1. Casual Date
Meet at Port City Brewing Company (3950 Wheeler Ave.; 703-797-2739), which offers tours and tastings. If you like what you sip, head to Columbia Firehouse (109 S. Saint Asaph St.; 703-683-1776), where you’ll find exposed brick walls, upscale pub food, and Port City on tap. For something more exotic, Caphe Bánh Mì (407 Cameron St.; 703-549-0800) offers unusual versions of the Vietnamese sandwich it’s named for, such as the Sloppy Viet, filled with spicy beef curry. Then wander through the galleries and studios at the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union St.; 703-838-4565), where you can see local artists painting, welding, and sculpting.
2. Romantic Night Out
For a special occasion, chef Cathal Armstrong’s Restaurant Eve (110 S. Pitt St.; 703-706-0450) fits the bill. Afterward, walk one block to Grape & Bean (118 S. Royal St.; 703-664-0214) for a cup of coffee that will keep your hands warm as you stroll down King Street to the waterfront, admiring the holiday decorations along the way. If you’re still going strong, duck in for a show at the Little Theatre of Alexandria (600 Wolfe St.; 703-683-0496), a community theater formed in 1934 that’s become a neighborhood institution. Visit thelittletheatre.com for a schedule.
3. Girls’ Day
Kick off the day with brunch and bottomless mimosas at Jackson 20 (480 King St.; 703-842-2790), a Southern dining room in the stylish Hotel Monaco. Afterward, you can get in a little shopping. For descriptions of some of our favorite boutiques—including the Lucky Knot (101 King St.; 703-549-1797), Red Barn Mercantile (1117 King St.; 703-838-0355), and Mint Condition (103 S. Saint Asaph St.; 703-836-6468)—turn to the shopping guide on page 162. End the day by hopping on the trolley heading west—or take a 15-minute stroll—to Lorien Spa (1600 King St.; 703-894-3434), known for its massages and facials.
4. Fun With Kids
Start with lunch at the Majestic (911 King St.; 703-837-9117), which has a kids’ menu as well as crayons and drawing paper. For adults, there’s upscale American comfort food—the crabcake and fried green tomatoes are good bets. Then stop in at the independent children’s bookstore Hooray for Books! (1555 King St.; 703-548-4092), which hosts regular readings and events; for a schedule, see hooray4books.com. If everyone manages to hold it together, hit Lavender Moon Cupcakery (116 S. Royal St.; 703-683-0588) for a treat before heading home.
5. Day for History Buffs
What better way to start a history day than with lunch at 242-year-old Gadsby’s Tavern (138 N. Royal St.; 703-548-1288), which once served George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Later, hit one of the area’s many museums. Two we like are the Lyceum (201 S. Washington St.; 703-838-4994), a former Civil War hospital that offers lectures, concerts, and exhibits, and the George Washington Masonic Memorial (101 Callahan Dr.; 703-683-2007), a towering ode to one of America’s most famous Freemasons—with a great observation deck. Wrap up the day with dessert at La Bergerie (218 N. Lee St.; 703-683-1007), an old-school French dining room that’s been serving soufflés and more for almost 40 years.