Alexandria, VA

Registration for Alexandria’s winter recreation program, with activities ranging from dog obedience training to cooking, opens soon.

On Wednesday, December 18, registration will open online and in person for city residents at the Registration and Reservation Office at Lee Center (1108 Jefferson Street). Registration for nonresidents starts Dec. 20.

There are over a hundred classes and activities available, such as athletic programs, social clubs, and creative arts. Winter recreation programs from from January to mid-April.

New programs for 2020 include a Dining Etiquette for Youth program, in which teens between the ages of 13 and 17 can learn “appropriate dinner conduct and conversation,” and an Intro to Scottish Dancing class for ages 18 and older.

Additional classes include camps for students over spring break, including a nature camp and a lifeguard certification program.

Pricing for the programs range between approximately $50 to $325. A full catalog for all of the programs can be found here.

Photo via City of Alexandria/Facebook  

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The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) will perform its holiday concert series “Nutcracker Potpourri” next month.

On Saturday, December 14 at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 15 at 2:00 p.m., ASO Music Director Maestro James Ross will lead the orchestra in a hybrid version of The Nutcracker, with excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s ballet suite and a Duke Ellington swing series.

ASO will perform at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Arts Center (4915 East Campus Drive) on Dec. 14, with tickets ranging from $5 to $85. The Dec. 15 concert at the George Washington Masonic Memorial is sold out.

“The program will delight audiences with the Nutcracker presented to two ways: excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s ballet suite and Duke Ellington’s version that swings,” ASO said in a press release. “Besides holiday-themed music attendees will enjoy visual accompaniments to Saturday’s performance, and both concerts will be followed by a reception for the entire audience. Performances will be presented with no intermission and one hour earlier than usual to accommodate families and young children.”

“The concert will culminate with Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite, accompanied on Saturday by video realizations by the New Live following the story of an African-American girl from Harlem,” the press release continues.

“Tchaikovsky is only one point along a line of creativity starting with E.T.A. Hoffman’s original story, continuing through Ellington’s big-band re-imagining to resetting the story in Harlem through the eyes of a young girl,” said Ross. “It’s a wonder-worthy, multi-sensory experience for the whole family.”

Both concerts will be followed by a reception.

In addition, the Alexandria Community Nutcracker begins its 11th year in production next week.

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Four historical sites around Old Town and beyond will participate in this year’s Yuletide by Candlelight event.

The holiday event is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 14, from 5-9 p.m.

Tickets start at $8 for children, $25 for seniors, and $30 for adults. Beginning at 5 p.m., participants can explore the following places and activities:

A free shuttle will run between all four sites, where there will be seasonal decorations, refreshments, and a 10% discount at museum stores. There will be a cash bar at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum.

Photo via Carlyle House/Instagram 

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The Cora Kelly School for Math, Science, and Technology has received a donation of 16 new musical instruments.

The magnet elementary school was chosen as this year’s beneficiary from Karaoke in the Capital, an annual charity event hosted by the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) in partnership with the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation — a non-profit that donates musical instruments to under-funded music programs.

“I am thrilled that Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation was able to accommodate my request to have this year’s event benefit a school in my own community,” said Bud Jackson, an Alexandria resident and former AAPC Mid-Atlantic president, in a statement.

In total, the school will receive four clarinets, six violins, three trumpets, and three cellos, totaling over $14,000 in value.

“For many of our students, music is a way to feel successful, especially through the difficulties of learning a new language,” said Laura Torchia, a teacher at Cora Kelly.

“With my fifth-grade students, playing the violin and trumpet are small forms of communication, and can help them feel like they are part of a community,” Torchia said. “Music is a way to connect those language gaps and create a sense of belonging and community amongst their peers.”

The Cora Kelly School, located at 3600 Commonwealth Avenue in Arlandia, also received a donation of $10,000 and robotics equipment from Amazon earlier this year, according to The Zebra.

Photo via Cora Kelly School / Facebook 

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A restaurant in Del Ray has announced that its 100-seat outdoor beer garden will stay open year-round.

The Garden (1503 Mt. Vernon Avenue) has winterized their beer garden, adding blankets, festive lights, heaters, fire pits, and yes, private igloos.

The clear, geodesic igloos are first-come, first-serve, but guests can reserve them ahead of time if requested.

