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Votes

Insiders: Living in Alexandria

Residents reflect on their community.

</b>Here are some thoughts on what makes Alexandria special:

<b>PADDY BOWMAN:

What advice would you give a new resident on how to make themselves at home and get involved here in Alexandria?

</b>Choose different neighborhoods and go for walks to get the feel of what it's like to live in our diverse spaces.

Join the Alexandria Black History Museum.

Frequent the Torpedo Factory, sign up for a class even.

Visit the Alexandria Archaeology Office in the Torpedo Factory.

Get a library card.

Take the free Masonic Temple tour.

Go for a show at the Birchmere.

Eat a pupusa in Arlandria.

Go to the Mediterranean Bakery on South Pickett Street.

Have a burger at the Tiffany Tavern on a night when there's live bluegrass.

Choose one of our farmers markets to attend weekly and hang out drinking coffee and people watching.

Browse at the Prevention of Blindness Thrift Shop.

<b>BILL BUTCHER:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>Alexandria is a great place to live and to raise a family. We have all of the benefits of living so close to DC and all that it has to offer, yet still can come home to our “small town,” which has its own distinctive character and rich history.

<b>What "insider's tip" about Alexandria would you share with a friend?

</b>Don’t miss Alexandria’s birthday celebration, usually the weekend after July 4th. The fireworks are fabulous, set to music by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra. There is also free birthday cake, given out by City Council members. It’s a great time for everyone, and a good chance to mingle with your neighbors.

The Carpenter’s Cookoff in April is also a terrific event. It’s a great opportunity to meet all the best chefs in Alexandria, taste samples from their menu, and discover your new favorite local restaurant. What’s more, it’s all for a great cause, to support The Carpenter’s Shelter, an organization dedicated to helping needy Alexandria families.

<i>Bill Butcher is president of the Port City Brewing Company</i>

<b>AMANDA CHANDLER:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>It has a lot to offer; great restaurants, schools, arts, shops and a very diverse demographics. Generally, I think people are pretty friendly and there is a strong sense of community amongst the various different neighborhoods with all the civic and community based programs. Also, with local businesses. We want to make sure they succeed and do our best as citizens to promote our great town.

<b>What "insider's tip" about Alexandria would you share with a friend?

</b>Best breakfast in the City … Table Talk … Los Tios on Mt. Vernon Avenue for the best margaritas in town. Art on the Avenue in the Fall is a must. Cathy Puskar’s Christmas party.

<b>What advice would you give a new resident on how to make themselves at home and get involved here in Alexandria?

</b>Get involved in your neighborhood civic association or join a yoga class. Or party on Oak Street.

<b>BROOKE CURRAN:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>This is what I love about Alexandria.

Alexandria is a city that cares about community and those that live within; seniors and kids alike, cultural activities and access to parks and trails. Mayor William Euille and Honorable Marian Van Landingham's partnership with a coalition of Alexandria citizens and businesses in Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria, is a perfect example of how we band together for the good of all.

<b>SUSAN D. DAWSON:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>Beverly Hills and adjacent neighborhoods, where each street feels very small-townish, yet is minutes from D.C.

<b>What "insider's tip" about Alexandria would you share with a friend?

</b>Traffic can be fairly easily managed. If you go just about anywhere during non-rush hours, you can get there quickly, get good parking and get good service from the stores.

<b>Places to go, things to do, can't-miss events, ideas on what it means to live in Alexandria.

</b>The Pumpkin Patch at Immanuel-Church-on-the-Hill, where the church keeps none of the profits, but has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Northern Virginia charities. This year the Patch goes from Oct. 3 through Halloween, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. – 3606 Seminary Road, Alexandria – It’s fun! Available are also cookies, cakes and apple crisps! http://www.icoh.net.

A rare opportunity to take classes at the Virginia Theological Seminary where interesting subjects, such as religion’s role in Shakespeare’s plays and the relationship between science and religion, are offered to the lay population at very reasonable costs. http://www.vts.edu/podium/default.aspx?t=121932

The opportunity to sing in a number of extremely good choruses and choirs, with a wide variety of types of music from which to choose. http://www.musical-alexandria.org/

<b>What advice would you give a new resident on how to make themselves at home and get involved here in Alexandria?

