Fun And Games

The Best Holiday Light Shows in NoVA

Photo: Bull Run Festival of Lights, photo by Linda M. TokiOne of my favorite things about this time of year are all the lights everywhere. It is so cheerful and festive! Of course Lake Anne and Reston Town Center put out the lights, and it’s lovely. But there is nothing like a lights show to really make you smile. We are lucky to have three great ones nearby, and each is worth the trip. I suggest going to all of them!

Winter Walk of Lights at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

This is my favorite, and it happens to be closest to Reston—just a 15-minute drive over to Vienna. Fodor’s named it the #1 Botanical Garden with "Wow-Factor Winter Transformations." The garden is magical any time of year, but for this, it is transformed into a half-mile, animated walk of lights. There’s the Lakeside Lights, the Fountain of Lights, and the Holiday Nature Walk, along with new displays each year. At the end of the walk, you can gather around the bonfire and roast marshmallows while sipping hot beverages.

It actually started in November, and it will run until Sunday, January 7, 2018. It’s open every day from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. (last tickets sold at 9:30 p.m.) and it’s only $13 for adults if you buy your tickets online. Children under 3 are free and ages 3-12 are $8. Timed tickets are required, so that’s another reason to purchase your tickets online. Use promo code SOCIAL17 for $2.00 OFF admission January 1-7, 2018.

Bull Run Festival of Lights and Holiday Village

This is another annual favorite and is great for people who want to stay in their car as they enjoy the lights, which on cold winter nights is very appealing. The Bull Run Festival of Lights is 2.5 miles of illuminated glory. You turn off your headlights and follow the magical glow and the variety of displays. When you’re done, stop by the holiday village to enjoy rides, refreshments, and photos with Santa Claus.  Monday through Thursday you can get discounts and avoid the long weekend waits.

It’s open every night from until January 7, 2018: Monday – Thursday is 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday - Sunday and Holidays is 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The cost of driving through the light show varies from $20 - $25, depending on the day you attend (note: vans w/ 15-34 people and motorcoaches cost extra - visit website for details

Winter Lights Festival at Seneca State Park

This one is a little more of a drive (it’s in Gaithersburg, Md., which means you have to cross the bridge!) BUT, it’s worth it. It’s a 3.5-mile drive through the enchanted setting of Seneca Creek State Park. There are 380 illuminated displays and 65 animated vignettes. So many lights! Themes include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, the North Pole, and much more. This one runs until December 31, 2017, so get there soon!

The hours are Sunday - Thursday: 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. and Friday – Saturday: 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. It’s closed Christmas. Price is $12 per car Mon-Thurs; $15 per car Fri-Sun. CASH ONLY. See the website for van, bus, and limo rates.
 

Photo: Bull Run Festival of Lights, photo by Linda M. Toki

Thanksgiving Weekend Reston Style

Thanksgiving greetingsThanksgiving feels so early this year! But there is still plenty of time to plan your fun holiday weekend activities. Here are my picks for Thanksgiving weekend in Reston.

Before the big weekend:

Thanksgiving Food Drive, November 1 to 20

Every year, the Reston Community Center, the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, and Cornerstones join to help families in need by collecting non-perishable food and other items. Cornerstones is a wonderful organization providing a range of services for families in need, and supporting them is always a priority for me. From November 1 – 20, you can drop you items off at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods and Lake Anne facilities, the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, and a variety of other drop-off points throughout the community (located on the website). Visit the website for a list of items needed.

Martin Luther King Jr. Christian Church - 2017 Christmas Bazaar

This free family event is Saturday, November 18, 2017 from 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM. Get a start on holiday shopping with unique handcrafted gifts. Stock up on holiday treats like gourmet peanut brittle, homemade baked goods and preserves. There will be a raffle for a beautiful Christmas basket and fun activities for the kids. Proceeds will benefit the Martin Luther King Christian Church Building Fund. Follow the link for the address.

Thanksgiving Day

Turkey Day 5k

November 23 at 8:00 AM at South Lakes High School.

What better way to prepare for your Thanksgiving feast than run, jog or walk in a fun-filled 5k race? There will be a run for everyone…. 5k, 1-Mile Fun Run, and even a FREE Tot Trot! The race will start and finish on the NEW South Lakes High School track.

Bring an old, clean coat to donate to One Warm Coat, whose mission is to provide anyone in need with a warm coat, free of charge. One Warm Coat’s vision is that they become a part of the American lifestyle; that when a coat is no longer needed, people will think of them and donate it; that donors will be warmed by the knowledge that their coats will go directly to children, women, and men in need.

Register here.

