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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or Laura@GuidingYourMove.com.

If you’ve been reading my Neighborhood Expert column for a while, you’ll see my passions include real estate, my kids and food.

We just returned from a week at the beach and I thought it would be fun to put together a list of our must-eat places along the east coast beaches. I remember the first time we went to Ocean City, Maryland with a 2 year old, we had Five Guys for dinner because I didn’t know where to go or what to eat and that was the easiest thing to do. But now that I have 8 years under my belt of staying in Ocean City and Rehoboth, my list of recommendations has grown a bit.

Hope there’s something for everyone on this list. As always, feel free to comment or email me to add anything I don’t know about yet!

Breakfast

  • Barn 34: Benedict’s galore
  • Bad Monkey: Get your sugar fix early — monkey bread, Nutella French toast
  • Egg: Good mix of healthy and indulgence
  • Blackwall Hitch: This could be brunch or lunch/dinner!

Lunch/Dinner

  • Barn 34: The bacon wrapped dates appetizer is awesome
  • Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli: Incredible sandwiches, plus Jewish staples
  • Barrio Taco: The plantains were amazing, huge tamale, and great empanadas
  • On the Bay Seafood: We always do this to go because waiting for a table seems impossible some days, but the steamed shrimp is served with old bay and cocktail sauce, steamed crab, and crab cakes. If you want traditional creamy crab soup, skip their herbaceous version.
  • Longboard Café: Wrinkly green beans are my favorite thing! So so good. Also great burgers and salads.
  • Hooked: Fresh seafood and tons of delicious appetizers
  • Ropewalk: This is great if you have a lot of kids to entertain because there’s a play area in the sand, but wouldn’t go if it’s adults looking for great food
  • Grab and Go Taco: This is a great grab and go option as there’s standing room only, so no sit down option, but great food, “green crack sauce” is delicious, and bonus it’s next to Fisher’s Popcorn.
  • Our Harvest: Really good food with vegan options!
  • Salt Air: Make reservations! The food is amazing and they have a real kids menu (think kids steak or shrimp and grits).
  • Nicola Pizza: Amazingly delicious simple salad, nic-o-boli (their version of a calzone), and pizza
  • Thrasher’s Fries: If you know, you know
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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or Laura@GuidingYourMove.com

I’m a beach lover. The water and sand is all I need for a good day. I’m already thinking as we approach that final week of school, about our annual trip to the eastern shore.

I put together some good day trips and some longer drive destinations if you’re looking to explore a new beach:

Day Trips

  • Colonial Beach, Virginia: 90 minutes away from Tysons, easy parking, on the Potomac River so very few waves, shallow water, fishing pier. Cute snow cone and ice cream spot (try the chocolate éclair ice cream!).
  • Aquia Landing Park, Stafford, Virginia: About an hour from Tysons, there’s a fee for access, popular fishing spot and beach for swimming.
  • Sandy Point, Annapolis, Maryland: An hour drive from Tysons, Sandy Point is a popular beach for a day just before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge with lots of space for distancing, sand and water.
  • Mason Neck State Park, Lorton, Virginia: This small hidden gem is located under an hour from Tysons and offers fishing, canoe and kayak rentals (call ahead for a reservation), swimming and walking trails.
  • Lake Anna State Park, Spotsylvania, Virginia: About 2 hours away, sand and water for swimming and playing, camping grounds for overnight stays, no tents allowed on the beach, lots of walking trails.
  • Calvert Cliffs, Lusby, Maryland: Located about 90 minutes from Tysons, Calvert Cliffs is a Maryland state park featuring fishing, swimming and walking trails. $7 per car day use for Virginia state plates.

Beach Weeks

Popular spots along the Eastern Shore are:

  • Rehoboth Beach, DE
  • Bethany Beach, DE
  • Dewey Beach, DE
  • Fenwick Island, DE
  • Ocean City, MD
  • Virginia Beach, VA
  • Cape May, NJ
  • Wildwood, NJ
  • Avalon, NJ
  • Long Beach Island, NJ

Some places have great beach/pool options, some are just beaches — it depends on what you’re looking for! Some have a great boardwalk with a “Funland” experience (games, rides, arcade), and some are more family friendly.

Photo via Ethan Robertson/Unsplash
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The business won a TripAdvisor award in the category of fun and games. (via Escape Room Herndon)

After nearly shutting down during the pandemic, Escape Room Herndon’s team-based puzzle game experience has won a national award.

