Tysons Corner Center is making the best of the holiday season with socially distanced, masked versions of traditional mall festivities.
“It’s no secret that 2020 has been a difficult year, especially among food and beverage, retail, and service-based sectors,” Todd Putt, the mall’s marketing director, said.
But the shopping center is moving forward by focusing on seasonal activities, new store openings, and other initiatives, Putt says.
There are many new events on the roster, but customers will recognize one familiar tradition: Santa.
“Everyone is looking for something that feels normal, and Santa in malls is one of those traditions that people associate with normal,” Putt said. “We didn’t want to give it up. We wanted to have it fit the moment and focus on the health of our guests.”
Santa will be seated at a distance from his guests with a physical barrier. Guests will be asked to wear masks, and hand sanitizing stations will be plentiful. Reservations are recommended, but not required.
From Friday, Nov. 27 to Dec. 31, guests will also be able to meet and greet The Grinch in his cave next to A Christmas to Remember, one of the new stores in the mall. Admission includes a free printed photo and a collectible Grinch ornament.
After Santa and The Grinch, shoppers can visit stores that have been reopening since the summer, with some opening as recently as two weeks ago. New brands include Purple Mattress, Elite Jewelers, Brow and Body Spa, A Christmas to Remember, Tailor on Tap, Lids, See’s Candies, Neuhaus Chocolate, Therabody, and Tonal.
Some — such as Purple Mattress, Therabody and Tonal — are digital brands that are just starting to have brick-and-mortar locations, Putt said.
“There is something to be said about a physical retail presence, and brands recognize that,” he said. “It’s a great way to communicate about their brand.”
The stand-out categories for shopping this holiday season are fitness, home furnishing, electronics, and athleisure apparel, which “makes perfect sense,” Putt says.
Tysons Corner will also be awarding $500 to a deserving person who stepped up for their friends, family, or community during this year. Those who nominate someone could win $500.
That is not the only prize in store for shoppers. Tysons Corner is awarding gift cards and other prizes to random shoppers when mall ambassadors see them masking and maintaining social distancing.
Restaurants are offering curbside pickup and dining takeout, including Thanksgiving to-go. Stores are offering online shopping with in-store pick-up as well as shopping by appointment, both in-person and virtually.
To keep crowd sizes manageable, Tysons Corner is using the virtual waitlist Waitwhile that lets shoppers wait from anywhere and get a text when it is their turn and the mall is open from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
On Black Friday, the mall will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“There are a number of things we’ve done to try to adapt. When customers are ready, we are ready to welcome them,” Putt said.
Tysons Corner Center started hosting new events this summer, including drive-in movies and blood drives. The first drive-in movie, Home Alone, was sold out, and the mall has hosted three blood drives so far, saving the lives of nearly 5,000 individuals, according to Putt.
The following is a schedule of upcoming events:
- Drive-in movie — Dec. 4, from 5-9 p.m. — The movie Elf will screen at 7:30 p.m after the night kicks off at 5 p.m. with entertainment, including trivia and music, and food from participating restaurants. Tickets will be released starting this week. Reservations are required, along with a donation of $10 or more to Food for Others, a local nonprofit providing food to neighbors in need.
- Stuff-A-Truck Event — Dec. 4 from 3 to 7 p.m. — Together with WGTS, the official radio sponsor of the Salvation Army’s Angel Program, the Johnny and Stacey Show will broadcast live from the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center near the Plaza, encouraging customers to “Stuff the Truck” with toys.
- Holiday Blood Drive — Dec. 21, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Tysons Corner Center will be partnering with INOVA Blood Donor Services for a holiday blood drive. Donors who participate will get season treats.
- Those Funny Little People virtual holiday performance — Dec. 12, from 10 to 11 a.m. — Those Funny Little People is an entertainment company with life-sized puppets who dance, sing and make people laugh. A link to watch the live performance will be posted on the mall website.