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Blog :: 2015

Colonial Charm in a Reston Townhome

govenour's squareWalk through the front doors a Governour’s Square townhome in Reston and you will feel like you’ve walked into a Southern Plantation home. You won’t believe that these homes are only about 1,600 square feet—they feel much too spacious and airy to be so small.

These lovely colonial style townhome in North Reston were developed in 1968. They are 3-level homes with exterior brick construction and about 1,600 square feet of living space. The central common area is a great place for children and dogs to play, and the nearby Reston Association paths are perfect for those who like to walk or run.

The original floorplans were closed concepts—as was the style in the late 60s. But over the years, some of the owners have remodeled these homes to open them up. In either case, these townhomes are beautiful and comfortable.

This small community of townhouses is on the Lake Anne side of Reston. They are less than a 10-minute walk to Reston Town Center, and close to the Wiehle Metro station. The neighborhood is also within a few miles of Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Giant, Mom’s Organic Market, and Harris Teeter (Restonians love have choices when it comes to grocery stores). For those with young children, Governour’s Square is also a quick walk to Lake Anne Elementary School.


The Story of Reston

Are you curious about what Reston is all about? If you're new to the area, you may not know what a historic achievement the development and creation of Reston was. The fact is, what Robert Simon did here was nothing short of remarkable, and set a trend in "place making." Reston is the first (and in my opinion the best) continuing and successful planned community in the United States.

Simon began developing the 7,000 acres in Northern Virginia in 1964. Today, our community has grown to 60,000 residents. Most importantly, Simon's vision of people living, working, and playing together has become a well-studied hallmark of urban planning.

Presented by the Reston Museum, this video provides a short introduction to the history of Reston, VA. Enjoy!

Let the (Holiday) Light Shine

Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of LightsThis holiday season, I’ll be spending most of my time at the Lake Anne Coffee House finishing the renovations (more to come on that…). So I’m asking you to go out and do something for me — enjoy the amazing light shows we’re lucky to have in our area. There are three in particular that I think are must-dos. Believe me, you will enjoy them. All three run until January 3, 1016.


See how more than 500,000 environmentally friendly LED lights transform the National Zoo into a winter wonderland. That’s a lot of lights! ZooLights also includes live music, tasty winter treats, and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. New this year is a dazzling light show set to music. Best part: it’s free and open to the public. And for FONZ members, every Saturday night of ZooLights the Elephant Community Center is transformed into The Warm Up and Chill Out Lounge. Celebrity Cruises sponsors this exclusive space, and provides complimentary drinks and themed goodies.

2. Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights

A little closer to home — about a 15 minute drive from Reston in Vienna, VA — we’ve got the Meadowlark Garden’s Winter Walk of Lights. They don’t quite have 500,000 lights, but they’ve got a lot. Visit fairyland, watch the frog jump over the lily pad, and see your favorite woodland creatures frolic among the trees. And at the end of the short walk through the park, enjoy hot chocolate and s’mores around the fire pit (or enjoy watching the children enjoy them… that alone is worth the price of admission). You do need to buy tickets in advance (ages 13 and older: $12 | ages 3-12: $7 | ages 2 and younger: Free).

3. Bull Run Festival of Lights

If you want to enjoy the warmth of your car while looking at the light show, then head out to the Festival of Lights at Bull Run in Manassas. This show is really fun… especially with a car full of children who are captivated by the lights. Unlike the other two, this light show is open on Christmas and New Year’s day. The admission fees are per car, so load up. And the Festival of Lights is more than just a light show — after enjoying the two and a half miles of light displays, stop in at the Holiday Village. Complete with bonfires, s’mores, holiday merchandise, and free children’s activities, the Holiday Village is fun for the whole family. 

Of course, it’s also always fun to wander over to Reston Town Center and Lake Anne Village to enjoy the twinkle lights. Sure they are not as spectacular as the light shows, but they are charming nonetheless. And if you see me working away in the coffee shop, stop by and say hi.

For more ideas on fun things to do this holiday season, visit the Fairfax County website for ideas.

Heron House, Lake Anne, Reston, VA

Heron House, the original Reston condos build in 1966, are still among the most beautiful condominiums in Reston. Sure, I may be biased because I live in Heron House, but I've heard other people say this too.

Comprised of 46 condominiums all with concrete balconies, Heron House is Reston's original high-rise. It is situated on the edge of Lake Anne at the Southern end of Washington Plaza (which residents simply call Lake Anne). The condos have one to three bedrooms with commanding views of the lake and Reston. Sitting on the balcony sipping a glass of wine and looking at the fountain in the lake is one of my favorite things to do.

The contemporary condos are well designed to maximize every inch of space -- even the smaller one-bedroom units feel spacious. Perhaps it is the view, or perhaps it is the well thought out floor plans. Whatever the magic combination, it works. And Heron House has stood the test of time. The design is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. And most of the units have been upgraded with new kitchens and baths.

