Alexandria, VA

The waterfront will sparkle tomorrow (Saturday) as dozens of ships decked out in Christmas lights cruise along the shoreline.

This year is the 20th annual Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. Festivities are planned throughout the afternoon and early evening, from 2-8 p.m. Planned activities include a pop-up beer garden from Port City Brewing Company, a bookmark-making station from Old Town Books and holiday music from 97.1 WASH-FM.

Santa is scheduled to arrive at the party at 3:30 p.m. by fireboat, and the parade is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. The parade is expected to last sometime between 30 minutes to an hour, depending on factors like total participants and river conditions. Guests are advised to arrive early to stake out a good spot to view the parade.

Visit Alexandria suggested the following locations:

  • Founders Park — 351 N. Union Street
  • Alexandria City Marina — 0 Cameron Street
  • Waterfront Park — 1 King Street and 1A Prince Street
  • Point Lumley Park — 1 Duke Street
  • Windmill Hill Park — 501 S. Union Street
  • Shipyard/Harborside Park — 1 Wilkes Street
  • Ford’s Landing City Park — 99 Franklin Street

After leaving Alexandria, the parade will head to The Wharf in D.C. for another celebration there.

Photo via Visit Alexandria VA/Facebook

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A new bike campus is all painted and ready to go under the Alexandria side of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

The smooth pavement between the bridge pylons has long been a popular spot for bicyclists on the Mount Vernon Trail or visiting Jones Point Park, but the new signs and lanes on the ground can help new cyclists learn the rules of the road and practice in a safe environment.

At a grand opening ceremony, scheduled for Saturday (Dec. 7) at 10:30 a.m., instructors from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) will be available to help teach cyclists of all ages about rules on the street and bicycling techniques. A ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 11 a.m.

According to the Facebook page:

WABA is excited to announce the completion of the Alexandria Bike Campus at Jones Point Park! The bike campus will serve as a dedicated space for people of all ages to learn how to ride a bicycle safely, comfortably, and confidently. WABA will be celebrating the completion of the Alexandria Bike Campus with a ribbon cutting on Saturday, December 7 at 11:00 a.m. at Jones Point Park in Alexandria, VA.

We invite you to bring your family and your bicycles to the ribbon cutting and to participate in a demonstration of the bicycle campus. WABA instructors will show how the campus can be used to teach new cyclists of all ages and how even experienced cyclists can learn and practice new skills. Our instructors will be at Jones Point Park at 10:30 AM – we hope to see you then!

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Next Saturday, the Old Town trolly will run from the Metro to the Waterfront by way of the North Pole.

On Saturday, Dec. 14, Santa is scheduled to make an appearance at a King Street Trolly parked outside City Hall (301 King Street). The trolly is a free, year-round shuttle along King Street operated by the DASH bus service.

The event is scheduled to run from 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

“Join us to celebrate the magic of the holiday season and enjoy a morning of free photos with Santa Claus aboard the King Street Trolley,” DASH said in a Facebook post.

Santa’s Trolly is an annual event, and past participants have also received DASH-related goodies like a coloring book.

Photo via DASH/Facebook

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Get the kilts and bagpipes ready, this weekend is the Scottish Christmas Walk.

Scotland-themed events are scheduled throughout the weekend, kicking off with Taste of Scotland, an annual Scotch tasting on Friday, Nov. 6 from 6:30-10:30 p.m. at The Atrium (277 S. Washington Street). The event also includes Scottish beer, wine and food. Individual tickets are sold out, but sponsorship tickets are still available.

Also on Friday, the Campagna Center (418 S. Washington Street) is selling wreaths, garlands and fresh heather bundles to provide holiday decor from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

The parade itself is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7. The parade is scheduled to include representatives of Scottish clans matching with bagpipes, drums, dancers, reenactors and Scottie dogs. Local dignitaries, Santa and a selection of classic cars are also planned to join in the parade.

The parade begins at St. Asaph and Wolfe streets and ends at Market Square with a concert. The parade is scheduled to take place rain or shine.

Some of Old Town’s historic homes will also be open to tours during and after the parade on Saturday, with guides available to share historical information about the houses.

Photo via Scottish Christmas Walk/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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Old Town Books, a book shop near the waterfront at 104 S. Union Street, is celebrating one year in business this weekend.

