The Roaring ’20s are back! Say goodbye to 2019 and welcome in 2020 with themed New Year’s Eve parties that would make Jay Gatsby envious.
Roaring ’20s NYE Wine Dinner Before you head out to party with your friends, enjoy a wine dinner at Lansdowne Resort and Spa, plus music by the Gatsby Gang Jazz Band. The dinner menu includes five courses paired with wine from local vineyards. // Lansdowne Resort and Spa: 44050 Woodridge Parkway, Leesburg; 6-9 p.m.; $177
Roaring ’20s New Year’s Eve Party Celebrate 2020 with decadence at City Tap Loudoun. Tickets include drinks at the bar, live music by a DJ, a buffet feast, a raw bar and a midnight Champagne toast. Plus, be sure to don your best Gilded Age black-tie outfit. // City Tap Loudoun: 20376 Exchange St., Ashburn; $150
Roaring 2020s New Year’s Eve at Village Brauhaus Dress to impress with your best 1920s attire and enjoy live music and an open bar at Village Brauhaus’ New Year’s Eve event. There will also be Haus appetizers served throughout the evening. // Village Brauhaus: 710 King St., Alexandria; 9 p.m.; $30-$100
Roaring ’20s New Year’s Eve at Blackfinn Merrifield Dress spiffy and try out your best Gatsby impression at Blackfinn Ameripub. There’ll be 1920s-inspired cocktails and party favors, a midnight Champagne toast, music, a photo station and more. // Blackfinn Ameripub – Merrifield: 2750 Gallows Road, Vienna; 9 p.m.-2 a.m.; $15-$200
Gatsby’s DC Fireworks New Year’s Eve Yacht Party 2020 9 p.m.-1 a.m. All aboard the Mount Vernon Spirit Yacht! Enjoy a Gatsby-themed New Year’s Eve party from the water. The yacht features four decks and the party will host two DJs, as well as an open bar and complimentary dinner buffet. When the clock strikes midnight, you’ll enjoy front-row seats to the fireworks show from First Night Alexandria. // Mount Vernon Yacht – Commerical Pier: 137 National Plaza, National Harbor, Maryland; 9 p.m.-1 a.m.; $199-$949
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New Year’s Eve in Northern Virginia can range from a day full of partying until 1 a.m. to Noon Year’s Eve celebrations with your littlest family members.
No matter what you’re looking for, there’s most likely something that will interest you and help you pass the last few hours of 2019 away. But if you’re looking for sober events to ring in 2020, those can be harder to find. Don’t fret: Here, find three New Year’s Eve events that are alcohol-free, family-friendly and filled with fun.
First Night Alexandria In its 25th year, First Night Alexandria is a citywide celebration in Alexandria that helps Northern Virginia residents ring in the New Year in a variety of ways. Through a night of activities, the event does not serve alcohol (although local bars do) and has a schedule filled with live performances, kid-friendly fun and more. 2019 musical performances include Anderson Cupid + Steel Fusion, Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun, Broad Street Brass, Cletus Kennelly, Curtis Blues, Janine Wilson Band, Ruthie and the Wranglers and the Earth, Wind and Fire Tribute Band (and more!). Catch the comedy pop-up show, walk around the city to the multiple kids’ zones and catch the late-night fireworks show in honor of 2020. // Multiple locations; Tuesday, Dec. 31, 6-9 p.m.; Rockin’ on the River party, $30 before Dec. 31 and $35 on Dec. 31; Kids Karnvial tickets $5 for children ages 2 to 12, and free for parents and infants
Watch Night New Year’s Eve Free, fun and family-friendly (with no alcohol!) is Watch Night New Year’s Eve, celebrating its 22nd year of ringing in the new year in downtown Falls Church. The event was named after the African tradition of “watching” the New Year, and celebrates the history of the city in meaningful ways while making the festivities accessible to everyone. The event includes the “drop” of the historic star (which has been lowered from a crane at midnight since 2007), the city’s first holiday decoration from 1948. It also features kid-friendly activities with magicians, storytellers, face painting and bounce houses, and older activities with karaoke and Dance Dance Revolution. Live bands and DJs will also perform throughout the night. Guests can enjoy fire pits, free popcorn, hot chocolate and soup, or enjoy a meal at a local restaurant and join in on the activities when they’re ready. There’s so much to enjoy, adding alcohol into the mix isn’t even thought of. // 100 Block of West Broad Street; Tuesday, Dec. 31, 7 p.m. to midnight; free
Multiple Kid-Friendly Events Across the Region Aside from the two large events in the region that are exclusively alcohol-free, there are a variety of Noon Year’s Eve events and family-friendly events across the region that are serving up all-day fun without the booze. If you have kids, reference our cohesive list of 25 family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebrations and find the best one in the region that suits you and your and your family, from Arlington to Prince William County.
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There’s a classic moment in The Santa Clause (1994) where Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) burns the turkey that his son, Charlie (Eric Lloyd), and he were meant to share.
The movie never really acknowledges how the father, now single and hosting his only son for the holiday, is able to create an impressive Thanksgiving-style spread for the two of them in such a short period of time, but after the turkey is burned, they end up at an American fail-safe: Denny’s. Yes, the diner.
Rather than burning your own turkey this year, head to these local spots for a holiday meal worth leaving the house for.
