Top 10 Downtowns 2012
Alexandria, VA, locals call their downtown Old Town for good reason. But while it may be third oldest historic district in the nation, don't let its impressive Colonial architecture and charming 18th-century cobblestone streets belie its cosmopolitan feel and internationally recognized culinary scene.
Basics: Alexandria welcomes more than 3 million visitors annually and is located on the west side of the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The city's population grew by more than 3 percent between 2010 and 2011, and it has one the lowest unemployment rates among cities on this list. The city ranks high for walkability overall, and one street that deserves a stroll is King Street, which is lined with restaurants, pubs and shops, and named one of the 10 Great Streets of 2011 by the American Planning Association. Speaking of accolades, Virtue Feed & Grain near the waterfront in Old Town earned a nod from Bon Appetit magazine as one of the best new restaurants in the United States.
Details: Approximately 7,000 people live in Old Town Alexandria and frequent its 100 unique shops including boutiques, art galleries and antique stores. The area's genuine small-town feel comes from the fact that 77 percent of storefronts and restaurants in Old Town are locally owned. Artsy types can watch artists at work at the 82 studios within the Torpedo Factory Arts Center, one of the area's top attractions. Meanwhile, Old Town's 15-plus park spaces lure people outdoors. A free trolley runs along King Street, and Metrorail gives easy access to D.C. and beyond.
Don't Miss: Gadsby's Tavern for dinner, Cheesetique for cheese and wine, Dairy Godmother for ice cream