The business, run by longtime Herndon resident Omer Are, was recognized by TripAdvisor as this year’s Travelers’ Choice Award winner for fun and games.

Kanika Soni, Tripadvisor’s chief commercial officer, noted that the award recognizes the best in tourism and hospitality based on selections made by customers. Awards are based on a full year of reviews on Tripadvisor.

“Whether it’s using new technology, implementing safety measures, or hiring outstanding staff, I’m impressed by the steps you’ve taken to meet travelers’ new demands. You’ve adapted brilliantly in the face of diversity,” Soni said in a news release.

The pandemic was a show-stopping force for an entertainment business that depends on people closely collaborating with others in an indoor, contained setting. In March of 2020, Escape Room Herndon closed and refunded future bookings. It remained closed for five months and instead designed free online games for guests to play while they were stuck at home.

“It was a tough time and we had to make some adjustments to the new normal we are in today,” Aru said. “We added a mask policy, sanitizing in between games, and changed to an all-private model.  Slowly we’ve climbed back to a place where I think we will be able to continue hosting guests in Herndon for years to come.”

Aru launched the business in June 2016 after his brother-in-law told him about a similar concept on a beach trip — Escape Room in Richmond — that he had started several years ago. Aru, a Herndon resident who previously hoped to get into selling 3D filaments online, was intrigued by the idea.

That year, he drove down for his first escape room experience with a group of strangers.

“After an hour of laughing, jump scares and mysteries, we escaped cheering and high-fiving each other. I was instantly hooked,” Aru told FFXnow.

The next month, he started filing paperwork to open a business in the county.

He set his sights on Herndon because he says it’s a family-oriented community with great schools and other small businesses.

“The Mayor’s Office was also very supportive from the beginning helping us get established,” Aru said. “Our shopping center also helped us in the beginning months of Covid to take some of the burdens off while sales were nonexistent. At the end of the day, we love it in Herndon and are proud to call it home, so much so that we put it in our name.”

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Fairfax County Public Schools currently separates middle school students into “boy” and “girl” groups for sex-education classes (via Samuel Regan-Asante/Unsplash)

Middle school sex education classes in Fairfax County will remain separated by gender going into the next school year.

A majority of the Fairfax County School Board agreed on Tuesday (May 24) to postpone a vote on whether to introduce gender-combined Family Life Education (FLE) classes for students in grades 4-8 and 10th grade, along with other proposed changes intended to make the curriculum more inclusive.

The recommendations came from the FLE Curriculum Advisory Committee (FLECAC), which advises Fairfax County Public Schools staff on instructional materials and goals. FCPS Chief Academic Officer Sloan Presidio said this year’s report contained the most recommended changes he has seen in 10 years with the school system.

At the work session, several board members said they feel more time is needed to study the recommendations and conduct community outreach. FLECAC’s reports are typically open for a 30-day review period around the end of each school year.

“This is for many people an uncomfortable conversation, an uncomfortable topic, and just out of sheer respect for that, I understand the need to have further conversation and engage our families and speak to them as to why this recommendation was made,” Board Chair and Sully District Representative Stella Pekarsky said.

According to the FLECAC report, FCPS currently separates boys and girls in fourth through eighth grade for lessons on puberty, reproductive systems and processes, sexually transmitted infections, and abstinence. 10th grade students are separated for a lesson on self-examinations for breast and testicular cancer.

The committee proposes making those classes co-ed to better include LGBTQ, intersex, and other gender-diverse students, while giving all students the “opportunity to learn about individuals who are different from themselves” and normalizing conversations “that will be important to healthy relationships.”

“Dividing students into boys and girls classes sends a message that bodies different than their own should not be talked about and are mysterious,” the report says. “When students are separated by boys and girls, it affirms a rigid binary based on anatomy.”

Many school divisions across Virginia already combine genders for all or most sex-education classes, including Arlington, Alexandria City, and Virginia Beach City, according to FLECAC, which says in its report that there’s no “available research to support the practice of gender-segregated instruction.”

Karl Frisch and Laura Jane Cohen, who represent the Providence and Springfield districts, respectively, voted against extending the community review period, which FCPS staff said would delay implementation of any changes until the 2023-2024 school year.

