Halloween 2016 in Reston is Loads of Fun

I will never tire of seeing children in their Halloween costumes, roaming the streets (or the plaza or the Reston Town Center) in search of the perfect treat. Or any treat. The joy is a pure delight. Second only, perhaps, to seeing dogs and cats dressed in adorably costumes, roaming the plaza in search of the perfect treat.

On Saturday, October 29, I’m going to get my fill of both. And you can too. I hope you can come out and enjoy two delightful Reston Halloween events.

Howl-o-Ween on the Plaza

Saturday, October 29, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Being this cute isn’t so ruff. Especially if you are a dog lover! Come down and see the dogs (and a few cats) of Reston in their How-o-Ween finery. There are games, there are contests, and there are treats for your furry friends. Festivities start at 1 and continue until 3. The costume contest starts at 1:30.

Trick or Treat at Reston Town Center

Saturday, October 29, noon to 4 p.m.

On your way to or from Howl-o-Ween, stop by Reston Town Center for a little trick-or-treating. Any child in wearing a costume (maybe one to match the dog?) can celebrate this special day by visiting participating retailers and the Information Center for treats and goodies. Look for the pumpkin flyer in the window. If you aren’t coming over to Howl-o-ween, be sure to enjoy a spooky, magical performance for all ages by Turley the Magician at 1 pm in Fountain Square.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Find Your Wooded Sanctuary: Bentana Woods

Do you ever dream of finding a quick place in the woods, free from the hustle and bustle of urban life? Except that you like the hustle and bustle of urban life, so you don’t want to go live in the woods. What if you could find both? Bentana Woods is the neighborhood for you.

Bennett of Virginia built these town homes in1972. They’re located in the Tall Oaks section of Reston, Virginia, about 1 mile from the Wiehle Metro Station (which means you could walk there if you wanted to). They’re also a quick walk into Lake Fairfax Park and short drive to Reston Town Center or Lake Anne Plaza. The original Tall Oaks Village Center is slated for redevelopment, so within the next few years there will be new shops and restaurants all a quick walk from your front door. But you won’t be able to tell because this neighborhood is so secluded you feel like you’re in rural Virginia.

The fact that these 3 to 4 bedroom, 1,700 square foot townhouses are charming and well designed is icing on the cake. 

Bentana Woods is actually two separate clusters — Bentana Woods Cluster has 48 homes while Bentana Woods West has 108 homes. More than 50% of the neighborhood lands are common areas with open grass, tot lots, and stands of trees — trees that the National Wildlife Federation has certified as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat.

If you want to be close to the action, but feel like you’re living in a National park, Bentana Woods is the Reston neighborhood for you!

Mom and Pop: Potomac River Running

Reston is a runner or walkers paradise — with miles and miles of trails, you can go pretty much anywhere by foot. And if you’re going to use the trails, you need a good pair of running or walking shoes. Potomac River Running is not only the best place around to find them, it’s a locally owned shop, and I love that.


Just because they’re a mom-and-pop shop doesn’t mean they aren’t insanely successful—they have eight locations throughout Northern Virginia, with the Reston shop located at Reston Town Center. All that since opening their first store in 2003! In that short time they have also been voted one of the 50 Best Running Stores in America for the past eight years. Each year, Competitor magazine and Running Insight® identify the 50 Best Running Stores in America®.

A True Family Affair

The stores have four owners, all of who are related somehow. Cathy and Margie are sisters who grew up in Fairfax County. Their husbands Ray and Brendan joined them in making this dream a reality. No surprise, before opening the store, they were each heavily involved in the local running community in one way or another. They all ran track and cross country through high school. Cathy, Ray and Margie enjoyed successful running careers in college. Cathy and Ray met while running for the same professional post-collegiate racing team. Margie continues to race triathlons professionally. Brendan is proof that being a “middle of the packer” is okay too.

One of the things I most admire about Potomac River Running is their commitment to the community. It’s not just about selling running gear to them. They want people to walk and run together, to feel the joy of being surrounded by people who will always root for you. The offer training programs and fun runs from the store, and their races are a blast. Not only do they support charities throughout the region, the participants eagerly await each race simply because they are so much fun (costumes play a major roll in this).

As our world gets bigger, finding connection in community is so important. And Potomac River Running is a model of how to do that in a small specialty store. No, not every person in Reston has a reason to shop there. But the people who do are very loyal. If you run or walk, I suggest wandering over to Potomac River Running and saying hi. The staff will love to spend some time chatting with you.

