Alexandria, VA: The Intentionally Black Travel Guide

photo courtesy of Visit Alexandria

The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area is where you can find the imprint of Black history and an abundance of Black culture on every corner.

Located five miles from the nation’s capital is the 2023 Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards Best Cities in United States, Alexandria, VA.  Easily accessible by public transit, car, or water taxi, the city is best known for its charming boutique shops and historically preserved homes; however, Alexandria has committed to preserving, highlighting, and showcasing African American establishments and businesses, making it a perfect intentional travel destination for 2024.  

As a proud resident of the city for over 15 years, I’ve made it a point to patronize many of Alexandria’s Black-owned establishments and have curated a list of must-visit restaurants, excursions, and shopping destinations that will entice you to jump on a plane and experience what “Port City” has to offer.

Getting acclimated can be a daunting task when there are so many available options to fit in during your visit.  One of the best ways to get a lay of the land is to embark on Alexandria’s Courageous Journey Black History Driving tour.  The self-guided excursion has featured nine stops that take you from the shores of the Potomac River to the west end of the city, giving you a comprehensive interpretation of the Black experience in Alexandria. Continue your exploration with a twenty-minute drive south to Mount Vernon, the plantation of America’s first president, George Washington. Colonial-era stories of enslaved African Americans at the property have been expanded and reinterpreted.  As part of the entrance fee, visitors can take the Enslaved People of Mount Vernon Tour which depicts the day-to-day lives of those who worked tirelessly against their will to make the expansive farmhouse into a thriving plantation.  Though these heartbreaking stories can be hard to receive, they’re part of the American fabric that must be told.  

After a jam-packed day of exploring, it’s guaranteed that you will work up an appetite.  Alexandria has a plethora of Black-owned restaurants that focus on everything from Southern food to custard-style ice cream.  Della J’s Delectable’s, located just outside downtown, is known for its jumbo chicken wings and catfish. It is highly recommended that you round out your meal by adding their fan-favorite mac-n-cheese, followed by a slice of their made-from-scratch sweet potato pie or peach cobbler.  

It’s unknown to most, that the Washington, D.C., metro region has the largest concentration of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia, and due to this, the area is fortunate to be the recipient of quite a few restaurants.  Alexandria’s very own Hawwi Ethiopian Restaurant & Café is nestled in the residential area of Old Town off of Queen Street.  The family-run establishment showcases dishes from their homeland that use the flatbread injera as the foundation to display flavorful morsels of vegetable and meat variations. Easily shareable and reasonably priced, this is one of many ways to enhance your experience in the city.

No vacation is complete without a little shopping to remember and share discoveries from your trip with friends and family.  The Harambee Books & Artwork store is an independent bookstore that solely specializes in carrying African-American-focused literature.  On their shelves, you can find one-of-a-kind pieces of work from local and mainstream authors.  The owner, Bernard, is beyond helpful to assist with navigating his quaint store, and if there is a particular book that cannot be found, he can easily order and send it to your home.  

The suggestions outlined in this article only give you a glimpse of the African American treasures that Alexandria, VA, has to offer, and is the ultimate reason to add this destination to any Black-focused travel plans that you have lined up for 2024.

Shenise Foster is a freelance writer and the owner of the LLC, The Munch Travelogue, where she documents her travels by creating travel guides centered around her motto of “learn, see, do”. Readers can keep up with Shenise’s adventures by following her on Instagram, Facebook, or on her website.


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