Christmas Eve at 2941 Restaurant There’s a good chance you weren’t planning on making a three-course prix fixe menu for your family and friends this year. Instead, let the crew at 2941 handle it. The menu features delectable items such as black truffle falafel, Japanese madai tartare, warm Maine lobster and more … and those are just the starters. For entrees, indulge in truffle-roasted Amish chicken, Creekstone Farms filet mignon or winter petits farçis, with mushroom-stuffed Cipollini onion, patty pan squash, Swiss chard, truffled potato and spinach. For dessert, you won’t find miscellaneous Christmas cookies on a plate. Grab a bûche de noël (gingerbread spice cake with apple compote and maple chantilly), eggnog créme brûlée (with bourbon ice cream and maple cookies) or a chocolate bauble (moist chocolate cake served with dark chocolate mousse and a créme anglaise). // 2941 Restaurant: 2941 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church; noon-9 p.m.; $95 per person
Christmas Eve at Bastille Brasserie & Bar How could one not be in the mood for a four-course prix fixe menu on a holiday, especially if it’s prepared just for you? Make your reservations now at Bastille Brasserie & Bar to get all the foods: Maine lobster bisque and smoked salmon and caviar toasts to start, followed by salads and entrees meant to make your mouth water. The salad of roasted mushrooms, arugula, celeriac, carrots, apples, whipped goat cheese, hazelnuts and sherry vinaigrette could be a fresh start, or the endive and frisee salad with Asian pears, walnuts and Roquefort dressing. Larger plates will include grass-fed beef filet with cabernet truffle sauce and Brussels sprouts, organic Amish guinea hen roasted with chestnuts and foie gras stuffing, as well as riesling-poached Maine lobster with smoked trout, bay scallops, mussels, braised cabbage and more. To end the night on a sweet note, the gluten-free buche de noël à la pistache will feature pistachios, white chocolate orange marmalade and amarena cherries, and the crème caramel will feature vanilla- and cardamom-scented custard, espresso ice cream, candied orange and white chocolate. So much to choose from that everyone is sure to leave even happier for a memory-filled Christmas Day. // Bastille Brasserie & Bar: 606 N. Fayette St., Alexandria; 5-10 p.m.; $79 per person
Christmas Eve Dinner at Brabo Letting your family enjoy a three-course meal in honor of the holiday is easy at Brabo, where there’s something dressed up and festive for everyone to enjoy. To start, grab a plate of the chestnut veloute with lobster, croutons, whipped cream and armagnac, or the pan-seared day boat scallops, with sweet gem lettuce, sun dried tomatoes, crispy bacon and a mustard reduction. Main courses include a braised duck leg with fingerling potatoes and grilled broccolini, a baked barramundi with cauliflower, beets, gremolata, brown butter and lemon, or the grilled New York strip steak with potato mousseline, mushroom fricassee and black truffle sauce. To end the meal? A buche de noël (vanilla cake and raspberry cream), Gianduja chocolate tart and a pistachio panna cotta. Cheers to a great holiday meal (and no kitchen sink full of dishes). // Brabo: 1600 King St., Alexandria; 5:30-9:30 p.m.; $65 per person
Christmas Eve at Gadsby’s Tavern A simple holiday meal that’s made well is the way to go, especially when celebrating Christmas. If you’re looking for a solid meal with a few choices and a great atmosphere, book your seat at Gadsby’s Tavern. Appetizers start with Smithfield ham biscuits and Surrey Co. peanut soup, as well as the Tavern salad. Entrees range from prime rib, “George Washington’s Favorite Duck” (served with citrus cherry glaze with scalloped potatoes and corn pudding), herb-crusted rockfish filet and Vegetable Napoleon (flame-roasted seasonal vegetables with brie, topped with roasted red pepper puree and jasmine rice). Desserts include New York cheesecake, English trifle and mixed berries served with whipped cream. Simplicity with elegance, just the way tradition has it. // Gadsby’s Tavern: 134 N. Royal St., Alexandria; 5-8 p.m.; $55 per person, half-price for children 12 and under
Christmas Eve at Tuscarora Mill We love a good excuse to head to one of the 50 best restaurants in Northern Virginia, and Tuscarora Mill is no exception. Start the Christmas Eve off with “The Fruitcake,” a holiday-exclusive cocktail with vodka infused with cranberry, orange, ginger and pear, served with orange bitters and soda. For starters, get a bowl of the smoked mushroom bisque and truffle mousse, or a plate of the truffle mousse pate as the star served with toasted ciabatta. Entrees include pan-seared halibut, organic chicken with smoked Gouda polenta, slow-roasted angus prime rib, a rack of lamb or pork chops served with wild mushrooms, marsala, smoked cheddar and more. Desserts to finish the evening are yet to be determined, but with a filling meal on the night before Christmas, everyone might be caroling the whole way home. // Tuscarora Mill: 203 Harrison St., Leesburg; 3-10 p.m.; $50-$85 per person
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Residents who receive city trash service must place their trees on the curb (no alleys) by Saturday, Jan. 11 or Saturday, Jan. 18 at 7 a.m., to be picked up for recycling purposes in the City of Alexandria. Trees picked up during this period will be turned into next spring’s mulch, where residents can come on a first-come, first-served basis to collect free mulch for their yards or property. Mulch delivery is available for an additional fee. Trees set on the curb after Jan. 18 will be collected as regular refuse. Make sure to remove all ornaments, tinsel and tree stands, and do not place the tree in any sort of plastic bag (which can contaminate the mulch).
