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Insiders: Confused Identity But Great Place To Live

Much To Do in Mount Vernon

Google “Mount Vernon, Virginia” and one will find half of the top 10 searches referring to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. Is that the only thing in Mount Vernon — or is there more?

And what about the mailing address? While some people use Mount Vernon, VA as their mailing address (and the mail usually gets to them), the correct mailing address is Alexandria, VA. Yet, it is not the same as Alexandria City, but rather a city that just happens to be called Alexandria, VA, but is part of Fairfax County.

So what is this area called Mount Vernon? To many, it is simply a place called home. It is the best of all worlds — a little piece of suburbia with proximity to the nation’s Capitol as well as an hour’s ride to the mountains.

And because it is bordered by Route One, the Potomac River and Fort Belvoir, the major characteristics remain unchanged. Yes, houses are torn down and replaced by megamansions, but there is no worry about major thoroughfares being built here or major shopping malls being developed. In fact, it was only a few years ago that the Mount Vernon Plaza was developed, bringing in some new brand-names stores. It took years to convince some of these retailers to realize that the demographics of the area could support such retailers.

<b>SHOPPING

</b>These larger stores, coupled with the smaller shopping centers dotted throughout Mount Vernon, give residents the essentials that they need to survive (at least during a major snowstorm) without leaving town.

Belle View Shopping Center continues to thrive. When one store closes, another one quickly takes its place. Unwined took over the space previously occupied by Keedo, and the former Dale Photo space is waiting for a new tenant.

The Virginia Florist has done well at Belle View and will soon open a second space in the Hollin Hall Shopping Center. This change was precipitated by the closing of The Blossom Shop earlier in the year. Kevin Greene will take a portion of the space, while the Variety Store will break through and take over the other half, transferring some of the products from The Gift Shop that was at the end of the shopping center. That space will now be available and a nearby tenant is currently in negotiations with the landlord.

We have banks, grocery stores, hair salons, dry cleaners, gas stations, hardware stores and drug stores. Some establishments, like Village Hardware and Hollin Hall Variety Store, have been there for years, while others like Initial Impressions and Rooga’s Sports Essentials, are relatively new. There are plenty of cottage industries, with people providing services like cake making, dog walking, accounting and more. There is even a Bed & Breakfast located in Wellington.

For more information, visit http://fort-hunt.info/map-shopping.asp. http://www.ilovebellehaven.com/belleview.asp or http://belle-view.info/shopping.asp.

<b>DINING

</b>One doesn’t have to go far to find a place to eat in Mount Vernon. A few smaller places are located throughout the area, including Cedar Knoll, Dishes of India, Mount Vernon Inn, Primo’s, Via Veneto and The Village Wharf. There are also a few gourmet stores like Roseina’s, Hollin Hall Pastry, Sherwood Hall Deli and The Italian Gourmet where one can get homemade treats to go.

In addition, the portion of Route One that is located adjacent to Mount Vernon has cuisine from just about every nation, including the more common — Mexican, Italian, Greek and Chinese, but you can also find food from Ethiopia, Salvador, Bosnia, Thailand, Afghanistan, Brazil and more.

Old Town, Alexandria, which has a plethora of dining establishments, is just 10 minutes to the north, while Washington, D.C., is just 10 minutes past that. National Harbor, which was completed across the river a few years ago, continues to add fine dining establishments. And don’t forget Lorton and Occoquan — these locations to the south have some lesser known jewels.

Check out the following websites for more information:

• http://travel.yahoo.com/p-travelguide-11771987-mount_vernon_restaurants-i

• http://visitalexandriava.com/

• http://www.nationalharbor.com/consumer/consumer.htm

• http://business.intuit.com/boorah-restaurants/best-of/26834/VA/Lorton.html

• http://mount_vernon-va.yellowusa.com/Restaurants.html

<b>SPORTS

</b>Just step out the door and most people living in Mount Vernon are within five minutes of a walking or biking trail. Whether it is part of The Mount Vernon Trail or paths that wind through the woods, there are plenty of places to run, walk or bike.

A gravel and dirt road through a sanctuary south of Belle Haven makes a nice short out-and-back hike from Belle Haven. The Mount Vernon Trail, built in 1973, parallels the river and the George Washington Parkway.

South of Alexandria, just off the Potomac River, is Belle Haven, a picnic park and marina. In the 1730s, Scottish merchants traded tobacco in a warehouse there. The river widens at the mouth of Cameron Run where Great Blue Herons and Snowy White Egrets fish on the tidal mud flats.

Hydrilla, growing in huge mats visible in the summer, was once a scourge of boaters. It disappeared in the 1970s but now is a sign that the river is much healthier. The Dyke Marsh, further south is now a wildlife refuge where more avian residents such as red winged blackbirds can be seen.

Motor boaters can take advantage of the launching ramp, while sailors can rent one of the 19' Flying Scots, 14' Sunfish and more. Others will love the peace and quiet of paddling a canoe or kayak through Dyke Marsh.

Not only are there two country clubs, but there are two recreation centers as well.

