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Get Creative and Stay Active This Winter

A guide to local activities.

On a sunny day with a high temperature of 60 degrees, it is difficult to imagine that this is the middle of winter. While unseasonably warm days can fade snow-filled memories, there are still several weeks left in the winter season, meaning there is plenty of time to enjoy or retreat from the cold. Even if you’re not a cold-weather enthusiast, a bit of ingenuity and investigation into Alexandria’s cultural and recreational offerings can help anyone stay active this season. Here are three ways to have fun and avoid hibernation.

DUST OFF YOUR LIBRARY CARD

Winter is the perfect time to get reacquainted with Alexandria’s libraries. Not only do local libraries offer great book titles, you can also check out DVDs, including many popular movies currently available with other retailers, and attend literary-themed events, such as February’s “Library Speed Dating” being held on Feb. 14 at the Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library. You can also celebrate Black History Month with the “African-American Film Festival” throughout the month of February at the Central Library. The perfect day or evening activity can be found by visiting the Alexandria Library website (www. http://www.alexandria.lib.va.us/), where events are listed for all four of the library’s branches. Be sure and read the fine print, as some events require early registration.

Are you the proud owner of a new e-book reader? Put it to use by downloading e-book titles straight from the Alexandria Library website. E-books are available to download and use for 7-14 days, and the selection includes some of the latest fiction, nonfiction and children’s titles. The library also offers electronic versions of reference materials and audio books. There are also titles that offer text and audio together, perfect for English language learners or new readers. And while e-books are a great way to enjoy quiet time alone, Lynda Y. Rudd, technical services manager who selects all of the e-books offered by the library, encourages families to use them as a resource for family bonding.

GET MOVING

There’s no need to become a couch potato during the winter. If you like to stay physically active, make Alexandria’s recreation centers your next stop. Alexandria’s Department of Recreation Parks and Cultural Activities offers classes for youth, adults and seniors. Many of them have specific enrollment periods that have passed, but there’s still time to find a few classes that begin in February. You can visit your local recreation center to find a “Winter 2013 Recreation Program Guide” or view it online (http://alexandriava.gov/Recreation).

Even if you’ve missed the registration date for a specific class, there are ways you can enjoy the city’s recreation offerings.

Joe Petrella, division chief for recreation services, suggests taking advantage of drop-in hours in the centers’ gyms and fitness rooms. Chinquapin Park Recreation Center, for instance, offers racquetball and an indoor pool for year-round exercise. Many other centers offer soft playrooms for pre-school aged children, and others offer teen nights with activities for youth. Petrella encourages patrons to look at specific center offerings, as fees, hours and programs vary.

ENJOY NEW FOOD

Winter is the perfect time to indulge in your favorite comfort food. But one person’s comfort food can be another person’s culinary adventure. Instead of relying on your standard recipe for chicken noodle soup, why not have some fun and invite your friends over for a comfort food potluck with a cultural twist? Ask each of your friends to bring a dish representing the comfort food of a different culture. You can even have your guests bring a story explaining the significance of the food, as Jeff Swedarsky, of Food Tour Corporation, which operates DC Metro Food Tours, suggests. In an email response to questions about trying new cultural food, Swedarsky wrote, “Comfort food is something that makes you feel at home, makes you happy. That can mean a lot of different things in different cultures, so a story attached would be good.”

If you’d rather leave the cooking to the professionals, you can visit one of Alexandria’s many culturally diverse restaurants. With many local establishments participating in Alexandria and Washington, D.C., restaurant week specials, winter is the perfect time to explore new food at a great price. Again, Swedarsky offered some suggestions on how to grow your culinary palate.

“Go to the most authentic restaurant you can find, and talk to the owner, one of the servers or the chef. Tell her or him what you are looking for and what you are used to. They will help get you in the right direction,” Swerdarsky wrote. “We are lucky to be living in a place with so much culinary diversity. There is Afgahn, Indian, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Eastern European (Balkans, Russia), Latino (Salvadorian, Peruvian), Ghanaian, Ethiopian, Irish.” Also available are tastes from different United States regions. “You can find different regional cuisine throughout the city, from low country to Cajun, to northeast. There is great Mid-Atlantic cuisine with a strong emphasis on seafood. Pretty good showing throughout.”