A short, plastic visitor with blue eyes, a red suit and a long white beard has been popping up on porches around the county.
The Arlington, VA Traveling Santa began his journey shortly after Thanksgiving. Since then, he’s been visiting families throughout the county, showing up on their doorsteps unannounced. Similar to a holiday chain letter, Santa is trying to make as many stops as he can before Christmas Day.
There are rules when Santa visits, but they’re simple: he can only stay at a house one night before he must move on to visit someone else. His next destination is chosen by whomever hosted him the previous night.
Santa’s hosts are encouraged to take photos of his visit before posting them to the Facebook page where his travels are being tracked.
However, Traveling Santa isn’t just something fun for the holidays. The coordinators of the campaign — who couldn’t be reached for comment — are also asking those who interact with Santa to donate to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
A representative for AFAC confirmed the organizers created a personal fundraising page for the cause. On Facebook, they’ve pledged to donate $1 for every “like” the page gets by Christmas — the count was nearing 200 Wednesday morning — and have agreed to match all donations made via the page.
The Arlington County Police Department is holding a toy drive and The Salvation Army is running its Angel Tree Program for residents to sponsor a child in need.
The ACPD’s Holiday Toy Drive started yesterday and will run through next Friday, Dec. 11.
The department is seeking donations of new, unwrapped toys suitable for children ages 1-17. They’ll also oversee the collection and distribution of the toys.
There are two scheduled collection events for the drive, both called Operation: Fill The Cruiser. Residents can stop by during designated hours to drop off donations and meet Santa.
The locations, dates and times for these events are:
- Our Lady of Lourdes Parking Lot (830 23rd Street S.) on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 5:30-7 p.m.
- Lyon Village Park (1800 N. Highland Street) on Friday, Dec. 11, 4-6 p.m.
For those who can’t make the collection events but still want to contribute, there’s Operation: Stocking Stuffer. The department has also set up donation boxes at businesses and organizations around the county.
Donation boxes can be found at the following locations:
- Arlington County Police Department (1425 N. Courthouse Road)
- Bracket Room (121o N. Garfield Street)
- Don Tito (3165 Wilson Blvd)
- Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant (555 23rd Street S.)
- The Liberty Tavern (3195 Wilson Blvd)
- Mister Days (3100 Clarendon Blvd)
- Whitlow’s On Wilson (2854 Wilson Blvd)
Residents who would prefer to donate gifts to a specific child can do so through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program. It’s a regional holiday assistance program that pairs individuals or groups with children in need.
Those interested can register for the program online. In doing so, they agree to sponsor a child or family in Arlington by purchasing toys, clothing, bikes, games and other gifts for them.
The program also needs volunteers later this month to help move, sort and distribute the gifts.
The second annual Winter Wonderland at Penrose Square is scheduled for this Saturday from 2-6 p.m. at 2501 9th Road S. It will be held in the breezeway between the apartment building’s leasing office and the Giant store.
The event is free and open to the public. Community members are invited to celebrate the season with holiday food and activities.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will join the celebration from 2-5 p.m. for visits and pictures. There will also be carolers and craft stations set up during this time.
A sleigh full of local businesses will be at the event handing out holiday beverages and goodie bags. Some of the participating area retailers include Starbucks, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, Mancini de Paris and Jimmy Potter’s Studio.
Scheduled to make an appearance around 4 p.m.: “Arlington’s own Himalayan Yeti,” provided by the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization.
The wonderland will wind down after a tree-lighting ceremony and sing-along, which starts at 5:30 p.m.
File photo via Macy’s
A long-vacant Cherrydale strip mall storefront, once slated to become a gun store, has been brought to life as a pop-up vintage gift shop.
NOVA Firearms cancelled its lease and its plans to add a location at 2105 N. Pollard Street this summer, following an uproar that pitted concerned residents against both local and national gun enthusiasts.
This holiday season, however, what was once an ideological battleground is now a temporary shop.
POP Vintage opened this past Friday as a vintage shop, featuring collected, donated, estate sale and consigned items, ranging in price from $2 to $20,000. It will be open every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. now until Christmas Eve.
“This is a place where people can sell, barter and trade their items openly and safely, they just have to do it by Christmas,” owner Olympia Hantzopoulos said.
The store is the Rosslyn resident’s first time operating a pop-up. It’s also her first time dealing with a space with such a heated history.
Hantzopoulos said she doesn’t go a day without hearing about what the store could’ve been.
“It was such a difficult issue for both sides,” she said. “Just this Saturday two women got in an argument in the store, which was full of customers, disagreeing over whether this space should be a gun store or not.”
Despite some leftover bitterness from the gun store debate, it hasn’t stopped customers from shopping. Hantzopoulos said her first weekend open was quite busy and the experience has been a positive one so far.
“I’m overwhelmed by the community support,” she said. “I think being here and having something here is doing a lot of good for the neighborhood.”