“This change would align our program with best practices,” Frisch said.

However, other board members said more time for community feedback is needed to hear from a variety of perspectives, including from students, on FLECAC’s proposals, which also include adding gender to a 10th grade lesson about human sexuality.

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand told the board that “very few” students opt out of the FLE program, and it’s important that the community understands the rationale for the proposed changes.

“What we want is for families to continue to access this curriculum and not opt out of information that I think is critical for young people,” Brabrand said.

FCPS Pride, an advocacy group for LGBTQ staff and families, said in a statement that it was surprised by the school board’s decision to postpone a vote on the FLE changes. The group says it supports gender-combined classes so students don’t have to “out” themselves or choose a gender, and research suggests more inclusive classes lead to healthier behaviors.

“We are confident that the school board will adopt gender-inclusive FLE classes,” FCPS Pride said. “They are best practices, common around the state and nation, and backed up by a substantial amount of academic and practical research. FCPS is a world-class school system precisely because we learn about and follow research-backed best practices.”

Photo via Samuel Regan-Asante/Unsplash

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An international fried chicken spot is coming to Chantilly (via Google Maps)

Jollibee has confirmed that it plans to open its fried chicken chain in Chantilly some time this year.

The popular restaurant will open at 4406 Chantilly Shopping Center in space formerly occupied by Burger King.

The business got its start in the Philippines in 1975. After expanding across Asia, Jollibee landed in the U.S. in 1998. It now has more than 1,200 locations across the world, including several in the U.S.

“Jollibee will be opening a store…in 2022 though the opening date has not been set yet,” a company spokesperson told FFXnow in a statement.

So far, Jollibee has one location in Alexandria and another in Virginia Beach.

Options on the menu include its staple — “chickenjoy” or a bone-in fried chicken with gravy — and jolly spaghetti and palabrook fiesta — pasta topped with sweet sauce and loaded with meat. The Chantilly location will also have a drive-thru.

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Developer LCOR has proposed a more mixed-use neighborhood, McLean Crossing, to replace the Commons of McLean (via Fairfax County)

The Commons of McLean’s days are numbered.

As anticipated, developer LCOR has filed a new plan with Fairfax County for the Tysons East apartment complex that provides fewer housing units in favor of more commercial space, including potential senior living, office and hotel facilities.

Though the overall density proposed is about the same, the new McLean Crossing plan splits the 2.6 million square feet up across 12 buildings instead of the seven mostly residential buildings previously approved in 2013.

“The Applicant has determined that an infusion of a mix of uses is needed to allow this community to develop and prosper, and become a truly activated urban neighborhood in keeping with the vision for Tysons,” Walsh Colucci senior land use attorney Elizabeth Baker said in an April 22 statement of justification on the developer’s behalf.

Building off of the Kingston apartments, which opened in 2018 as the only element of the 2013 plan to come to fruition, McLean Crossing will cover approximately 18.7 acres of land along Anderson Road, just east of Route 123 and the McLean Metro station.

Constructed in 1966, all of the Commons buildings will be demolished, according to the proposed redevelopment plan.

To replace them, LCOR has put forward three possible scenarios: base development, which would provide the most non-residential uses; Option 1, which would have the most residential uses; and Option 2, which would have the most office space.

In all cases, the plan calls for at least 1.7 million square feet of development with 6.44 acres of public park space — slightly shy of the 6.46 acres required for that amount of development.

The proposed parks include a full-sized athletic field called Goodman Field. Anderson Park, located by the intersection of Anderson and Colshire Drive, will have two playgrounds, outdoor fitness equipment, beach volleyball, basketball, four pickleball courts, and a tennis court.

“These parks are strategically located throughout the property and in addition to the athletic field, include sport courts, playgrounds, a dog park, plazas, and pocket parks,” the application says. “These parks complete the neighborhood as a place to live, work and play.”

The proposed McLean Crossing conceptual development plan (via Fairfax County)

With Kingston designated as Building 1, here’s a breakdown of the 11 new buildings proposed by LCOR: Read More

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A Malibu Barbie truck will visit Tysons this weekend (courtesy Malibu Barbie Tour)

Perhaps lured by yesterday’s 80-degree temperatures, a truck hawking Malibu-themed Barbie swag will swing by Tysons Corner Center on Saturday (April 16), kicking off a four-stop tour through the D.C. area.

