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Gadsby's Tavern Museum
A unique combination of historic site, cozy pub, and variety show, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum is just what it sounds like. Located in a historical hostelry serving craft brews and American fare, this tavern captures 18th-century Alexandria and its significant moment. As the facade’s plaque, “Here was held in 1798 the first celebration of [George] Washington’s Birthday in which he participated, and from its steps, Washington held his last military review and gave his last military order, November 1799.” Read our next article.
A popular destination for Washington and other Founding Fathers, Gadsby’s Tavern (est. 1792) provided lodging, food and beverage, and gathering places in historic Alexandria, VA. It is now a rich piece of early American history that continues the tavern tradition. However, visitors are also treated to extensive historical displays and museum exhibits. Visitors can learn about the original tavern owners, hostel stays and public addresses by leading historical figures, and unique tidbits about 18th-century culture. Both self-guided and group tours are available.
The tavern itself remains active as a site on the American Whiskey Trail. In addition to craft whiskeys and beers, the pub offers both international pub favorites (e.g. French dip, Sally Lunn cake) as well as delicious takes on period-appropriate recipes (e.g. peanut soup). Other staples of American cuisine, including fried oysters, Reubens, and crab cakes, are also on the menu. More information here.
All staff wear period attire to make visitors feel as though they’ve traveled back in time, while local musicians recreate the entertainment and ambiance that tavern patrons would have experienced in the late 18th century.
Those who’d like to further immerse themselves in 18th-century American society can enjoy period dancing classes, which conclude in an authentic ball. The program is part of the museum’s initiative to preserve our culture while uniting Alexandria residents and tourists in a celebration of Old Town’s vibrant history.
Overall, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum is a place where visitors can not only learn about history but also experience the culture and architecture of the time. For example, the same meeting rooms in which Washington and Thomas Jefferson met are available for booking for your own significant event. The building has been restored to showcase 18th-century architecture along with unique features of the tavern, including the ice well, which chilled beverages and ice cream in a pre-refrigerator era. History buffs will enjoy the attention to detail and time-traveling experience, while foodies and alcohol connoisseurs alike will appreciate the authentic, handcrafted menu. In fact, the tavern is now a brunch favorite for locals.
Whether you’re traveling the American Whiskey Trail, visiting historically significant sites where the Founding Fathers dined, drank, and danced, or simply seeking a blast from the past, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum offers the best of all worlds. Its curators have paid special attention to preserving valuable history while recreating the past, while passionate actors and musicians capture the ambiance of a bygone era. And of course, delicious food and beverage choices make Gadsby’s a delightful restaurant option for anyone who enjoys hearty comfort food and craft beer/cocktails.
If you’d like to learn more about Alexandria, click here to read about George Washington Masonic National Memorial.
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