Residents don’t even have to leave their homes to recycle their discarded Christmas trees in Arlington, since the county is offering free pickup on Monday through Friday trash days, from Monday, Dec. 30 to Friday, Jan. 10. Be sure to place your trees at the curb where your trash cans are located by 6 a.m., with all decorations, nails, stands and plastic bags removed. Want to keep your tree longer than Jan. 10? Christmas trees are also a part of the year-round yard waste collection, which means they’ll be turned into mulch after being picked up with other leaves, yard waste and more. Trees over 8 feet long must be dismantled for this service.
If you’re an Arlington resident without curbside pickup (living in a townhouse, apartment or condominium), you can bring your tree to the Solid Waste Bureau’s Earth Products Yard in Shirlington. You can make an appointment to ensure safe drop off Monday through Friday, and you must show proof of Arlington residence. // Solid Waste Bureau’s Earth Products Yard: 4300 29th St. S., Arlington
Due to the holidays being in the middle of the week this year (Christmas is on Wednesday, as well as New Year’s Day), trash service in Falls Church will be suspended on both days and delayed to Saturday, Dec. 28 and Saturday, Jan. 4. Christmas trees will be collected free of charge on Wednesdays in January and February, but placing your trees at the curb in the first two weeks of January will ensure it is collected promptly and disposed of.
Make sure to remove all plastic bags, ropes and decorations, including tinsel. Residents who live in apartments, townhouses or condominiums may recycle trees by taking them to the brush collection area at the Fairfax County Citizens Disposal and Recycling Facility. // Fairfax County Citizens Disposal and Recycling Facility: 4618 West Ox Road, Fairfax
Fairfax residents with curbside pickup can place their trees on the curb (where your trash cans would be located) during the first two weeks in January. After that, you must schedule a brush pickup to have your Christmas tree removed and disposed of.
To recycle your Christmas tree in Fairfax, residents can drop off their trees at the I-66 Transfer Station or the I-95 Landfill Complex. There is a $1 fee to recycle your tree. All ornaments, decorations (including tinsel) and stands must be removed prior. // I-66 Transfer Station: 4618 W. Ox Road, Fairfax; I-95 Landfill Complex: 9850 Furnace Road, Lorton
For curbside Christmas tree recycling in Loudoun County, residents should contact their homeowners association, town office or private water collection service for more information on what the guidelines are for this year.
If residents would like to take recycling matters into their own hands, Christmas trees can be recycled into mulch (available to Loudoun County residents for free) in Leesburg, Lovettsville, Purcellville, Sterling and South Riding. All Christmas trees should have decorations removed prior to disposal or recycling. These services are for Loudoun County residents only. // Loudoun County Landfill Recycling Dropoff Center: 21101 Evergreen Mills Road, Leesburg; Game Protective Association: 16 S. Berlin Pike, Lovettsville; Franklin Park: 17501 Franklin Park Drive, Purcellville; Claude Moore Park: 46150 Loudoun Park Lane, Sterling; Town Hall: 43066 Center St., South Riding
After removing all decorations from your family’s Christmas tree, there are several drop-off locations for it in Prince William County (curbside pickup is not available). Visit the Prince William County Landfill, the Balls Ford Road Compost Facility, Leesylvania State Park or Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative. Times vary at each location, and the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative will offer mulch to residents free of charge with delivery. // Prince William County Landfill: 14811 Dumfries Road, Manassas; Balls Ford Road Yard Waste Compost Facility: 13000 Balls Ford Road, Manassas; Leesylvania State Park: 2001 Daniel K Ludwig Drive, Woodbridge; Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative: 10323 Lomond Drive, Manassas
Finding the right outfit for a wedding is challenging in and of itself, as no guest wants to be uncomfortable throughout the night, outshine the bride or even stand out for being too underdressed. When you add a cool breeze and chilly temperatures to the mix, curating the perfect ensemble becomes even more complicated.
This winter, don’t let the cold air stop you from enjoying a special moment with friends and family. Whether you’re the bride, in the wedding party or a guest watching from the aisles, this expert advice from NoVA-based Lauren Rothman of Styleauteur and Lani Inlander of Real Life Style will have you looking and feeling your best at this year’s celebrations of love.
For the Bride
If you do choose to plan a wedding at a time of year when the weather might not agree with you, it’s best to add a winter element that ties the entire event—and your outfit—together.
“What I tell most of my brides who choose to get married when it’s cold is that you really want to have fun with winter-themed accessories both with the look and the actual event itself,” says Rothman. “Maybe you choose to arrive in a horse and buggy, then add a big fur wrap to wear during that entrance.”
Planning in advance for all aspects of the ceremony are key and, according to Inlander, there are many questions brides should ask themselves prior to the day of the event to ensure their outfit is entirely bulletproof for what’s to come.
“Will they be coming in or going out of the venue in front of their guests? Will it be cold enough to need a coat or cape match their dress, even inside?”
While adding a shrug, classic pashmina or elegant light jacket can add a nice touch to the gown, Rothman recommends removable sleeves as the better addition.
“Nine times out of 10, you’re adrenaline will be pumping and you won’t need a coat,” Rothman explains. “Depending on your reception or event venue, if you really feel like at the beginning that you are dressing for the colder weather, you might want to consider a dress with sleeves or one that allows for removable sleeves. For the party, you can remove it and go strapless or even have a second, similar dress on-hand.”
