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ACPD SoberRide (Photo courtesy of Washington Regional Alcohol Program)

There will again be free Lyft rides on Independence Day, at least in part because of Amazon.

The trillion-dollar tech company with a growing presence in Arlington is donating $10,000 to the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) for its SoberRide partnership with Lyft.

The program provides D.C. area residents a free ride home, instead of driving drunk, on a number of holidays, including New Years’ Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, Cinco De Mayo, and July 4.

Starting at 4 p.m. on Monday, locals will be able to enter a promotional SoberRide code in the Lyft app for a free ride up to $15. The promotion will run for 12 hours, until 4 a.m. on Tuesday, July 5.

The needed promo code will be posted on the SoberRide’s website at 3 p.m. on Monday.

This marks the sixth year of the partnership between WRAP and Lyft, which began in 2017. During that time, the program has offered thousands of rides around the D.C. area on major holidays to combat impaired driving.

Prior to the partnership with Lyft, WRAP had been partnering with local cab companies since 1991. Over the last three decades, WRAP’s SoberRide program has given more than 82,000 rides home in the D.C. area.

More than 2,200 rides will be available this July 4, WRAP President Kurt Erickson told ARLnow, three times the number of rides provided in 2019 when the record was set.

“Amazon’s further investment in this local and lifesaving program is a real and needed shot in the arm to better equip WRAP and SoberRide to rid area roadways of impaired drivers,” Kurt Erickson, WRAP’s President, said in a press release. “In as much, Amazon’s latest community investment will enhance SoberRide’s capacity in time for a holiday when more than four-in-ten U.S. traffic deaths involve drunk drivers.”

Beyond Amazon, other program sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, Gian Food, Glory Days Grill, New Belgium Brewing, and Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.

There’s one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 45 minutes, on average, in the US, according to recent data from the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA). While drunk driving fatalities had been going down, from 2019 to 2020, they rose by nearly 15%, again according to the NHSTA.

With Arlington pretty much back to fully celebrating America’s birthday, there are plenty of events, parades, and barbeques going on this year locally. With Metro offering reduced service this July 4, the Arlington County Police Department is asking residents to “plan a sober ride home” from these events while advocating for the SoberRide program.

In April, the County Board approved Phase 2 of Amazon’s HQ2 with construction already underway in Crystal City and Pentagon City. It’s set to be completed next year, along with the signature “Helix.”

Amazon, one of the world’s most profitable companies, has donated some money and land to Arlington in recent years.

This $10,000 donation to SoberRide to help locals get home safely on July 4 is part of the company’s efforts to be a “good neighbor.”

“As we head into the July 4th holiday weekend, we are grateful to be partnering with the Washington Regional Alcohol Program to provide free, safe rides to thousands of passengers across the Greater Washington region,” said Patrick Phillippi, Senior Manager of Community Engagement at Amazon, in a release. “At Amazon, we are committed to being a good neighbor and partner to the community and we wish everyone a safe and healthy holiday weekend.”

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July 4 fireworks as seen from Joint Base Myer (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Arlington County is set to essentially shut down on America’s birthday.

County government offices, courts, community centers, and county libraries are all closed on Monday, July 4 in observance of the holiday. The Long Bridge Aquatics and Fitness Center will also be shuttered. Covid-19 testing sites and vaccine clinics are taking a break that day as well.

Arlington County schools are closed for employees on Independence Day, with summer school starting the next day on July 5.

America’s birthday also means free parking. Meters will not be enforced on the holiday, though permit parking is still in effect.

Trash, recycling, yard waste, and special pick-up collection, however, will be on its regular schedule.

The monthly free paper shredding, scrap metal, and inert material drop-off event at the Shirlington facility that would have been scheduled for this Saturday shifts back a week, to July 9.

For those looking to check out the fireworks, Metrorail’s holiday schedule may be the impetus to stay in Arlington this year. Earlier this week, Metro announced service will be significantly reduced this Independence Day, relative to past holidays.

