I’ll be the first to admit it when I say that the words “LGBT hotspot” and “Virginia” don’t really go together. Call me ignorant or naïve, but I’ve never been one to really brush up on what would make this state and the areas that encompass it that great for our community.
Color me stupid, when one place caught my eye and then some when I visited there recently. This is Alexandria, Virginia, which is located about 20 minutes outside D.C. and easy to get to. It’s a place that I am ecstatically proud and happy to feature for our Travel Thursday this week on Instinct Magazine, as I was left feeling with a sense of superb happiness that I’m still thinking about to this day.
Here are some fun accolades that the city of Alexandria can be truly proud of. They were named the #1 Best Value U.S. Travel Destination 2018 by Money magazine, a Top 5 Best Small City in the U.S. 2018 by the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards and one of the South’s Prettiest Cities 2018 by Southern Living.
There’s more. They’ve been recommended by OUT magazine in 2018, rated a Virginia “All-Star” for LGBTQ rights by the Human Rights Campaign Municipality Equality Index in 2017, and named the #2 Best Town in Virginia for LGBT Families by Movoto in 2016. And they’ve saved the best for last by Instinct Magazine raving over them. Yay!
A fair warning to my party-going LGBTQ friends: this isn’t the spot for the all-night club action and all of that. It’s a welcoming small-town type of situation that has several other activities worth enjoying. This also includes breathtaking views, stunning architecture, history and so much more that make this place fabulous on more levels than going “yassss” at a bar for hours.
Essentially urban meets rural when it comes to what you can find in Alexandria. The food scene here is nothing short of spectacular, as many of the streets are lined with several different types of foods available at your disposal, all of which are done by either rising or well-known chefs in the culinary world.
If Modern American is your vibe with all the finger licking sandwich throwdown action inside, then Virtue Feed & Grain is the place to go. Want something a bit more intimate? Vermilion It is. It’s a place that has had some very famous guests inhabit its establishment, two of which include our former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle. And yes, the food is fantastic (think the best of the best when it comes to salmon, duck and more).
My favorite culinary spot of all of them happened to be at Hank’s Pasta Bar, which is self-explanatory but to make it pretty clear… THE PASTA IS AMAZING! Chef Jamie Leeds was named 2018 “Best Chef” in Washington Blade’s Best of Gay D.C as well as The Washington Post picking Hank’s Pasta Bar as one of the year’s 10 Best New Restaurants in the DC region in 2016. Chef Jamie’s homemade pastas are simply divine and unique; however, it is good to stick to a classic like her Spaghetti and Meatballs. I want it now.
There was also this wonderful place called Captain Gregory’s, which is this secret cocktail lounge located inside a donut shop. After the donut shop closes, Captain Gregory’s stays open and invites you inside for their fantastic cocktails with some snacks to order with your friends and of course, donuts courtesy of Sugar Shack Donuts. Oh, and if you like biscuits, then Stomping Ground is your jam. Just go. Its biscuits done right. So right. Like good sex right. Go.
I must boast about one more place: Meggrolls. Oh my freaking god this place. They take the classic concept of egg rolls and give them an insanely different twist by making out of this world creations with them like Chicken Parm and Buffalo Wing. A must once you are in Alexandria.
Something that Alexandria, Virginia also excels in is their ability to make you want to shop til you drop. Mixed in with the delicious restaurants are one-of-a-kind locations that scream think local, shop local. As someone who lives in New York City and is consistently sick of seeing places like this be torn down for many conglomerates, it warmed my heart that the majority of Alexandria were the mom and pop shops that we all grew up with and loved.
Places like Red Barn Mercantile, which provides whole-room design options at great prices, Hooray for Books, which brought me back to my childhood with its new and classic book options, and Bluprint Chocolatiers, which has some of the best chocolate I have ever tasted, are just a sampling of the shopping options available in Alexandria.
A nifty spot worth trying is the Torpedo Factory Art Center. The space, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, has 82 artists studios that features a variety of media from paintings to ceramics and more. One of which is very NSFW. It featured people eating a banana that looked very phallic. Giggity.
I am not a beer drinker, but if you do want to party with some alcoholic beverages in sight, then Port City Brewing Company is a spot to check out. They brew an exciting lineup of year-round brews, as well as an innovative slate of seasonal and occasional beers. You can find their brews on tap all over the DMV or in their Tasting Room, which is open 7 days a week. They also have a collection of fantastic gear, some of which are LGBTQ-friendly as evidenced by this adorable photo of me in their sweatshirt.
Oh, and one more thing: you need a place to stay. Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa is your best bet for so many reasons. One: it’s right in the middle of town. Two: Kimptons are generally amazing (this one was), and the customer service was impeccable. Three: the rooms are stunning and feature gorgeous views of the city. Four: their spa has several everything from massages to facials that will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed. If there is one place to book while in Alexandria, this would be it.
Overall, Alexandria blew my mind in terms of what it offers its visitors and residents. It is a place that our community should inhabit and then some, and I look forward to my next trip there.
For more information on Alexandria, click here.
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