Activities Pet-Centric U.S. Walking

Del Ray’s Street Art: Self-Guided Tour

If you missed Del Ray’s Art on the Avenue festival, don’t worry. Year-round, visitors as well as locals can enjoy the vibrant murals documenting this Virginia neighborhood’s history. I mapped out a self-guided Del Ray’s street art tour that runs 12 blocks down the center of town and features nine murals.

Located just two miles from the historic Old Town Alexandria, Del Ray offers an entirely different vibe. I didn’t run into any tour guides dressed up as Martha Washington or see any cobblestone streets. The neighborhood’s mantra is “where Main Street still exists.” I might add ” . . . still thrives.”

Del Ray is proud of its bohemian roots. It definitely reminded me of Saluda, North Carolina, or Takoma Park, Maryland.

“In the 1970s and 1980s, one-time hippies rediscovered Del Ray’s charms and its low-priced bungalows, Victorians and apartments.”

Washington Post

Declaring Mount Vernon Avenue as the neighborhood’s Main Street, Del Ray features independent shops, local chefs, non-franchise coffee shops, and dogs galore. So let’s start this self-guided street with its most beloved mural.

Dogs of Del Ray Mural

If you have any questions about whether Del Ray residents love their pooches, head straight for the Dogs of Del Ray mural. It is located on the side of the Stomping Ground restaurant at 2309 Mount Vernon Street.

Local Alexandria artist Patrick Kirwin painted more than 100 dogs on the brick exterior. The dogs’ owners provided a donation in order for their dogs to appear on Del Ray’s hybrid version of the “Wall of Fame.”

Poodles, bulldogs, labs, collies, German shepherds, huskies, terriers, pit bulls, and (my favorite) Golden retrievers appear on the mural. Each dog’s portrait includes its name so Del Ray dogs include Betsy Ross, Whiskey, Hennesey, Scout, Olive, Jack, Wesley, and Goldie.

This corner on Mount Vernon Avenue also includes picnic tables so it is clearly a neighborhood gathering place. I imagine on weekends that the owners and their dogs gather to drink a cup of coffee and share some kibble among friends.

Dream Forest Mural

Your next stop should be The Dog Store if you really love your dog as much as you say. But if you have a limited time budget, simply turn the corner to see Alex Cook’s 2013 painting facing E. Del Ray Avenue. The “Dream Forest” mural displays ribbons of tree branches wrapping around each other.

There are red trees, lavender trees, and blue trees, as well as sturdy brown and beige bark trees. The white sun blazes in the distance. Two animals silently approach the woods. You instantly become one with street art if you sit on the bench and chairs nearby.

Dog Tip: Be sure to take advantage of the hospitality and open the post box in front of The Dog Store. Even dogs can read the cheerful message if they have their nose up in the air: “Please take a treat!”

Kids & Dogs Mural

Artist Patrick Kirwin let the dogs out again in Del Ray in his panoramic painting of Kids & Dogs at at the market.

It is a neighborhood with a small-town feel known for kids and dogs. The basis for the mural is a NYC-style grocery with produce spilling out onto the street

Patrick Kirwin

Bright yellow lemons and green limes are stacked high in rows, along with red apples and purple plums.

But what really draws your eye is the people and their pets. Smiling girls are stationed in front of vegetables. A young boy wears a big smile along with his Washington Nationals baseball hat. An older girl steers her scooter.

And multiple dogs cavort among the pails of flowers. The most striking is a little black retriever puppy who is calling all her friends to come out and play.

And the fantastical conclusion of this panoramic market mural is a bike dangling from the corner of the Velocity Bike Cooperative. The store’s slogan: “Building an inclusive bicycling community.”

Greetings from Del Ray Mural

I don’t know if most people under age 40 even remember the thrill of receiving a postcard from a friend or family who was traveling. But when I was growing up, there was nothing more exciting than getting a postcard in the mail. Suddenly, you could picture yourself in the image of the postcard, whether it was Atlantic City, Hollywood, or Tokyo.

Before Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, people recorded their whereabouts (aka “pre-selfie”) by sending a handwritten postcard with a stock photo of where they were visiting. And everyone felt jealous.

Historic Del Ray Mural

I particularly loved this mural created by Chad Brady of “Greeting from Del Ray” based on the old racetrack located in northern Virginia. The “historic” Del Ray painting shows a jockey racing alongside a railroad.

The artist used the old Asaph Racetrack on this vintage postcard painting. It is located at Cheesetique (the place where you buy cheese) at 2411 Mount Vernon Avenue.

St. Elmo Mural

Naturally, all the dogs (and their “hoomans”) in the know congregate at St. Elmo Coffee Pub (established 1996) on Mount Vernon Avenue. When Parker and I passed by around 11 am on a quiet Friday morning, there wasn’t one outdoor table free. I think there was a dog shading himself under the table at every location.

I absolutely loved that the patrons could enjoy a cameo of rockstar Jim Morrison (who lived in Alexandria) painted on the exterior pub’s brick wall as well as a good cup of java when they frequent this beloved coffee house.  

Floral Garden Mural

In addition to flowers blooming everywhere in Del Ray, you can also enjoy a floral garden mural. This army-green house shows a tall tree bending across the scope of the house.

The branches wrap around the upstairs window, intersecting the frame. Along the side of the house, a tall fruit tree grows up bearing red fruit.

I was momentarily stunned by seeing the real-life vines intrude on the iPhone image of the painted vegetation. Real life vs. painted image: which looks real? Only the artist Chad Brady knows the answer.]