Thanksgiving Friday

27th annual Reston Holiday Parade

The holiday season at Reston Town Center is always festive, and Thanksgiving Friday launches it all. The 27th annual Reston Holiday Parade starts at 11:00AM with Macy’s-style balloons, musicians, dancers, antique cars, characters, community groups, dignitaries, special guest emcees — and Santa and Mrs. Claus in a horse-drawn carriage. It’s always fun to see who shows up! Before the parade begins, spectators will get their own jingle bells so they can make some festive noise. Since 1991, rain or shine, the parade has been an annual tradition on the day after Thanksgiving. After the parade, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for photos.

The fun doesn’t stop after the parade. There will be Mini-Train rides until 4:30PM and street entertainment. The Clauses will return for the Fountain Square Tree Lighting and Sing Along at 6PM. Afterward, horse-drawn carriage rides continue from 6:30 until 10PM. Proceeds from the photos and rides benefit local charities. The acclaimed Ice Skating Pavilion is open all day and every day from November until March.

Schedule:

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.: Reston Holiday Parade – 27th Annual – Hometown Holidays!

12:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.: Santa & Mrs. Claus, visits and photos; Mini-Train Rides

6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.: Tree Lighting & Sing Along

6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Horse-drawn Carriage Rides

Thanksgiving Saturday

Thanksgiving Craft Beer & Wine Festival

On Saturday, November 25, 2017, head over to the Tysons Biergarten from 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM for the craft Beer & Wine Festival! Tickets are only $20. The festival features 50+ beers and wines from local breweries and wineries. There will also be live music, delicious food, contests and prizes. Best of all—this is a dog friendly and kid friendly event! Buy your tickets in advance and get there early!

 

2017 Labor Day Weekend in Reston

I’m still wrapping my mind around the fact that Labor Day is this weekend! But it is, and that means one of my all-time favorite events is happening. That’s the annual Jazz & Blues Festival at Lake Anne on Saturday. On Monday, head to downtown Herndon for the annual Labor Day Festival. In between, enjoy your last weekend at the pool!

11th Annual Jazz & Blues Festival

11th Annual Jazz & Blues FestivalThis free music festival is fun for the whole family (and the dogs). Every year, the stellar entertainment features acclaimed artists. The performances take place from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday (September 2). The Lake Anne Merchants, Reston Community CenterReston Association and Aperture Reston Station sponsor this event. For the full schedule of events/times, visit www.lakeanneplaza.com. Here is the line up:

  • 1 p.m. Cheick Hamala Dibate
  • 2 p.m. Sam Gunderson
  • 3 p.m. John Lee & Michael Pavone
  • 4 p.m. Integriti Reeves
  • 5 p.m. Mykle Lyons – Sextet
  • 6 p.m. Gigi MacClaughlin
  • 7 p.m. Kriss Funn
  • 8 p.m. Crush Funk Brass

Herndon Labor Day Festival

Technically not Reston, but still close and a lot of fun. There is something for everyone on the Labor Day outing. The downtown Herndon festival features Virginia wine tastings, craft beers, great music, a craft show, outstanding sponsors, delicious food vendors and lawn games. The event is on Monday (September 4) from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Tastings and beer sales end at 4 p.m.) Visit the website for ticket prices and information.

 

Explore the Public Art of Reston

A Bird in the Hand, public art RestonArt is part of the heart and soul of Reston. Since the beginning, public art was placed in the village centers, and it continues today. And the Greater Reston Arts Center and Jo Ann Rose Art Gallery at the RCC Lake Anne have places where the community has access to contemporary visual arts.

In my opinion, the art is one of the distinguishing features of Reston—among a very long list of amazing features.

Whether you want to go to a gallery, an art show or explore public art, Reston has something for you.

I think taking a walking tour of public art installations is particularly fun. Public Art Reston has a map you can download for just such an adventure. Okay, so it would really be several adventures if you were walking as the art is spread out around Reston.

For the many programs and installations GRACE sponsors, click these links: exhibitions, educational programming, and the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival. To find out about exhibits at the RCC, click here.

Photo: A Bird in the Hand by Patrick Dougherty was installed at Reston Town Center in 2015. www.stickwork.net Photo from the Public Art Reston website.

 

Lake Season in Reston

Lake season in RestonSummer is in full swing, and it has been a glorious July. The weather has been beautiful, with lower than normal humidity. Perhaps that is why I’ve been seeing so many people on Lake Anne. Here are just a few of the lake season sports happening in Reston.

Paddle boarding in Reston

We are lucky to have a company here in Reston that offers standup paddle boarding (SUP) workshops on our Reston lakes — Surf Reston. SUP has been growing in popularity, probably because it is so much fun! Paddle boarding started as an offshoot of surfing, only it’s much easier and you don’t need waves. The concept is simple — you stand on a surf style board and use a long paddle to move across the water. It’s a fun sport anyone can enjoy.

