Newsletter
The Winter Walk of Lights in the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens (courtesy NOVA Parks)

The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Monday, Dec. 20

  • Winter Break Trip: UNO’s Pizza Making & Movie — 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. day trip to Union Station in D.C. and AMC theatres — Students ages 10 through 14 can learn how to make deep-dish pizza at UNO’s and then enjoy a movie afterward, thanks to the Old Firehouse Teen Center in McLean. Cost is $65 for residents.
  • Holiday Yarn Trees — 3-5 p.m. at Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library (7584 Leesburg Pike) — Library staff will provide all the supplies needed to craft winter-themed tree decor in this activity for people aged 8 to 18. With room capacity limited to 40 people, advance registration is required, and masks remain mandatory in all Fairfax County facilities.

Tuesday, Dec. 21

  • Jammin Java Songwriters Circle — 8 p.m. at Jammin Java (227 Maple Ave. East) — Local singers and songwriters share stories and music. Cost is $16. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 22

  • Needlecraft Circles — 1-2 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Library (7415 Arlington Boulevard) — Join other older adults to learn a new needlecraft. Supplies provided.

Thursday, Dec. 23

Friday, Dec. 24

  • Photos with Santa — 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2-5 p.m. at Tysons Corner Center (1961 Chain Bridge Road) — It’s your last chance to ask Old Saint Nick what you want for Christmas. He will accept walk-in visits on Dec. 23 and 24 after hearing from good boys and girls daily by reservation since Nov. 12.

Saturday, Dec. 25

  • Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights — 5-10 p.m. at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens (9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court) in Wolf Trap — Enjoy lights and holiday scenes in this annual transformation, which goes through Jan. 2. The tickets for those ages 2 and over are $18 each.

Sunday, Dec. 26

  • “Traveling While Black” — noon-6 p.m. at the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Ave.) — A virtual reality movie shows participants’ part in the struggle for racial justice. One-hour appointments are available for the exhibit, which runs through Feb. 12.
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Morning Notes

FCPS to Highlight Need for Safe Gun Storage — “Fairfax County Public Schools will notify parents and guardians about Virginia’s new secure firearm storage law, why secure storage is essential, and other ways to prevent gun violence or seek help for a child who could be a threat to themselves or others. The communication will be sent in January and then annually before the start of each school year.” [Karl Frisch]

Lawsuit Accuses FCPD Officers of Sexual Assault and Complicity in Sex Trafficking — “The woman, who is referred to only as Jane Doe because she is a trafficking victim, alleges that the Fairfax County, Virginia, police department, including its former chief Edwin Roessler, knew that some officers were possibly participating in and protecting the ring, but allowed the officers to retire with full pensions rather than prosecute them.” [Reuters]

County Awarded for Mosaic Autonomous Shuttle — “The @fairfaxcounty Relay Shuttle project was presented the Fairfax County TAC Transportation Achievement Award on December 7, 2021. The award is given to the person or group that has made the most significant contribution during the year. The Relay project team accepted the award” [Virginia DRPT/Twitter]

Meet the Tysons Corner Center Santa — Tennessee resident Mike Graham has been serving as Santa at Tysons Corner Center for the past 34 years. He was first sent to the mall by a photo company that was looking for more Santas, and that initial appearance got such “a tremendous response” that the management team asked if he’d like to work with them exclusively. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

McLean 7-Eleven and Merrifield BMW Center Burglarized — Two men entered the 7-Eleven at 8110 Old Dominion Drive around 1:36 a.m. on Dec. 11, implied they had a weapon, and took property. Another commercial burglary was reported on Dec. 12 at the BMW Collison Center at 2730 Dorr Drive after someone forced their way into the business and took property around 10:30 a.m. [FCPD]

Winners of Vienna Holiday Lights Contest Announced — For the 2021 Light Up Vienna contest, first place in the business category as voted on by the town business liaison committee was split between Vienna Rexall Drug Center and Judd Tile. Public voters awarded the People’s Choice prize to Vienna Pet Spaw on Church Street, and 121 Casmar Street SE (also known as Casmar Street Lights) came out on top in the residents category. [Town of Vienna/Facebook]

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Santa Warren won’t arrive at Tysons Galleria for another 11 days, but he’s already making waves.