Del Ray Sunset Mural

Del Ray’s street art on the side of Kaizen Tavern, an Asian fusion restaurant, reminded me of a 1960s-style artist. Over one-third of the artist Rives Wiely’s mural is dedicated to the circumference of a glowing pink ball (aka “a setting sun”). Protruding from the circle are geometric units in purple, blue, and black.

The Japanese element is dictated by the quasi-cherry blossoms floating in the air on a blue background. I could definitely spend some time studying this simplistic image. Instead, I posed Parker in front of the mural at 1909 Mount Vernon Avenue.

Mount Vernon Recreation Center Mural

Our self-guided Del Ray’s street art tour ended at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center. By this point, you have passed the community school. You’ll see benches to rest on as well as children’s play equipment (no dogs allowed).

This mural was created during one of Del Ray’s Art on the Avenue festivals. It is a celebration of the spirit and the community. You need to slow down and travel down the brick wall inch by inch to read all the names of the special places as well as the sentiment of this little “neighborhood that could.”

This Del Ray mural celebrates lemonade stands, the Del Ray Halloween Parade, the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, and “all men are created equal.” (I hope this sentiment extends to all women as well). I particularly loved the carving of “I love Del Ray” in a heart on the large tree. In the branches, I spy two children settled in a branch.

It is no surprise to me that the heart is a symbol that appears throughout the neighborhood. This is a town where people love where they live.

“Eclectic shops and signature events like Art on the Avenue contribute to an artsy ambiance.

And this is how I felt when I visited Del Ray. I could instantly move into this neighborhood. It felt like “Every Town USA.” Main Street was a place to congregate and see neighbors. Dogs were welcome everywhere. And the street art instantly told me the community’s story.

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  • Kiara Gallop
    April 22, 2023 at 4:07 pm

    I love the sunset mural! Sounds like my kinda place 🙂

    • Terri
      April 22, 2023 at 4:21 pm

      The sunset mural is really cool plus the restaurant has a delicious menu.

  • Michele
    April 22, 2023 at 4:37 pm

    Murals are such a fun way to explore a town and these are certainly beautiful. I’ll be saving this for a trip to Del Ray and Alexandria area!

    • Terri
      April 22, 2023 at 7:29 pm

      I always try to discover Street Art wherever I travel. I am lucky this is local.

  • Linda Jane
    April 22, 2023 at 5:34 pm

    Some colourful street art in De Ray…I love the bike hanging from the roof! A great reason to visit Del Ray Virginia.

    • Terri
      April 22, 2023 at 7:29 pm

      I am so proud of my photo of that bike hanging off the side of the roof. So quirky like Del Ray!

  • Stephanie
    April 22, 2023 at 6:29 pm

    I love street art! I also love when a town is full of it like this one! This sounds like the perfect tour to see all the murals and art pieces.

    • Terri
      April 22, 2023 at 7:28 pm

      Del Ray is a special neighborhood in Alexandria. I now know why people like to hang out there with their dogs.

  • Kim
    April 22, 2023 at 6:43 pm

    I love street art, and Del Ray’s is as good, if not better than I have ever seen. I especially love it when they use such vibrant colours.

    • Terri
      April 22, 2023 at 7:27 pm

      I like how the artists are telling the story of their town, such as Dogs of Del Ray. It really moved me.

  • Emily
    April 23, 2023 at 12:14 am

    Every time I see your dog in a post I get so excited lol. What an interesting walk!

    • Terri
      April 23, 2023 at 5:45 am

      I like to incorporate my dog Parker in all my posts about outdoor venues if he is permitted on the property. Luckily Del Ray loves dogs.

  • Marina
    April 23, 2023 at 7:32 am

    I always love to explore a city with its street art and this one looks really nice! Some of them are just incredible!

    • Terri
      April 23, 2023 at 11:02 am

      I agree. Del Ray as a wonderful mix of vintage, historic and people/pet murals.

  • Pam
    April 23, 2023 at 8:47 am

    I love finding street art when I travel – and that dog “wall of fame” is so great <3 That's an easy way to get me to spend money on my pet haha. I love all the detail in the murals of Del Ray.

    • Terri
      April 23, 2023 at 11:01 am

      I wish every neighborhood had a Dogs and a Cats mural! What a great way to find important projects, like a dog park or pet shelter.

  • Brittany
    April 23, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What a cool neighborhood with so many colorful murals and street art displays! You know I love that dog mural. The golden retriever would be my favorite, too 🙂

    • Terri
      April 23, 2023 at 11:00 am

      Hahaha Goldeb Retriever owners always choose Goldie as the favorite dog on this mural.

  • Krista
    April 23, 2023 at 3:23 pm

    This would be a very cool area to walk around to see all of the unique street art. Not sure which one I like the most!

    • Terri
      April 23, 2023 at 6:59 pm

      It is hard to choose the next mural but I am most fascinated by Dogs of Del Ray!

  • Nancy Roberts
    April 24, 2023 at 5:36 pm

    I just love the Dogs of Del Ray. Wish we had a local wall like that – I know lots of people would chip in! This is a great round up and I’d definitely visit just to see the street art.

    • Terri
      April 24, 2023 at 7:28 pm

      The dogs of Del Ray mural is my favorite too. I would love one in my DC neighborhood. We have so many cute dogs.

  • Marika
    April 29, 2023 at 6:06 am

    Awwww those doggos are so cute!

    • Terri
      May 7, 2023 at 12:17 pm