Alexandria Evolves its Offering for Meeting Planners

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Outdoor dining in Alexandria’s Old Town (photo credit: C. Davidson/Visit Alexandria)

With a newly revitalized waterfront area and expanded hotel offerings in the works, Alexandria offers meeting planners a host of ways to experience what the destination has to offer.

Alexandria, Virginia is located on the Potomac River waterfront, just five miles from Washington D.C., and connected by water taxis and the D.C. Metrorail system. Located only 10 minutes from Reagan National Airport, the destination has its own Amtrak station in Old Town, which is a nationally designated historic district and the city’s downtown area.

“The King Street Mile stretches from the Metrorail and Amtrak stations to the water, and features hundreds of independent restaurants and shops along with small historic sites and museums,” says Carla Bascope-Hebble, director of group sales, Visit Alexandria. “Alexandria’s distinctive event spaces and hotels range from four-star boutique with waterfront views to full service convention properties accommodating groups up to 800 attendees.”

Alexandria is continuing to expand its hotel offerings with an extensive multi-million dollar renovation of the Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria. The renovation began in June 2020 and will include enhanced landscaping, a refreshed lobby with booths, revamped meeting spaces with tech-enabled studios, mobile food orders and an expanded fitness center to allow for physical distancing during workouts.

The historic George Mason Hotel is set to undergo restoration in 2021. The building is considered one of the best examples of Colonial Revival architecture in the city. It served as office space for decades, and will open as a hotel in 2022, operated by Aparium Hotel Group. The hotel will have two buildings located in Old Town, and will feature 141 hotel rooms, two restaurants, rooftop dining and outdoor dining.

The Hilton Alexandria Mark Center will also begin a $10 million renovation starting in late November, with a target opening of the first week in January 2022.

“Alexandria’s dining scene at the waterfront has continued to expand,” says Bascope-Hebble. “We have hundreds of new outdoor dining seats as well as new concepts from Alexandria restaurant partners. One of these is called Ada’s On The River. It just opened in January, and the restaurant draws design inspiration from Ada Lovelace, who was a 19th century female mathematics pioneer.”

The restaurant has 160 indoor seats and includes a private 32-ft dining room, as well as 100 outdoor patio seats. Its menu is centered around meat, seafood and vegetarian dishes, cooked in the restaurant’s wood-burning oven.

“It’s a very unique new private dining space on the waterfront,” says Bascope-Hebble. “And then the space adjacent to it is called BARCA Pier and Wine Bar. This opened at the end of March, and is a seasonal outdoor eatery inspired by Barcelona beach bars.”

BARCA Pier and Wine Bar is made from shipping containers, and has a menu consisting of mainly Mediterranean small plates. It can hold up to 40 guests indoors, and also features an exterior patio with outdoor seating for 24 people and views of the Potomac River.

“Both of these restaurants are at Robinson Landing, which is a transformed area of our waterfront and a great option for groups and meeting planners,” says Bascope-Hebble. “They have been hotspots for private events in the last two months, and major hotel brands and hospitality industry organizations have been renting them out for full buyouts, as they are the top new places on the waterfront for private events.”

Every month Visit Alexandria hosts Wine & Wisdom Wednesdays, an opportunity for meeting planners to gather and receive updates about what’s going on in Alexandria, as well as congregate and exchange ideas. The venue changes each month, and it allows meeting planners to experience the hottest new local spots and check out what they have to offer.

“We started this program to really cater to senior meeting planners,” says Bascope-Hebble. “Most of the planners that attend Wine & Wisdom Wednesdays within the local area are CMP-certified, so they are senior meeting planners from top associations and corporations in the area. We have a pretty good following, and it’s a small intimate group where they can really network, and they’ve looked at it as a trusted live event that they can attend every month.”

Visit Alexandria has also curated an extensive library of virtual tours and experiences, allowing planners to virtually stroll through Old Town and take in the sights of the waterfront district, as well as walk through some of the destination’s top hotels and meeting facilities.

“We were one of the first destinations in our area that kicked off the virtual tours,” says Bascope-Hebble. “And we see this as an asset that’s here to stay, and kind of a silver lining to the past year. We are attracting and getting our destination in front of planners that we normally wouldn’t, or probably wouldn’t have the budget to do. We can create an itinerary for virtual site tours where they can walk through the space, walk through the meeting room, see the ballroom, and meet the sales manager. And while the value of face-to-face is imperative, this is something that some organizations without the budget for travel will be able to do.”

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