Fun Things for Sailors To Do in Alexandria, Virginia

There's so much for sailors in Alexandria, VA.

When we reached out to SpinSheet Century Club member and Alexandria, VA, resident Heather Irene Howard about things sailors should do in her town, we expected two or three sailing and restaurant suggestions. She sent us a full list to keep sailors busy and entertained in all seasons! Here are Heather Irene’s many suggestions with minor edits from our editor, Molly Winans.

PRSA sailboats on the water near Alexandria, VA
Sailing out of the Potomac River Sailing Association. Photo coutesy of Facebook

Set Sail on the Potomac

  • Washington Sailing Marina. Just north of Old Town, this marina offers sailboat, paddleboard, and kayak rentals, sailing lessons, summer sailing camps, as well as marine services.
  • Daingerfield Island Sailing Club (DISC). Keelboat racing for spinnaker and non-spin classes every Tuesday night from April to September with several weekend regattas during the season.
  • Potomac River Sailing Association (PRSA). Founded in 1935 to provide a focal point for small boat sailing on the Potomac, PRSA hosts racing throughout the year on Sundays with ILCA (formerly Laser) frostbite races and spring and fall small boat races. The club also sponsors a Spring Regatta (May 25-26) and the President’s Cup (September 21-22), which is the largest regatta on the Potomac.
  • Sailing Club of Washington (SCOW). SCOW offers a range of activities for sailors and their families including keelboat and small-boat racing and lessons, raft-ups, cruises, and the popular Social Sail every Thursday evening starting in the spring.
  • Old Dominion Boat Club. An active club on the Potomac sailing scene with a beautiful new clubhouse. 
  • Belle Haven Marina. Located south of Old Town, Belle Haven provides boat rentals, lessons, and marine services:
  • Sunset and Specialty Sails. The historic tall ship Providence serves as a floating classroom, educates visitors on the role that the Continental Navy (particularly Providence) played in the American Revolution, and showcases Alexandria’s history as a port city. Providence, a replica of the first ship authorized to serve in the Continental Navy, was John Paul Jones’s first American command. Visitors can also book a variety of different sailing experiences, including specialty craft beer, wine, and spirit sails.

Sailboat at SCOW in Alexandria, VA
Flying Scot Social Sail night at SCOW. Photo by Jennifer Johnson

Come by Boat

The Alexandria City Marina offers short-term docking (up to four hours) for $20. First come, first served. Make reservations for overnight stays.

Sip and Snack

There’s great waterfront dining in Old Town Alexandria. Annapolitans will recognize the sister locations of Chart House and Blackwall Hitch on the waterfront. Other suggestions: 

  • BARCA Pier and Wine Bar: Barca (Spanish for “boat”) serves Spanish-Mediterranean tapas and includes a bar on the pier made from shipping containers (2 Pioneer Way). 
  • Oyster happy hour every Monday-Friday from 3-7 p.m. at Vola’s Dockside Grill and Hi-Tide Lounge. Vola’s also hosts a spring and fall oyster fest, with unlimited oysters (101 North Union Street) . 
  • While Starbucks is a contemporary chain, in Old Town you are stepping into history as lattes and coffee are now brewed in a former stone and brick inn from the 1700s. The building was the site of the Seaport Inn and Restaurant in 1765 (100 Union Street). 
  • Gregory’s (804 N. Henry St.), a nautical-themed speakeasy hidden inside Railbird Kitchen. Pull the lever by the “out of rum” signal flag to access the secret, seaport-inspired cocktail bar. In addition to nautical-names drinks, the decor includes a boat made by the Alexandria Seaport Foundation. Reservations recommended. 

BARCA Pier and Wine Bar in Alexandria, VA
BARBCA Pier and Wine Bar in Alexandria, VA. Photo courtesy of Facebook

Where the Locals Go

If the weather is beautiful, walk farther up King Street and check out the lovely garden patio at Taverna Cretekou (818 King Street) for some homestyle Greek cuisine, grab a drink, and listen to local bands in the beer garden at Augie’s Mussel House (1106 King Street), or watch the big game at Hank’s Oyster Bar rooftop (818 N. St. Asaph Street).

Water taxi in Alexandria, VA
Life along the waterfront in Alexandria, VA. Photo by Kristian Summerer for Visit Alexandria

Cherry Blossoms by Boat

Cherry Blossom Season is coming soon! Alexandria City Experiences has a variety of tours and dinner experiences on the Potomac. Depart from Old Town to view the cherry blossoms and the monuments. You can also hop on the Potomac Water Taxi to National Harbor and The District Wharf for additional shopping and dining.

boatbuilding at Alexandria Seaport Foundation
Young people learning boatbuilding skills at the Alexandria Seaport Foundation. Photo courtesy of the Alexandria Seaport Foundation

Alexandria Seaport Foundation

The Alexandria Seaport Foundation, a charitable organization, improves the lives of young people in need of direction through project-based learning, adult mentoring, and the craft of wooden boatbuilding. The Seaport serves ages 16-22 and provides the educational, career, and life skills necessary for them to become responsible, successful adults. In addition to volunteer opportunities, visitors can take part in the Alexandria Seaport Foundation’s signature annual event, Wine on the Water (WOW), which takes place every September. 

Events and Festivals 

Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 7 a.m.- noon in Market Square (301 King Street). Rain or shine. 

  • George Washington Birthday Parade: Celebrate Washington’s birthday in his adopted hometown with the biggest parade held in his honor.
  • St. Patrick’s Day Parade: The Ballyshaners St. Patrick’s Day parade March 2 features dozens of groups including pipe bands, Irish dance schools, community groups, and a host of other performers and entertainment such as a car show and dog show prior to the parade kick-off.
  • The 46th Alexandria Jazz Festival at Portside in Old Town: This two-day summer festival is free to the public and includes live music, arts and crafts, history activities, and local craft beer. 
  • Juneteenth: Learn about Juneteenth and Alexandria’s Black history and culture with walking tours, musical performances, and more.
  • The Annual Alexandria Warehouse Sale at the Torpedo Factory (February). More than 50 independent boutiques from Alexandria and the surrounding region will take place at the Torpedo Factory and in pop-up tents along King Street. Find unique art at discounted prices by local artists. 
  • Alexandria Birthday Celebration: Enjoy a patriotic performance with dazzling fireworks and live music by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (July).
  • The 22nd Annual Old Town Alexandria Art Festival: (September 14-15) at John Carlyle Square.
  • Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights: Alexandria’s historic waterfront shines at Christmastime as dozens of brightly lit boats cruise the Potomac River.
  • New Year’s Eve and First Night Alexandria: Ring in the New Year in style with special menus at restaurants across the city, live music acts, and a grand fireworks finale as part of First Night Alexandria.

Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA
The Torpedo Factory Art Center, located in an old munitions plant on the waterfront, houses artists in 71 studios. The public may visit the sutdios daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and meet artists at work. Photo courtesy of the Torpedo Factory Art Center

Molly’s Favorite: The Art League School

Even though she lives in Annapolis, our editor has taken many art classes and workshops at the Art League School, which is part of the Torpedo Factory. Classes are held at the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union Street) and other buildings nearby in Alexandria (Madison Avenue and a new location to be announced). Find classes and workshops for all levels, art exhibits, events, and artist opportunities.

by Heather Irene Howard, edited by Molly Winans