The Malibu Barbie Truck Tour will be parked in the mall’s Events Plaza (1961 Chain Bridge Road) from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., bringing an array of merchandise paying tribute to the oft-criticized yet still-popular plastic doll from Mattel.

Coming on the heels of a similar visit by the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck, the pop-up Barbie truck will sell beach apparel and accessories designed to evoke the 1970s, though no actual dolls appear to be offered.

According to a press release, available products will include:

  • Barbie-logo embroidered denim jacket
  • Pink Barbie-logo hoodie
  • Tie Dye bucket hat
  • Ringer T-shirt
  • Embroidered patch set
  • Enamel pin set
  • Burlap Shopper Tote
  • Stainless thermal bottle
  • Beach Towel
  • Malibu Barbie Necklace
  • Malibu Barbie Logo Mug

The “2022 Barbie Truck Totally Throwback Malibu Tour” kicked off on the West Coast last year to mark the 50th anniversary of Malibu Barbie’s introduction in 1971.

After hitting up Tysons, the truck will also visit Bethesda on April 30, Pentagon City in Arlington on May 7, and Columbia on May 14.

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Mixed-media artist Ronald Lord used debris from the now-demolished Meadow View Swimming Club in Rose Hill to make art (courtesy of Ronald Lord)

An artist from Fairfax County pays tribute to his childhood memories growing up in Rose Hill by using its remains to create art.

As a child, Ronald Lord would join his friends and family at the swimming pool at the Meadow View Swimming Club.

Starting at 6 years old until his teenage years, Lord would get up at 7 a.m. so he and his brothers could go to swim team practice. He also has fond memories of playing in the woods and rundown homes that surrounded the club throughout the 1960s.

Now, those memories no longer have a physical anchor. The swimming club was closed in the 1980s, converted into a private school and day care center, and finally demolished in 2017 to make way for more houses, according to the Rose Hill Civic Association.

But while others would see the wreckage as nothing more than refuse, Lord saw an opportunity to create art that would preserve those childhood memories.

As Lord got older, he turned to the artistic world, living near Washington D.C. where he could go to the National Portrait Gallery. Folk art and other self-taught pieces inspired him to find his medium of expression.

Lord also worked in trades such as home improvement that taught him the process of building and gave him access to materials.

“I’ve played around with all sorts of materials,” Lord told FFXnow. “Wax, bead weaving, clay, wood carving, paper, stained glass and of course wood and metal salvage that I find a very satisfying medium and is what I’m concentrating on mainly now. I took to creating as a youngster with wax and beads and have been on a creative journey ever since.”

Now a resident of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Lord creates pieces made from various pieces of salvage. He created two “Regina Bay” pieces, for instance, using wood, metal boring bits, glass, handmade nails, and other detritus found in and around a gold mine in Northwestern Ontario, Canada near cabins owned by his wife’s family.

Lord’s “Meadow View” piece is made from similar components and brings back the memory of those childhood days.

“For those who knew Meadow View, I hope it brings back all the memories associated with the fun we had growing up with all the activities there,” he said, recalling Fourth of July and Memorial Day festivities with pool contests involving greased watermelons and “hundreds of coins thrown in for all of us to collect once the whistle sounded.”

There were also the “swim team meets and the daily 7:00 a.m. practice sessions, eyes burning from chlorinated water, the snack bar and chit books but most of all the innocence and joy of growing up then,” he says.

Lord is currently working on an outdoor installation at a hacienda in Alamos, Mexico, his theme will incorporate local salvage such as bones, metal, paint and stone.

“It is going to focus on the immeasurable number of back [breaking] hours and manpower it took to create this heavenly place out of the tough Sonoran desert,” Lord said of his project.

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Virginia has recorded five confirmed cases of bird flu in 2022, including one in a mallard duck (via Vincent van Zalinge/Unsplash)

A highly contagious virus spread among birds has been detected in Virginia, but there is no evidence yet that it has reached Fairfax County.

There have been five confirmed cases of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Virginia this year, four in wild birds and one in a domestic flock in Fauquier County, U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows.

The state’s first cases were reported on Jan. 26 in Henrico County, where two ducks — a green-winged teal and a mallard — were infected. The virus was subsequently confirmed in Virginia Beach in another teal on Feb. 1 and a gadwall duck on Feb. 16.

