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Reston Town Center is one of the most vibrant spots in Northern Virginia. The mixed-use Town Center began opened in 1990 and subsequently won 23 regional and national awards for quality in urban design, construction and operation. After 1997, it was further extended to include more shops and restaurants, as well  corporate offices, and some of the nicest condos in Reston.

It integrates the best of an ideal downtown with diverse shops and restaurants, plenty of parking, and an easy place to stroll with kids during the daytime, or for a romantic evening out. After dining, there a first class cinema, as well as live music in some restaurants.

The largest outside open area is The Pavilion. Across from it is Fountain Square, which extends space for major outdoors events. Here there are free summer concerts drawing large crowds. In the winter the Pavilion becomes an ice rink, with special ice skating sessions like the Friday Night Rock ‘n’ Skate and the Saturday morning Cartoon Skate. Rental of equipment is provided, and the rink is open throughout the week (entry fee). In the in-between months it’s a handy place to take toddlers for riding on their trikes and other wheel-toys. The many coffee shops make it pleasant for the moms and dads, too.

Perhaps the biggest event is the annual Christmas Parade on the Friday after Thanksgiving. With floats, bands, dancing groups, baton twirlers, acrobats, martial arts demonstrations, boy ad girl scouts, vintage cars, fire engines old and new, the highlight of the parade are Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause arriving in their magnificent sleigh.

In the opposite season, Reston Free Summer Concert Series runs from June through August on Saturday nights drawing large crowds for the varied musicians.

At almost any time of the year, though, there are special events scheduled. One of the most unusual is in March: Nowruz, Persian New Year Celebration and Festival featuring music, performances, a Persian bazaar, exotic food and arts displays.

Beer and wine find their places on the calendar: The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade features Irish fare, Guinness beer, Irish folk dancing, and children’s activities in the Pavilion. An unlimited sampling of wine comes in with the two-day Great Grapes: Wine Arts and Food Festival in April. There are seminars, live music, a souvenir wine glass, as well as artists and craftspeople. Finally, Octoberfest offers the best in autumn brews with delicious fare from area restaurants. Enjoy food, wine, beer, and live entertainment.

May brings he the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival with over 200 artists, hand-crafted and one-of-a kind artwork, as well as performances, artist demonstrations, acclaimed children’s activities, and live music. This is a juried show, and proceeds support the unique Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE). It has a permanent exhibit space in Reston Town Center and a fine education program both in its facilities and in local schools. It’s gallery and exhibits also free on Friday nights.

June brings Northern Virginia’s largest outdoor food festival, Taste of Reston, featuring delectable samplings from the region’s favorite eateries, live music, beer and wine gardens, with fun and games for all.

Washington West Film Festival “is a unique cinematic experience celebrating innovative, impassioned films that can make lasting, tangible differences in our world.” Fine independent films are screened or premiered in three in-competition categories: dramatic features, documentary features, and short film.

One of the best Italian restaurants, Il Fornaio, offers cooking classes and wine tasting among other events. There are about 30 other dining places for every taste and time of the day, from casual to fine menus.

The Town Center is a happening place and even a pleasant spot for just a family stroll in a gently bustling atmosphere. It’s also a nice place to meet friends for coffee or to eat any sort of food, and enjoy the lovely modern architecture. There’s tempting shopping, too! It may not be a travel destination, but not to be missed if you’re in the Washington DC or Northern Virginia area.