Alexandria is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 128,283. It is located on the west bank of the Potomac River, six miles below Washington, DC. This city is a part of the Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan Area. It is surrounded by the Patomac River, Arlington County, and Fairfax County.
Like the rest of Northern Virginia, as well as southern Maryland, Alexandria is shaped by its proximity to the nation's capital. It is largely populated by professionals working for the federal civil service, the U.S. military or for one of the many private companies that contract out services to the government. Alexandria's largest employer by far is the U.S. Department of Defense -- since The Pentagon is in neighboring Arlington County -- and two of its four largest private employers are the Institute for Defense Analysis and the Center for Naval Analysis, according to city statistics. Alexandria is also home to various charities and non-profit organizations including the Salvation Army. Alexandria is also one of the first cities of its size to offer free wireless Internet access to residents and visitors.
The historic center of Alexandria, known as Old Town, is a major draw for tourists and those seeking nightlife without crossing the Potomac River. Like Old Town, most Alexandria neighborhoods are wealthy, high-status suburbs. In 2005, an assessed-value study of homes and condominiums found that about 40 percent were in the highest bracket, worth $550,000 or more.