You never really have to leave the neighborhood -- Lake Anne boasts several great restaurants, the farmer's market, and festivals year round. It's a wonderful place to live! It's also only a one-mile walk along gorgeous trails to Reston Town Center (or a quick drive), and it's close to the Reston Station and Dulles Toll Road. What's not to love?

The Beauty of the Uplands Neighborhood, Reston, VA

uplands reston vaThe Uplands is the quintessential Reston neighborhood -- while it is convenient to all major roads, it feels like it is miles away from everything. As one of Reston's older neighborhoods, and one that borders Lake Fairfax Park, the wooded areas are well established. Uplands has a great layout with just two access points. While there is a convenient secret short cut over to Rt. 7, for the most part the people who travel on Ring Road live in Uplands.

The Uplands neighborhood includes both townhome clusters and single family homes in a wide variety of styles, from ranch styles houses to large contemporary and pretty much everything in between. One of the best features of Uplands is the toddler and young kid-oriented Uplands pool. Okay, adults enjoy playing in the pools fountains too.

There is also a huge recreation area that includes two tennis courts, a full sized basketball court, and a baseball diamond. For those who like walking their dogs in the woods, or just going for a great hike, there is easy access into Lake Fairfax park via Buttermilk Creek trail. And in the winter, Uplands has the best sledding hill around.

Uplands is about a five-minute drive to Reston Town Center, and same to the Reston Metro Station. But the neighborhood is so tranquil and beautiful, you may never want to leave. 

Autumn in South Reston

I love the fall in Reston. Here in the south, our colors peak in late October/November. This year in mid-November they’re still beautiful. I love walking the paths of Reston when the leaves blanket the ground. The air is extra crisp, and my dog loves all the smells.

It can be hard to capture the beauty of Reston in a photograph or two — especially South Reston with Lake Thoreau, Lake Audubon and the Glade. But you can capture it in a flyover video. On a whim, I decided to search on YouTube to see if any such videos existed…and I had success! YouTuber pblacklock posted this video that captures the South Lakes area, especially around Lake Thoreau, which is where he launched the camera. Pblacklock has posted several flyover videos in different cities and towns, and I have to admit I got caught up in watching them.

One bit of advice before you hit play—mute your speaker. The only sound is the propeller of the remote control airplane, but it’s loud. I found I enjoyed the video much more with the sound off.

Does this video make you want to live in South Reston? Learn more about South Reston and the neighborhoods around Lake Thoreau (which is where this video is filmed).

Celebrate Small Business Saturday in Reston

On Thanksgiving weekend, it seems like every article is focused on how to cook the perfect turkey (in a paper bag buttered very liberally, FYI) or where to find Black Friday deals. So I thought I’d share some places to spend Small Business Saturday.


Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting locally owned businesses. Since Thanksgiving weekend is one of busiest shopping times of the year, shopping local and small is a way to join millions of Americans in fueling the economy. Last year, Americans spent $14.3 billion at small, independent businesses on Small Business Saturday. But we can beat that. The Reston area is home to many small, businesses — several of them at Lake Anne (Chesapeake Chocolates, Reston’s Used Book Shop, and small change). In fact, I suggest stopping by the Lake Anne Coffee shop and then wandering around the plaza to see what you can find. Interested in other ways you can support Small Business Saturday? Check out some of the great ideas from people in the community!

Experience a Bonner Home in Reston

Reston architectural aficionados know that Reston architect Ken Bonner built the first house in Reston--a detached single-family house on Stirrup Road in South Reston. In a Fairfax Times article, Bonner recalls having to transport a portable generator to the building site because there were no power lines yet. This was back in 1964.

Integrating a human living space into nature in an environmentally sensitive way was Bonner's passion, and a trademark of any Bonner home is using natural sunlight and preserving trees. Ken built about 65 homes, including my first home in Reston on Buttermilk Lane in the Uplands neighborhood of North Reston. It backed up to beautiful, treed lot with a creek at the bottom of the backyard. It was a fantastic place to raise our family.

What is lesser known in Reston is that Ken also designed townhome communities. Among them, Colts Neck Cluster. This community is comprised of 60 townhouses in South Reston, near the intersection of Colts Neck Road and South Lakes Drive. Escalante Court is off South Lakes Drive and next to the South Lakes Drive Park. Greywing Court is off Colts Neck Road.

Built in 1972-1973, these contemporary townhomes are three levels with cedar siding exteriors. The 1,600 to 2,000 square feet homes feel much larger because of Ken's attention to every detail.

The Colts Neck community is close to the Reston National Golf Course and the Hunters Woods Village Center Shopping Center. It is also within two miles of the Reston East Metro station.

These lovely homes are not only perfect for anyone looking for well-designed, contemporary architecture in a close-knit, townhome community, they represent a piece of what makes Reston such a great place to live.