For the Guests
Invest in a Long-Sleeved Dress “A key asset is a long-sleeved cocktail dress,” says Inlander. “Yes, long-sleeved dresses have been having a moment for the last few years, but I’ve made sure to always have at least one in my closet for a decade.”
Rothman adds that if you are going to don a long-sleeved dress rather than a strappy or strapless formal gown, make sure the sleeves are fitted, creating a more modern look.
The Shoes Make a Difference When it comes to appropriate footwear for a wedding, it’s important that you are as comfortable as you are stylish, while also remembering that the weather will have an effect on your outfit choice.
“The No. 1 faux pas I see at winter weddings is open-toe shoes. Here in Northern Virginia, winter is winter,” says Rothman. “Guests often say because it’s a dressy event, they want to wear open-toe sandals or strappy heels—that is not the answer. You can be chic in the winter with a closed-toe heel.”
Plus, if you want to add an extra detail to a neutral-colored gown, Rothman suggests wearing a metallic heel, whether in silver, bronze or gold.
When the special event is nearing, be sure to consider the grounds of the space and whether or not extreme weather conditions will have an effect, ultimately changing your choice of shoe. “If it will be wet and slushy outside, you don’t want to wear your good satin shoes outside,” says Inlander. “Have a cute pair of rain flats (my favorites are from Oka B!) to wear to and from the event, and leave them in the coat check while you wear your pretty evening shoes.”
Add Texture With a Second Layer and Accessories “One should have an assortment of evening jackets, capes and shrugs—whether satin, leather, cashmere, fur or faux—to keep them warm,” says Inlander. “I never send a client off to an event without an option for a topper … these can become the star of the show, if you play it right. Keep your eye out for special, versatile pieces you can wear for years.”
According to Rothman, fleece is really in right now and one can incorporate it into an evening look with a delicate, teddy-bear-style jacket.
In addition to a topper of some sort, Rothman suggests playing with accessories, ranging from jewelry to shoes.
“Shoes should be treated as the exclamation point for the outfit, and then when you add a nice, elegant envelope clutch to it, it all ties together,” says Rothman. “We are also seeing a lot of hair pieces these days, whether it’s a dressy headband or embellished bobby pins, so that’s something to consider.”
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The holiday season is here to stay, and the list of events to attend and celebrate continues to grow.
If you’re looking for ways to learn about or honor Kwanzaa this year, you can find workshops, performances and more around the DMV. Here are five worth visiting this year.
For more things to do in Northern Virginia and the nation’s capital, subscribe to our weekly newsletters, and for more holiday stories, head to our Holiday Headquarters page.
Kwanzaa Workshop Saturday, Dec. 14, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Want to learn more about the history, principles, symbols and activities related to Kwanzaa? Attend the kid- and adult-friendly workshop at the Alexandria Black History Museum. Not only will the workshop help community members expand their knowledge and celebrate, it will also offer everyone the chance to get ideas on how to celebrate with their own family and friends. // Alexandria Black History Museum: 902 Wythe St., Alexandria; $5 per person
Kwanzaa Celebration Saturday, Dec 14., 7-10 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 15, 3-6 p.m. Dance Place knows how to put on an incredible show, and its annual Kwanzaa Celebration is no exception. Under the direction of Sylvia Soumah, community members are encouraged to gather family and friends to watch dancers and performers from Coyaba Academy, Coyaba Dance Theater and special guests. // Dance Place: 3225 Eighth St. NE, Washington, DC; $15-$30
Kwanzaa 101 Tuesday, Dec. 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m. The National United Front is here to help when it comes to knowing about and celebrating Kwanzaa in 2019. Whether you still have questions about how it came to be or how to participate in celebrating, the organization is here to help. At the Tuesday, Dec. 17 workshop, attendees will learn about the values and symbols of Kwanzaa. The organization will then host a community service project on Saturday, Dec. 21 to celebrate the holiday, and on Monday, Dec. 23, host another workshop on the activities of Kwanzaa. // Frank D. Reeves Center of Municipal Affairs: 2000 14th St. NW, Washington, DC; free
ACM Kwanzaa Celebration Friday, Dec. 27, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Bring the entire family to the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Kwanzaa celebration. Energetic and interactive performances will be held with Melvin Deal and the African Heritage Dancers & Drummers, as well as kid-friendly entertainment throughout. The audience is encouraged to participate with the dancers, singers, live music, colorful costumes and lively characters, followed by fun art workshops for even the youngest attendees. It’s the best time of the year! // THEARC: Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus: 1901 Mississippi Ave., Washington, DC; free
Kwanzaa in Tsiazza Saturday, Dec. 28, 7-11 p.m. A celebration of family, culture and art, Kwanzaa in Tsiazza is an event dedicated to the education and exploration of the seven principles of the holiday. The event is set to include food, fashion, art and music from local vendors, and the primary goal is to encourage unity and family interaction, while sharing the experience of Kwanzaa in 2019. // JW Marriott Washington DC: 1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC; $97 and up
Somehow December is almost halfway over, which means the holiday spirit is in full force around NoVA, and Hanukkah is right around the corner. Ring in the Festival of Lights at one of these regional Hanukkah celebrations.
TBS Chanukah Party Sunday, Dec. 15, 5-6:30 p.m.