This also isn’t Hantzopoulos’ first time working with vintage and collectible items. She also owns Miracles in the City, a hair salon in Rosslyn that’s been open for nearly 20 years. The salon also has a small boutique where Hantzopoulos sells vintage jewelry, and all profits from jewelry sales are donated to charity.
She’s adopted the same charitable model for POP Vintage — any proceeds taken in beyond what’s needed to pay the lease will be donated to charities that support women and children in the United States and around the world.
One organization Hantzopoulos plans to support sends donations to an orphanage in Afghanistan, and another provides school supplies for local students. Hantzopoulos said helping in any way she can has always been a priority.
“Thinking about the reality of how little some people have just makes me miserable,” she said. “But you can’t dwell on that, you have to just do what you can do and trust it’s helping.”
From jewelry, to paintings by D.C. artists, to chandeliers, to one-of-a-kind rugs handmade in the Middle East, to tea sets and much more, Hantzopoulos has collected enough items to offer a little bit of everything for holiday shoppers. She knows where they came from, who they belonged to and why, in her opinion, they’re valuable.
“That’s the thing about vintage,” she said. “Everything has a story. It just so happens this space does, too.”
We’ll be back on Friday with local news coverage that you can perhaps read while standing in giant checkout lines at the mall.
In the meantime, get ready to enjoy a couple of days of free parking: metered parking and residential zone restrictions will not be enforced in Arlington on Thursday or Friday, according to the county’s list of holiday closures.
County offices, schools and courts will remain closed until Monday. Recreation centers will be closed Thursday and Friday, and will resume normal hours on Saturday.
ART buses will operate on a holiday schedule. Trash and recycling collection will not take a day off — it will go on as normal and cart off scores of turkey carcasses and other Thanksgiving dinner detritus as you sleep off your food coma.
There are only a couple of days left to finalize Black Friday shopping plans, so it’s time to take stock of what’s open and when.
The biggest mall in Arlington, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, has announced its holiday hours and specials for holiday shoppers. The mall’s hours for this weekend are:
- Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26 — 6 p.m. – Midnight
- Black Friday, Nov. 27 — 6 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
- Saturday, Nov. 28 — 9 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
- Sunday, Nov. 29 — 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
On Friday, the first 100 shoppers who check in at Guest Services at the mall will receive a “Holiday Shopping Survival Kit.” The kit will include water, mints, snacks and store promotions.
Additional sales, deals and promotions will continue to be posted on the mall’s Facebook page.
The Rosslyn Holiday Market Festival is a two-day festival this year, to be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10 and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 11 at Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway).
“Like Rosslyn, the holiday market has evolved over the years with a focus on creating experiences where people can spend time and have fun with their co-workers, neighbors and community,” Rosslyn BID President Mary-Claire Burick said in an e-mail.
The family-friendly event will host a full schedule of holiday themed activities, including live music, crafts, games and photos with Santa. There will also be local vendors at the festival, selling goods, food and beverages.
The festivities will end on Friday night with a bonfire in the middle of the market’s “winter wonderland.”
A complete schedule of events can be found online.
Thanksgiving will barely be over before celebrations for the next holiday begin in Shirlington.
The annual “Shirlie Lights Up The Village” festival is planned for
Tuesday, Dec. 1 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The event will feature holiday-themed performances and activities for all ages.
The tree lighting is scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m. at The Village at Shirlington at 4280 Campbell Ave. and will be hosted by a special guest, to be announced at a later date.
Other festival events include pictures with Santa beginning at 6:45 p.m. at the UPS Store (2776 S. Arlington Mill Drive), holiday cookie decorating, face painting and live musical performances.
There will also be horse and carriage rides for guests who bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
The festival is free and open to the public.
Photo via Facebook/The Village at Shirlington
It may seem way too early, but it’s time to start making plans for the holidays, starting with BalletNova’s annual production of The Nutcracker over first weekend of December.
Tickets for the show are now on sale.
Members of the dance school will put on six full-length productions of the ballet at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theater (125 S. Old Glebe Road). The show is approximately an hour and a half long, plus one 15-minute intermission.
Tickets cost between $13 to $35, depending on the show date and location of the seats. There are also discounts available for groups, students under 18 and seniors over 65.
The studio encourages patrons to reserve seats early, as all the performances have sold out in the past. Performance dates and times are:
- Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
- Friday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, Dec. 5 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
- Sunday, Dec. 6 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased online.
There is also a Nutcracker Tea and mini-performance scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 13, at the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City.
Photo via BalletNova Center for Dance/by Ruth Judson
Arlington County courts, libraries, public schools and other government offices will be closed for the holiday, and metered parking will not be enforced, the county said. Arlington Transit will operate on a holiday schedule.
Trash and recycling services, meanwhile, will operate on a normal schedule.
Columbus Day may be a federal holiday, but it seems that with every passing year it becomes less relevant. Arlington County offices, for instance, remain open on Columbus Day. Purely anecdotal evidence — the volume of rush hour traffic on I-395 — seems to suggest that Columbus Day is the least observed federal holiday, at least in terms of workers taking the day off.
