Newsletter

As 2020 draws to a close, Tysons Reporter is looking back on the stories that defined the past year.

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 was at the forefront of people’s minds locally as well as nationally. Readership spiked when the pandemic shut down Fairfax County in the middle of March and again toward the end of May, when Northern Virginia prepared to reopen.

Still, the past 12 months brought plenty of more conventional changes to the Tysons area as well.

The arrival of Wegmans to Capital One Drive in November generated much excitement, as did the introduction of the electric, self-driving Relay shuttle at the Mosaic District in Merrifield.

Fairfax County saw record levels of voter turnout for the Nov. 3 general election, while local officials considered tackling issues from affordable housing to abandoned shopping carts.

McLean residents debated the future of their downtown and the Interstate 495 corridor, and Vienna residents continued to report unusual crimes, as their town moved forward with plans for a new police station.

Overall, it was an eventful, often challenging year. Here are Tysons Reporter’s top 10 most-viewed articles of 2020:

  1. Tysons Corner Center reopened stores in May with COVID-19 restrictions in place.
  2. A Tysons office worker tested positive for COVID-19.
  3. The Sheraton Tysons Hotel permanently closed on Apr. 3 as the hospitality industry reeled from the pandemic.
  4. Government and community facilities in Fairfax County, Vienna, and the City of Falls Church closed in mid-March.
  5. Tysons Reporter got a preview of Showplace Icon ahead of the movie theater’s grand opening on Mar. 6.
  6. Northern Virginia delayed joining the state’s phased reopening plan in May as COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Fairfax Health District increased.
  7. Brio closed its Tysons Corner Center restaurant in January with no official explanation.
  8. A worker at a Fairfax Square office building in Tysons tested positive for COVID-19 in March.
  9. Videos captured parachuters jumping off a building under construction on the Capital One campus in early April.
  10. Local protests against racism and police brutality led the Walmart in Tysons to close early on June 5.

Photo courtesy Ed Schudel

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Using a mobile phone while driving will officially be illegal in Virginia starting on Jan. 1.

Current state law prohibits reading a phone and texting while driving and holding a phone while driving through a work zone, but the Virginia General Assembly adopted legislation barring the use of handheld phones while driving a moving vehicle on state highways in March.

While the law was technically enacted on July 1, its effective date was delayed until the new year so that the public could be educated about its provisions and law enforcement agencies could get training on how to enforce it.

Violations of the new law will be punishable by a fine of $125 for the first offense and $250 fine for any subsequent offenses.

There are a few exceptions to the ban on using a phone while driving, including:

  • Emergency vehicle operators who are performing their official duties, including law enforcement and fire and medical responses
  • Drivers who are lawfully parked or stopped
  • Someone using their phone to report an emergency
  • The use of an amateur or citizens’ band radio
  • Department of Transportation vehicle operators who are performing traffic incident management services

Virginia’s public information campaign on the new law is being led by Drive Smart Virginia, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting traffic safety.

According to Drive Smart Virginia, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reported that 15% of all fatal crashes in 2018 were related to distracted driving. Fairfax County has the second-most distracted driving fatalities in the state, surpassed only by Prince William County, and the most injuries that result from distraction-related crashes.

The distracted driving ban is perhaps the most significant legal change coming to Virginia on New Year’s Day, but it is not the only new law that will take effect on Jan. 1.

Here are some other measures to be aware of when the new year arrives:

  • HB 264: requires in-person training for concealed handgun permits, removing online or electronic courses as an option for demonstrating competence
  • HB 1211: enables undocumented immigrants to apply for new driver privilege cards so they can legally drive
  • HB 66: prohibits health insurance companies from charging more than $50 per 30-day supply for prescription insulin
  • HB 789: sets a 36% annual rate cap on the interest and fees charged for a short-term loan, which can now go up to $2,500
  • SB 172: protects people who receive emergency services from an out-of-network healthcare provider from unexpected medical costs
  • HB 1407: prohibits employers from misclassifying employees as independent contractors
  • HB 742: gives localities the authority to regulate the takeoff and landing of unmanned aircraft on public property

Photo via Alexandre Boucher on Unsplash

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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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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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The COVID-19 pandemic has upended traditions left and right this year, and it appears the final day of 2020 will be no exception.

The City of Falls Church’s annual Watch Night New Year’s Eve celebration has been canceled due to public health concerns and “in deference to our front-line health care workers, who are risking all,” the volunteer-run organization responsible for the event announced yesterday (Wednesday) in a message shared by the city.

“With all the hope for the vaccines that are now in the distribution chain, the responsible decision is to not have the Watch Night Celebration this year and have more people healthy for a better year in 2021,” the Little City CATCH Foundation said.

This would have been the 23rd consecutive year that Falls Church marked the coming of a new year with Watch Night.

First held in 1998 to ring in the city’s tricentennial, Watch Night transforms downtown Falls Church into a walkable plaza of musical performances, refreshment stalls, and various family-friendly activities, culminating in the lowering of a 12-foot star that once stood on the water tower behind the original city hall.

