Home for the Holidays…Covid Style!
By Bob Tagert
Home for the Holidays…Covid Style!
As most of you know, this column is dedicated to writing about destinations in our region and sometimes beyond, but every December issue it is about “Home for the Holidays”. More specifically, it is about Old Town Alexandria for the holidays. It was our chance to expose the virtues of Old Town and our community to others. Clearly, some folks took the holiday as an opportunity to travel and be with family and friends. For a lot of us…that has all changed. With the resurgence of the virus, travel and get-togethers have been discouraged, so this year it really is Home for the Holidays.
With the potential introduction of a vaccine at years end and pushing into 2021, everything may change by the second quarter and we can all come out of hiding and our lives might return to what we remember as normal. Although the most elaborate holiday events are cancelled and some city funded destinations are closed in Alexandria, our business community will remain open; though, in some cases, at reduced capacity.
Two years ago the Portside Park at the foot of King Street was completed which helped to expand the existing Waterfront Park and connects Old Town’s historic retail corridor with the Potomac River. Visitors can enjoy four distinct areas – the open plaza, a waterfront promenade, shade structures (although not necessary in winter) and a modular space that can adapt to different purposes throughout the year. During social distancing protocols, this area is a great place to create space and still enjoy the outdoors and the river.
Also located on the waterfront is the Tall Ship Providence. This full-scale reproduction of one of the most renowned ships in the Continental Navy arrived in the summer of 2019 to great fanfare and opened as a permanent attraction in 2020. The ship is open to the public and tours include family pirate cruises, adult pirate cruises, craft beer cruises and occasional evening cruises. Some events have been modified this time of year so check their web site for current information.
Discover art in person and in progress at the nation’s largest collection of working artists’ open studios under one roof. A fully operational munitions plant during World War II, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is now home to 82 artists’ studios, seven galleries, the Alexandria Archaeology Museum and The Art League. When I came to Old Town in 1977 the two original buildings from WWII were still standing. A lot has changed since then.
While the town will be decked out in the holiday spirit, we will be missing some of the annual events that we have come to enjoy. The Scottish Christmas Walk weekend has been cancelled. This includes the parade and events at the Campagna Center. The Boat Parade of Lights, a very popular parade on the Potomac River, has been cancelled as well. Also, there will be no Water Skiing Santa on the Potomac this year. Even though a lot of our favorite events have been cancelled due to the virus, there are still events throughout the month.
According to the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association, “You can experience holiday magic on the historic streets of Old Town. Recognized by Oprah Magazine as one of the most magical Christmas towns across the World in 2020 and by Southern Living as the perfect southern town for a Hallmark Christmas movie in 2019, Alexandria brings an old fashioned sense of holiday wonder to the area with centuries-old brick-lined streets, twinkling with holiday traditions that make visitors feel transported. Step back in time and enjoy Colonial Christmas programming at George Washington’s Mount Vernon or skate through Ice and Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run. Dozens of independent boutiques are going above and beyond to keep visitors safe with the ALX Promise shield and are ready to welcome masked customers with greenery at their doorsteps, offering everything from chic fashions and home decor to classic toys and gifts for dogs. Stroll among al fresco dining spots along 18th and 19th century streetscapes or pick up gourmet goodies to go. Under a canopy of sparkling lights, a stroll on historic King Street is like being in a real life Dickens Village, complete with a European flair. Recognized as a Top 5 Best Small Cities in the U.S. 2020 for the third consecutive year by the Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, Alexandria offers an authentic holiday experience-the way it was meant to be!”
When the need for reduced capacity arose during the pandemic, Alexandria took quick action on behalf of its businesses. The Old Town Business Association, City officials and Merchants came together and closed the 100 block of King Street to vehicular traffic and created more outdoor dining space by allowing tables at curbside in the street. This allowed all of the restaurants to increase their dining options while heeding the percentage closing protocols. With cooler weather coming the restaurants have recently put up tents over their seating and heating units are being installed. The success was immediate and the expansion of outdoor seating has spread to other parts of Alexandria to guarantee you a seat for dining out.
Although some of our favorite events have been cancelled, Alexandria is still a fantastic place to enjoy a holiday season day out or weekend stay. Here is wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and a much, much better 2021.
For more Holiday Happenings please check the Calendar of Events in this issue.