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Holiday Festivities for the Family


10 Meadowlarkís Winter Walk of Lights

November 10, 2017, and continues every night (Thanksgiving, Christmas and News Year’s too!) through Sunday, January 7, 2018. Open nightly at 5:30 p.m. (The last admission is at 9:30 p.m. Winter Walk, concessions and the Snowflake Shoppe close at 10 p.m.).  In order to ensure your Winter Walk of Lights experience please purchase your tickets prior to your visit. Tickets are not available at the door on peak nights and special events. To ensure your admission please purchase your tickets in advance online. *Timed tickets are required*

Bring the family to enjoy the magical Winter Walk of lights at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia. Every year from mid-November until just after New Year’s Day, the garden is transformed into a half-mile, animated walk of lights. Revisit perennial favorites such as the Lakeside Lights, the Fountain of Lights, and the Holiday Nature Walk – and look for new displays each year. Put on your walking shoes and bring the family to experience a Northern Virginia festive tradition. Round out your visit by roasting marshmallows, and sipping on hot beverages by the fire. (Available for purchase at Light Refreshments).

22 Bull Run Festival of Lights

November 22–January 7, 2018; Monday – Thursday: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Fridays – Sunday & holidays*:  5:30 to 10 p.m.  *(Holidays include Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s.  Bull Run Regional Park

The Bull Run Festival of Lights is a NoVA favorite. Hop in the car and enjoy a very merry light and music show. Be advised: Fridays are one of the festival’s busiest days, so be prepared. Still, it’s one of the best days to go, as the carnival will be open until late! Bull Run Regional Park, 7700 Bull Run Drive, Centreville; 703-359-4633; Day); Prices vary.

24 Reston Holiday Parade, Tree Lighting, and Sing Along

Friday, November 24; 11:00 AM–10:00 PM; Reston
Town Center

Reston Town Center launches the festive season at the 27th annual Reston Holiday Parade at 11:00 a.m. with Macy’s-style balloons, musicians, dancers, antique cars, characters, community groups, dignitaries, special guest emcees, and much more. The one-of-a-kind, one-hour, half-mile parade along Market Street also welcomes the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus in a horse-drawn carriage. Since 1991, rain or shine, the parade has been an annual tradition on the day after Thanksgiving.  Before the parade begins, thousands of jingle bells will be handed out to spectators lining the route. After the parade, enjoy visits and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus plus Mini-Train rides until 4:30 pm, and street entertainment. The Clauses will return for the Fountain Square Tree Lighting and Sing Along at 6 pm. Afterwards, there’ll be horse-drawn carriage rides on Market Street from 6:30 until 10 pm. Proceeds for the photos and rides benefit local charities. The acclaimed Ice Skating Pavilion is open all day and every day from November until March.  Phone: 703-579-6720

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Friday, November 24 – Friday, January 5; 9:00 AM–4:00 PM; George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate
& Gardens

Mount Vernon has decked the halls for the holiday season and invites you to celebrate this festive time of year with a special daytime program offered through January 6!

Visit George Washington’s estate and see Aladdin the camel on the grounds, in honor of the camel that Washington paid to visit Mount Vernon in 1787. Stroll through the estate during the Christmas season and see sparkling holiday decorations, featuring 12 dazzling Christmas trees, and historical chocolate-making demonstrations.

Experience Christmas how the Washingtons would have celebrated it on a tour of the Mansion. Go behind-the-scenes and tour the rarely-open third floor of the Mansion.  3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, Mount Vernon, VA 22309. Phone: 703-780-2000; Admission Fee: $17/adults; $8 child.

30 National Christmas Tree and State Trees

Thursday, November 30, Ellipse in Washington, D.C.

On November 30, 2017 the National Park Foundation and National Park Service will present the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting. Popular entertainers and a United States military band add to the celebratory evening when the President of the United States lights the National Christmas Tree and brings a message of peace to the nation and world.