“Due to the reduced number of railcars available for service, capacity on Metrorail will be less than previous Independence Days,” said Metro’s press release. “That means customers should be prepared for longer lines to enter stations near the Mall after the fireworks, up to 60 minutes, and for crowding to occur.”

Metrorail will be operating until midnight, with trains every 20 minutes on the Blue and Orange lines and every 15 minutes on the Yellow Line. Trains will arrive every 7 minutes at the downtown stations serviced by several lines. Expect lines of up to an hour to catch a train after the fireworks, Metro says.

Metrobus and Arlington Transit (ART) buses will both be operating on a Sunday schedule. For ART, that means only a few of the busiest routes will be running.

There will also be an abundance of road closures in Arlington related to the fireworks show downtown.

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A fireworks booth at the corner of Columbia Pike and Glebe Road (file photo)

The Arlington County Fire Department is sharing a few tips for those planning to using fireworks privately over the upcoming Independence Day weekend.

Only fireworks that emit flames or sparks within 12 feet and have a burning fuse of more than 1.5 inches long with a burning rate of more than four seconds are legal locally this year, according to the 2022 Consumer Fireworks Fact Sheet published by the county. The fireworks can not emit projectiles.

Fireworks that explode in any form or rise in the air, such as bottle rockets, are prohibited. Fireworks can not be used on public properties belonging to the county, state or the federal government.

Those who use, sell or distribute the illegal fireworks may receive a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, which carries a jail sentence of 12 months and $2,500 in fines, the fire department said.

A list of permissible consumer fireworks includes over 2,000 products which the public can purchase. The State Fire Marshal’s Office conducted field tests on the listed products to ensure their performance standards.

When using fireworks, the fire department cautioned folks to keep a minimum distance of 25 feet from other people and buildings, to only light one stick at a time and to move away after doing so. Fireworks users are also advised to only set them off in outdoor areas away from vehicles, according to the department.

Additionally, ACFD recommends only buying fireworks from local retail outlets that display a valid permit issued by the department’s Fire Prevention Office.

When the festivities are over, used fireworks should be submerged into a bucket of water to ensure they are extinguished before throwing them in the trash.

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Fourth of July fireworks from the Iwo Jima memorial in 2021 (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

For the first time in a couple of years, Arlington is back to fully celebrating America’s Independence Day.

In both 2020 and 2021, the pandemic led to the canceling of a number of official July 4 events as well as many of the local holiday festivities.

But, for the most part, Independence Day events, parades, and firework shows are back this year in Arlington.

The fireworks on the National Mall are set to start shooting off at 9:09 p.m. on Monday, July 4 and there are plenty of local spots to watch them without heading to the District.

  • Gateway Park and the Key Bridge in Rosslyn are both popular viewing spots for viewing and will be open to the public. There’s no seating on the bridge, however.
  • Gravelly Point, just north of National Airport on the George Washington Parkway, is a National Park Service site and will also be open to the public. No “hard perimeter” or “physical security checkpoints” will be in place, a NPS spokesperson tells ARLnow, though certain areas may be roped off to help with crowd control.
  • Long Bridge Park in Crystal City will be open to the public for firework viewing. Arlington County police will be on hand “conducting road closures and providing safety and security” on-site, a county spokesperson tells ARLnow.
  • Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima) near Rosslyn is one of the most popular spots to watch fireworks outside of the National Mall. No “hard perimeter” or security checkpoints will be in place, though it might get crowded and certain areas could be roped off.
  • Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River near Roosevelt Island provides “uninterrupted views” of the District’s skyline. Though, the best views are on the trial which is only accessible for bikes and pedestrians.
  • Prospect Hill Park near Pentagon City is a small county park from which one can view the fireworks, though it is only a half-acre and mostly used by nearby residents.

The Air Force Memorial, another popular viewing spot, will be closed this year due to “safety and security concerns” related to the ongoing Arlington National Cemetery expansion project.

The View of DC observation deck on top of the CEB Tower at 1201 Wilson Blvd also will not be open this year for fireworks viewing, closing at 5 p.m. on July 4, an employee confirmed to ARLnow. In years past, residents were able to enter their names into a lottery to watch the show 31 floors up, but that isn’t the case this year.

