Tysons, VA

Presidents Day is just around the corner on Monday (Feb. 15), and the federal holiday will bring a few closures of public buildings in the Tysons area.

Fairfax County Government:

Fairfax County Courts:

  • The Fairfax Circuit, General District, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District courts will be closed all day on Feb. 15.

Town of Vienna

  • Town offices and the community center will be closed.
  • The holiday will not affect waste collection. Residents scheduled for pick-up on Mondays can place their waste by the curb as normal.

City of Falls Church:

  • All city offices and services, including City Hall and the Mary Riley Styles Public Library, will be closed. The community center will be closed except for scheduled evening basketball clinics. The city council’s work session has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 16.

 Public Schools:

County Libraries, Recreation Centers, Parks:

  • All Fairfax County library branches will be closed.
  • All Fairfax County RECenters will operate at their regular hours.
  • Colvin Run Mill and Sully Historic Site will be closed on Feb. 15.
  • The E.C. Lawrence, Hidden Oaks, Hidden Pond, and Huntley Meadows nature centers as well as the Riverbend Park visitor center will be open from noon until 4 p.m. on Feb. 15.
  • The McLean Community Center will be closed Feb. 15.

Public Transit:

  • Connector buses will operate on a Holiday weekday service plan. Check the link for details on specific routes.
  • WMATA Metrorail service will operate from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday, from 8 a.m.-11 p.m. on Sunday, and from 5 a.m.-11 p.m. on Monday.
  • WMATA Metrobus will operate on a Saturday service schedule.

County Trash and Recycling:

  • There will be no change in the county’s trash and recycling collection, but Fairfax County Public Works and Environmental Services administrative offices will closed.
  • The recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be open.

Photo by Lucas Sankey via Unsplash

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The next week promises to be an unusual one, with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Inauguration Day prompting government buildings and services in the Tysons area to close or change their operations.

With the Washington, D.C., region bracing for potential violence before President-elect Joe Biden gets sworn into office, the City of Falls Church is taking the most aggressive approach, closing public facilities from MLK Day (Monday, Jan. 18) through Inauguration Day (Wednesday, Jan. 20) Jan. 18-20.

The Mary Riley Styles Public Library will not provide curbside pick-up services starting on Sunday through Wednesday, but the community center will still hold scheduled activities and programs on Tuesday.

“Closing City facilities to the public on Tuesday and Wednesday is out of an abundance of caution for the Inauguration Day activities,” Falls Church City Police Chief Mary Gavin said. “Doing so allows our officers to prepare and react to events within the City and the region, if a response is needed.”

Fairfax County and the Town of Vienna will both close government offices, including the Vienna Community Center, on Monday and Wednesday, but operations will be normal on Tuesday. Waste collection services will also continue as usual for both county and town residents.

Fairfax County Public Schools is observing MLK Day and Inauguration Day as holidays with no classes or meal service for students who get food through the school system. Bus routes and Grab and Go locations will provide three days of meals today and two days’ worth on Tuesday, when meal kit sites will also be open.

While the McLean Community Center will be closed on MLK Day as well as Inauguration Day, MCC has been commemorating the civil rights leader with its annual MLK Day Celebration, which is taking place online this year with a book talk, podcast discussion series, and storytelling community service project.

People looking for more active ways to mark the MLK Day holiday can visit a Fairfax County RECenter or park, which will be open with the exception of historic sites, the Frying Pan Farm Park visitor center, and the Green Spring Gardens historic house.

The National Park Service is also holding its first fee-free day of the year on Jan. 18, providing free admission to all of its venues, including Great Falls Park in McLean.

The two occasions will affect transit service as well.

Fairfax Connector will operate according to a holiday weekday schedule on Jan. 18. The county bus system announced on Wednesday that it is temporarily suspending service for two routes that go into downtown D.C. through Jan. 20 due to road closures related to the presidential inauguration.

For MLK Day, Metro will operate rail and buses on a Saturday schedule. Trains will run every 15-20 minutes on all lines except for the Red Line, which will have trains every 12-15 minutes. Stations will be open from 5 a.m.-11 p.m. Off-peak fares will be in effect all day, and parking will be free at all facilities.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced on Jan. 13 that it will close several stations and detour bus routes in downtown D.C. starting today through Jan. 21 to accommodate a security perimeter for the inauguration.

Photo via René DeAnda on Unsplash

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The McLean Community Center’s annual commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day will look a little different this year.

Typically, MCC marks the occasion — which falls on Jan. 18 this year — by hosting live performances that explore the civil rights leader’s life and work, but with the COVID-19 pandemic still rendering in-person gatherings ill-advised, the organization is offering a trio of online programs instead.

“Our Beloved Community: Uniting Through Stories”

The most ambitious effort, this community service project invites older community members to share a story that they would like to pass on to younger generations, whether it is historically or just personally significant.

