Since it was first settled in 1669, and officially established in 1749, the city of Alexandria has played a crucial role in American history. It has existed as a tobacco trading post, a busy port, home to a large free-black community, and a Civil War supply center for Union troops. Famous figures such as George Washington, Robert E. Lee, and Mama Cass once claimed it as their hometown. Now, more than 260 years since the town’s first historic buildings were constructed, visitors can tour them year-round—with the aid of interpreters dressed in American colonial and Victorian garb.
The Alexandria Archaeology Museum displays artifacts unearthed from the city’s streets; the Alexandria Black History Museum welcomes visitors into African American heritage exhibits; and the Fort Ward Museum, a preserved Union fort, hosts regular Civil War reenactments and slumber parties. Along the town’s winding streets, visitors can also step over historic thresholds at Lee-Fendall House and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum; Carlyle House Historic Park, a Union hospital during the Civil War; and Gadsby's Tavern Museum, a favored haunt of founding fathers, journalists, and military officers. Historians and staff also bring history into the present through weekly activities such as fencing classes at the tavern, farmers’ markets at Market Square, restoration workshops, 18th century fashion shows, and film screenings.
Gallery Lafayette offers customized-framing treatments and original prints, watercolors, and gifts. Using special conservation glass and acid-free mat boards, skilled frame-ologists protect prized photographs and collectibles from the damaging effects of light, humidity, acidity, and Father Time's righteous fists for unblemished wall hanging. The average custom-framing order is around $180—combine two Groupons and frame your favorite oversized obedience-school diploma or Ken Burns–autographed placemat. Inside the gallery, customers will find an assortment of gifts featuring pen-and-ink illustrations of classic Old Town landmarks such as Captain's Row and Gadsby's Tavern. Images are magically transferred onto tote bags ($30), tea towels ($15.95), and more. Snag a set of eight note cards ($12.95) to start a one-man letter-writing campaign to rename the Route 1 IHOP to the William Howard Taft Memorial House of Pancakes.
La Muse gives customers a gift option that doesn't require careful strategizing with a claw crane and a decapitated piggy bank's worth of quarters. Operating under the mantra of "Gifts with Purpose," La Muse offers an inventory of heartfelt, handcrafted items, including jewelry, personalized gifts, quote- and saying-adorned gifts, and home décor, all from American artists. Wrap wrists in copper cobras with the bracelets of Sergio Lub ($22–$52), bring life-affirming levity to the walls of your man-cave with the mixed-media art of Kelly Rae Roberts ($14.99–$39.99), or class up catapulting coffee grinds into filter forts with a stainless-steel and tumbled-glass coffee scoop ($15.99) from Laurel Johns. Other items include bath and body products, area photographs, and comical figurines and pictures.