Belle View Country Club has an 18-hole golf course designed by renowned architect Arthur Hills; a tennis complex with eight outdoor clay courts, five DecoTurf indoor courts, and two outdoor paddle tennis courts; a 2,600-square-foot fitness center including separate aerobics and workout rooms equipped with state-of-the-art cardiovascular equipment, saunas and steam rooms, all located next to an eight-lane 25-meter outdoor pool; a beautiful clubhouse offering formal and casual dining; and a ballroom and meeting room with spectacular views of the Potomac River. For more information, visit http://www.bellehavencc.com/.

Mount Vernon Country Club features an 18-hole championship golf course with four tee selections, from 5,068 to 6,300 yards; a wide variety of dining facilities in the family Dining Room, casual Members' Grill, outdoor terrace overlooking the golf course, pool and golf course snack bars; a 200-seat ballroom for family celebrations and business functions; and a kid-friendly swimming pool that is open seven days a week. For more information, visit http://www.mountvernoncc.org/.

Mount Vernon RECenter has a 25-meter heated indoor pool with poolside spa; a beach area with play features; locker rooms with showers and sauna; Fitness Center with Cybex VR2 equipment; pro shop items for sale; dance room; multi-purpose rooms and a year-round 200-foot by 85-foot indoor Ice Arena. For more information, visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/rec/mvrec.htm.

George Washington RECenter has a heated indoor 25-meter pool with a poolside spa; beach and wading area; saunas, showers and fully equipped locker rooms; a fitness area with two treadmills, recumbent and stationary bicycles; newly resurfaced lighted tennis courts and a picnic area. For more information, visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/rec/gwrec.htm.

<b>ENTERTAINMENT

</b>While much of the action is in Old Town, Alexandria or in Washington, D.C., there is always plenty to do without leaving Mount Vernon. Both of the high schools put on three to four theatrical productions a year, as well as several musical performances.

There is a Children’s Theater group (Mount Vernon Children’s Community Theater) and even one of the local churches, Aldersgate Church Community Theater, has a drama group.

For more information, visit these websites: http://www.acctonline.org/, http://www.mvcct.org, http://www.fcps.edu/WestPotomacHS/departments/drama.html, and http://www.fcps.edu/MtVernonHS/events_calendar/index.htm

Directed by Mount Vernon resident Ul James, Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association (WMPA) is a not-for-profit organization of musicians and music lovers dedicated to making high-quality musical performances and opportunities accessible to the community.

WMPA is comprised of several major programs, including three orchestras, a free summer concert series, concerto and composition competitions, and a volunteer guild; performances are offered in nearby Alexandria. For more information, visit http://www.wmpamusic.org/.

In the summer, there are concerts at Fort Hunt Park (http://www.nps.gov/gwmp/fort-hunt.htm) and Grist Mill Park (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/performances/mtvernon-nights.htm).

Fall is a great time to take advantage of the many fairs that are hosted by local churches and community centers. Good Shepherd Catholic Church hosts an International Festival every Labor Day and several of the other churches have fairs in the fall.

<b>NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES

</b>Mount Vernon has several business and civic groups that are open to the public, among them local Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Lion’s and Rotary groups.

Established in 1953, the Mount Vernon Kiwanis Club currently pursues an active range of programs and activities to support the children of the community. It partners with United Community Ministries (UCM), Good Shepherd Housing, New Hope Housing, and Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services and sponsors Key Clubs at four high schools, Mount Vernon High School, West Potomac High School, Hayfield Secondary, and South County Secondary. They also sponsor the K-Kids Club at Stratford Landing Elementary and the CKI Club at NOVA Community College, Alexandria Campus.

For more information visit http://www.mtvernonvakiwanis.org/.

The Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce works to promote a successful business climate in south Alexandria and Fairfax County, provide public policy representation for our members, and support economic revitalization.

The Chamber sponsors a full program of activities for members, from business lunches and after-hours mixers to breakfast seminars. Business awards, the Potomac Classic Golf Tournament, scholarships for local high school students, and recognition for public safety officers are all part of the Chamber’s annual program. The Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce has consistently been recognized as one of the largest Chambers in the metropolitan area.

Members also stay on top of legislative issues that may affect business and the Chamber works with elected officials on all levels to make sure the business perspective is known on important issues. For more information visit http://www.mtvernon-leechamber.org/.

The Mount Vernon Rotary Club meets every week at Cedar Knoll Inn and hosts an annual Rotary Walk.

The Mount Vernon Knights Of Columbus #5998 supports several charitable and volunteer activities in the area. For more information, visit http://www.kofc5998.org/.

The Mason Neck Lion’s Club holds dinner meetings on the Second and Fourth Wednesday of each month at the Polo Grill, 7784 Gunston Plaza Dr. at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend. Every third Wednesday morning, they host a breakfast get-together at 8 a.m. at the American BBQ Cafe located on the corner of Lockport Place and Telegraph Road in Lorton, Va. Everyone is invited. http://www.valions.org/mason/.

Looking to find out what’s going on in the community? Attend the local Citizen’s Advisory Group meetings (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/lee/citizens_advisory_committee.htm) or The Mount Vernon Council of Citizens’ Association (http://mvcca.org/).