</b>I would suggest that people new to Alexandria check the Internet (http://alexandriava.gov/) and the local newspapers (of course, the Gazette Packet - http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/paper.asp?paper=59) and then join an organization or group or attend a meeting of one’s interest. There you can find others who have mutual interests and networking can begin! Also volunteer! (http://www.1-800-volunteer.org/1800Vol/alexandria-volunteer-bureau/vcindex.do)

<b>JENNIFER FOLSOM:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>I love that so much history works right along with modern day concepts, like the Torpedo Factory studios and the co-working space at Connect113.

<b>What "insider's tip" about Alexandria would you share with a friend?

</b>The view from atop the Masonic Temple can't be beat!

<b>What advice would you give a new resident on how to make themselves at home and get involved here in Alexandria?

</b>Introduce yourselves to your neighbors, hang out at the dog park and playground on Union Street, volunteer for a school committee. Get involved!

<i>Folsom is director of Momentum Resources.</I>

<b>DIANE HENRY:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>The history, the river, the proximity to Washington, one of the greatest capital cities in the world. I love the old buildings, the cobblestones, and beautiful church attended by George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Alexandria is never boring and you know you’re not in Kansas.

<b>What “insider’s tip” about Alexandria would you share with a friend?

</b>You have to find Huntley Meadows Park. Hidden away in an unremarkable neighborhood off Route 1, is a paradise of forest, wetlands, wildflowers and birds that never fails to sweep away all the worries and cares of daily life. The trails are not long, two miles of woodland trails and a half-mile boardwalk trail in the wetlands, but they are surrounded by over 1400 acres of wild parkland filled with frogs, beaver, and herons. Most amazingly, even though you’re in the middle of a dense urban area, you seldom hear planes or cars, making room to reconnect with the chirps, honks and whistles of another world. We have many other wonderful parks in the area, the bike trail along the river, and other national and city and county parks, but Huntley Meadows is a hidden treasure, a place you’re not likely to stumble upon on your own. Map it and go.

<b>What advice would you give a new resident on how to make themselves at home and get involved here in Alexandria?

</b>Get a dog. It is absolutely amazing how many wonderful people you meet at the dog parks in town. I shared my life with dogs for over 30 years until last January when my sweet Labrador’s body gave out. At the dog park I made friends, collected crazy stories about dogs and people, and found reason to laugh and cry. At the dog park I learned about the many forms of love and divorce, success and failure, and heard lots of news about the town and neighborhood. Occasional cursing is usually involved too, but overall a good dog will definitely lead the way for anyone interested in becoming involved in their community.

<i>Diane Henry, a novelist and yoga teacher, has lived in Alexandria for 35 years with occasional career forays to other cities.</I>

<b>MILES HOLTZMAN:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>I love all the different things you can here without getting into a car: 1) Eat at great restaurants; 2) Go boating; 3) Take long walks in interesting setting; 4) Enjoy the bike trails; 5) Experience history; and meet people from all walks of life.

<b>What "insider's tip" about Alexandria would you share with a friend?

</b>Get to know some of the fantastic people down at the Old Dominion Boat Club. Most of them are actively engaged in the Old Town Community as civic, social, or business leaders. They give back to the community in many ways and have a great time doing it.

<b>What advice would you give a new resident on how to make themselves at home and get involved here in Alexandria?

</b>There are all sorts clubs to join in Alexandria that fulfill a variety of needs. One example is the Alexandria Sportsman’s Club that acts as sort of a Booster’s Club for the four high schools within the City. If you like sports, that’s the place to be. Another great charitable and social organization is the Fraternal Order of Eagles on Cameron Street. They are involved in a number of giving opportunities and are almost all Alexandrians.

<b>SUZANNE KRATZOK:

What advice would you give a new resident on how to make themselves at home and get involved here in Alexandria?

</b>Check out Volunteer Alexandria, our City's volunteer clearinghouse. Non-profits and government agencies list an amazing array of opportunities to get involved — including The Fund for Alexandria's Child, which helps children in foster care share experiences most other kids take for granted.

<i>Kratzok is a Rosemont resident for 34 years and coordinator of Community Resources for the Department of Community and Human Services.</i>

<b>AMBER NIGHTINGALE:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>I love my neighborhoods in Parkfairfax. We are a tight little group who look out for each other, borrow sugar, milk, and bread, take care of each others pets and children, and go on vacation together. Anyone who thinks you only find friendly neighbors in the country hasn't had the pleasure of living in Parkfairfax!