To learn more about the National Christmas Tree Lighting and December events at the National Christmas Tree, please visit

The National Christmas Tree will be lit every night through January 1. The Pathway of Peace around the National Christmas Tree is free and open to visitors 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through January 1. The pathway loops around the National Christmas Tree and features 56 unique Christmas trees and ornament displays representing every U.S. state, territory, and the District of Columbia.  Located on the Ellipse on Constitution Avenue side of the White House.
Though January 1, 2018.


1 Christmas in Middleburg

Friday, December 1 – Sunday, December 3; 11:00 AM Friday–4:00 PM Sunday; Downtown

Festivities begin December 1, The Tree Lighting Ceremony and Carols, behind the Pink Box, 12 North Madison St., 5:00pm on Friday.

Starting at 11 a.m. the Middleburg Hunt takes to the streets creating a spectacular sight as approximately 100 horses, riders in red coats and dozens of hounds come through the town. The Middleburg Christmas Parade begins at 2 p.m. as spectators line the sidewalks along Washington Street (Route 50) to watch as a unique assortment of floats, troops and bands march by in a mile-long parade. In keeping with the animal friendliness of the town, the parade includes over 700 horses, llamas, alpacas and dogs. Not to be missed are the antique fire trucks, children on floats, and of course, Santa brings up the rear riding on a beautiful horse drawn coach. Through the day there are hayrides, choir performances, the Garden Club’s Christmas Flower & Greens Show and the Craft Show as well as shopping and dining in the town’s shops and restaurants, creating a day-long family festival for visitors. A Wine Crawl is the final element, allowing adults to wind down and relax while sampling wines from area vineyards, and foods in local restaurants. Phone: 540-687-8888.

Merry Old Town: Manassas Christmas Tree Lighting

Friday, December 1; 5:30 PM–8:00 PM; Manassas
Museum Lawn

Make time to enjoy old-fashioned family fun at the “Merry Old Town” celebration in Old Town Manassas! The holiday fun begins at 5:30 p.m. with holiday music and at 6:00 p.m. when Santa arrives at the Manassas Depot via VRE train.

The Annual Christmas Tree Lighting will be at 6:30 at the Manassas Museum. Take a free hayride around Old Town and go for a skate at the Harris Pavilion ice rink. Of course, Santa will hear the Christmas wishes of all the children at the Harris Pavilion gazebo. 9101 Prince William Street.  Free admission.

Town of Leesburg Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting

Friday, December 1st, 6:00pm; Town Green

Join friends and neighbors and celebrate the start of the holiday season in Leesburg at the annual Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting Ceremony on the Town Green. The festive ceremony will feature performances from local schools and a holiday message . The crowd will be encouraged to join in on a holiday sing-a-long and view the lighting of the Christmas tree and menorah.

2 Herndon Annual Tree Lighting and Sing-Along

Saturday, December 2; 5:00 PM–6:00 PM; Town of Herndon Town Square

Start the holiday season with this annual celebration. Carols, tree lighting, and a visit from Santa. Corner of Lynn and Elden Streets, Herndon. Sponsored by the Dulles Regional Chamber. 730 Elden Street. Phone: 571-323-5301. Free admission.

Merry Old Town: 72nd Annual Greater Manassas Christmas Parade

Saturday, December 2; 10:00 AM–12:00 PM, Historic Downtown

Join us for the 72nd Annual Greater Manassas Christmas Parade on December 2, 2016. Please visit for details, including parade route.

Free parking for the parade is available in the parking garage on the corner of Prince William St. and Main St. There is also timed parking available on the street. Handicapped parking is available in the BB&T parking lot located on Center Street and the 7-11 parking lot located at the corner of Grant and Center Street. Free admission.  Rain or shine.

Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Show at Ida Lee Recreation Center

December 2nd, 9:00 AM-4:00 PM and December 3rd, 10:00 AM-4:00 PM.