With his scheduled appearances on Dec. 18 and 19, Warren will be the first Black man to serve as Santa Claus for Neiman Marcus at Tysons Galleria’s winter holiday festivities, which kicked off on Nov. 26 with a visit from another Santa who assisted with curbside deliveries.

After years of white Saint Nicks dating back to its 1988 opening, the department store made a conscious effort to diversify its roster for this holiday season, citing its ongoing work to become “more inclusive and representative of our global community” in a recent media alert.

“We want to continue to connect with our customers and find ways to ensure our store represents our community,” Neiman Marcus Tysons Vice President and General Manager Kathy Leigh said by email. “This year our team brainstormed ideas [that] led us to hire the wonderful Santa who we are delighted to have join us at Neiman Marcus Tysons Galleria.”

To find the right candidate for the role, Neiman Marcus turned to Santas Just Like Me, a North Carolina-based company founded in 2013 to increase the representation of people of color in the Santa industry.

An event photographer, minister, and self-professed Christmas fanatic, Santas Just Like Me founder Stafford Braxton says his goal is to make the company all-inclusive, but the easiest way to market its work turned out to be emphasizing Black Santa “so that people would know what I am.”

Since recruiting Warren as the original Black Santa, Braxton has added five other men, and he remains on the lookout for Hispanic, Asian, and other kinds of individuals who would be interested in putting on the red suit. Even white Santas would be welcome.

The only criteria? A naturally white beard.

“I want to be able to provide all the different cultures a Santa that looks like them,” Braxton told Tysons Reporter. “That’s my heart’s desire.”

When Neiman Marcus reached out last month about a gig at its Tysons Galleria store, Santas Just Like Me quickly accepted the offer, excited by the prospect of breaking new ground as the venue’s first Black Santa. Read More

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Fairfax County residents looking for a new Christmas tree should still be able to find an evergreen for the holiday — for now.

Four Seasons Flower Market (6808 Elm Street) in McLean is just one of the local vendors where people can get holiday trees. Its lot was filled with trees as of yesterday (Tuesday), but a worker there expected them to sell out by mid-December.

Sellers across the country say interest in live trees has been high during another Christmas amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Anyone who wants one this holiday should make plans to purchase one very soon,” Michael Wallace, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said in an email.

The National Christmas Tree Association reported that last year, tree buyers tended to be younger than usual, urban areas saw an increase in purchases, and sales occurred earlier than they typically did.

While news outlets have reported a tree shortage, suggesting supply-chain issues are at play, one horticulture expert calls a “Christmas tree apocalypse” unlikely.

“Unlike toilet paper in the spring of 2020, real Christmas trees will not disappear,” Michigan State University horticulture professor Bert Cregg wrote.

The total number of Christmas trees cut has declined from 17.4 million in 2007 to less than 15.1 million in 2017, according to Census of Agriculture data, which was last released in 2019. The U.S. Department of Agriculture survey attributes the drop to fewer farms being in the business, with less acreage overall devoted to growing Christmas trees.

Industry statistics indicate that artificial tree sales have gone up in recent years, providing competition.

Beyond Four Seasons, the Tysons area and Fairfax County in general have several options for buying Christmas trees, including Merrifield Garden Center, DePaul’s Urban Farm in Vienna, and Meadows Farms, which has a nursery in Seven Corners.

The Optimist Club of Greater Vienna opened a tree sale lot in the Giant Foods shopping center on Maple Avenue on Saturday (Nov. 27), and Trinity United Methodist Church (1205 Dolley Madison Blvd.) in McLean will use proceeds from its tree sales to support its Scouts and youth programs.

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Thanksgiving is still around the corner, but at Tysons Corner Center, it’s starting to feel a little like Christmas.

