddings and Marine farewells.
Other Prince William County historical sites include Manassas National Battlefield Park, offering ranger-led tours and hikes, and event-capable Old Manassas Courthouse.
In war and in peace, George Washington traversed the East, Mid-Atlantic and South, leaving a near-omnipresent legacy. His legend began at the national landmark Ferry Farm in historic Fredericksburg.
Washington, then six, moved to the farm with his family in 1738. Fables associated with his 16 formative years at the 280-acre location include confessing to chopping his father’s cherry tree (invented by an early biographer), and tossing a silver dollar across the bordering Rappahannock River.
While the circa-1720 family home was destroyed in the Civil War, an interpretative replica is slated for completion this spring built on original foundations discovered a decade ago.
Managed by the locally based George Washington Foundation, the 80-acre property features a visitor center displaying colonial and Civil War artifacts unearthed on-site, and a working archaeology lab. Interpreters are on hand to answer questions, with self-guided tours enhanced by interactive details on a provided iPad.
Nearby, Historic Kenmore was the circa-1775 home of Washington's sister, Betty Washington Lewis, and her husband. Activities at the national landmark site include interpreter-led tours of the house and strolling the gardens and grounds.
Equidistant from D.C. and Richmond, Fredericksburg features a 40-block National Historic District.
Northern Virginia CVB Contact Information
Arlington Convention and Visitors Service
Discover Prince William County & Manassas
Greater Fredericksburg Tourism Partnership
Loudoun Convention & Visitors Association