The Washington Golf and Country Club off of N. Glebe Road is again set to have its own fireworks show, though it’s only open to members and their guests, we’re told.

For those looking to head downtown for the fireworks, Metrorail will be operating until midnight, with trains every 20 minutes on the Blue and Orange lines and every 15 minutes on the Yellow Line. Trains will arrive every 7 minutes at the downtown stations serviced by several lines.

Several Arlington communities and neighborhoods are back to holding parades and festive events this year as well:

With all of this going on, there will also be road closures including Arlington Memorial Bridge and Arlington Memorial Circle starting at 6 a.m. on July 4.

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Traffic on I-395 looking south as the sun sets (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Memorial Day holiday weekend is almost here and with it comes the kickoff to the unofficial summer travel season.

AAA expects 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more this weekend, an increase of 8.3% over 2021. Most — nearly 35 million — will travel by car. Another 3 million will travel by air, a 25% increase from last year, the automobile association predicts.

Overall, that’s still down from the pre-pandemic 2019 figures of 42.8 million overall travelers, including 3.22 million air travelers.

When we asked ARLnow readers about their upcoming travel plans last month, 27% said they had no plans at the time to spend 2+ nights away from home this summer, while 60% said they were planning between one and three trips.

Of course, this Memorial Day weekend comes amid yet another Covid wave that, while less deadly than past waves, still means plenty of disruption to plans and apprehension about visiting vulnerable loved ones. Then there are those sky-high gas prices — a national average of $4.60 per gallon, per AAA.

With all that in mind, today we’re asking readers: are you planning to travel this weekend? And we’ll be comparing the results to a similar poll in 2013 when just shy of 35% said yes (at the time, the federal government sequester was blamed for dampening D.C. area residents’ enthusiasm for holiday travel).

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Two Arlington pie shops are baking up some surprises for Pi Day, now one of the biggest days of the year for their sales.

March 14 (aka 3.14) is Pi Day, honoring math’s greatest mystery  It has become a day of celebration for mathematicians and dessert enthusiasts alike. Locally, Arlington’s two dedicated pie shops have taken full advantage of this baked good boon.

Last year, Pi Day was “almost-Thanksgiving busy” for Acme Pie Company which opened a storefront on Columbia Pike in 2019. This year, owner Sol Schott is preparing for similar levels of business.

“March 14 is always huge for us,” says Schott, speaking via phone from Florida where he’s enjoying a vacation before heading back home for the big day. “And I think [sales] will be close to what it was last year.”

In 2021, he sold about 100 large pies, 70 small pies, plus “a whole heck of a lot of slices.” This year, he says he’s going to make 500 to 600 pies total for the occasion. While Acme Pie normally has a rotating selection of flavors available, on March 14, the shop is going to try having most of their flavors ready to order.

Schott calls Pi Day one of the “top 3 days of the year” in terms of sales, behind the day before Thanksgiving and possibly Christmas. Both of those days, though, require more lead-up and preparation.

“It’s more of a blip,” says Schott. “But it’s great and we will take it.”

Acme Pie is also participating in BikeArlington’s Bike for Pie event this Sunday, the day before Pi Day. The five-mile ride ends at the Pike pie shop.

Livin’ the Pie Life on N. Glebe Road is where the Bike for Pie event begins.

The 11-year-old shop in the Glebewood neighborhood also is expecting a surge in business on March 14. Normally the shop is closed on Mondays, but this week, it will be open on Pi Day with special sweet offerings.

That includes a “Pi Day sampler box” which will contain three “cocktail-size pies + one surprise equalling 4 sweet treats” (3.14, get it?). Additionally, five random boxes will contain a $20 gift card to make the numerical holiday extra sweet for a few.

They are expecting to sell more than a thousand pies, co-owner Heather Sheire tells ARLnow. That includes the 150 pre-orders the shop has taken already for the sampler boxes. There will also be a hundred or so boxes waiting for those who are walking into the shop looking for a Pi Day treat.

