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Although most of Alexandria can be explored on foot from the Waterfront at King and Union Streets, how do you get there?. The City of Alexandria operates a free trolley from King Street Metro to the Waterfront - a distance of one-and-a-half miles. It runs seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every :10, :30, and :50 minutes after each hour. Every 20 minutes riders can board at any of the 20 stops along the way. Most visitors also want to visit sites outside of walking distance, such as Arlington, Mount Vernon, and of course Washington D.C. The Washington metro area has an excellent MetroRail system, and it's easily accessible from Alexandria via King Street metro.
The Metro system is easy to use, with large system and street maps posted at every station, as well as attendants to help with questions you may have. Weekday hours are from 5:30 until midnight, and weekend hours are from 7:00 am until 3:00 am. You usually don't have to wait more than 10 minutes for a train to arrive at the station.
Fares have increased on August 1, 2010, starting at $1.60 off time /$1.95 regular /$2.15 rush hour for single fares and increasing with the distance you travel. Alternatively, you can purchase one-day or seven-day passes for unlimited travel. Keep your farecard after using it to enter the station, as you will need it to leave the station at your destination. When you're done exploring, just look for the tall brown posts with the letter M, which mark the Metro stations, most of which are underground.
Here's a tip if you are going to travel in and out of Washington DC from Alexandria. Purchase a Smartrip card which is good for transit on all the different area public transportation carriers---Metro Rail, Metrobus, the DC Circulator, and Alexandria DASH buses, for starters. You can even use it on the Faifax County buses if you go out to Mt. Vernon. No more fiddling for exact change or fishing through individual fare cards. You can purchase the card at the Transit Store near the King St Metro or even more conveniently at a CVS drug store! Even though the Metro website says you can only add money to the card at CVS, you can buy the actual card there too. Cards cost $5. Effective Aug. 1, 2010, customers paying Metrorail fare who do not use SmarTrip® will have to pay a 25¢ surcharge on top of the fare..
Finally, the Washington DC forum on Trip Advisor is a wonderful resource worth looking at. It has FAQ on getting to Mount Vernon, and much more detail on using the Metro system in its Traveller's articles. I won't repeat them here.