“We wanted to provide our guests with the opportunity to dine and drink outdoors regardless of the time of year,” said The Garden chef and owner Justus Frank. “So many people spend all week indoors at work and like the chance to be under the sun whenever possible.”

The beer garden features 16 different beers and ciders on tap, from local breweries like Port City, Ocelot, and Aslin. Menu items include bratwurst, fish tacos, and lamb stew.

This December, The Garden will host its first-ever “Winterfest” on Sunday, December 8 from 12-4 p.m. The free event will feature new beer releases and menu items, as well as a gingerbread cookie decorating activity for kids.

The Garden is open Sunday through Friday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

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An Alexandria boutique gym has moved to a new location in the West End.

Sand and Steel Fitness opened in a larger, “state-of-the-art” space at 5418 Eisenhower Avenue on November 1. Previously, the gym was located along Alfred Street in Old Town.

The new location is 2.5 times bigger, Sand and Steel said, and will offer new training options.

“Our expansion is a strategic move to increase member options and value. We want to provide the very best coaches, an ideal environment, along with more classes so clients can get even more out of their relationship with Sand and Steel Fitness,” said co-owner Paul Roberts.

“In addition to Sand and Steel’s proven personal training program, the gym will now be able to offer group classes and an open gym, as well as mobility and nutrition coaching,” the gym said in a press release. “Classes will include yoga, CrossFit, CoreFit, powerlifting, suspension training via Total Resistance Exercises (TRX), kettlebell work, and more. “

Roberts, who has a background as a biomedical engineer, says he has analyzed data from thousands of clients in order to optimize workout results for clients. In addition to personal training and group classes, Sand and Steel features one-on-one nutrition counseling.

Bundles for group classes and personal training sessions are currently being offered at 25 percent off in celebration of the new location.  Pricing starts in the $400 range before the discount.

Photo via Sand and Steel/Facebook 

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A new mixed-use apartment complex scheduled to open in the West End in early December has debuted three new pieces of public art.

At the front of the $200 million complex, Array at West Alex, artist Harry McDaniel has built a kinetic sculpture garden titled “En Pointe.” The artwork, which took three years to sculpt, involves large, abstract sculptures of people moving slowly in circles.

“As the design took form, I began to see the combined forms (in motion) as dancers,” said McDaniel. “That was not by intention, but the association stuck with me, so I settled on the title ‘En Pointe’ which refers to the dance position and describes the fact that each of the sections of the sculpture is balanced on a point.”

On the complex’s plaza, local artist Alma Selimovic has completed sculptures of bright flowers on a 45-foot wall, titled “Last Summer.” The blue, orange, and yellow flowers add life to an otherwise plain concrete wall.

“I love the area,” said Selimovic. “Last Summer is my first public sculpture, I’ve always wanted to build big pieces and I finally got the chance to do that in Alexandria.”

Along the nearby King Street, sculptor David Smedley has installed a tile wall titled “The Event” — an op-art, geometric abstraction made up of a mosaic of squares and triangles with a variety of colors.

Array at West Alex has 278 apartment units along with a mixed-use ground floor with multiple retailers.

In addition to a 62,000 square-foot Harris Teeter projected to open in early 2021, the complex has a Sports Clips barbershop, a Lifestyle Nail Salon, and a sushi restaurant slated with early 2020 openings.

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Alexandria’s latest cupcake bakery will celebrate its successful opening with a party this weekend.

On Saturday, November 16 from 12-2:30 p.m., guests are invited to Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery (1506 Mount Vernon Avenue) for free mini cupcakes, face painting, and more.

The national chain opened its Del Ray location a month ago, focusing on cupcakes, ice cream, and rotating seasonal flavors.

“A few years ago I was figuring out what I wanted to do,” said franchise owner Breanna Perez.

“Then I realized love baking, I always have, and I love the Smallcakes menu. They allow you to design your own store and get creative with the menu, so this shop really feels my own,” Perez said.

Smallcakes stores ordinarily feature 18 cupcake flavors each day, but Perez scaled down and focused instead on baking high-quality, creative cupcakes.

In addition to several staple flavors, every day of the week the bakery features a different seasonal option. On Wednesday, for example, Perez bakes an Oatmeal Creme Pie cupcake, and on Thursday will bake a Vanilla Berry Cheesecake and Banana Snickerdoodle.