I also appreciate the supported-living programs and therapeutic recreation clubs the City has for adults with developmental disabilities. It shows that the City does strive to be inclusive.

<b>What "insider's tip" about Alexandria would you share with a friend?

</b>The Caboose Cafe in Del Ray has the best coffee on Earth ... I'm addicted to their lattes!

<b>What advice would you give a new resident on how to make themselves at home and get involved here in Alexandria?

</b>Adopt a dog, take him for a walk, and you'll easy find people to talk with. We are a super dog-friendly community.

I recommend serving on a board or commission — it is a great way to met like-minded people from different parts of Alexandria while at the same time doing a civic duty.

<b>FRED PARKER:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>Being part of a historic city. Being able to walk the same streets as some of our founding fathers

<b>What "insider's tip" about Alexandria would you share with a friend?

</b>Alexandria having a train station allows me the opportunity to continue a family tradition of taking my kids to put pennies on the track to have the train mash flat. You won’t find that in any tour book.

<b>What advice would you give a new resident on how to make themselves at home and get involved here in Alexandria?

</b>There are many support groups for Alexandria Charities from the Arlandria Clinic to the Campanga Center.

<i>Fred Parker of the Hard Times Café.</i>

<b>WANDA STREET:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>I love that Alexandria has a small town feel even though it is a good size city and enjoy the many opportunities for recreation and participation. I also appreciate the quality and diversity of the public schools. I feel that my children received not only an excellent academic education but also an education in tolerance and acceptance.

<b>What "insider's tip" about Alexandria would you share with a friend?

</b>Del Ray = great shops and restaurants, Art on the Avenue and Halloween Parade, Farmers’ Market, First Thursdays on Mt Vernon Avenue in the summer.

Old Town = more shops and restaurants, the Waterfront, Torpedo Factory, Farmers’ Market, Carlyle House spring plant sale, parades and so much more!

<b>What advice would you give a new resident on how to make themselves at home and get involved here in Alexandria?

</b>Get involved with a church, civic group or volunteer organization.

<b>ANN VERNON:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>The waterfront and all the streets of Old Town. The fact that it has its own Symphony Orchestra. Market Square on Saturday morning. The Royal Restaurant. Old Town shopping. History everywhere. So Dog Friendly. ) The variety of houses of worship.

<b>What "insider's tip" about Alexandria would you share with a friend?

</b>The birthday party for Alexandria on the waterfront, the weekend following the 4th of July, with performance by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra. Saturday morning Market Square Farmer's Market in Old Town, or Tuesday morning on Sherwood Hall Lane. Mt. Vernon Estate. Visit the various churches.

<b>What advice would you give a new resident on how to make themselves at home and get involved here in Alexandria?

</b>Get on the bike trails, get a kayak for the river, join a tennis club, take a course at the Torpedo Factory, train a Guiding Eye Dog with the local chapter of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Volunteer at one of the community outreaches, Red Cross, or be a docent for Mount Vernon or one of the historical places in Old Town Alexandria. Become involved in worship, music, and fellowship in one particular church: I recommend Aldersgate United Methodist Church in the Fort Hunt area of Mt. Vernon.

<b>MARY ANNE WEBER:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>Before I ever lived in Alexandria, I used to stay here when I came to D.C. on business. I fell in love with the history, the abundance of trees and flowers, the Torpedo Factory and the fact that so much of its waterfront was open to the public. When I did move here 15 years ago, I learned there was a lot more, that Alexandria was a city that encouraged involvement, and one that thrived on the energy of volunteers from politics to historic re-enactments to serving the most vulnerable. If you looked, you could find a forum for almost any interest and a way to have your voice heard. You didn't need money, you didn't need to be connected. You just needed to care.

<b>What "insider's tip" about Alexandria would you share with a friend?