Surf Reston offers workshops at Lake Anne, Lake Audubon, Lake Thoreau and Lake Newport. The company started as a way to build a community of individuals who enjoy paddling; they teach how to paddle responsibly and safely and give their customers the opportunities to connect with other enthusiasts. Sign up for one of their workshops today! Better yet, get a group of friends to do it together. It’s a blast.

Kayak and Canoe Rental

Until Labor Day weekend, you can enjoy a leisurely paddle around Lake Anne. Reston Association provides kayak, canoe, and paddle boat rentals by the hour. It’s a fun way to spend a summer evening! You can purchase tickets at Reston’s Used Book Shop, 1623 Washington Plaza (near the fountain). Contact the book shop by calling 703-435-9772. The cost is $6 per boat for 1-hour rental.

Hours of Operation are:
Thursdays, 4 – 8 p.m.
Fridays, 4 – 8 p.m.
Saturdays, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sundays, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Boating and Fishing at Lake Fairfax Park

The 476 acre Lake Fairfax Park includes a 20-acre lake where you can fish and boat (bring your own or rent a paddle boat or take a tour in the tour boat). There is a small fee for launching your own boat, but it’s completely worth it! Follow the link for more information: boat rentals. Hours are 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day until Labor Day. The address is

1400 Lake Fairfax Drive
Reston, VA 20190
703-471-5414 

For other fun ways to spend your summer day, check out this comprehensive guide in Modern Reston.

Visit the NOVA Parks, our gorgeous regional parks

I spend a lot of time talking about all the amenities Reston has to offer, and you could easily fill all of your free time doing everything. But I would be remiss if I did not point you to the NOVA Parks. I sometimes get so focused on my life at Lake Anne, I forget the incredible resources we have in Northern Virginia. The park authority maintains many of them.NOVA Parks Meadowlark Gardens

NOVA Parks is a nonprofit that represents three counties and three cities — Arlington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, the City of Alexandria, the City of Falls Church and the City of Fairfax. NOVA Parks staff, volunteer board members appointed from each jurisdiction and friends of the regional parks have worked together to preserve more than 12,000 acres of the rolling and wooded Virginia countryside, creating a priceless legacy for future generations. We are truly blessed that way back in the 50s regional leaders has the foresight to protect the Northern Virginia Wilderness.

NOVA Parks provides so many things to do, I can’t possibly list them all. So I’m just going to share my favorite. That is Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, also known as a little slice of heaven.

The gardens consist of 95 acres of ornamental display gardens and unique native plant collections. I particularly love the fairy garden, but all of the gardens are beautiful and fun. You can sit on a bench in your favorite spot, or meander along the walking trails, discovering local flora and fauna (be careful of nesting Geese… they don’t appreciate visitors and they will charge you). The Atrium contains an indoor tropical garden. I’ve been to several events there, and the space is amazing. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is also home to the annual Winter Walk of Lights, a spectacular holiday light show featuring dozens of illuminated displays. 

What is really nice is you can buy an annual pass for only $45 for the entire family! I think that is one of the best deals around. Of course, if you don’t want a pass you can buy single tickets — $5 for an adult, $2.50 for seniors and children 7 to 17, children under 7 free.

Happy July 4 from my family to yours

July 4 fireworks

Happy Independence Day! I hope you have a fun filled day planned. I’m looking forward to hanging out with my family — my favorite way to spend every holiday!

To me, the highlight of the 4th is always the fireworks. Most places did their fireworks on Saturday, which honestly is a bit of a letdown. There is nothing like watching the fireworks on the 4th. Thanks to the town of Herndon, you can!

The town of Herndon will hold its annual 4th of July celebration beginning at 6:30 p.m. tonight. This free event will feature entertainment, arts and crafts, bingo, and family games. How fun is that? The fireworks display will begin at around 9:30. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Tags

Tennis Anyone?

52.

Weeks in the year? Nope. That is the number of Reston Association tennis courts in Reston. If that’s not enough for you, Hidden Creek Country Club has 6. Between them, there is a tennis court, lesson, or league for everyone. Throughout the summer, you will hear the sound of balls being hit pretty much no matter where you are in Reston (that is, if unless the court is next to a pool, where the sound of children playing will drown it out).

What I think is great about tennis is you don’t have to be great to enjoy playing. Anyone of any skill level can play tennis. There aren’t really all that many sports where you can say that.

Here is what you need to know about getting on the Reston tennis courts:

Reston Association Tennis Courts

For the Reston Association tennis courts, obtaining a pass is a simple matter of visiting the RA website or the customer service center at RA headquarters. Reston Association Tennis is a USTA certified Community Tennis Association and the courts include 26 lighted courts, 8 clay courts, 6 quickstart courts, and 3 practice walls.