Start your Hanukkah celebration at Temple B’nai Shalom. Watch the menorah be lit as you sing holiday songs, munch on delicious latkes, participate in special games and let the kids create cute marshmallow dreidels and latke flippers. Registration is required. // Temple B’nai Shalom: 7612 Old Ox Road, Fairfax Station; free
Celebrate Chanukah Sunday, Dec. 15, 7-9 p.m. Get in the holiday spirit with a beautiful performance by Zemer Chai. Guests will be serenaded by the Jewish Chorale of the Nation’s Capital with an awe-inspiring holiday concert full of Jewish music. // Congregation Adat Reyim: 6500 Westbury Oaks Court, Springfield; $25-$36
For more fun events in NoVA, subscribe to our weekly newsletters. Want more holiday fun? Check out our Holiday Headquarters for events, decorating tips and much more.
Pre-Chanukah Celebration – When Harry Met Sally: The Jewish Deli in Pop Culture Thursday, Dec. 19, 1-3:30 p.m. Join author Ted Merwin as he discusses his most recent book Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli. Learn about how the Jewish deli became a staple in 20th-century pop culture from the comedian John Belushi’s “Samurai Deli” skit to the hit movie When Harry Met Sally. A boxed lunch will be provided to those who register by Monday, Dec. 16. // Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia: 8900 Little River Turnpike, Fairfax; $28
National Menorah Lighting Sunday, Dec. 22, 4 p.m. Take a trip to the nation’s capital for the lighting of the National Menorah. Enjoy a night of celebration with the family as you stay warm with hot latkes and doughnuts while “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band and the Three Cantors fill The Ellipse with music. // The Ellipse: Constitution Avenue between 15th Street NW and 17th Street NW, Washington, DC; free
Chanukah at the Gateway Sunday, Dec. 22, 5:30-7 p.m.
Celebrate the first night of Hanukkah at the seventh annual Chanukah at the Gateway party. Join local dignitaries and government officials for the grand menorah lighting. Stop by the Maccabee Fun Space, where guests can enjoy crafts, raffles, delicious food and much more. // Virginia Gateway: Atlas Walk Way, Gainesville; free
Chanukah on Ice! Sunday, Dec. 22, 6-8:30 p.m. Join the Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington for a memorable holiday jubilee. Enjoy a night of ice skating at the outdoor rink as the giant 6-foot menorah lights up Arlington. // Pentagon Row: 1201 S. Joyce St., Arlington; $10-$13
Drinks and Dreidels 2019 Monday, Dec. 23, 6:30-9 p.m. Calling all young Jewish professionals! Ring in the holiday season with a fun adult-only Hanukkah Party. Guests will be able to enjoy an open bar, delicious hors d’oeuvres and a dreidel competition. // Spider Kelly’s: 3181 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; $10-$25
Clarendon Menorah Lighting and Community Celebration Wednesday, Dec. 25, 6 p.m. Head over to Clarendon Central Park for the annual menorah lighting ceremony. Bundle up and brave the elements as you watch the city light up the 6-foot menorah. Other festivities include live Hanukkah music, chocolate gelt and dreidels and free raffles. // Clarendon Central Park: 3140 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; free
Chanukah Festival Thursday, Dec. 26, 6:30 p.m. Join the Alexandria community as The Grand Chanukah Menorah Lighting in Old Town. Spend the night with family and friends as you sing and dance to classic Hanukkah tunes and snack on delicious potato latkes and chocolate gelt and dreidels. // The Lyceum: 201 S. Washington St., Alexandria; free
Chanukah Brisket & Latke Dinner Friday, Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m. Accompany the members of Temple Rodef Shalom for a delectable holiday dinner. The menu for the night features brisket, latkes and other delicious sides and desserts. Participants must register by Sunday, Dec. 22. // Temple Rodef Shalom: 2100 Westmoreland St., Falls Church; $8-$30
Light Up the Night! Community Menorah Lighting at Mosaic Sunday, Dec. 29, 4:30-6 p.m. As Hanukkah starts to come to an end, light up the Mosaic District at its community menorah lighting. Guest can join in singing songs, feasting on tasty doughnuts and playing dreidel. // Mosaic District: 2901 District Ave., Fairfax; free
With Amazon adding to the region’s arguably already robust tech sector, and local leaders focused on diversifying the professional landscape, the economic forecast for Northern Virginia looks promising for those on the search for an even better salary.
Northern Virginia. It’s been one of the best places to live and work, with some of the highest average salaries, some of the most sought-after real estate and some of the best amenities available in any area of the country for at least the last 10 years.
Wow. That statement may read like typical economic development marketing bluster. But in this region, facts consistently bear out the reality behind the hype.
In fact, Northern Virginia has not just done well in the past few years, but is just entering a new era of serious boom times (hello, Amazon). According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey, Loudoun County ranks No. 1 by median household income in the entire nation. Yes, the outside-the-Beltway county outpaces the San Francisco-adjacent suburban communities and the suburban enclaves where New York City commuters typically live, in terms of salary. Loudoun’s median household income is just under $140,000, while Arlington and Fairfax ($122,394 and $122,227, respectively) are also in the mix with California and New York/New Jersey bedroom communities. For comparison’s sake, the median household income for the entire state of Virginia, according to recent Census data, is $72,577.
But hold on—there are caveats.
