18th Century Charm; Just a Stones Throw From Washington D.c

By: Adam Singleton

Even though it's only six miles from downtown Washington, the independent city of Alexandria possesses a charm that starkly contrasts the nation's bustling Capital. Populated mainly by professionals working in DC, the downtown area of Alexandria is known as the 'Old Town' and features many original buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries; attracting visitors with a love of American history in their droves.

First settled in 1695, the town of Alexandria was named in honour of the Alexander family who donated the land on which the city is built. Incorporated in 1779, many of the city's original buildings still stand today providing a beautiful historic backdrop to its illustrious metropolitan neighbour. Alexandria is home to the George Washington Masonic Temple - which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2010 - and also boasts some of the finest waterfront scenery in the north-eastern USA.

Because of its proximity to Washington DC and as it is one of the USA's oldest settlements, the city has witnessed its fair share of historical events. During the War of 1812 British sailors looted Alexandria of flour, wine, tobacco and cotton after it had surrendered without a fight; the looting being a condition of the bloodless coup. There is also a less dubious claim to fame for the city; for eight years during the 1820s it played a pivotal part in the slave trade when the Franklin and Armfield slave market - one of the largest in the USA - was the distribution point for many slaves to Mississippi. The human trading was ended when the market became a prison under occupation by the Union troops in 1830.

Modern-day Alexandria is now home to the US Patent and Trademark office and many of the city's residents work for the US defence department - the city's biggest employer. They, like visitors to the city, enjoy easy access to downtown Washington DC and its many attractions via the King Street Metro station. For those wishing to drive around the DC area, it is also easily accessible from Alexandria via I-95.

Despite its historic roots Alexandria still has a modern outlook. It was one of the first cities of its size in the USA to provide free internet access to its residents and visitors, meaning that a stay at a hotel in Alexandria is almost guaranteed to come with free wi-fi.

It is the heady mix of undeniable historical charm and ultra-modern living that attracts many visitors to Alexandria; and with Washington DC so close by its possible to get two fantastic vacations for the price of one.

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