The mall kicked off its 2021 winter holiday season on Friday (Nov. 19) with a tree lighting ceremony that included live music and theater performances, complimentary s’mores and hot chocolate stations, and a pop-up market featuring some of its retailers.

Despite the chilly weather, the mood on the Plaza — where the tree lighting festivities took place — was relaxed, even cheery, as loud speakers blasted winter staples from Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

“Look at all the faces out here!” a man dressed as Santa Claus said when taking the stage just after 6:20 p.m. for the lighting of the approximately 50-foot-tall pine tree.

For Marvin Ramos and Catherine Romero, this was an opportunity to resume a cherished tradition after Tysons Corner canceled the tree lighting last year due to the pandemic, though the mall still hosted a few other holiday events.

Ramos has attended every year for as long as he can remember, thanks to his parents’ avid listening to the radio station 97.1 WASH FM, which partners with Tysons Corner Center on the event. Host Toby Knapp served as emcee for this year’s ceremony.

Now 25 years old, Ramos has carried on the tradition with Romero, braving Capital Beltway traffic annually to get to the mall from their home in Rockville, Maryland.

“Just seeing everybody here together, getting ready for the holiday season, seeing the joy in everybody, the music, all that stuff,” Ramos said when asked what makes the Tysons tree lighting special.

Though she quips that she comes “to support him,” Romero says she has enjoyed turning the tree lighting into a routine since Ramos introduced her to it. She especially likes the pop-up market, which included booths for Northern Virginia Orthodontics, Sheepskin Gifts and Alpaca Too, and other local businesses.

“It’s a good way to know what’s in the area and get to meet new shop and business owners…support small businesses, meanwhile celebrating the holidays,” she said. “It’s great. It’s fun.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Luda, a Fairfax resident who declined to give her last name.

Accompanied by her partner and their two children, she was attending the Tysons Corner tree lighting for the first time. She says they have been going out more as a family than they were at this time last year.

“I like to see [the] decoration and light,” Luda said. “I’m very much enjoying bringing my baby to events, free events like this, and to get together with people, to share the holidays, I love it.”

In addition to the tree lighting, Tysons Corner Center has been hosting photos with Santa since Nov. 12, and he will be around through Dec. 24. Reservations are recommended but not required.

The mall’s upcoming holiday events are similarly Santa-centric:

  • Breakfast with Santa — Dec. 4, 9-10 a.m., at the food court — Reservations are not required for this first-come, first-served complimentary catered breakfast with kid entertainment and other family-friendly activities.
  • Pet Nights with Santa — Dec. 6, 13, and 20, 6-8 p.m., at the Fashion Court on Level 1 — Santa poses with visitors’ pets in this returning event. Reservations encouraged.
  • Storytime with Santa — Dec. 11, 9-10 a.m., at the Fashion Court — Santa reads classic holiday stories for children. Reservations are not required.
  • Sensory Santa — Dec. 12, 9:30-10:30 a.m., at the Fashion Court — In a partnership with Cherry Hill photography and the nonprofit Autism Speaks, Tysons Corner Center will open exclusively to families who have children with special needs. Reservations are not required.
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As the holiday season comes to a close and the new year approaches, it may be time to throw out your old Christmas trees and greenery.

For most Fairfax County residents, live Christmas trees that are less than eight feet tall will be collected curbside in single-family and townhouse communities on regular trash collection days between Jan. 11 and 22.

Residents may schedule a brush pickup for a tree removal after Jan. 22.

Fairfax County residents can also drop off their trees at the I-66 Transfer Station or the I-95 Landfill Complex. There is a $7 recycling fee per tree at the recycling centers, and all decorations and stands must be separated before disposing of trees.

The Town of Vienna will collect trees and brush on regularly scheduled collection days through January. Decorations, tinsel, ornaments, and other trimming should be removed from the trees before setting them out for collection. Trees should also not be bagged.

