Why Virginia Is For Lovers — Literally And Figuratively

Photo: Visit Alexandria
Best Vacations For Couples 2020: Why Virginia Is For Lovers — Literally And Figuratively
Editor At Large
Self

Created more than 50 years ago, the slogan 'Virginia is for lovers' has become one of the most iconic state catchphrases of all-time. (I mean, think about it. Nebraska, Kentucky, Washington? Any clue what those state's slogans are.) But say Virginia and immediately the phrase "...is for lovers" follows. (In fact, there's really interesting history about the creation of the phrase itself, which has since been inducated into the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame in 2009, alongside such iconic slogans like State Farm's 'Like A Good Neighbor, State Farm Is There.')  

So we took it upon ourselves to find out if, indeed, the state slogan lives up to its promise: Is Virginia really for lovers? To find out, we honed in on the charming city of Alexandria, Virginia. Why? In 2019, the city on the banks of the Potomac River right outisde of our nation's capital was voted a top 5 'Best Small City In the U.S.' by Condé Nast Traveler and one of the South's Prettiest Cities by Southern Living — not too shabby! Plus, we were drawn to the highly-Instagrammable, honeymoon-ready King Street with its bevy of one-of-a-kind boutique shops. (There's over 200 independent shops; a window-shopper's dream!) But that's not even the tip of this Southern iceberg: there's plenty more reasons why Alexandria is far-and-away one of the best vacation ideas for couples in 2020, starting with romance, charm, hospitality, and a lot of history. 

Alexandria, Virginia: population: 159,200

Why? Quaint. Quiet. Historic. Think: Cobbled streets. A romantic waterfront. Fresh flowers. Row home after row home. The southern charm is both distinctly Southern and uniquely charming.

Where to stay? Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa. The location of this boutique hotel is not to beat — located directly on King Street and steps away from the shops and restaurants of Old Town Alexandria and the ferry to Georgetown as well as driving distance from DC. (Think of it as your quiet and comfortable retreat from the buzz of the Capital.) Evening wine receptions and meticulously-appointed rooms complement its location on one of the 'Great Streets' of America. For a romantic unwind after a day trotting King Street, head to their spa for an urban retreat.

What to do?

1. Sample fresh produce and baked goods at the Old Town Farmer's Market. For history buffs, the Old Town Farmers' Market is the oldest farmers' market in the country held continuously at the same site: 301 King Street, Market Square — right in front of Alexandria's City Hall. In fact, George Washington sent his produce from Mount Vernon to be sold at the same market you can visit to this day. During the peak season on Saturdays, there are more than 70 vendors offering fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, cheeses, breads, pastries, fresh pasta, pickled vegetables, cut flowers, potted plants, soaps, jewelry, and art. It's a sensory and savory overload.  Build up your appetite by ambling down the extraoardinarly romantic King Street en route to the market or take the King Street trolley. Our favorite treats were these tart, flaky (in a good way) handmade pastries.

2. Visit the skinniest historic home in America. You've gotta see this one to believe it. Spite House, the tiny blue house pictured below, was built in 1830 and is only 7 feet wide and 325 square feet! (Talk about tight quarters.) History books tell us John Hollensbury built it out of spite — hence the name — in 1830 to keep loiterers out of his adjacent alley (this gives us some ideas....) and Ripley's named it the 'narrowest home in America.' But if this row home isn't photogenic enough for you, don't worry: Alexandria is home to hundreds more — many with ornately colored doors (and door-knockers!) and sit upon wide cobbled streets perfect for romantic strolls and DIY photo tours: just avoid wearing heels!

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3. Peruse local art in a historic space that was once a literal torpedo factory. The history of the Torpedo Factory Art Center — which is now home to the nation's largest collection of working artists under one roof; 82 local artists in total — is wild. After Armistice Day in 1918, marking the end of World War I, the U.S. Navy began construction of the original U.S. Naval Torpedo Station. Once it was operational, the building served to manufacture and maintain torpedos for the next 5 years. Today, it's an Alexandria landmark, which is open and free to the public, offering the chance to peruse, chat with (many artists are in their studios working and happy to answer questions) and support the locals who call this giant art gallery home. The paper mache Frida Kahlo below, one of our favorites, was created by sculptor Lisa Schumaier.

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4. Take a romantic sunset ferry from Alexandria to Georgetown. One of Alexandria's selling points is its proximity to water — and also to our nation's capital. (It's about 7 miles away.) Ditch the car, though — traffic can be gruesome — and instead embark on a Potomac Riverboat Company cruise, a 45-minute guided tour that cruises past all the DC essentials — Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Watergate Hotel, and John F. Kennedy Center — and will land you in Georgetown, home to historic Georgetown University, just in time for dinner. (And pssst: if monuments aren't your thing, we were enchanted watching the planes take off and land at Reagan: it's the best seat in the house for up-close-and-personal airport viewing: you're directly below the flight path.) The quaint college town isn't short on charm, either: like it's neighbor, it's not short on opulent homes and wide streets — but while Alexandria caters to a boutique shopping experience, M Street has all your upscale chain faves. Catch the ferry back for sunset and you'll get a starry-eyed sky like this one.

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5. Walk in the steps of our first President at Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum. Far and away one of the most special places to visit if you're a history buff, the original apothecary — which is preserved nearly in its entirety (even its pharmaceutical jars, potions, and elixirs are originals) — was founded in 1792. Its customers included Martha Washington (presumably there to pick up Rx's for George), Robert E. Lee, and Nelly Custis, the granddaughter of George and Martha Washingon. Walking into the apothecary today it's as if you've turned the clock back 200+ years into a Revolutionary War-era pharmacy full of herbal botanicals, hand-blown glass, and medical equipment. In fact, because the entire ambience is magically spooky, the museum often hosts Harry-Potter themed events since many of the real-life ingredients used throughout the 1800s also exist in the HP series: dragon's blood, mandrake root, and lavender, etc. Eerie fun — with a history lesson to boot.

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Andrea Zimmerman is the editor-at-large at Yourtango. She enjoys reading, traveling, and reading while traveling. Follow her @angiecat86 on Instagram.

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