Smallcakes also features ten different flavors of scratch-made ice cream. There are classics such as vanilla and cookies and cream, along with twists on cupcake flavors with pieces of cake and icing swirled in.

Smallcakes founder Jeff Martin is expected to be present during Saturday’s grand opening celebration. Martin competed several times on the Food Network series “Cupcake Wars,” and has expanded Smallcakes to over 50 locations nationwide.

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In celebration of Cider Week Virginia, Alexandria will host a cider festival next week.

Hosted by Historic Alexandria, the hard cider tasting event is set for Saturday, November 23 from 1-5 p.m. at the Lloyd House in Old Town (220 N. Washington Street).

Tickets begin at $45 and raise to $55 at the door, plus a $20 ticket option for non-drinkers. The outdoor festival will include 10 pours from different cideries, plus a take-home souvenir glass.

The event will be outdoors, so visitors are advised to dress for the cold. Mount Vernon-based American food truck Executive Orders will also be onsite.

In addition to the festival, Pizza Paradiso in Old Town (124 King Street) will be hosting two “Cider Tap Takeovers” on Thursday, November 21, and Sunday, November 24. The event will feature draft pours from various Virginia cideries including Lost Boy and Potters.

Photo via Historic Alexandria/Facebook

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Over 22 local artisans are participating in the first Alexandria Makers Market next week.

The holiday event is set for Sunday, November 24 from 12-6 p.m. at Port City Brewing Company (3950 Wheeler Avenue).

“My intention with Alexandria Makers Market is to celebrate all the hard-working creatives based in our city, and to enable opportunities for us to showcase our talent,” said market founder Alyssa Kovach in a statement.

“I approached Port City because they are incredible makers themselves. I thought they might appreciate the motivation of this concept in a way that other venues may not be able to relate to. I am so honored and grateful they have agreed to host our inaugural event.”

In addition to a wide variety of vendors to shop from, three ticketed workshop events are scheduled throughout the day. Tickets must be purchased in advance for the workshops, which will be held upstairs in the brewery. All workshop participants will receive a pint of Port City beer during their class.

The workshops include:

A full list of the scheduled vendors are below:

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Alexandria’s historic Torpedo Factory Art Center will honor two big anniversaries this weekend as the building turns 100 and the Art Center turns 45.

A celebratory Anniversary Ball will take place this Saturday, November 16 from 7-11 p.m. at the Torpedo Factory (105 N. Union Street). Guests are invited to “dress to impress and celebrate like it’s 1919 or 1974,” per the event website, and tickets are still available for $75.

The night will feature the opening of 45: An Anniversary Exhibitcurated by Marian Van Landingham, artist and founder of the Torpedo Factory. In addition, Alexandria media company Istrico Productions will premiere a documentary about the building’s history.

According to the event website, additional festivities include:

  • A talk from WAMU arts and culture reporter Mikaela Lefrak
  • Live from Virginia band Good Shot Judy
  • Glass harp performance from Jamey Turner
  • Painted humans from artist Rebecca Rose
  • Live roving performers
  • Refreshments and a bar

Per its namesake, the Torpedo Factory Art Center began its life as a weapons factory at the end of World War I. At its peak, the complex was made up of 16 buildings and employed 5,000 workers. In 1950, it was converted to a Federal Records Center, and in 1974, became the Art Center. The three-story building is currently home to more than 165 artists who work, exhibit, and sell their art.

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and local restaurant operator Alexandria Restaurant Partners (ARP) is taking care of kitchen duty with a “Turkey To Go” program.

All orders can be placed online before Thursday, November 21, with pickup scheduled on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28) at Mia’s Italian Kitchen (100 King Street).

For $99, ARP will provide a 20 pound, whole roasted turkey, served with red wine gravy and cranberry-orange preserves.

Sides such as cornbread stuffing and brown butter mashed potatoes can be purchased for $15, along with a pumpkin pie for $25. Bundle deals include a turkey, two sides, and a pie for $144, or a turkey, four sides, and a pie for $170.

Five of ARP’s Alexandria eateries are offering prix-fixe speciality menus on Thanksgiving.

For instance, at Vola’s Dockside Grill (101 N. Union Street), a three-course menu starts at $15 for kids, and $29 for adults, featuring dishes such as crab chowder and slow-cooked turkey.

Additional participating ARP restaurants include:

Photo via Sarah Lou/Flickr

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