Alexandria, Virginia is a large and vibrant city best known for its proximity to Washington, D.C. It is populated largely by government employers or contractors, or those working for the U.S. military. The population is just under 140,000, making it one of the bigger communities in the D.C. metro area. Alexandria is divided into many smaller, affluent, very walkable suburbs filled with beautiful, modern, spacious family homes.
Alexandria’s history dates back to the end of the seventeenth century, at which time it was part of the English Colony of Virginia. It was filled with tobacco plantations. In the mid-1700s, the Alexander family contributed to the naming of what is now Alexandria. It was briefly called Belhaven, appearing on the record thusly only a few times before the original name stuck. In 1791, Alexandria was part of the land chosen by George Washington to become the District of Columbia. It was not given back to Virginia until the middle of the 19th century. The first fatalities of the Civil War took place in Alexandria, and the city remained under military occupation until the end of the war. By the late 20th century, according to Wikipedia, “Alexandria had become a key portion of the urban agglomeration of Northern Virginia.”
Any discussion of Alexandria is incomplete without a mention of its Old Town, the city’s historic center. The Old Town district sits right on the Potomac, and is a vibrant area with cobblestone streets and red brick sidewalks. It is anchored by the George Washington Masonic Memorial. King Street is the neighborhood’s main artery. It is around one mile long and is a walkable stretch of boutiques, restaurants, and plenty of quaint things to see and do. After you take it in by foot, water taxis and boat rides of the river are another popular way to experience Old Town. Also notable about Old Town: the King Street Metro station, which links Alexandria with Washington via a 15-minute train ride.
Although it is a large city, Alexandria maintains the feel of a smaller, tight-knit community. It is full of scenic parks filled with playgrounds and picnic areas, community gardens (tomatoes, basil, sunflowers, and raspberries are all popular local crops), and aquatic centers where families can swim and splash in warm weather. There are at least three farmers’ markets in the city; one in Old Town, the Del Ray Farmers’ Market, and the Four Mile Run Farmers and Artisans Market. There are a number of parades held throughout the year, including a Scottish Christmas Walk and parades for St. Patrick’s Day and the birthday of George Washington.
The two largest employers in Alexandria are the United States Department of Commerce and the United States Department of Defense, followed by the City of Alexandria and Alexandria Public Schools. Large private employers include Inova Health System, ABM Janitorial Services, and Institute for Defense Analyses.
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