“We are about 18.4% more expensive in terms of cost of living than the national average,” says Jeannette Chapman, deputy director and senior research associate for the Stephen S. Fuller Institute, an economic think tank based at George Mason University. “If you look at where we rank in terms of other large employment metros, we are third behind San Francisco and New York,” she says. “So what that means is that the top-line average wage or household income doesn’t purchase as much here as other areas in general.”
In short, salaries in Northern Virginia are relatively high, but so is the cost of living.
Despite the impressive NoVA numbers, local economic development leaders have made it their mission to see those salaries climb even higher.
With 2018’s announcement that Amazon had picked Crystal City as its second headquarters, it’s fair to say things are heading in the right direction.
Landrum and her team were instrumental in the dealmaking process with Amazon’s HQ2, which will take up 6 million square feet for its new campus that stretches between Alexandria and Arlington.
That huge development will positively affect many workers and businesses in Alexandria, with a lesser but similar ripple effect to be felt across the entire Northern Virginia region.
One thing representatives from AEDP discussed with Amazon was the pay. “They ended up coming up with an average wage of $150,000,” Landrum says. “That is significantly higher than Alexandria’s prevailing wage, which is about $72,000. This single employer is going to bring at least 25,000 employment opportunities literally right here to our doorstep,” she says. She notes that also translates to another 25,000 indirect employment opportunities.
An economic impact report from the Fuller Institute showed that approximately 15% of new Amazon workers (7,265 to 8,218) would choose to reside in Arlington, with 69% of these workers (34,578 to 34,727) residing somewhere in Virginia.
The remainder would largely reside in Maryland and DC. These new households—ranging from 7,100 to 8,000 in Arlington County and approximately 34,300 in Virginia overall—are expected to generate a total household income ranging from $7.9 to $9.5 billion.
According to Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, the ripple effect from Amazon will change salary levels across the area. For professional services, salaries in the DC area average $121,000. Professional services wages in Fairfax County pay $125,000 on average. “That Amazon average wage will probably lean those wages forward,” Hoskins says.
The “Amazon factor” will certainly have its impact on the region, but Northern Virginia has already been adding between 20,000 and 30,000 jobs each year going back to 2015, Chapman says.
He says Loudoun County has had a unique economic success story in the last decade. “It’s been big on investment but also big on jobs,” Rizer says. “Traditionally, our economy has not been the big one-shot job creation. We had a few of those, like Raytheon and others. But what we have seen is a ton of organic job creation, averaging more than 3,000 new jobs a year.”
Loudoun County has diversified its economy over the last few years and is now less dependent on government work as it becomes more of a tech-based economy, Rizer says. For example, the county has become the world’s largest location for data centers, with 14.5 million square feet of data centers in the county now and 13,000 jobs in or around the data center industry. “This year we will make more than $300 million in local tax revenue from the data centers,” Rizer says. “And we have reduced taxes by 25-and-a-half cents” over the last six years.
That’s all good news for the Northern Virginia economy to be sure. The growth charts are all going in the right direction, but chatter about a potential recession has some nervous.
However, Chapman says there are recent examples to provide predictors of how a recession could play out locally.
“There was a minor recession regarding sequestration because of federal policy changes,” she says about the 2013 automatic government spending cuts. “And government shutdowns disrupt things across the board, like retail workers and Uber drivers. So I would say that we are recession-resistant, but not recession-proof.”
Chapman says that what could jeopardize this area’s super-charged economic growth is the failure of the private sector to grow and pivot away from the federal government. “We were able to grow in the past 50 years because of the federal government,” she says. “But forecasts show that is going to flatten out, and so that source of growth is gone. It needs to come from somewhere else, and that is the role that Amazon plays. Not the number of jobs, but getting that sort of work here that tends to cluster around each other.”
This post originally appeared in our December 2019 issue as part of the “State of the Salary” cover story. For more cultural reads, subscribe to our newsletters.
Richest Counties in the United States, by Median Household Income
According to the most recent American Community Survey, from the U.S. Census, released in September 2019, three of the richest counties in the nation are in Northern Virginia.
Loudoun County, Virginia – $139,915
Santa Clara County, California – $126,606
Marin County, California – $126,373
San Mateo County, California – $124,425 Arlington County, Virginia – $122,394 Fairfax County, Virginia – $122,227
Somerset County, New Jersey – $121,378
Douglas County, Colorado – $119,615
Howard County, Maryland – $116,984
Nassau County, New York – $116,304
Median Home Sales Prices
Arlington County: $637,300
Fairfax County: $508,200
Loudoun County: $489,900
Prince William County: $371,300
Average Credit Card Debt in the DC Metro region: $7,687
Median Student Loan Debt in the DC region: $22,803
With one in two people over age 25 in the region with a post-grad degree, the number of people with student loan debt runs high. In fact, the DC region ranks No. 1 for student debt holders who owe more than $100,000.
Median debt for millennials in the DC region (can include student loans, car loans, credit card debt): $25,810
Child Care Costs
Average cost of child care in Virginia, for one child: $13,728 per year
Average cost of child care, for two children: $24,929 per year
(That’s 42.5% more than the average rent in Virginia.)