The City of Falls Church will collects Christmas trees free of charge on Wednesdays throughout January and February. The city advises placing trees at the curb within the first two weeks of January “to ensure speedy collection.”

Plastic bags, rope, and all decorations, including tinsel, should be removed.

For people looking for alternatives to disposing of their holiday greenery, the National Christmas Tree Association provides some other options:

  • Soil erosion barriers: Some communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand and soil erosion barriers, especially for lake and river shoreline stabilization and river delta sedimentation management.
  • Fish feeders: Sunk into private fish ponds, trees make an excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.
  • Bird feeders: Place the Christmas tree in the garden or backyard and use it as a bird feeder and sanctuary. Fresh orange slices or strung popcorn will attract the birds and they can sit in the branches for shelter. (Make sure all decorations, hooks, garland and tinsel strands are removed). Eventually (within a year) the branches will become brittle and you can break the tree apart by hand or chip it in a chipper.
  • Mulch: A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden.
  • Paths for hiking trails: Some counties use shredded trees as a free, renewable and natural path material that fits both the environment and the needs of hikers.
  • Living, rooted trees: Get a rooted (ball and burlap or containerized) tree and plant it in your yard. (It’s a good idea to dig the hole in the late fall while the soil is still soft, then plant the tree into that hole immediately after Christmas.) Living trees have a better survival rate in mild climates.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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COVID-19 may have put a damper on a lot of year-end festivities, but many hallmarks of this holiday season are still going strong.

There is a certain magic in getting bundled up for ice skating or sipping mulled cider (or hot toddies) at outdoor restaurants. For something spectacular, families can enjoy holiday light shows or their neighbors’ tacky Christmas lights.

All of these and more winter activities can be done in Fairfax County through January. This year, you can justify these cold weather-friendly events to your heat-loving friends even more, since the risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower outside.

Does winter hold a certain spark for you? Are you going stir-crazy at home and need places to go? Tell us below how you are taking in this season, and drop recommendations in the comments.

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With Thanksgiving over and Christmas music on the airwaves debate-free, local nonprofits and nurseries are starting their annual sales of Christmas trees and other holiday greenery.

People getting into the festive spirit can choose from many local organizations, which will use the money to fund everything from scholarships and Boy Scout Troop outings to youth ministry programs and community health programming.

Trinity United Methodist Church in McLean (1205 Dolley Madison Blvd) kicked off its sales right after Thanksgiving Day, and they will continue through mid-December. The sales benefit Trinity youth ministries and Boy Scout Troop 869.

Hours for the sales vary depending on the day:

  • Thursday & Friday: 4-6 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Sunday: 12-5 p.m.

St. John Academy in McLean (6422 Linway Terrace) is launching its Christmas tree sales this Thursday (Dec. 3). A tree lot will be set up in the school’s lower-level parking lot through Dec. 20.

Trees start at $50, and garlands and wreaths are also available. Sale hours are 4-7 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Optimist Club of Greater Virginia is selling Christmas trees, wreathes, roping, and tree stands at the corner of Maple Avenue and Branch Road near PNC Bank and Giant in Vienna. Weekday hours go from 4-8 p.m., and weekend hours are from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Tree sales fund awards, scholarships, and honoraria for students from James Madison, George Marshall, and Oakton High Schools, as well as their school pyramid, scout troops, sports teams and youth groups, according to the Vienna Business Association website.

The Vienna Lions Club has Fraser Firs for sale with costs ranging from $65 to $115. The club will also be selling wreaths, ropage and related holiday goods in the Walgreens parking lot at 225 Maple Ave.

Hours are:

  • Weekdays: 2 to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sunday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

According to its website, the Vienna Lions Club expects items to be gone before Dec. 13.

“We will remain open until we sell out,” the club said. “We anticipate a strong and brisk tree sale and remind our loyal customers of just how quickly our inventory can diminish.”

Proceeds from the sale benefit local, national, and international LIONS Sight and Hearing Foundation activities, along with several organizations, community, and individual betterment activities.