</b>What to do and where to go depends on what you want. If you want to catch up on gossip. learn who's running for office or the latest controversy or how to cook that strange looking vegetable, head for one or more of Alexandria's five Farmers Markets. Two, the Alexandria Market at Market Square and the Del Ray Market on Mount Vernon Avenue, run all year round, a great way to start your weekend and you never know who else will also be looking for that heirloom tomato or the homemade cider doughnuts or the Redskin cookies. For a moment of quiet in this crowded city, try the river in the early morning on the north side of the city. There seem to be few power bicyclists or runners about, just easy going strollers like yourself watching the mist roll back, plenty of empty park benches or available rocks to sit on. The military certainly knew how to pick some of the loveliest real estate and now a piece of it is yours to enjoy, Ben Brenman Park off Duke Street. A walk around the lake is not only good exercise, it is soothing to the soul. Of course you can't miss any of Alexandria's parades but the best has got to be the Christmas Walk, the first Saturday in December, the real kick-off to the holidays. Then there is Art on the Avenue, at the beginning of October a combination of art, food and old-fashioned street fair, it is Del Ray at its best. Another don't miss is the city's annual birthday party in July complete with symphony orchestra, fireworks and a giant birthday cake. It's still fun even if it rains. For history buffs this is paradise. To the north are all the Smithsonians, to the south Woodlawn, Frank Lloyd Wright and Mount Vernon. In the city itself there is everything from the Carlyle House to the infamous slave market to the Lyceum with its local exhibits and many small museums, including my favorite the Lee Fendall House. There's a vibrant music scene from barbershop to jazz to rock to classical but be sure to check out the bluegrass at Tiffany's and Fireflies. We may not have the plethora of theater that Arlington does but we hold our own with Metrostage, Port City Playhouse and Little Theatre of Alexandria.

<b>What advice would you give a new resident on how to make themselves at home and get involved here in Alexandria?

</b>My advice would have to be for people like myself who are single and so don't have the instant involvement in community that raising children entails. For starters, talk to your neighbors, join your homeowners or condo association. Try to find a compatible place of worship. Go to the city's website alexandriava.gov and sign up for their e message service. You will not only get government news and notices, you will get calendars and information on groups looking for volunteers, boards and commissions with vacant slots and all kinds of background on historic sites, parks and rec centers. Check out your nearest library and the bulletin boards at coffee shops. Visit local stores, galleries, exhibits and re centers to see what is happening around you. You will find more than you can ever do.

<b>SCOTT WOOD:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>It’s a very flexible area, you can be at the beach in 1-and-a-half hours, the mountains in 1-and-a-half hours, D.C. in 10 minutes, Md. in 10 minutes, W. Va. in 40 minutes.

There is a constant flow of people coming into the area.

Old town itself offers different aspects, you can enjoy a quiet day or make the most of it with the many attractions available.

The city is very neighborhood-oriented with friendly people.

<i>Wood is assistant general manager of Jackson 20, a New American Tavern, Hotel Monaco, 480 King Street.</i>

<b>GINA ZIEGLER:

What do you love about Alexandria?

</b>Old Town Alexandria is a fantastic walking city. Everything that I love to do is accessible by foot. Incredible restaurants, great shopping, beautiful exercise paths — the town seems to be focused around wellbeing and having fun. I feel very fortunate to live here!

<b>What "insider's tip" about Alexandria would you share with a friend?

</b>Some of my favorite cities have open air markets, and Old Town Alexandria is no exception. Great vendors, fresh local produce and a great way to have coffee with many of your neighbors. A very social scene.

Eating and drinking is one of my favorite pastimes ... some of my favorite local spots in Old Town are:

For a great glass of wine, cheese, or a light nosh ... Grape and Bean is the neighborhood hot spot!

If you have something to celebrate and want it to be memorable, Restaurant Eve is the place to be. The interior is stylish and very unique! The fine dining is not to be missed.

If you are longing for Paris and some delicious crepes, Fontaine's will make you feel like you are there. Warm and wonderful are Kyong and her staff.

Jump on the trolley and head to the Tasting Room for the best mussels you have ever had! Connected to the Lorien Hotel, the Tasting Room is funky with an industrial feel and the perfect place for drinks with friends.

<b>What advice would you give a new resident on how to make themselves at home and get involved here in Alexandria?

</b>My advice for a new resident is to come and see all of us at The Enchanted Florist. We love our new neighbors and can't wait to hook them up with our favorite restaurants, shops, salons, etc. We take great pride in our town and love to share all it has to offer!

<i>Ziegler is a co-owner of the Enchanted Florist as well as a resident of Old Town.</i>