Off Great Owl Drive in North Reston

I have to share a secret, and I hope it doesn’t come as a shock. There is no ocean in Reston, nor are there any bluffs from which you can stand and look out at the sea. But that’s okay, because what we do have is a charming community of Nantucket Style homes.

Nantucket is known for its cedar planked, homes that are open, bright and airy. Now that is something the developers of Reston could provide here.

Great Owl Drive, the next street down from North Point Village, is one community of these quaint homes.

On Old Brookville Court and Springhouse Place, you will find single family homes in the Nantucket style. These cheerful homes have four bedrooms, ground-floor master bedrooms and garages. Instead of the ocean, they back up to wooded areas—which you will appreciate as you sip lemonade on the huge deck.

For those who prefer townhome living, at the end of the drive is Great Owl Circle, which houses Ridgewood Cluster. These richly appointed, 3-level townhomes have lofts and cathedral ceilings to add space and visual appeal. Each home has a brick and cedar siding exterior, and many have a garage. There are five models of townhomes throughout the cluster—some offer luxurious master suites, others offer fabulous areas for entertaining. There is a home here for whatever your style of living is!

Great Owl Drive is right off Reston Parkway between Baron Cameron and Route 7. This community is a quick walk to North Point Village shopping (and America’s favorite coffee shop and ice cream store), and just a quick trip down Reston Parkway to Reston Town Center and Lake Anne Plaza.

Visit these homes and decide for yourself is the ocean is really all that necessary.

The Horse and Hound Streets of South Reston

Restonians love horses and hounds… or at least equestrian names. That’s why if you turn off Reston Reston Parkway and Glade Drive in South Reston, you will find the horse neighborhoods (as we like to call them): Paddock Lane, Colts Neck Drive, Steeplechase Drive, Basset Lane, Hounds Lane, Stirrup Road, Trotter Lane, Silver Fox Lane. You will practically crave a mint julep just driving down these charming roads.

These single-family home communities were all built in the late 60s and early 70s. They are on gorgeous quarter- to half-acre plots that, for the most part, back up to Reston’s common land—meaning chances are you can’t see any other neighbors from the back yard. The styles of homes range from Colonial to contemporary—there is no cookie cutter feel in this part of South Reston.

In addition to the well-kept homes and yards, one of the most appealing aspects of the horse streets is the location. Hunters Woods Elementary School is an easy walk for young children. Hunters Woods Village Center, home to the Reston Community Center, and Fox Mill Shopping Center are also nearby. There are several parks, a community garden, tennis courts, and the Hunters Woods pool all within walking distance.

South Reston is only a few short miles from the Dulles Toll Road or the Fairfax County Parkway, which is nice for commuters. This is the perfect area for anyone looking for a little bit of land, a friendly neighborhood, and easy access around Reston.

Neighborhood children attend Hunters Woods Elementary School, Langston Hughes Middle School, and South Lakes High School. Both Hunters Woods Village Center and Fox Mill Shopping Center offer easy access to grocery shopping and quick dining. As part of Reston Association, residents also have access to nearby pools and tennis courts.

If you are a nature lover and you want a great yard, this is the neighborhood for you!


Red's Table at South Lakes Village Center

Red's Table Reston. Photo by Astri Wee

I love eating out, and so when locally owned Red’s Table opened up in South Lakes Village Center, I was thrilled. The restaurant space is one of the best in Reston—from the covered patio, diners have a view of Lake Thoreau. It is magical.

What I also love about Red’s is that they are committed to using regionally grown produce, meat and dairy. We have access to so much great quality food in the mid-Atlantic region, and it makes me happy when chefs embrace that and create seasonal menus focused around it. I knew I would like Red’s when I saw that their goal is “to stand out by use of quality ingredients in fresh and simple preparations. We will always offer the highest quality food we can source in the region. We will never offer factory farmed meats and all of our proteins are traceable to the source.”

From baking their own bread to making their own mustard, Red’s Table pays attention to the details, and it shows in the food. Oh the food is so tasty! Owners Matthew, Patrick and Ryan Tracy are Reston locals—they actually went to South Lakes High School, and like spent many a day down at the dock by Red’s patio. When they had the opportunity to take the space over and create their dream restaurant, they knew they needed the right chef to bring it all together. Enter Chef Adam. He also grew up in the area, and then traveled a bit while attending culinary school and cooking in some great kitchens. He brought together everything he learned to create the menu that Restonians have quickly come to adore.