No big-box shopping here! This show features over 90 local and regional artisans selling hand-made items including candles, stained glass, carved wood, jewelry, leather products, table linens, and much more. Find something for everyone on your shopping list and a little something to brighten your home this season. Admission and parking for this show are free.

3 Herndon Holiday Arts and Crafts Show

Sunday, December 3; 10:00am-4:00pm; Herndon Community Center

Over 80 artisans and craftspeople will exhibit and sell their work at this annual arts and crafts show sponsored by the Town of Herndon Department of Parks and Recreation. A variety of handcrafted items and fine art will be on sale including wreaths, quilts, jewelry, Christmas ornaments, decorations, original artwork, photography, stained glass, and more. 814 Ferndale Ave., Herndon, VA. Free admission and parking. Additional parking at the Herndon Centennial Golf Course.

9 Annual Leesburg Christmas and Holiday Parade

Saturday, December 9th – 6:00pm

On the second Saturday of December, the holiday spirit will be in full swing as Leesburg hosts the annual holiday parade starting at 6pm. The parade will usher Santa and his friends down King Street, through Historic Leesburg. The parade will begin at Ida Lee Drive and end at Fairfax Street. Parade participation is open to the public, including businesses, civic groups, teams, organizations, and community groups.

Jingle Jam Concerts

Saturday, December 9th – 11:30 am Junior Jam, 2:30 pm, and 8:30 pm

Leesburg’s holiday rock n’ roll concert features many local and regional artists playing traditional holiday tunes- with a little edge. Proceeds benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Tickets will go on sale on November 13, 2017, at 5:00 am at Ida Lee Park Recreation Center, in-person sales only with a 5-ticket limit.   Matinee and evening tickets are $25; Junior Jam tickets are $5.


Did you know you could get $50 from Fairfax County to try transit?

Fairfax County Commuter Services team attended DATA’s LiveMore Block Party on October 4th in the Reston Town Center to inform companies and employees about the County’s many commuter benefit programs, including Plu$50. “The Plu$50 program has been one of our most successful incentives in getting people to try transit, which reduces congestion for everyone.” Says Walter Daniel, Fairfax County Commuter Services. 

The Commuter Benefits program is an IRS compliant platform that allows employees to assign a portion of their pre-tax income directly to a SmarTrip card, for use on Metrobus, Metrorail and Fairfax Connector buses. Fairfax County Commuter Services (FCCS) supports individuals trying transit for the first time, through their employer’s Commuter Benefits program, by providing them with a SmarTrip card free of cost and preloaded with 50 dollars!

There is no cost to eligible Fairfax County employers, or their employees, to participate in the Commuter Benefits and Plu$50 programs, which reduce taxable income and provide a quick and easy way to pay for daily commutes.

Ask your Human Resources Department to contact
Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority (at: to establish a Commuter
Benefits program and/or ask about FCCS’ Plu$50
incentive program.

*The SmartBenefits Plu$50 program is available while funding lasts.*

Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) ensures nondiscrimination in all programs and activities in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To request this information in an alternate format, contact FCDOT at 703-877-5600, TTY 711.


Country Living Is Just Right For Me!

By Maria Dampman

Welcome to my home, Smiling Cat Farm, located on the outskirts of Purcellville in Western Loudoun County.  We are a small enterprise of a little less than 11 acres of barns, pastures and lots of critters.  Throughout the years, my husband and I have become unofficial “ambassadors” of small homestead living and the rewards of moving from city slicker to rural resident.

Seven years ago, we decided it was time to move west.  As we both have exceptionally busy careers, we dreamed about finding a quiet place where we could unwind and relax after a long day at work.  My husband longed for a deck where he could look up at the stars at night and see them clearly without the distraction of streetlights.  I wanted a home where I could have my horses live with me, raise a few chickens, and hopefully have a nice large garden to grow my own vegetables in the summer.