Average cost of public college in Virginia: $12,820 per year
Median Income in the DC region: $102,180
The budget you need to live comfortably in the DC region, according to Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator:
For a two-parent household with two children
Child Care: $3,279
Health Care: $950
Other Necessities: $982
Monthly Total: $8,795
Annual Total: $105,539
For a two-parent household with one child
Child Care: $1,021
Health Care: $764
Other Necessities: $957
Monthly Total: $7, 374
Annual Total: $88,484
For a one-parent household with one child
Child Care: $1,021
Health Care: $463
Other Necessities: $860
Monthly Total: $6,505
Annual Total: $78,059
For a two-adult household
Child Care: $0
Health Care: $603
Other Necessities: $814
Monthly Total: $5,232
Annual Total: $62,787
Sources: Median home sales prices via Zillow; Debt stats via ValuePenguin and LendingTree; Stats of child care costs via Child Care Aware of America and Economic Policy Institute
The median salary in Northern Virginia is well above $100,000. But just because you’re pulling in six figures in this region, doesn’t necessarily make you rich. We asked three local families to open up their monthly budgets and give us all the nitty-gritty details.
The most common themes? Student loans and child care costs can dramatically impact your bottom line. From a family struggling to pay off six-figure student loans to one who just established financial peace thanks to a well-known money guru, here’s what it looks like to manage a budget for typical NoVA families.
Total Annual Salary (Combined): $257.800 Salary (Husband): $129,500 Salary (Wife): $128,300 Total Monthly take-home pay after taxes: $11,256
A family of three living in Fairfax County. Both husband, 36, and wife, 38, are attorneys working for the federal government. They have one toddler-aged child.
For this Fairfax family of dual-income lawyers, one might assume they’re financially comfortable, but hefty student loans, child care and a medical diagnosis that equals a high monthly grocery bill mean they’re careful with every dollar.
“Crushing is the right word [for our student loans],” says the woman of the house. “We basically live paycheck to paycheck, and that’s hard.”
The couple keeps a careful budget and checks in with each other before making any unplanned purchases, she says. “I don’t like talking about it. It’s assumed that we’re attorneys and we can handle our sh*t … it’s extremely embarrassing. It takes away from your self-worth. I worked so hard to get where I am. I was the first person in my family to go to college, but I barely make it every month. It’s so difficult to reconcile those two feelings.”
Monthly Major Expenses
Credit Card Payments: $1,650
“We pay this off in full at the end of the month.”
Child Care: $1,250
“I want another baby, but we can’t afford [a second] day care right now. It’s absolutely not in our budget. But I’m 40. It’s a daily emotional struggle.”
Law School Student Loans (Wife): $1,355
Law School Student Loans (Husband): $745
“It absolutely impacts my day-to-day life. the past two weeks I can’t go out to get coffee and I can’t go out to lunch … It’s a constant conversation because we have to check in with each other [about even the small purchases].”
“I have a specific diet I have to follow because of a medical condition and that’s expensive.”
Auto: $94 Life (husband): $64 Life (wife): $59 Long-term disability (wife): $64 Long-term disability (husband): $99 Long-term care: $125
Car payment: $450 Travel: $325
“To save up for two to three annual trips.” Public transportation: $20-$25 College savings for child: $250 Gas: $40 Parking: $90 AAA: $10
Babysitter: $35 Personal care: $110
“I just started coloring my own hair [to save money].” Clothing budget: $40
“We buy everything used. We go to yard sales.” Entertainment: $60 Gym membership: $25 Charitable contributions: $30 Out-of-pocket medical expenses: $50 Synagogue dues: $289 Lawn cutting: $60 Pet expenses: $40
Monthly Budget Breakdown:
Major Monthly Expenses: 75.5%
Utility Bills: 3.96%
Total Monthly Remainder: -$124
Husband, 33, Police Officer | Wife, 33, Program Manager
Total annual salary (combined): $171,800
Salary (husband): $81,000
Salary (wife): $71,800
Total monthly take-home pay (after taxes): $10,300
A family of four living in Loudoun County. Both 33, husband is a police officer and wife is a program manager for a nonprofit association. They have two children, a toddler and one in elementary school.
For this family of four, minimal student loan payments, an age gap between their two children and reliable overtime income from the police department mean they are generally able to live within their means. That wasn’t the case six years ago though, says the woman of the house. The couple was “living paycheck to paycheck” because her husband was working a seasonal job. “He was off during the winter,” she recalls. “We could barely survive when he was working. I don’t even know how we actually got by [in winter]. We were probably making half of what we are now … we didn’t really go anywhere, no extra hobbies, always eating at home was the norm. So, for us to be able to now travel and go out more is a big difference for us.”
Despite the increase in salary, she says she still doesn’t feel rich compared to other families living in Loudoun County. “It’s funny. It really is going to depend on who you surround yourself with. I never really noticed it as much until my child started public school. But interacting with parents and families, I was really getting a feeling for, ‘Oh wow, I can see why Loudoun County is known [for wealth].’ Sometimes it just feels like we’re in a whole different world when we meet new people … If we didn’t have my husband’s job, we probably wouldn’t live in Northern Virginia. It’s really expensive and there’s just a lot of stress involved with being in this area because everybody’s so strapped for time and everything is expensive.”
Major Monthly Expenses
“Our house is pretty small, but we sacrificed on the size of our house in order to get our daughter into Loudoun County schools.”