Local nurseries in Fairfax County have also decked out their socially distanced halls with greenery to buy.

In Vienna, shoppers can stop by DePaul’s Urban Farm (2599 Chain Bridge Rd) for trees and a holiday market.

The Merrifield Christmas shop looks more spread out this year to allow for safe social distancing, but it is still offering the same selection of Christmas decor, plants, and greens.

Orders must be placed before arriving at one of the store’s three locations in Falls Church, Fair Oaks, and Gainsville. Once shoppers arrive at the loading station, they can remain in their vehicles while staff loads their purchases.

Meadows Farms has trees, poinsettias and wreaths galore, with locations in Chantilly, Falls Church, Annandale, Vienna and Herndon, and 16 other shops. It also has an online library with decorating tips and care instructions.

If you know of any other location, please let Tysons Reporter know!

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Updated on 12/1/2020 — The Church Street Holiday Stroll was moved online this year. The live stream of the event can still be viewed on the Town of Vienna’s Facebook page. Tysons Reporter apologizes for any confusion or inconvenience caused by the outdated information in the Weekly Planner.

The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Monday (Nov. 30)

  • Church Street Holiday Stroll — 6-8:30 p.m. at Vienna’s Historic Church St. (131 Church St.) — Enjoy favorite holiday tunes performed by school choruses and others, along with s’mores, children’s activities, and more, the website says.

Tuesday (Dec. 1)

  • Holiday Gingerbread Decorating (Dec. 1-25) — 6:30-8 p.m. at McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Ave.) — McLean Community Center will provide a pre-built gingerbread house, traditional candy decorations, and frosting. To register, use this link.
  • Children’s Book Writing and Publishing Workshop (Online) — 7-9 p.m. — Learn how to effectively write, publish, and market a children’s book with a masterclass from Global Book Publishing CEO Sush Dutta. To register, use this link.

Thursday (Dec. 3)

  • The Boro Howliday Series — 5:30-7 p.m. at Boro Park (8350 Broad St.) — Pets and their owners can enjoy a dog pop-up zone. Toys and treats will be provided for the dogs, and guests can enjoy treats as well with specialty seasonal warm beverages, the website says.

Friday (Dec. 4)

  • Fairfax Virtual Employment Expo (Online) — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — In lieu of its usual employment expo in Fairfax County, the Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington is hosting several virtual events. Job seekers of age 50 or more can attend workshops and network with employers. To register, use this link.

Saturday (Dec. 5)

  • McLean Holiday Arts & Crafts Festival (December 5-6) — 9 a.m to 5 p.m. — The McLean Holiday Art & Crafts Festival is a juried arts show. See behind the scenes and watch how these artists create their masterpieces. Support the arts and buy a unique gift for someone special, the website said. Admission is free. To register, use this link.
  • Cookies with Santa — 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. at Vienna Volunteer Fire Department (400 Center St. S.) — Share holiday wishes and Mrs. Claus’s delicious holiday cookies with the jolly ol’ elf, the website said. The cost is $5 per person. To register, use this link.

Staff photo by Ashley Hopko

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Monday Morning Notes

NoVa Leads State in COVID-19 New Cases — “There has been an uptick of cases in Northern Virginia for over a week and an increase in the southwest region during October.” [Patch]

The Boro Wins Regional Development Awards — “KETTLER, one of Greater Washington, D.C.’s leading real estate services companies, announces the acceptance of multiple awards for Rise and Bolden Apartments, and Verse Condominiums located at The Boro in Tysons, Virginia.” [InsideNova]

Tysons Corner Center Announces Contact-Free Santa — “Santa and his helpers will be back at Tysons Corner Center, but there will be some changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Yahoo]

Macerich Secures Loan for New Residential Tower in Tysons — “While reporting its financial results for the third quarter on Thursday, Macerich Co. (MAC), a self-administered real estate investment trust, said its joint venture has secured a commitment for a $95 million loan on Tysons Vita, the residential tower at Tysons Corner.” [Nasdaq]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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