The Fauquier County case was confirmed on Feb. 12 and involved a backyard flock of 119 mixed-species, non-poultry birds.

So far, there have been no confirmed HPAI cases in wild or domestic birds in Fairfax County, according to Dr. Katherine Edwards, the Fairfax County Police Department’s wildlife management specialist.

As reported last week by The Washington Post, the D.C.-based nonprofit City Wildlife says symptoms of HPAI in birds include:

  • Sneezing, coughing, eye and nose discharge, swelling near the eyes
  • Abnormal position of the head or neck, incoordination, walking or swimming in circles
  • Swelling of the legs and feet, patchy red discoloration of the skin
  • Sudden death, or increased deaths within a flock

Edwards notes that wild birds — primarily migratory waterfowl and some shorebirds and seabirds — can become infected with avian influenza without becoming sick with the respiratory disease or showing symptoms.

While migrating, those birds carry the viruses to new areas and expose domestic poultry as well as other kinds of wild birds, such as raptors, turkey, quail and grouse.

“Given the recent detection in a backyard flock in Fauquier County and wild birds along the Atlantic Flyway, it is possible that the HPAI virus is present locally even though we have not received any reports in Fairfax County,” Edwards told FFXnow by email.

Bird flu infections in humans are rare but not impossible, with some individuals like poultry workers facing increased risk of exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which does not consider the virus a public health threat.

The CDC says cooking poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill viruses and bacteria, including HPAI.

HPAI poses the highest risk to domestic poultry and backyard birds, including ducks, geese, chicken and turkeys. Read More

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Fairfax County has officially expanded its tax relief program for seniors and people with disabilities for the first time in more than 15 years.

At a Tuesday (Dec. 7) meeting, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved expanding the county’s real estate tax relief program by allowing people with higher incomes and net worth to qualify. A 75% tax relief bracket was also added, and the program gives some residents the option to defer payments.

The changes are expected to serve an additional 2,500 Fairfax County residents, according to Jay Doshi, director of the county’s Department of Tax Administration.

Doshi said the county’s tax relief program is now three times the size of Virginia Beach’s program, which is the next largest jurisdiction in the state.

“These proposals represent the largest change and an increase for our residents,” Doshi said.

The maximum gross income to qualify for tax relief was raised from $72,000 to $90,000, while the limit on net worth increased from up to $340,000 to $400,000.

The program also allows homeowners to exclude up to five acres of land that can’t be subdivided when calculating their net worth.

The 75% relief bracket would be available to households with a combined income of between $60,0001 to $70,000. But the amount of tax relief for all brackets would be capped at 125% of the mean assessed value of county homes.

Residents can also defer payment of real estate taxes if the household has a combined total income not more than $100,000 and a net worth of $500,000. Deferred taxes would be subject to interest.

Changes will go into effect on Jan. 1 and will be phased out over the next two years.

Older adults pushed for the changes at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“Having a tax relief program designed for the economic reality of 2006 does not make sense in the economic reality of 2021,” said Catherine Cole, chairwoman of the Fairfax Area Commission on Aging.

Cole noted that rapid inflation, rising economic insecurity among the county’s older populations, declining assets, and rising housing costs have strained many seniors, pushing some to leave Fairfax County.

“It would make sense to encourage those who are growing older to remain in their homes,” Cole said.

But others said the changes did not go far enough.

Daniel Campbell, a Fairfax County resident with two adult sons who are handicapped, said the county should consider freezing property tax assessments once residents retire and remove net worth as a requirement for seniors to qualify for property tax relief.

He said the net worth requirement penalizes people who have significant savings. Campbell and his wife hope to leave savings for their sons in the form of a special needs trust.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said the changes — though imperfect — were long “overdue.”

“This has become an acute need at this point,” McKay said, calling the changes a significant advancement. He said the changes increased the yearly fiscal impact on the county from $28 million to $48 million.

McKay said he would like to evaluate tweaks to the program in the future.

Others said the county needs to find other ways to diversify its income beyond real estate taxes as the primary revenue source.

“Tax reform is really where we have to go,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn. State law limits sources of revenue for jurisdictions.

But Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity — who supported the changes — said that controlling spending, not diversifying revenue should be the priority.

“It’s unfortunate that it took the pandemic for us to do this,” he said.

Graphic via Fairfax County Government

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