The stories will then be matched with volunteering “story adapters” who will interpret and adapt them into another art form, such as a short play, song, visual art, or a video.

The Alden Theatre, which is producing and overseeing all of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities, will provide virtual workshops on Zoom for the story adapters to help them develop their projects.

“While we have all witnessed the damaging effects caused by COVID-19, it is our senior neighbors that have, perhaps, struggled the most due to the isolation in which we find ourselves,” MCC says. “Recognizing this is a problem easily solved, we look to the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the goal of uniting our community through outreach and personal connection.”

All residents of McLean and the surrounding areas can be a storyteller or adapter. MCC says any participants 13 years old or younger should have parental supervision when working on their stories.

Registration to become a storyteller or adapter is currently open with a deadline of Feb. 5. The deadline to submit story adaptations is Apr. 30.

Virtual Book Discussion

To observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Alden will also host a virtual book discussion on Zoom about “The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America” by Raymond Arsenault.

The history book focuses on an Apr. 9, 1939 concert at the Mall in Washington, D.C., by singer Marian Anderson, who became a key figure in the fight against racial segregation after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her perform at Constitution Hall because she was black.

Alden staff members will lead a conversation about the book on Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. Preregistration is required and closes at 5 p.m. on Jan. 12.

“Seeing White”

The Alden staff will host a discussion group on “Seeing White,” the second season of the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies podcast Scene on Radio.

Hosted by Jon Biewen and guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, the 14-part series examines the history of racism and the concept of whiteness in the U.S. It can be found any podcast app or on the Scene on Radio website.

Focused on two or three episodes each, the discussion sessions will be held at 7 p.m. every Thursday from Jan. 14 to Feb. 18. Participants can register for individual sessions or for all of them.

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) Chesterbrook Woods, a tree-lined neighborhood nestled in southeastern McLean, raised $6,000 for charity with a holiday lights event that residents organized on Dec. 19 in lieu of their usual caroling tradition.

Organizers say the donated funds will be given to the Share of McLean food pantry and the nonprofit Get Us PPE, which delivers free personal protective equipment to frontline workers and underserved communities. $200 will also go to the McLean Volunteer Fire Department.

The idea for “Light Up Chesterbrook Woods” came from a place of both grief and celebration, according to resident Carla Post, who says she started thinking about potential substitutes for the traditional neighborhood caroling festivities in November.

“I started thinking about…how so many lives had been lost and how so many traditional holiday mainstays would not happen this year,” Post said. “I started wondering what we could do to come together as a community in joy and remembrance.”

Post reached out to her fellow caroling organizers — Kara Stoll, Lori Boerner, and Amanda Majkowski — about doing an illumination event instead, and they “were unanimously supportive.”

Though they had only a few weeks to stage the event, the four women got such an enthusiastic response to “Light Up Chesterbrook Woods” that it ultimately spilled over into other nearby neighborhoods.

More than 260 households participated in the event, which involved the distribution of 8,000 luminaria – votive candles in paper bags – that residents used to decorate their yards, walkways, and driveways.

Many neighbors assisted by donating paper bags or helping deliver the luminaria kits to different houses. Other households contributed by providing outdoor entertainment during the event, from caroling and a trombone concert to a screening of the movie “Home Alone” and a performance by professional musicians Lynn Veronneau and Ken Avis from the jazz band Veronneau.

Boerner used Google Maps to create a route for residents to find the participating houses so they could admire the lights either by foot or from a vehicle.

Organizers say “Light Up Chesterbrook” was a clear success, and they have gotten requests to turn it into an annual event.

“It was such a beautiful evening all around,” Chesterbrook resident Patty Freeman said. “The weather was perfect for strolling thru [sic] the ‘hood to see all the lights, listen to wonderful music, and view the scenes on the movie screens. We truly have a special neighborhood.”

Photo by Michelle Joss

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With tomorrow marking the final day of 2020, many government offices and services throughout Fairfax County are altering their schedules over the next couple of days in observance of the New Year’s holiday.

Here are the closures and service changes that community members should know:

Fairfax County Government

  • County government offices will be closed on Jan. 1.

Fairfax County Courts

  • The Fairfax Circuit, General District, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District courts will be closed all day on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

McLean Community Center

  • The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. It will be closed all day on Jan. 1.

Town of Vienna

  • Town offices and the community center will be closed on Jan. 1.
  • Waste collection for Friday, Jan. 1., will be postponed until Saturday, Jan. 2. The town requests that no brush, bulk or yard waste is included in this pickup.

City of Falls Church:

  • All city offices and services, including City Hall, Mary Riley Styles Public Library and Community Center, will be closed on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

 Public Schools:

  • Fairfax County Public Schools remain closed through Jan. 1 for Winter Break. All students will resume classes virtually on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Monday, Jan. 4, is an independent day.

