New York, Miami, and Washington, D.C. are some of the first places to come to mind when you think of east coast tourist hotspots. Ever think about a vacation to the less-traveled city of Alexandria, VA? This attractive town only gets about three million visitors each year, a small number compared to the nearly 20 million that visit its close neighbor Washington, D.C.

Why is Alexandria worth your time?

 The History

Alexandria was founded in 1749. Throughout the centuries, it has seen more than its fair share of warfare and wonder. The architecture in the town is sure to make you feel like you stepped through a time warp; you can take self-guided walking tours to learn more about Alexandria’s exciting past; and the city hosts regular events that commemorate some of the nation’s most pivotal moments. Be sure to stop by George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the Carlyle House.

The Shopping

When you stroll along King Street or Mount Vernon Avenue, your fingers will itch to bust out every credit card you own. The plethora of unique shops and boutiques in Alexandria is a dream for people who love to shop beyond the boundaries of big national chains. Of course, if you prefer big national stores, Alexandria is home to plenty of them as well, including Banana Republic and Macy’s.

The retail scene is just one more reason that “You’ll fall in love with Alexandria!” as one writer for The Toronto Star put it.

The Waterfront

Image via Flickr by Michel Curi, Jr., MBA

Love a little nautical relaxation? A stroll along the waterfront is a great way to take up an afternoon. Snap photos in front by the scenic docks; feast your eyes at the historic Torpedo Factory Art Center; and enjoy a delicious meal at a restaurant with a view. You can even take a cruise on the Potomac River and visit George Washington’s home.

If you want to get your blood pumping, rent a bike and pedal the 18-mile-long scenic Mount Vernon Trail. It runs along the Potomac River between the National Mall and Mount Vernon.

The Affordability

If you are itching to explore the nation’s capital, Alexandria is the perfect place to stay. It is close to Washington, D.C., but it offers cheaper accommodations. You can stay at the Embassy Suites Alexandria, which is steps away from the Metro station, so getting around will be a breeze. The Red Roof PLUS Washington DC is another affordable option in the same area. In the mood for indulgence? The Lorien Hotel & Spa Alexandria provides pampering without a big city price tag.

The Quietude

Washington, D.C. is a fast-paced city and a fun place to visit. However, if you’re looking for quieter surroundings for your east coast getaway, Alexandria has what you want. While the Old Town and Carlyle areas are often quite crowded, the West End has some serene venues that can make you feel like you’re a world away.

While a t-shirt that says “I went to Alexandria” may not earn you envious stares from friends and neighbors, maybe it should. This charming old city is worth a visit.