We moved in with two dogs, three cats, and no farm animals. Here we are, seven years into our farm owning journey, and we now are the proud owners of three horses, two Mammoth American Jackstock, a breeding pair of peacocks, somewhere around 25 chickens, three Miniature Silky Fainting Goats, three cats, two dogs, and three fish.  Looking back at the evolution of how our farm has grown and changed through the years never fails to astound me.

Things that were initially very important to us, like planting a huge garden, have fallen by the wayside as we found that we are just too busy to weed, prune and harvest.  Instead, we now buy our fresh food and vegetables at the local farmer’s market, and have turned that large fenced section into a peafowl yard for our two India Blue peas.  When they are older, they will provide additional income for the farm when we breed them, and then raise and sell the peachicks.

Other endeavors, like raising two Mammoth American Jackstock, which are draft horse size donkeys, were never on our initial farm plan.   After losing a number of chickens to wildlife predators in a short period of time, we realized we needed some form of protection for our egg layers aside from our rooster.  Mammoth Jacks are very territorial, and have the ability to kick through a 4X4 piece of lumber, so can be quite lethal to a fox or coyote looking for an easy chicken dinner.  Since their addition, we have had only a handful of chicken losses from only the most determined of predators.

Living on a farm, even a small one like ours, gives you such an appreciation for nature and for life.  We look forward to the newborn fawns that wander through our fields every year.  The wild turkeys that make an occasional appearance are always a source of excitement for us, as is the harvesting of a perfect heirloom tomato.

Through the years, my husband and I feel like Smiling Cat Farm has made a difference in this world, one person, or one animal at a time.  My two current competition horses were adopted as babies from a rescue in Fredricksburg.  Our dog, Zoey, was adopted after she was found abandoned in a dumpster with her littermates when she was just three weeks old.  The other day, we found a newborn fawn “parked” in one of our stalls, so we spent the day tiptoeing around it until its momma returned to pick it up in the evening.  Every person who has come to our farm leaves with a new appreciation of the work that goes into raising happy, healthy animals and the labor that goes into the food we eat.

But not all things on a farm have happy endings.  Some of my favorite chickens have disappeared from the farm leaving behind only a pile of feathers and our memory of them.  Last year’s tomato harvest was decimated by some sort of tomato blight, and the birds ate every last cherry off our trees before we harvested them. But like the farmers before us, you learn from your losses, and go forward.

Seven years into our newfound lifestyle, I can’t remember the days where I didn’t have morning and evening chores – feeding all the critters, cleaning stalls, collecting eggs, and exercising the horses.  My calendar at home has deworming schedules and veterinary exams written in it next to our own doctor’s appointments and reminders of friends’ birthdays and events.  Our life is so entwined with the lives of our equines, fowl, goats, plants and trees that we now barely know where our needs stop and theirs begin.

Almost always, the needs of the farm take precedence over ours.  If I have a busy day planned of showing homes to a client, I wake up earlier than usual to take care of the critters before I have to leave.  I have cleaned stalls and fed animals with a 102 degree fever when my husband was away on business. When I had knee surgery after a skiing accident, my husband had to do everything for months until I healed.  I have slept in the barn with a sick horse on several occasions.  Luckily, we have phenomenal neighbors who also pitch in during emergencies, and who know that we would always do the same for them.

Our lifestyle is not for everyone. We spend many hours dirty, sweaty and sore from working the farm after a full day at the office. We are often exhausted at night, and go to sleep early to start again when the rooster crows at dawn.  But we love our life, and it has led us to the secret answer of the often asked question of why the farm cat smiles.  He smiles because life, on the farm, is beautiful.

Maria Dampman is a Realtor and Accredited Buyer’s Representative with Century 21 Redwood in Leesburg Virginia.   Contact her at 571.643.1663 or at for any of your Western Loudoun real estate needs.


Save the Bees!

