Between now and whenever he leaves office, President Barack Obama will probably follow the commander-in-chief tradition of attending a Sunday service at Christ Church in Alexandria, Va. It might even happen today, on Presidents Day holiday weekend.
From Charlotte, Alexandria is about 297 miles (about 61/2 hours), one way.
Take Interstate 85 North to Petersburg, Va.; follow I-95 North to the U.S. 1 exit for Alexandria, near Washington. Christ Church is at 118 N. Washington St., in downtown Alexandria.
To see and do
"The tradition is that, around Washington's birthday, the church makes the invitation to the White House," said Dell Sanderson, a Christ Church docent, adding that since 1900, all but three U.S. presidents have put in an appearance at Christ Church during their terms of office. (She won't name the no-shows.)
Christ Church remains an active Episcopal church. It's also a living repository of U.S. history going back to the Colonial era. After services one summer Sunday in 1774, George Washington stood outside the sanctuary and advocated independence for the American colonies. About 87 years later, the church grounds were where Robert E. Lee was offered command of Virginia's army at the start of the Civil War.
Despite being on a busy thoroughfare, Christ Church feels like a time capsule. That starts with the well-kept graveyard, Alexandria's first and only cemetery until the early 1800s. It's estimated that 1,000 people were interred on the church's grounds over the years, and some of the weathered headstones make for fascinating reading.
Inside, docents give tours and lay the history on you. The sanctuary looks very much as it would have 200 years ago, down to the original handblown glass in the windows. The interior was restored in the late 1890s to its original Colonial style, which it maintains. Of particular note is the wineglass-shaped pulpit (with soundboard) installed in 1891.
The Lord's Prayer, Apostle's Creed and Ten Commandments adorn tablets on both sides of the pulpit, aged from their original white to a light charcoal shade. Plaques in memory of Christ Church's most famous members, Washington and Lee, are also on the front walls.
A silver plate marks Lee's pew, No. 46. It's across the aisle from No. 60, the box pew Washington bought for his family. It has been kept as it was in his time. No visit is complete without taking a seat where Washington listened to sermons.