(It’s hard not to get into Pi Day’s numerical spirit. In honor of Arlington’s two pie destinations, for instance, this article and its photo captions are exactly 628 words, or 2 times 314.)

Sheire says it’s hard to compare Pi Day to a normal day since the shop will have offerings that aren’t typically sold.

Thanksgiving is “a different animal,” says Livin’ the Pie Life’s other co-owner Wendy MacCallum, that lasts a whole week in terms of preparation, baking, and sales. This past Thanksgiving, the shop sold about 2,000 pies, she says.

While Thanksgiving is big business, Pi Day is much more fun, the local pie shop owners say. Less stressful and more opportunity to be creative, they note.

“Businesses, schools, mathematicians, they all love Pi Day,” MacCallum says. “And so do we.”

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Ireland’s Four Courts in Courthouse (Photo courtesy of Ireland’s Four Courts)

Local bars are planning St. Patrick’s Day events and preparing for crowds that area expected to be the largest in a couple of years.

After two years of Covid-related restrictions and muted St. Patrick’s Day festivities, management at several local Irish pubs tells ARLnow that they expect this year’s holiday on March 17 to be “mayhem.”

Be it making up for lost time, the need to get out after another pandemic winter, or the fact that the first day of March Madness also falls on the holiday, bars are preparing for huge numbers this year. For many, large crowds will be welcomed.

“[St. Patrick’s Day] is the biggest business day of the year for us,” Dave Cahill, General Manager at Ireland’s Four Courts in Courthouse. “We are all going to be making up for missing the last two years.”

Michael McMahon, co-owner of Celtic House on Columbia Pike, agrees, saying that they are prepping for an entire weekend of festivities in hopes of spreading out the crowds a bit.

He notes with the holiday falling on a Thursday this year, he anticipates there will be four straight days of crowds and big business at his pub.

If St. Paddy’s Day 2022 ends up being seen as a turning point, it will have come full circle for many local bar owners — March 17, 2020 was the day that Celtic House, along with a number of other local restaurants, shut down due to the emerging coronavirus.

Two years later, there’s a cautious optimism that this year’s St. Patrick’s Day may signal a return to some semblance of normalcy.

“I do hope this is close to the end,” says McMahon. “But I’m not a scientist or a doctor.”

Below is a list of Arlington restaurants and pubs that are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this year.

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Arlington County government headquarters in Courthouse (file photo)

Many county services and operations will be shuttered on Monday (Feb. 21) for Presidents Day, which is officially called George Washington Day in Virginia.

County government, the courts and libraries are all closed on Monday. This also includes county vaccine clinics and COVID-19 testing sites. The test positivity rate in Arlington has dropped below 5% as demand for tests has slowed considerably since earlier this winter.

All community centers, including the Long Bridge Aquatics and Fitness Center, will also be closed on Monday.

Arlington Public Schools are not in session on the federal holiday, but trash and recycling collection will happen as scheduled on Monday.

Seven ART bus lines will continue to run, but on a Saturday schedule. The remainder of the ART bus lines will not operate on Monday.

Metro trains will operate on a Saturday schedule, meaning stations open at 5 a.m. and close at midnight with Blue, Orange, Yellow and Silver line trains running every 24 minutes. Metro buses will be on a Saturday supplement schedule with a few additional routes than a normal weekend.

All parking will be free at Metro-owned parking facilities. And for those free parking fans, all county parking meters will not be enforced in honor of America’s first president.

While in most other states the third Monday in February is known as “Presidents Day,” in Virginia, the official state holiday is called George Washington Day.

America’s first president’s birthday is actually Feb. 22 and that’s the day the federal government first designated as a national holiday starting in 1885. Nearly a century later, in 1971, the holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February to also celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was born Feb. 12. Hence, the rise of “Presidents Day.”

But here in Virginia, the federal holiday and free parking is specifically in honor of the Commonwealth’s native son, George Washington.

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(Updated on 1/13/22) A number of events around Arlington this weekend will honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

The county will hold its annual tribute virtually this year, and Volunteer Arlington organized a video challenge and volunteer opportunities on Monday, the federal holiday recognizing King’s birthday.