By Jackie Pickford

BEE Educated

Bees are an integral part of our ecosystem, providing more for us than just honey and pollinated flowers; bees provide fruits and vegetables for us to eat, supply food for the animals that we consume, and pollinate many of our resources and food such as cotton, herbs, coffee beans, and more. The UN Environmental Programme states that “of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of the world’s food, over 70% are pollinated by bees,” which exemplifies a world-wide dependence on the pollinators.

Alarmingly, however, these creatures have begun to disappear at a rapid pace. The increasing extinction rate can be attributed to habitat loss, parasites, pesticide use, and increasing temperatures due to climate change. If this trend continues, it will have massive consequences on our daily lifestyle.

What’s BEEing Done

Locally, many organizations are attempting to play their part in the movement to save the bees. One unique example in our area is the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport Hotel, which just recently adopted two honeybee hives in hopes of getting involved in the preservation of honeybees. Each hive hosts roughly 50,000-60,000 bees, producing approximately 40 to 60 pounds of honey annually. The hotel plans to use the honey in menu items as well as providing bottled gifts to VIP members; however, the hotel emphasizes that the primary goals of its hives is to encourage sustainable practices and restore bee health.

Nationally, legislation has been introduced to ban pesticides that are especially harmful to bees and other pollinators. The Saving the Pollinators Act of 2017 would suspend the use of neonicotinoids—a harmful pesticide linked to bee decline—until the EPA could determine the safety of the pollinators based on peer-review studies. Although the legislation is still in the works, it has the potential to not only transform agriculture on a large scale, but also take measures to support local farmers, food systems and
sustainable practices.

BEE Involved

As an individual, there are a number of ways to support the bee movement. First, get involved with a local organization! The Northern Virginia Beekeeping Association (NVBA) and the Loudoun Beekeeping Association (LBA) both work to educate and support sustainable beekeeping practices in the area. Local organizations like the LBA provide mentor programs and offer courses for those who are interested in hobby beekeeping, another way to contribute individually. One can also donate to local organizations like the NVBA and LBA, and support companies that take part in sustainable practices, such as Hilton Washington Dulles, for example. Another simple way to contribute is to plant pollinator-friendly landscapes in backyards or patios and use neonicotinoid-free pesticides. Both NVBA and LBA can provide guidance on this as well.

Overall, the goal is that we BEE proactive in any way possible. The extinction of pollinators would have major social, economic, and physical repercussions on our species, which is why doing our part individually, locally and nationally is so important.


I-66 Expansion to Include Parallel Bike/Pedestrian Path

As construction plans proceed for the high occupancy toll lanes (HOT) outside of the beltway, bicycling supporters are scrutinizing the designs for a parallel bike/pedestrian path that is being included in the project.  Specifically, they are opposed to some plans that will place the bike path directly adjacent to the interstate, citing safety and aesthetic reasons for altering the design.

I-66 trail graphic, Courtesy of Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling.



The Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling is advocating for a change in design to move the trail outside of the noise barriers that will be constructed.  Neighboring communities are opposed to this option, citing intrusion in the communities and fear of potential crime by trail users.  The current design, places about 5 miles of the proposed 23.5 mile trail directly adjacent to the interstate, separated by a 3 foot concrete barrier and a chain link fence.  The Alliance feels this is neither a safe nor a healthy configuration, exposing users to noise and exhaust pollution.

VDOT concedes that the design is a compromise, contending that the five miles of configuration where the trail is adjacent to the interstate is dictated by narrow right-of-way and adjacent community preferences.  In a Washington Post interview Katie Harris from the Washington Area Bicycling Association noted that “VDOT needs to design a facility that is safe and accessible and convenient for those who travel by bike. These are constituents of theirs that need to have their needs met as well.”

When completed, the trail will link to the existing Lee Custis trail that runs adjacent to I-66 inside the beltway, creating an uninterrupted bike facility from Gainesville in Prince William County, to Washington, D.C. The trail will also provide linkages to the many trails and communities that are adjacent to I-66.  Public comment forums on the design of the I-66 HOT lanes will be held
this fall.