County Libraries and Recreation Centers:

  • All Fairfax County library branches, community and regional, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. They will all be closed on Jan. 1.
  • All Fairfax County RECenters, except the George Washington RECenter (GWRC), will be open at their regular times and close at 4 p.m. on Dec. 31. GWRC will be closed on Dec. 31. All RECenters will be closed on Jan. 1.

Public Transit:

  • Connector buses will operate on a Sunday service plan on Jan. 1. Check here for operating routes.
  • Fairfax CUE service will not be provided on Jan. 1.
  • WMATA Metrorail service will open at 5 a.m. and close at 11 p.m. through Dec. 31. Service will open at 8 a.m. and close at 11 p.m. while operating on a holiday schedule with Sunday service intervals on Jan. 1.
  • WMATA Metrobus will operate on a regular schedule on Dec. 31 and will go to a Sunday schedule for Jan. 1.
  • Metro’s customer information call center will be closed. Automated information is available by calling 202-637-7000 or online at wmata.com
  • WMATA’s regular fares and parking fees will be in effect on Dec. 31. Off-peak fares will be in effect all day, while parking will be free at all Metro-operated facilities on Jan. 1.

County Trash and Recycling:

  • There will be no change in the county’s trash and recycling collection on Jan. 1. To ensure all trash and recycling is collected, the county requests that all materials be placed at the curb or street line by 6 a.m.
  • County Public Works and Environmental Services administrative offices will closed on Jan. 1 and reopen on Jan. 4.
  • The recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be closed at 2 p.m. on Dec. 31 and all day on Jan. 1.

Photo courtesy Town of Vienna

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The Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna raised more than $2,600 in donations with the drive-thru Nativity that it held on Dec. 19.

Patti Boerger, the Holy Comforter’s director of childcare, says the funds will be allocated to local food, shelter, and support services throughout the coming year.

Situated on Beulah Road, the Episcopal church typically stages a retelling of the Nativity — the Biblical story of Jesus’s birth — during its Christmas Eve services, but staff members knew continuing with that tradition would be ill-advised while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage.

While Virginia has not imposed mandatory capacity limits on religious services, the Virginia Department of Health warns that such gatherings present a risk for increasing the spread of the novel coronavirus, and faith organizations are encouraged to offer virtual or drive-in options instead of in-person services.

The Holy Comforter canceled several of the family activities it usually organizes during the holiday season, including events for making Advent wreaths and gingerbread houses. Church staffers came up with the idea of a free drive-thru live Nativity as a way to make up for those cancellations.

“We shifted gears at our staff meeting and asked ourselves what we could do differently,” Holy Comforter Rector Jon Strand said. “…The live drive-thru Nativity allows all ages to be safe in their vehicles and celebrate the glory of Christ’s birth.”

The Nativity featured costumed volunteers and live animals arranged in six scenes around the church’s parking lot. It lasted from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

The Holy Comforter was not the only church in the Tysons area to pivot to a drive-thru Nativity.

Patch reported on Dec. 15 that a similar event hosted by the McLean Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attracted an estimated 3,000 attendees over two nights. Donations went to the Share of McLean food bank run by the McLean Baptist Church.

Photo by Zachary Conroy/ImagesforGood.org

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An end to 2020 is almost upon us. If ever a year deserved a send-off of champagne and confetti, it was this one, but as they did with many other traditions, concerns about COVID-19 have curtailed or put on hold many of the usual New Year’s Eve parties.

Still, there remain plenty of options for ringing in the new year.

Many local restaurants are offering special meals to eat in or take home as well as festive cocktails created by local bartenders and mixologists that you can order or try to recreate yourself.

For people who like to close out the year with a song, the Times Square Ball Drop will feature singer Andra Day headlining an evening of live performances. The event is closed to the public this year, but it will still be broadcast on TV and online.

Anyone itching for an in-person concert can stop by Vienna’s Jammin’ Java, which is hosting a “Flashback to the ’80s” party led by DJ D, or the State Theatre in Falls Church, where the Nowhere Men are providing a free outdoor Beatles tribute concert.

The great outdoors also offer a world of possibility.

The Winter Walk of Lights at the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna will remain open through Jan. 3, and the Fairfax County Park Authority is turning its annual First Hike Fairfax program into a three-day affair that starts on New Year’s Day. People who send in a photo of their hike by Jan. 3 will be entered into a contest to celebrate the park authority’s 70th anniversary.

How do you plan on ushering in 2021? If you have a special New Year’s tradition that’s not included below, feel free to share in the comments.

Image via Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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While it may be tempting to throw caution into the wind as 2020 winds to a close, local and state police are emphasizing the need for people to drive safely during the winter holidays, when alcohol-related crashes often spike.

