Celebrate the Holidays
Festival of Lights & Carols
Old Town Hall
3999 University Drive
On Dec. 2-17, the City of Fairfax becomes a winter wonderland with lights, decorations, caroling, musical performances and activities for the whole family. Santa pays a visit to Old Town Hall for a Saturday morning children's breakfast. St. Nick stays through the festival to meet with children. Visitors may partake in hot mulled cider while warming their hands by the Yule log.
Ring in the New Year
Old Town Fairfax
This annual event offers family friendly fun on the night of Dec. 31. Events last year included ice-skating, carriage rides, comedy shows, laser light shows and areas specifically designed to entertain children of all ages. Food vendors are on hand, and the only fees the festival charged last year were for food purchases and skate rentals. Because a number of streets are closed for the event, shuttle buses are offered from both George Mason University and Fairfax High School.
Celebrate at Burke Centre
Burke Centre Festival
6060 Burke Centre Parkway
The annual fall festival in Burke takes place on Sept. 9-10 this year, from late morning to about 5 p.m. This family-friendly affair features food, rides, games, and giveaways. There's live entertainment, and a large arts and crafts show with dozens of antique vendors. In the past, the festival has included live animal shows, wine tastings and local radio personalities.
Lake Accotink Park
and Various Locales in Springfield
Each June, the Springfield community throws a party for itself. The annual, four-day event includes a Miss Springfield Pageant at the Springfield Mall, a pet parade and a Heritage Festival at Lake Accotink Park. The long-weekend culminates in the Cardboard Boat Regatta, in which amateur sailors of all ages venture out onto Lake Accotink in their homemade boats. It’s a soggy, but enjoyable voyage for all.
Sort Out the Mixing Bowl
Springfield Interchange Information Center
The "Mixing Bowl" — that mish-mash where I-395, I-95 and I-495 all meet — is a $676 million project. Naturally, there are going to be some questions about such a large operation. A public information center is located in the Springfield Mall, right next to the DMV. The center is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. It has a model of the completed interchange, aerial photos of the area, as well as road maps and travel guides for all of Virginia. It's a great place to get caught up on the project, and for any kid-at-heart that still yearns for those days in the sandbox with a Tonka truck.
Learn about Fairfax
Fairfax Museum and Visitors Center
10209 Main St.
<bt>Located in the former Fairfax Elementary School, the Visitors Center offers information about restaurants, transportation and lodging as well as natural attractions and special events for those new to the city and those that have been here a while. The Museum offers exhibits about city history. In the spring and fall, Museum staff members conduct walking tours of Old Town Fairfax. Open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m., except New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. The Museum is open half a day on Christmas Eve.
Civil War Encampment
During the first weekend of May, the City of Fairfax offers Civil War-related activities at the Blenheim Mansion. The encampment weekend includes a military muster, period music and family-oriented demonstrations. For more, call 1-800-545-7950 or visit www.fairfaxva.gov.
Explore History on the Rails
Fairfax Station Railroad Museum
11200 Fairfax Station Road
This museum houses artifacts and exhibits from the Civil War, the Red Cross, and a collection of historic railroad memorabilia. In 1975, a group of volunteers created a non-profit organization that sought to save the Fairfax Station railroad depot, which was the last operating railroad station in Fairfax County. After collecting contributions from several civic and government groups, the station was rebuilt a short distance away from its original site. It's now a museum, and a tribute to the area's rich railroad history. It features model train displays and sponsors Civil War tours throughout the year. Call 703-425-9225 for more information.
Discover Franconia's Past
A museum dedicated to remembering what the Franconia road section of the county used to be — a rural road for Virginia tobacco farmers who made their way to Alexandria's ports. It was also home to several significant events in the commonwealth's history. The museum protects and shares that history through a collection of pictures, artifacts, and the stories shared by its volunteer work force. It’s always looking for more of all three. The official Franconia History Day is in November.
Debunk the Bunny Man
Bunny Man Bridge
This suburban legend — involving, among other things, the ghost of an escaped convict and a vandal in a rabbit costume terrorizing the neighborhood — dates back to 1904. So is there a ghostly Bunny Man haunting the one-lane cement covered bridge in Fairfax Station? Some folks swear the bridge (and, for that matter, most of Clifton) is haunted. Recently, a historian for the Fairfax County Public Library published an essay that claimed the legend was nothing more than rumors that spread after some guy in a bunny suit in the 1970s decided to scare the locals and dabble in some vandalism. Curious locals frequently visit the bridge around Halloween.
18th Century Fair at Mount Vernon
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway
Mount Vernon, Va. 22121
An annual fair that goes beyond the usual arts and crafts sales. Visitors are able to witness Colonial-attired artisans demonstrate 18th-century crafts before having a chance to purchase baskets, woodcarvings, tin and iron work, leather workings and furniture. Live music, fire-eating, sword-swallowing, puppet and magic shows, rat-catchers and gypsies make this more than just a marketplace. Details can be found at www.mountvernon.org.
