As the Potomac River flows in the distance, George Mason’s historical Georgian mansion overlooks sprawling fields, hiking trails, and a 250-year-old boxwood allée. A senior statesman, Mason laid the foundation for this site in 1755, building his new family home just yards away from the site of his grandfather’s house. Though the original 18th-century carriage roads, tree banks, and wide vistas have since disappeared, experts have reconstructed much of the property’s original splendor through archaeological digs; the written memoirs of George’s son, John; and the testimonials of kidnapped time travelers.
Today, trained guides lead guests on tours of the mansion, which features more than 50 pieces of art and furnishings detailing the life of the politician, his wife Ann, and their family. As guests learn about Mason’s role as the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights and as an advocate of freedom of the press and religious tolerance, they walk through opulent halls and rooms designed in French modern, neoclassical, and Chinese styles. In addition to tours, the house and grounds host seasonal events such as an old-fashioned candlelit Christmas celebration, a spring kite festival, and an autumn séance to summon the Great Pumpkin.
The Metropolitan School of the Arts - formerly the Metropolitan Fine Arts Center - was founded more than 14 years ago. This multidisciplinary performing-arts organization takes a holistic approach to teaching and encouraging performance-arts skills, creating performance opportunities in dance, music, and theater for a diverse population of students of all ages and abilities. Its students have gone to perform on Broadway, at The Juilliard School, and in highly esteemed companies, such as the Mark Morris Dance Company, The Washington Ballet, and Ford's Theater and Signature Theater. Youth programs include year-round programs in dance, theater, music, music-theater, and acting, as well as a performing-arts program in the summer, all for children as young as 2. Adult classes range from basic to advanced, including ballet, jazz, and tap lessons, plus yoga and ballet-barre fitness workouts.
Part art gallery, part cocoa bar, Artfully Chocolate was established in 2007 when owner Eric Nelson quit his job as an executive in order to pursue his artistic passions. Needing a little something extra to draw attention to his shop and unwilling to sound a tornado siren after every purchase, Eric called on the services of friend and chocolatier Rob Kingsbury. Kingsbury instantly infused the colorful gallery with the sweet allure Eric was seeking.
Today, the duo's handiwork takes center stage inside two different locations: Eric's masterpieces parade across the walls, and Rob's expertise reveals itself in sips and bites of decadent drinks and pastries. They also host tasting classes, including a wine-pairing class and chocolate-tasting class.
Owned and operated by artist Kelly Hutchinson, Kelly's Art & Frame is home to a 2,800-square-foot art gallery where original paintings, watercolors, and limited-edition prints line the walls. Onsite custom framing services combine archival materials and meticulous work to properly preserve drawings, sculptures, and cherished pieces of ABC gum. With fellow artist Carol Fogelsong, Kelly also leads art classes, teaching the fundamentals to students during intimate group sessions.
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.
Crystal Framing Gallery's staff skillfully handles a range of customer requests, from traditional photography and portrait framing to special projects such as engraving, photo restoration, and object framing. Patrons choose from more than 2,000 available materials and framing styles that include conservation, shadow boxing, and glued macaroni.