In Old Town Alexandria, King Street Rules
WHY: The "George" hairstyle, great Scots and King if by sea.
HOW FAR: About a mile.
King Street reigns supreme in Alexandria. The much-trafficked road is the true heart of Old Town: The names of all its intersecting streets begin with "north" or "south," depending on where they lie relative to King. The thoroughfare was one of the original royal streets (e.g., Queen, Prince, Duke) that made up the urban grid in 1749 -- a plan that, according to local lore, a 17-year-old surveyor named George Washington helped design.
If you're new to Old Town, the best way to explore the city is to take the Metro to the King Street stop and start walking -- slowly -- toward the Potomac River. Along with original shops ideal for picky gift-receivers, such as the Hangar and its model planes, King Street also has eats that could sate even George III. The fellow shucking fresh oysters in the Fish Market's window lures passersby inside, but manager Matt Ammon says the bivalves aren't the main attraction. "What we're really famous for is this," he says, presenting a house Pilsner in a schooner, a thick 32-ounce beer glass kept chilled behind the bar.
On the subject of boats, during weekends a sightseeing cruise chugs to Georgetown from the Alexandria City Marina. And though they do offer one-way trips, why wouldn't you want to come back to King Street?
-- Scott Elder