Data from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Highway Safety Office shows that the Commonwealth has recorded more fatalities from traffic crashes related to speed and drunk driving so far this year than in all of 2019, the Virginia State Police reported on Monday (Dec. 21).

“Virginia is on pace to have more total fatal traffic crashes in 2020 than in 2019,” VSP Superintendent Col. Gary Settle said. “…Overall traffic crashes in Virginia this year are down significantly. This means each crash has been deadlier – deadlier because of speed, alcohol, distractions, and individuals not wearing seatbelts.”

The increase in deaths from crashes comes even as the COVID-19 pandemic kept many people off the roads and confined to their homes.

According to toll operator Transurban, traffic on the Interstate 95, 495, and 395 Express Lanes was down 80% in April – when Virginia had stay-at-home orders in place – compared to that same time period in 2019. While traffic has gradually increased since then, it remained 39% below 2019 levels as of November.

Police say that drunk-driving related fatalities and crashes typically go up nationwide during the holidays.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 839 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in the U.S. in December 2018. 285 of them died during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period, the VSP says.

The Fairfax County Police Department’s traffic division steps up its patrol for people driving the influence every year with an annual campaign against drunk driving that runs from the end of November to the new year.

“Although this campaign only runs until January 1, we are fortunate enough to have a dedicated DWI Squad to continue enforcement throughout the rest of the year,” the FCPD said in an email, adding that Virginia DMV recorded 336 alcohol-related crashes, 215 injuries, and seven deaths in the state from Nov. 30 to Dec. 15, 2019.

Health officials have been discouraging people from attending parties or gathering with people outside their immediate household, but for anyone who decides to travel during the holiday season, the Virginia State Police has some recommendations:

  • Plan ahead. Designate a sober driver, call a friend or family member, or use a cab or public transportation.
  • If you know someone has been drinking, do not let them drive. Arrange an alternative, safer way home.
  • Call police if you see an impaired driver on the road. Dial #77 to contact the nearest VSP emergency communications center.

State police will also have new grounds to crack down on distracted driving in the new year. It will be illegal to use a phone or other handheld communications device while driving on highways in Virginia starting on Jan. 1.

“Virginia State Police is urging every motorist on the road this holiday season to be responsible, obey the traffic laws, ditch distractions, and wear a seatbelt,” the VSP said in its news release. “Whether heading to the grocery store, the post office, or delivering gifts to family and friends, choose to do it safely and do it responsibly.”

Photo via FCPD, map via Virginia DMV

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With Christmas just around the corner, many government offices and services will be closed for the remainder of the week, as employees take Thursday and Friday off for the holiday.

Fairfax County government offices will officially close at noon on Thursday (Dec. 24), and they will be closed for the entirety of Christmas Day.

All county parks and recreation facilities, including golf courses and RECenters, will be closed on Christmas.

However, all RECenters will be open until noon on Christmas Eve, and other facility hours vary that day depending on the specific location. The Jefferson District Golf Course in Falls Church, for instance, will have its last tee time at noon on Dec. 24, while the Oak Marr Golf Complex in Oakton will close at 2 p.m.

The McLean Community Center will be closed on Dec. 25 and have a half-day on Dec. 24 in accordance with the Fairfax County government’s holiday hours.

Fairfax County libraries will close at 1 p.m. on Thursday for the holiday weekend.

In the City of Falls Church, all city offices and services will be closed for the entirety of Dec. 24 and 25, including City Hall, the community center, and Mary Riley Styles Public Library. The library will also be closed on Dec. 26 and 27.

The Town of Vienna will close its offices on both Thursday and Friday. The Vienna Community Center will be closed from Dec. 24-27. Waste collection will proceed as normal on Christmas Eve, but there will be no collections on Christmas Day.

Fairfax County will not provide any trash and recycling collection services on Christmas Day. Customers who typically have their waste collected on Fridays will instead get service on Saturday (Dec. 26).

In addition, the county’s recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station (4618 West Ox Rd.) and the I-95 Landfill Complex (9850 Furnace Rd.) will close at 1 p.m. on Dec. 24 and stay closed throughout Dec. 25.

For transit users, Fairfax Connector will operate on Christmas Day according to its Sunday service schedule. Information about specific routes can be found here.

With students on winter break since Monday (Dec. 21), Fairfax County Public Schools has put its meal distribution services on hold starting today through Jan. 1. Yesterday, FCPS offered four days of breakfast and lunch to students who picked up meals at bus stops, and students who used Grab & Go locations or meal kits sites received 14-day meal kits.

Bus route meal distributions will resume on Jan. 4, while distribution at Grab & Go locations and meal kits sites will return on Jan. 5 and 6, respectively.

Staff photo by Ashley Hopko

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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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