The county’s annual tribute to King will be livestreamed on Sunday at 5 p.m., featuring music, dance and spoken word.

Kimberly Gordon will sing three songs, including “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Spoken word artist Kim B. Miller will share her work. Dancer Kamali Hill will perform to “Freedom” and Mahalia Jackson’s version of “Down by the River Side.” Malachi Alexander will dance to “It Ain’t Over” by Maurette Brown Clark.

The Volunteer Arlington’s MLK Day of Service will begin with a virtual ceremony Monday at 9 a.m. followed by a number of opportunities to be civically engaged both virtually and in person.

At the opening ceremony, the winner of the organization’s “Arlington Cares Challenge” will be announced and a $200 donation made toward the local nonprofit they featured in a 1-minute video posted on social media.

Below is a listing of Volunteer Arlington Day of Service opportunities that you can still register for.

The Arlington Regional Master Naturalists have also compiled a list of local environmental service opportunities this weekend.

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Covid cases in Arlington as of Dec. 27, 2021 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

A pre-Christmas testing bonanza helped contribute to a steep, record-breaking rise in Covid cases in Arlington last week, but the holiday managed to bend the curve.

A more modest 126 cases were reported today, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data, bringing the seven-day moving average down slightly to 364 daily cases. Reports of serious illness remain muted, with an average of one hospitalization per day.

After nearly three weeks without a reported Covid death in Arlington, two fatalities have been reported since Christmas day.

Covid hospitalizations in Arlington as of Dec. 27, 2021 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

The state health department does not break out other details locally, such as whether any of the serious illness and death in Arlington was attributable to the new, quickly spreading Omicron variant.

While a rise in testing leading up to Christmas likely helped to inflate case counts, a big drop in testing reports sent to VDH during the holiday weekend appears to be a primary contributor to the drop in new cases. Through it all, the county’s test positivity rate has continued to rise, reaching 12.4% today.

That’s the highest test positivity rate since May 2020, during the pandemic’s first wave.

Covid testing in Arlington as of Dec. 27, 2021 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)
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Arlington County government headquarters in Courthouse

Nearly all county operations and services, including COVID-19 testing sites and vaccine clinics, are set to be closed during the Christmas and New Years holidays.

County government offices, courts, community centers, and libraries, will all be closed on Friday, Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve), Saturday, Dec. 25 (Christmas Day), Friday, Dec. 31 (New Year’s Eve), and Saturday, Jan. 1 (New Year’s Day).

The new Long Bridge Aquatics Center will reopen on Sunday, Jan. 2, though other community centers will remain closed that day.

For those looking for a booster shoot, county COVID-19 vaccine clinics will be closed Dec. 24 through Dec. 26 and Dec. 31 through Jan. 3.

The three Curative testing sites in Arlington will also be closed Dec. 24, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1 — and will close early at 2 p.m. on Dec. 31, even as lines to get tested remain long amid the current surger in Covid cases.

The sites will be open normal hours (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.) on Dec. 26 and Jan. 2, however.

Arlington Public Schools closed on Monday, Dec. 20 for the winter holiday break. The school system is currently set to reopen for classes Monday, Jan 3.

Trash, recycling, and yard waste collection will happen as scheduled on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31,

As for some good news, parking meters will not be enforced on Dec. 24, Dec. 25, Dec. 31, and Jan. 1.

WMATA and ART buses are also revising schedules for the holidays. On Christmas Eve, Metrorail is operating from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m., scaling back by three hours from a normal Friday. Metrobus will be operating on a Sunday schedule. Metrorail is reducing service by an hour on Christmas Day while keeping a normal Saturday schedule.

A select number of ART bus routes will operate on a Sunday schedule on Christmas Day, with the rest not operating.

New Year’s Eve will be different than in years past, with Metrorail staying open only until 1 a.m. as opposed to 2 a.m. Metrobus will operate on a Sunday schedule on that day and, on New Year’s Day, Metrorail will close an hour earlier than a normal Saturday.

ART buses will run its normal route schedule on New Year’s Eve, but a Sunday schedule on New Year’s Day.

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