Originally produced by the Falls Church Tricentennial Committee, the celebration was later supported by local nonprofit groups like the Village Society, Tinner Hill Foundation, and the Victorian Society at Falls Church, according to the Watch Night website.

Falls Church City eventually formed the Little City CATCH Foundation in September 2012 to serve as the permanent Watch Night organizer and support other arts, culture, and history events in the city.

Because one of the guiding principles of Watch Night is for it to be free and open to the whole public, the Little City CATCH Foundation says it would have been “very difficult” to adapt the event to the crowd limits and social distancing protocols that mitigate the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.

“A lot of volunteers and dedicated City staff are involved each year with orchestrating the festivities,” the foundation said. “We have deeply appreciated their efforts and we do not want to put them or attendees at risk. We want them all back for future years.”

Image via City of Falls Church

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The 9th annual Nowruz Festival plans to return to Tysons Corner Center this weekend.

The event will celebrate the Persian New Year with live performances and costumed characters.

Admission is free, and people can expect a bazaar selling Persian food, art and more.

“The Nowruz Festival is the largest event for the Iranian-American community that celebrates the Persian New Year,” according to the Facebook event.

More than 10,000 people usually go to the festival, according to the post.

“It draws people from Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and other countries who celebrate Nowruz as well as Americans who are interested in knowing more about Iranian culture, traditions, arts, crafts and foods,” the post said.

The festival is set to take place on Sunday (March 15) from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Attendees can park on the outside lot between Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, according to the mall.

Photo via Facebook

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

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

Tuesday (Jan. 21)

  • W&M Tysons Corner Book Club — 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Tysons Galleria (2001 International Drive) — The William and Mary Book Club invites alumni and friends to read “The Martian” by Andy Weir. People are encouraged to come early and grab food for the meeting.
  • Disruption & Innovation Club Happy Hour — 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Tower Club (8000 Towers Crescent Drive) — This event invites people from around the community to network and meet new people. Tickets are $15 for members and $35 for non-members. RSVP is required.

Friday (Jan. 24)

  • Casual Pint Grand Opening — 4 to 11 p.m. at the Casual Pint (6410 Arlington Blvd) –– Throughout the evening of the grand opening, The Casual Pint will be giving prizes away along with free growlers to the first 50 customers.

Saturday (Jan. 25)

  • Vienna Theatre Company: “Cinderella”— 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Vienna Community Center (120 SE Cherry Street)  This production is about an adaption of the Grimm Brothers’ classic fairy tale “Cinderella.” All ages are welcome to these matinee performances and tickets are $15 at the door.
  • Junior Girl Scout Workshop: Coding for Good – 3 to 6 p.m. at Code Ninjas (510 S. Washington Street) — This event invites local troops to learn about STEM and computer science while learning badges. Sign-up online is required.

Sunday (Jan. 26)

  • Lunar New Year  — noon to 4 p.m. at Tysons Corner Center (1961 Chain Bridge Road) — From Visit Fairfax, this event will feature the Fairfax Chinese Dance Troupe and the Jow Ga Shaolin Institute. This event is free and open to the public.
  • Tysons Corner Comic Book Show 2020 — 10 a.m. at DoubleTree Hotel (1960 Chain Bridge Road) — This event will feature comic books, pokemon and magic cards, toys, original art, vintage and present-day sports cards and sports memorabilia. Admission is $3 for adults and free for kids under 12.
  • McLean Chocolate Festival — 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Ave) — Attendees can expect a children’s game room and live entertainment while enjoying sweets from local chocolatiers. Admission is $2, but kids ages 3 and under can attend for free.

Photo via Unsplash 

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It’s now three days into 2020 — a.k.a. the new “Roaring 20s.”

Did you create new year’s resolutions earlier this week? If so, how are you doing?

Tysons Reporter has a few changes ready to roll out next week, including revamped Morning Notes that will now get posted on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Expect more newsroom pop-ups at local coffee shops in the spring and more opportunities for reader engagement.

Editor Catherine Douglas Moran’s resolution is to exercise three times a week. So far, she’s on track — and walking as much as possible for reporting in Tysons.

Reporter Ashley Hopko plans to read at least one new book each month “on a topic that I’m completely unfamiliar with.” Yesterday, she kicked off her resolution by picking up a copy of “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson.

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It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re ready to bring you more news about Tysons, Merrifield, Falls Church, Vienna and McLean — say that list fast five times — in 2020!

But first, our mighty team of three — Editor Catherine Douglas Moran, Reporter Ashley Hopko and Photographer Jay Westcott — will be taking a break on New Year’s Day.

Next week, Morning Notes will be a little different. Readers can expect it twice a week, and we’ll be giving previews of upcoming coverage, along with more opportunities for reader engagement.

Later in January, a new byline will be joining our site from our incoming intern Shreeya Aranake.

We wish you and yours a happy and safe New Year’s Eve. Feel free to tell us in the comments section what you’re excited about in the new year.

See you in 2020!

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2020 is almost here. If you’re planning on going out to celebrate New Year’s Eve, there are plenty of parties and events around the Tysons area.

Let Tysons Reporter know where you plan to be when the clock strike midnight on Dec. 31.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM/Unsplash

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