Child Care: $1,340 (Plus $810 for summer camp)
“We do have friends where they’ve had two kids within a couple years of each other. For the most part, either the mom is a stay-at-home mom or both parents make a considerable amount more than we do. Knowing that I’ve always wanted to work, we just decided it was something that would have to wait. At one point, we almost decided not to try for another one because that would allow us to save for retirement, but in the end, we decided to have a baby.”
Student Loans, Husband: $176
“Food is the bigger [struggle]. We factor in, unfortunately, a lot of money toward my husband having to get fast food. He works evenings so it’s a bit hard when it comes to trying to plan ahead. We did try and cook more and have him bring his meals to work, but if he’s not near the station he can’t heat up his food, so that was money wasted.”
Car Payment: $750
Electric: $204 Phone Bill: $130 Cable Bill: $185 Gas: $400 E-Z Pass: $210 Babysitter: $0
“We’ll have family watch the kids. Or we’ll take turns going in and out individually with friends.”
Personal Care: $40 Clothing Budget: $200 Entertainment: $800
“That’s going to be any movies, anything extra, if we go out with friends, any drinks, any type of hobbies. My husband does a lot of outdoor hobbies. I may do some crafting.” Health (Vitamins/Supplements): $20 Travel/Vacation: $300
“We usually have an annual vacation in the summer. We went to the beach this past summer. My husband likes to do outdoors trips, maybe one or two a year. We’re trying to figure out how we can do some more trips.” Savings Account: $100 Charitable Contributions: $15
Work Association Dues (Police Officer): $20 Pest Services: $23 Landscaping Services: $275 Auto Services: $190 Out-Of-Pocket Medical: $125
Monthly Budget Breakdown:
Major Monthly Expenses: 52.31%
Utility Bills: 10.96%
Monthly Fees: 6.14%
Total Monthly Remainder: $259
Husband, early 30s, Software Engineer | Wife, early 30s, Investigator
Total monthly take-home pay (after taxes): $13,021
A family of three living in Fairfax with one toddler-aged child. Wife, early 30s, is an investigator with the federal government. Husband, also in his early 30s, is a software engineer.
For this dual-income family, their $200,000 in debt from law school, car loans and credit cards weighed heavily on their budget. But, just this year, they paid off the last of their debts with a fairly aggressive payment plan using the techniques of financial guru Dave Ramsey.
“I discovered Dave Ramsey my last year of law school, which is an awful time to discover how to do a budget and not to be taking out student loan money to buy sushi and go to Forever 21,” says the woman of the house, who got her law degree but moved into a field with a more manageable work-life balance. “My mom always told me not to carry a credit card balance, but beyond that I didn’t really get any financial lessons. And I was always told that student loan debt was great debt, so instead of carrying a credit card balance I just thought, ‘I’ll carry a student loan balance and use that to live off of,’ which is absolutely asinine.”
As they paid off debt, “I kept seeing more and more money in my budget opening up. Now I have an extra $600 a month, now I have an extra $1,000. That’s crazy. It still hasn’t hit me because it’s so fresh, but we had said, ‘We have to clear this debt if we want to have a second child.’ So [when we paid it all off], I felt like I could breathe for the first time. I didn’t have to make decisions based off of circumstances. It’s that feeling of being free. I recommend it to everybody. Literally the best feeling ever.”
With significantly more room in their budget now, the couple has more to spend on fun, is working on building up their emergency savings and upping their 401(k) contributions. Plus, they’re saving money in case they decide to have a second child.
Major Monthly Expenses
“We looked in Arlington where we were living [before having a baby], but we could only afford a two-bedroom and a den. So we moved 15 minutes west. We live five minutes from the Vienna Metro in a cul-de-sac and have four bedrooms.”
Child Care: $1,300
“I don’t think beyond [day care costs] kids are that expensive. We’ve been blessed with friends who generally gift us with babysitting once a month.”
Charitable Contributions: $1,000
Student Loans: $0
Car payment: $0
Credit Cards: $0
Health: $677 Auto: $50 Life (husband): $88 Life (Wife): $65 Long-term disability (Wife): $59 Short-term disability (wife): $8
Personal Care Fund: $375
“We take the average total spending for the year and divide by 12 and roll over unspent money each month since I only do my hair three to four times a year.” Clothing Fund: $347 Entertainment (Family): $400 Entertainment (Wife): $150 Entertainment (Husband): $150 At-Home Gym Subscription: $39 Gifts Fund: $300
Biweekly Cleaning Service: $260 House Maintenance Fund: $400 Car Tax Fund: $78 Car Maintenance Fund: $125 Household Supplies: $500 Dog Food: $130 Dog Misc.: $30 Dog Walks: $109
Half the fun of a holiday gift is opening it. It’s even better if the gift is beautifully wrapped. But not every gift giver has been blessed with the talent of creating wow-worthy packages.
Thankfully, a new Alexandria-based startup is here to help. Cloaked Box—launched last year by local entrepreneurs Sarah Kooiker and Solomon Tibebu—offers everything you need to make your holiday presents look perfect, no tape, scissors or bow tying required.
Now available online at Walmart and Amazon (plus at a pop-up kiosk at Fashion Centre at
Pentagon City through Dec. 31, the wrapping kit includes a box, peel-and-stick gift wrap, tissue paper, a bow, card and envelope.
The paper is already attached to the box, so all you have to do is put your present in. The best part, says Kooiker, “You still get to rip into it, which you don’t get with a printed box.”// from $7.50 per package