The root cause of this is Columbus and his legacy: the soldiers he led to the New World enslaved, raped, slaughtered and otherwise destroyed native populations. In recent years, the reality of Columbus’ harsh treatment of natives has increasingly outweighed his accomplishments in the collective consciousness.
Still, Columbus Day could optimistically be said to be more about the discovery of America than the man himself. And it’s the lone federal holiday in an otherwise busy month of October.
Do you think Arlington Public Schools students should continue to get the day off?
Photo via Wikipedia
School Growth Slowing? — Arlington Public Schools has released its official Sept. 30 school enrollment figure. The school system has 25,238 students enrolled, according to the count. That’s some 400 students lower than estimates and represents “the lowest year-over-year increase since 2010.” [InsideNova]
Man Dies at Arlington County Jail — A man with a history of medical problems was found unresponsive in his jail cell at the Arlington County Detention Facility Sunday morning. He was later pronounced dead at Virginia Hospital Center. The man’s family is seeking answers as to how he died. It’s the second inmate death at the jail this year. [WUSA 9]
Rollover Wreck on Route 50 — An SUV rolled onto its roof during a crash on westbound Route 50 near Courthouse on Saturday night. No injuries were reported. [Twitter]
Columbus Day Closures — As a reminder, courts, the Sheriff’s Office, the DMV and Arlington Public Schools will be closed today in observance of the Columbus Day holiday. Arlington County government offices, however, will remain open. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
County Gov’t Open on Columbus Day — Arlington County government offices will be open on Monday, Oct. 12. Courts, the Sheriff’s Office, the DMV and Arlington Public Schools, however, will be closed in observance of the Columbus Day holiday. [Arlington County]
Arlington Same-Sex Marriage Stats — Over the past year, same-sex marriages have accounted for 7.2 percent of all marriage licenses in Arlington County. [InsideNova]
Teachers Endorse Cristol, Dorsey — The Arlington Education Association Political Action Committee, which represents Arlington Public Schools teachers, has endorsed Democrats Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey in the upcoming County Board general election. [Christian Dorsey]
Suburban Pols Rail Against I-66 Tolls — Lawmakers from the outer Northern Virginia suburbs are calling VDOT’s proposal to add tolls to I-66 “highway robbery.” Said a Republican state lawmaker from Manassas: “Asking commuters from Prince William, Manassas, Fairfax and Loudoun to pay such an outrageous amount for the privilege of sitting in the same unmoving lanes of traffic so Arlington can have nice new bike paths is unconscionable.” [InsideNova]
British School Choir Coming to Arlington — The IPS singers, a school choir from London, will perform “sacred choral works by famed composers” at the Church at Clarendon (1210 N. Highland Street) next Friday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m.
Arlington Bros Create ‘B.R.O. Ball’ — Two federal contractors from Arlington, along with a third partner, are trying to raise $75,000 on Kickstarter to make a football with a waterproof Bluetooth speaker inside. They have dubbed the ball the “B.R.O. Ball.” [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Joe Green
Proactive shoppers can get a head start on next season’s holiday shopping at specialty gift store Two the Moon’s (6501 29th St. N) upcoming Christmas in July sale.
Two the Moon, which opened last year, sells an eclectic selection of primarily local merchandise, ranging from pottery to greeting cards to baby clothes. During the one-day Christmas in July sale, owner Johanna Braden says all holiday items in the store will be 40 percent off, including holiday merchandise for the upcoming seasons of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. All other store items will be 10 percent off.
The bulk of Two the Moon’s offerings are made in Arlington or, barring that, somewhere in the USA. The shop currently carries goods from about 25 different Arlington artisans, including headbands and bows, jewelry, handmade cards and canvas tote-bags. Braden also works to hire locally and says she has given both neighborhood mothers and kids jobs at the store.
Braden opened the store on Sept. 2, 2014 after ending her 35-year career in nursing. Owning a local gift shop had long been a dream of hers, and because she knew that nothing like it existed in the Williamsburg neighborhood where she lived, she decided to give it a shot.
Braden says that business has been “phenomenal” ever since she opened up shop last year.
“Just the other day, someone came in and told me that on the last day of school this year, all the kids came in with gifts for their teachers, and they were all Two the Moon bags!,” said Braden. “It’s great — that’s just so great to hear.”
The Christmas in July sale is scheduled for July 18 from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., with a “rain date” of July 19. Regular store hours are Sunday 12 p.m.-5 p.m. and Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
On Friday, Jan. 16, the district, circuit and family courts, sheriff’s office and the Department of Motor Vehicles in Arlington will also be closed for Virginia’s Lee Jackson Day, and all will reopen on Tuesday, Jan. 20.
Arlington’s county offices will be open on Friday, as will schools and community centers, but all will be closed the following Monday in observance of the holiday. Arlington’s libraries and human services offices will also close.
Parking meters will not be enforced and ART lines 41, 42, 51, 77 and 87 will be operating on a Saturday schedule. STAR transit will provide dialysis runs only, and the rest of county-run public transportation will not be running.
Trash and recycling collection will be on normal schedule on Monday