On Saturday, Nov. 23, the book store is celebrating its one year anniversary with a variety of events throughout the day. The event will feature cake, free storytime at noon, with sing-alongs and special happenings throughout the day.

The book shop started as a pop-up shop last November in the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership’s pop-up program, according to Alexandria Living Magazine. The store found its new, permanent home in May.

Every purchase on Saturday will come with a free bookmark and sticker, according to the website.

The bookstore has an active book club and running lists of current favorites by employees.

Photo via Old Town Books/Facebook

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The City is planning to host a meeting to gather feedback on its plans to revitalize the Fort Ward Museum and Park.

The Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities is scheduled to hold a community meeting about Fort Ward Park on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. in near St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes Middle School (4401 W. Braddock Road).

The meeting will discuss provide an opportunity to learn about capital projects coming in 2020 related to park improvements, according to the city website.

Fort Ward, built to defend Washington D.C. during the Civil War and later home to an African American community, is slated to receive a series of upgrades to make the site a more accessible and attractive tourist destination in Alexandria.

The plan is to update the existing museum at the site with a new film and exhibits that show the fort’s history and its evolution from military structure to a community hub.

Plaques across the site will include information from trenchworks and artillery placement to a recognition of the Fort Ward community that still lives in the surrounding area (some of whom are struggling with Alexandria City Public Schools over a plan to add lights to the T.C. Williams football field).

Upgrades for the park at 4301 W. Braddock Road include:

  • Museum enhancements: An updated site-wide film and overview exhibit
  • Orientation station: A map that will include a scale, tactile model of the site
  • Orientation station duplicate: Similar to the one above, located at the opposite side of the site
  • Historic home footprint: A metal frame outline of the footprint of an original home built at the site
  • Community gateway: A marker signifying the start of a trail with information about the African American community that lived at Fort Ward
  • Commemorative space: A small space with seating and some informational panels that encourage visitors to reflect on the site’s history
  • Interpretive wayside panels: Updated panels to include more information about the site’s history
  • Site markers: Low-profile markers that indicate historic features that are no longer visible at the site

“Every square foot of Fort Ward Park is used and in demand — for historic interpretation and preservation, for recreation and as native woodland and open space,” the city said in its Fort Ward plan.

Elements of the plan include healing areas of erosion and compacted soil in the park, which have contributed to stormwater problems. The open space aims for the project also include adding more greenery to the open space.

Photo 1 via Visit Alexandria

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As cold weather starts to set in, a local bar is hosting a holiday coat and blanket drive to help homeless people in the D.C. area.

Charlie’s on the Avenue (1501 Mount Vernon Avenue) — which opened last year — is now in its second year of hosting the local event, which itself is in its fourth year. The drive is scheduled to run from 5-9:30 p.m. tonight (Wednesday).

“We are asking for donations for warm coats and blankets,” the event hosts said in a Facebook post. “All sizes are welcome (strong demand for XL, and XXL). Also welcomed are socks, underwear, hand warmers, and/or toiletries. Please make sure donations are clean and in decent condition.”

Items can also be purchased for the drive through an Amazon wish list.

The event organizers said they will also need volunteers to help hand out the donations sometime in December at Franklin Square Park (950 13th Street N.W.).

“For those of you that want to handout/volunteer on the day we distribute the donations to the homeless at Franklin Square in Washington D.C. (Date to be announced) — we will need some help so please private message me or any of the co-hosts,” the organizers said. “We especially need a few big men with authoritative voices to help with crowd control.”

The bar will also have happy hour specials during the coat drive.

Photo via Facebook

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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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The summer waterpark season at Cameron Run Regional Park (4001 Eisenhower Avenue) is over, but winter festivities are scheduled to kick off tomorrow (Friday) for the new Ice & Lights Winter Village.

The centerpiece of the park is a 55-by-80-foot ice rink, but there are activities throughout the park, like a lighted tunnel, heated igloos, and fire pits.

Food will also be available at the park, with guests invited to grab a slice of pizza or roast a marshmallow over a fire.

The park is open nightly from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. from Friday, Nov. 15, through Jan. 5. From Jan. 6 through Feb. 29, only the ice rink will be open.

Admission to the park is $5, with an extra $8 for the ice rink and $4 for skate rentals. Free admission is available through Thursday, Nov. 21 with the purchase of skating and rentals if guests use the promo code GRANDOPENING when they purchase tickets online.

Map via NOVA Parks

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