As the weather starts to cool, spending an evening on the patio is definitely something to put on your to do list. Red’s Table is open daily from 11 a.m. until Midnight. They take reservations, which is always a good idea because this place is rocking! Click here to reserve your table.

PHOTO CREDIT: This photo is courtesy of the amazingly talented Astri Wee, a Reston local who specializes in family portraits and food photography. 

The Sweetest Condo Townhomes in Reston: Ivy Oak Cluster

I love Ivy Oak cluster. I think condominiums are a fantastic option for homeowners who don’t want the responsibility for the exterior of their property. But for many young families, a high-rise condo isn’t really an option either. In Ivy Oak Cluster, families can home their home and let someone else worry about the roof.

Ivy Oak Cluster has 96 condos built in 1970/71. The two-story townhomes have three or four bedroom townhomes. They are well designed, feeling much larger than they are. Each also has a nice backyard space, many of which are fenced. For young families, the neighborhood has a large common space with a wonderful playground.

Ivy Oak is located off North Shore Drive in North Reston, close to Temporary Road. That’s the road that connects North Shore Drive and Reston Parkway. Ivy Oak is about a ten-minute walk to Reston Town Center. There is a path that runs between the cluster and the Sallie Mae property, and it leads right out to Old Reston Avenue. Take a left, and then a right on the W&OD path, and Reston Town Center is pretty much right there.

Ivy Oak is also close to both Whole Foods and Harris Teeter, and has easy access to the Reston metro station.

But really, the best thing about this neighborhood is the people. It’s a friendly community. If you want a condo that doesn’t feel like a condo right in the middle of everything, check this neighborhood out.

3 Tips to Getting a Great Appraisal for Your Home

Appearance matters when it comes to selling your home. I’ve heard so many stories of people’s appraisals coming in significantly lower than comps in the neighborhood would suggest simply because the lawn hadn’t been mown and the house needed a fresh coat of paint.

It may not seem necessary to spruce up the house for an appraisal, especially if you managed to get a good contract on it without doing those things. But you need to remember appraisers are people, and they are just as influenced by physical appearances as buyers are. Your house has to look it’s best when the appraiser comes through lest they appraise the property much lower than it’s worth. For a small investment, you can make sure your deal doesn’t fall through based on a bad appraisal.

Here are three tips to getting a great appraisal for your home.

1. Address the curb appeal.

The appraisal starts the moment the appraiser sees you home. Make sure the exterior of your house looks good — mow the lawn, do some weeding and lay down fresh mulch. If your home needs a good power washing, do it. Many Reston homes tend to collect algae on the roofs (a downside of the wooded communities); it looks awful and is easy to clean.

2. Make it Look Its Best.

It’s important to keep the look, feel, and condition of your property as updated and cared-for as possible. While the appraiser probably won’t look under your couch for dust bunnies, she will look at overall how clean the home is. That means you need to get the cobwebs out of the corners and clean the fingerprints around door handles. Replace the old vinyl floors and wash your windows. All of these things affect the value of your home, and they add up.

This is also a good time to do some of the upgrades you’ve been thinking about. Paint, new carpets, lights, and plumbing fixtures are relatively low cost upgrades that can make a huge difference in your appraisal.

Here is a secret of the trade: appraisers often value houses in $500 increments. Repairs that should be made count against your property. Fixing leaky faucets, stained drywall, and cracked windows all cost less than $500, so you automatically make a return.

3. Make it comfortable and inviting.

Tidy up; don’t make the appraiser trip over toys or have to move furniture. And make sure the temperature is comfortable—not to hot and not too cold. Yes, that really matters! Using you heat or air conditioning is also a tip off that these items are in working order.

These things are all relatively easy, quick fixes that go a long way toward improving the outcome of your appraisal.

Great Labor Day Weekend Plans in Reston

Are you planning on avoiding beach traffic and staying put this Labor Day weekend? I don't blame you. I don’t even plan to leave Lake Anne Plaza. In fact, one of the reasons my non-profit, Friends of Lake Anne, started the annual Jazz & Blues Festival was to bring great music to our favorite spot. Ten years later, it is one of the highlights of the summer, due in large part to the work our fellow sponsors (Lane Anne Merchants, the Reston Community Center, and Reston Association) do to make sure it is a stellar event.