Tour the National Mall and Memorial Parks
Established in 1965, the National Mall in D.C. is home to such icons as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial and Capital Reflecting Pool.
Also visit Ford's Theatre — the house where Lincoln died — and the mall's various museums, including The Smithsonian.
For more information, go to the National Park Service on-line at www.nps.gov/nama.
D.C. Museum Tour
District of Columbia
One could literally spend days trolling through the Art, Science and Nature, as well as History and Culture museums offered in the nation's capitol. The most popular facilities include the Smithsonian Institution's collection of 16 museums and galleries, including the National Air and Space Museum, The Holocaust Memorial Museum, and The National Museum of American History. One of the district's newest additions is the International Spy Museum — a spy exhibit which offers an interactive experience for kids and adults. For more information on museums in the District of Columbia call the Smithsonian Institution at 202-633-1000.
Catch a Classic Train
Burke Lake Park
7315 Ox Road
<bt>For a $1.75 fee, guests can ride a classic five-car miniature train across a trestle around the picturesque park. The park is open on the weekends in the spring and early fall and daily during the summer. Call 703-323-6600 for more information.
Quell a Burning Desire for Bingo
Greater Springfield Volunteer Fire Department
7011 Backlick Road
Sundays and Tuesdays, 7 p.m.
149501 Old Burke Lake Road
Wednesdays, 7 p.m.
Franconia Volunteer Fire Department
6300 Beulah St.
Wednesdays and Saturdays, 5 p.m.-12 a.m.
34081 University Drive
FairfaxFridays, 7:30 p.m.
Lorton Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department
7701 Armistead Road
Fridays, 5 p.m.-12 a.m.
Play Bingo while helping out local firefighters.
Take a Child to KidFest
Clifton Town Park
Main Street between Chapel Road and Chestnut Street
<bt>Clifton Town Park plays host to the Northern Virginia Summer KidFest. Professional children's entertainers perform throughout the day and festivities include music, dancing, face-painting, a gift bazaar and silent auction for adults. Entry fee is $5 and proceeds from the events go toward renovating the park's playground. Call 703-815-8600 or visit www.novakidfest.com.
Make a Scarecrow
Fall for Fairfax
12000 Government Center Parkway
Grab some hay, stuff some old clothes, and take home a scarecrow just in time for autumn at Fall for Fairfax. The 14th annual event — scheduled for Oct. 14, 2006 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. — is held at the 7-acre ellipse behind the Fairfax County Government Center. The free-admission festival features two entertainment stages with a diverse collection of music and dance acts; train rides on the Fall for Fairfax Trackless Train; exhibits that feature local businesses, organizations and clubs; food vendors offering everything from BBQ to pizza to funnel cake; hay rides; pumpkin painting; and, in previous festivals, a petting zoo. Visit the festival Web site or call 703-324-3247 for more information.
Pick a Pumpkin
Burke Nursery and Garden Center
9401 Burke Road
The 11th annual Fall Festival and Pumpkin Playground runs from Sept. 29 through Oct. 31 with daily hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The cost of admission on weekdays is $7 per person and on the weekends is $10 per person. Admission gets you a carvable pumpkin and a hayride. There are daily activities at the festival, including a collection of themed rides and slides (like Ghost Tunnel Slide and the Wizard of Oz Slide), a monster truck, and other attractions. On the weekend, there are pony rides and a moon bounce. Refreshments are also on sale. Call 703-323-1188 for more information.
Golf With Goblins
Halloween Goblin Golf
Lucky Duck Miniature Golf Course
Lake Accotink Park
7500 Lake Accotink Park
Here's the problem with golf: It's just not scary enough. Consider that problem solved. Halloween Goblin Golf at Lake Accotink's Lucky Duck Miniature Golf Course features a round of golf with glow-in-the-dark balls, accompanied by spooky music echoing through the park. For $6, participants can play a round and participate in a treasure hunt afterwards — a flashlight is required for the hunt. The event is scheduled for Oct. 22, with an Oct. 29 rain date. Golfing begins at 6 p.m. Call 703-569-0285 or visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks for more information.
Fall for Heather Hil
Heather Hill Gardens Fall Festival
8111 Ox Road
This annual festival features a pumpkin patch, pumpkin fort, a petting zoo, pony rides and other autumn mainstays. The festival typically runs from late morning to about 5:30 p.m. Admission for last year's festival was $3. Call 703-690-6060 for more information.
Ridge Trail at Great Falls Park
Great Falls Park
9200 Old Dominion Drive
McLean, Va. 22101
Imagine biking a beautiful 1.5 mile trail smack dab between Old Dominion Drive and the Potomac River. The bike trail offers breathtaking scenery of upland forests, the river and the wildlife around it. The terrain is random, varying from hilly to flat; therefore the biker also needs to be on guard, always ready to change gears. The ride is relaxing and peaceful especially since it's a short distance. For further information about hours of the park call 703-285-2965 or visit the website, www.nps.gov/grfa.
