#5. Alexandria

The more than 7,000 people who live in downtown Alexandria, VA, commonly called Old Town, get to experience every day what millions of visitors come to see – one of the best preserved examples of Colonial architecture in the country. Cobblestone streets and century-old buildings evoke memories of the past, but anyone walking through Old Town will experience the area’s modern, hip vibe.

Old Town’s nearly even ratio of workers to residents proves its vibrancy and appeal to both businesses and families. Within eyesight of the Washington Monument, across the Potomac River, Old Town offers a refined waterfront setting where international dignitaries and statesmen visiting nearby Washington, D.C., often come for cocktails and exquisite meals.

Restaurants set in 18th-century buildings serve sophisticated menus that consistently garner praise from national food critics. Places like the PX Lounge, an elegant throwback to the 1920s speakeasy, request that patrons dress up. Old Town is a community of choice for many Washington elite and has been the setting for date nights for the president and first lady.

Many cyclists riding the Mount Vernon Trail stop in Old Town Alexandria to grab a bite to eat or picnic in parks. More than 30 of the city’s restaurants offer outdoor dining along with great views of the river and bustling streets. Easy to navigate by foot, downtown Alexandria begs to be explored, and many do their exploring on King Street, which is home to corner bakeries and boutique shops. The Torpedo Factory Art Center lures art enthusiasts with three levels of studios and galleries where visitors can watch artists at work. A variety of performance venues provide live music and theater, including The Birchmere, an intimate setting specially suited for bluegrass, country and jazz. Old Town Theater is another celebrated venue, hosting live music, classic movies, comedy and events.

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