RA offers lessons for children and adults, league play, flights, and challenge ladders to all RA members as well as non-members owning a valid Tennis membership pass. Virginia Living magazine readers vote the Reston Tennis Association one of the Best Tennis Clubs in Northern Virginia! The USTA Mid-Atlantic awarded Reston Tennis Association as Section Organization of the Year.

Hidden Creek Country Club Tennis

Hidden Creek has six lighted tennis courts, two of which are permanent indoor heated courts that allow for year round play in cold or wet weather. A staff of tennis professionals is available for group and private lessons, team practices, cardio tennis, and junior tennis camps. You do need to be a Hidden Creek member to reserve the courts.

Wait, there is more…

In case there aren’t enough courts in Reston for you, this website offers a complete list of tennis facilities in the Reston area. That’s right — there is no excuse for staying off the courts this summer.

Pool Season is Almost Here

Which of the 15 Reston Association Pools is your favorite? Everyone has one, and it’s not always the one they can walk too. Some have water features for children, some are all lap lanes. One is Olympic sized, others feature great shade.

Over the years, each pool has developed it’s own personality and attracts people for different reasons. You can see the full summer pool schedule here. Here’s a lowdown on what each pool offers so you can plan your day in the sun (or shade).

For children of all ages

  • Autumwood (11950 Walnut Branch Road, North Reston)
    This pool’s large wading area with a fountain is great for toddlers. There is also a covered picnic area and playground nearby.
  • Glade (11550 Glade Drive, South Reston)
    With a 20-foot slide, this pool is a favorite for kids of all ages! Parents can relax in the spa while the kids are sliding or diving off the 1-meter diving board. There is also a wading pool for the little ones
  • Hunters Woods (2501 Reston Parkway, South Reston)
    This pool features separate water basketball and volleyball areas, a diving board, and children’s splash area. For the parents, there is a large spa. The pool also features an ADA ramp into main pool.
  • North Hills (1325 North Village Road, North Reston)
    This pool features two shallow play areas, one of which has a fountain. For family day at the pool, there are also picnic tables, a grass beach area, and a picnic pavilion with grills. And don’t forget the spa!
  • North Shore (11515 North Shore Drive, North Reston)
    This heated pool is a family favorite. It opens early in the season and is the last pool to close in September. The pool features a spa, wading pool, ADA ramp to the pool deck, ADA hydrolift chair into the main pool, and shaded upper deck with picnic tables.
  • Shadowood (2201 Springwood Drive, South Reston)
    This is a smaller and quieter pool than Glade, but feature a small slide for the kids. There is also a wading pool and small picnic area.
  • Uplands (11032 Ring Road, North Reston)
    This is the premier pool for families with toddlers. The zero-depth children’s pool (0-3 feet deep) has interactive fountains, a cold-water spa, and an interactive sand pit. The pool also has an ADA in-water wheel chair.

For serious swimmers

  • Lake Newport (11601 Lake Newport Road, North Reston)
    This is Reston’s only 50 meter pool and is a favorite for serious swimmers. There is also a sand volleyball area, and two 1-meter diving boards, a wading pool, and a covered picnic area with grills.

For sun worshippers

With plenty of sunny spots, these pools are great if you want to get some serious rays.

  • Dogwood (2460 Green Range Road, South Reston)
  • Golf Course Island (11301 Links Drive, North Reston). There is also a large playground with grills next to the pool—perfect for summer parties.
  • Lake Audubon (2070 Twin Branches Road, South Reston). In addition to your pool amenities, there is a boat ramp to Lake Audubon nearby if you want to take out your canoe or sunfish.

For shade seekers

If you want to spend the day at the pool without spending a day in the sun, these pools are perfect for you.

  • Lake Thoreau (2040 Upper Lake Drive, South Reston)
  • Newbridge (11758 Golf Course Square, South Reston)
  • Ridge Heights (11400 Ridge Heights Road, South Reston). This pool is heated. It opens early in the season and is one of the last pools to close.
  • Tall Oaks (12025 North Shore Drive, North Reston)

For spa lovers

If you love the Jacuzzi as much as the swim, visit these pools:

  • Glade
  • Hunters Woods
  • Lake Thoreau
  • North Hills
  • North Shore

Pool Passes and Alerts

You can follow Reston Association on Facebook and Twitter and get up-to-date schedule information; this can be handy when you’re wondering if that storm coming through will close the pools. Facility closures that affect a pool for more than two days will be posted here as well.

You do need your pool pass to use the pools, and fortunately you can buy them online. Just click here.

Maybe I’ll see you at the pool.