Another Way of Living Premiers Saturday 11-7-15

Reston is special. I know I say it all the time, and it's true. The way everything in this community works together creates a sense of balance and belonging. It's something you feel when you move into any one of the beautiful clusters or neighborhoods of Reston. Restonian and award-winning director Rebekah Winger-Jabi has captured the feel of Reston in her new movie, "Another Way of Living, the Story of Reston." I am thrilled the movie is premiering this weekend at the Virginia Film Festival. The viewing will take place at 11:00 a.m. (Downtown Mall: The Southern). Tickets are only $10, and you can buy them here. 

About the Movie

"I knew I was happy, but I didn't understand that my childhood experience had been carefully crafted by planners and developers." -- Rebekah Winger-Jabi, Director/Producer/Editor

Rebekah's story is similar to the stories I hear from people who grew up in Reston, moved away, and then came back to raiser their own families. When Rebekah was a teenager, her family left Reston to move to a traditional suburb. On the movie website, she recalls how surprised she was when this "American dream" didn't pan out. She felt isolated and disconnected. She had to drive to a park to experience nature and the community wasn't nearly as economically or racially diverse as it was in Reston. That experience inspired her to find out what made Reston special and look at the people behind the design. And that led to the movie.

What Rebekah learned is that Reston's founder Robert Simon (1914-2015) had a vision for American life -- one where people valued community, nature, and social equity. Reston was his vision realized, a suburban town that integrated citizens across racial, economic, and religious divides. The movie explores the challenges of making a vision like this a reality (such as the fact investors fired Simon three years after Reston was launched) and how it became an international sensation. Spoiler alert -- Simon retired to Reston, became a community activist, and lived a fulfilling life in the place he envisioned.

Enjoy the film. Better yet, move to Reston and enjoy this amazing community and everything it has to offer.

Five Fun Fall Festivals Near Reston, VA

Summer may be winding down (ok, ok. it's officially over). But that doesn't mean the fun is going to wind down at all. In fact, fall in Reston is the perfect time of year. You can find some great outdoor festival every weekend... and most are free. Here are five fun fall festivals in and near Reston that will keep you and your family happily entertained. Enjoy!

Cox Farms Fall Festival: September 26 - November 3, 2015, Centreville, VA.  Giant slides, a fabulous hay ride, and the chance to do some farm chores are just a few of the things that make children BEG to go to the Cox Farms Fall Festival every year (yes, even the farm chores). There are also fresh apples, cider, live animals, pumpkins and food, and a great farmer's market. It's mega fun for the whole family. Opening weekend is September 26, and it runs through November 3. Do not miss it!

Fairfax Fall Festival: October 10, 2015, Fairfax, VA. For 38 years, Northern Virginians have enjoyed this family friendly street festival in the heart of the City of Fairfax, VA. More than 400 juried crafters and food vendors will be selling their wares. Children's activities include Touch a Truck, All American Lumberjack Show, and amusement rides. And there is musical entertainment for all ages! The best part? This festival is FREE.

Clifton Day Festival: October 11, 2015, Clifton. One day a year, the quaint town of Clifton celebrates its history in style. With 150 antique dealers, artists, bakers and other street vendors lining the town's streets, what more could you want? How about a train ride? Clifton Day is the only day of the year when the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) stops in town. Festival goers can take the train, which will provide roundtrip train service to Clifton from all stops between Manassas and Rolling Road. The train ride to Clifton is free and the return trip costs $5 per person (children under age two ride free). And if that isn't enticement enough, there will be live bands, pony rides, craft demonstrations, children's activities, a Civil War reenactment and a wide selection of food and beverages.

Oktoberfest Reston: October 10 and 11, 2015, Reston. Oktoberfest Reston is Northern Virginia's largest outdoor fall festival--and it's right in our back yard at Reston Town Center! Come enjoy seasonal beer and wine, German fare from 17 area restaurants, a family carnival, live entertainment, a chili cook off and the Great Pumpkin 5K race. Live music will include traditional German tunes as well as favorites from a variety of local musicians.

Tysons Fall Harvest Festival: October 17, 18, 24, 25, 2015, Tysons Corner. Bring the kids for the 2nd annual Tysons Fall Harvest Festival! Enjoy the Fall Harvest as you stroll through the arts and crafts booths and taste some of the fun flavors of Fall. It is all here for the reaping... bring your family and friends and carve out some special memories. Special activities include lots of fun FREE activities for the whole family: The largest hay pyramid in DC, Petting Zoo, Bouncy Houses, Pumpkin Bowling, Kids Candy Walk, Craft Corner, and the hay maze. And for mom and dad, there will be tons of craft beers and Virginia wines to sample! All this is happening at the Lerner Town Square at the Galleria Tysons II.

Waterfront like along a lake