So grab your suntan lotion and a lawn chair, and head down to Lake Anne Plaza on Saturday, September 3 from 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. 

This year we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary! It seems like just yesterday that we hosted the first one. Over the years, we’ve had so much fun, we can’t just keep it to one day. So Lake Anne Jazz Week starts Friday, August 26 and will conclude on Saturday, September 3rd (Labor Day Weekend) with the 10th Annual Jazz & Blues Festival. 

You read that right—it’s a whole week! Throughout the week, we have a variety of jazz themed events from live music to a free feature film classic (Jazz on a Summer’s Day) on August 26 at 7:30 p.m. Now that I think about it, this would be a great week for your family staycation. Just a suggestion.

Jazz & Blues Festival Line Up (September 3)

  • 1:00PM Adrian Duke

  • 2:00PM Mykle Lyons Sextet
  • 3:00PM Chip Bubeck
  • 4:00PM Integriti Reeves
  • 5:00PM Clarence Penn
  • 6:00PM Sam Gunderson
  • 7:00PM Dixie Power Trio

Jazz Week Merchant Activities

There is always more to Jazz week than the music. The Lake Anne Merchants have a ball coming up with specials and fun things to do all week long.

  • Chesapeake Chocolates, Wine, Gifts and More –
    September 1: Virginia Wine & Cheese Tasting (6:00 p.m. – 7 p.m.).
    September 3: Wine and Chocolate Tasting (2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.). Free.
  • PetMAC Pet Nutrition Center – Jazz up your pet with 35% off all collars, leashes and apparel
  • Reston Art Gallery – Browse locally created art at Reston Art Gallery & Studios at Lake Anne Plaza.  Get 10% off a variety of musically themed art in various media such as acrylics, oils, watercolors, pastels and even mobiles and collages. You may even get lucky and get to see the artist at work creating a masterpiece!  Refreshments will be served.
  • Reston Museum – 20% off special edition Robert E. Simon martini and Bloody Mary glasses, each one etched with the signature of Reston’s founder.
  • Reston’s Used Book Shop – 50% off on all jazz and blues themed books.
  • Samantha Hu, Medical Chi-Kung Therapy – Free consultations during Jazz Week.
  • small change Consignment – All musical toys 20% off during jazz week.
  • Kalypsos Sports Tavern – Acoustic music on the patio Friday and Sunday 5-8 pm. 
    Friday night “The Vandelays” at 9:30pm.
    Saturday Sam Gunderson performs immediately following his Jazz fest performance (9:30PM).  
    Look for a special menu for Jazz fest week as well as Jazz Week drink.

All this takes place Lake Anne Plaza (Waterfront) – 1609 Washington Plaza, Reston, VA 20190. If you see me walking around with my adorable French bulldog, stop and say hi! Or peek in the Lake Anne Coffee Shop — that’s where I spend most of my free time as we prepare to open our doors.

Cedar Cove Cluster, South Reston

cedar cove clusterI may live on Lake Anne, but I really do love Lake Audubon. It is hands down one of the most idyllic places in Reston. One of my favorite communities on Lake Audubon is Cedar Cove Cluster.

Cedar Cover Cluster is a neighborhood of 66 townhomes more or less across the street from South Lakes High School. They are cedar-sided, 3-story homes with three or four bedrooms and garages. While only about 20% of the townhomes are direct lakefront property, they all have lake access.

Built between 1980 and 1989, Cedar Cove Cluster is located on Cedar Cove Point off South Lakes Drive in South Reston.

Not only do residents have lake access, this super family-friendly neighborhood has a huge playground for the children. Walking through Cedar Cove Cluster on a beautiful day with a gentle breeze rustling the many trees, you feel a bit like you’re at a resort. Yet, you are just minutes from the Reston technology corridor, the Reston Metro station, and the Dulles Toll Road. South Lakes Village Center (home to a few of Reston’s favorite mom and pop restaurants) is just three quarters of a mile up the road.

Cluster residents attend Sunset Hills Elementary, Langston Hughes Middle and South Lakes High School.

Homes that border the lake don’t come on the market often, so when they do, you need to act fast! This neighborhood is worth it.