Spaced across 560 square miles, the Occoquan River intersects Northern Virginia's Route 123. Many kayakers, boaters, fishermen, and even crew teams use the river as a sporting facility. For more information contact the Occoquan River Marina at 703-324-5616.
Shenandoah National Park
3655 U.S. Highway 211 East
Luray, Va. 22835
Skyline Drive is a 105-mile road that curves throughout the mountain tops of the Shenandoah National Park. The scenic view attracts visitors from all over the eastern United States. A panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains is best viewed at sun up or sun down.
The World's Longest Mini-Golf Hole
Upton Hill Regional Park
6060 Wilson Boulevard
This 26-acre park, featuring the world's longest miniature golf hole, is open daily from dawn to dusk. The park also features multiple swimming pools (in season), batting cages with baseballs and softballs, a nature trail, shuffleboard, horseshoe pits, snack bars and a picnic area.
Dance the Night Away
Lee District Nights
Lee District Amphitheater
6601 Telegraph Road
Kingstowne Towne Center
5955 Kingstowne Blvd.
<bt>Free summer concerts at two different venues on two different nights. Lee District Amphitheater hosts the shows on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 p.m., with an eclectic collection of performers that range from Hawaiian to Caribbean to Eastern European. For more information, call 703-971-6262.Kingstowne Towne Center has shows every Friday night during the summer, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The performers include country acts, blues bands, swing, zydeco and American roots rock. For more information, call 703-922-9514.
Shoot Stick, Listen to Hits
Bridges Billiards & Grill
10560 Main St.
<bt>It's a pool hall/bar/restaurant that was infamous for some of its rowdy special events, such as an occasional wet T-shirt contest. Now it's become an eclectic mix of different styles of music (electronica, hip-hop, Top 40) presented on DJ nights. Interesting interior decor makes this an unusual clash of different designs and styles — along with a solid bar and some tasty food options. Call 703-277-7665 for more information.
Shag at Rene's
Rene's Supper Club
3251 Old Lee Highway
Eat, drink ... but don't consume too much, because it's important to stay light on your feet at Rene's. This club has an international flavor, both in cuisine and in its dancing. Friday nights are reserved for Latin music — salsa, meringue, and bachata. Wednesdays feature the Northern Virginia Shag Club, which keeps the tradition of beach music alive. The club teaches steps for about 45 minutes before open dancing begins at about 8:30 p.m. Food options at Rene's include sandwiches, pastas, steak and salads. Call 703-385-0077 for more information.
Rock Out at Reynolds
10414 Main St.
A 100-year-old building filled with hardwood floors and walls, TT Reynolds looks like a ski lodge or a steakhouse. But it's also one of the primary gathering-place for George Mason University students looking to grab a beer and listen to local music. Bands that have come through Reynolds have included Sev and Jimmie's Chicken Shack.The club, open until 2 a.m., includes an open mic night on Mondays, a DJ/Dance Party on Thursdays, and Texas Hold'em Poker on Sundays. Call 703-591-9292 for more information.
Take It Slow at Fast Eddies
9687 Lee Highway
7255 Commerce St.
A very popular local chain of sports and billiards clubs, Fast Eddies features great food, a good crowd and plenty of special events. The bar has nine-ball tournaments, dart leagues, and karaoke contests. The Pittsburgh Steelers Black and Gold Club calls Eddies home Sundays during the NFL season. The Fairfax club features live music on Friday and Saturday night. The menu ranges from great seafood items (Alaskan Snow Crab Legs, Jumbo Shrimp Tempura) to delicious 12-inch pizzas that can be covered with toppings ranging from jalapenos to pineapple. Call 703-912-7529 (Springfield) or 703-385-7529 (Fairfax) for more information.
Fall for the Fairfax Festival
29th Annual Fall Festival
Old Town Fairfax
<bt>It started out as a small market for artists to display and sell their pieces. Today, it’s a full-fledged carnival with food vendors, a car show, live entertainers, as well as local artists displaying their work. It’s a large festival with a “hometown” feel. This year’s Fall Festival will be Saturday, Oct. 14, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 703-385-7858 for more information about the event.
Become Book Smart
Fall for the Book Festival
George Mason University
George Mason University teams with the City of Fairfax on Sept. 13-20 to promote literacy in a three-day educational festival. The event includes author talks, lectures, book signings and book sales. Many book-related activities are offered for children and adults. For more, call 202-334-4740.
Something for Arts Sake
Spotlight on the Arts
City of Fairfax
In April, the City of Fairfax is transformed to an arts mecca thanks to the annual Spotlight on the Arts festival. The festival includes art exhibits, dramatic presentations and musical performances at several venues in the city and at George Mason University and the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College. For more, call 703-352-ARTS.