While some grouse about the end of summer, many of us look forward to fall and the approaching holiday season, and feel they showcase this region – and especially Alexandria– at its very finest.
The air is crisper and our surroundings are especially picturesque from Halloween through Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years and George Washington’s birthday. We have the prototypic neighborhoods and shopping streets that lend themselves to a holiday backdrop and spirit.
This is Alexandria’s time to shine – literally, with lights and decorations. Retailers depend heavily on November and December shopping revenues to remain profitable. That’s particularly critical this year because the summer Metro shutdown impacted many of them.
With that in mind, Visit Alexandria held a Holiday Planning Summit recently that incorporated a cross section of business, city government and economic development representatives. The theme of the summit was to continue building on Alexandria’s distinctive assets, attractions and charm and to take it up a notch for the approaching season.
Alexandria continues to face competition from a variety of regional shopping options, and each of them are working hard to attract their own shoppers and diners.
We have new attractions this year such as Alexandria’s own Tall Ship Providence, just a short stroll from the new Waterfront Park at the foot of King Street. Locals and visitors alike will appreciate the connection to Alexandria’s maritime heritage.
Further west there will be skating, music and spectacular light experiences at Ice & Lights – the Winter Village at Cameron Run. The waterpark will be transformed into a winter wonderland.
With merchants and their support organizations investing so much time, money and effort into making the season spectacular, what supportive role can residents play?
First, we can simply make the effort to get out and partake in the numerous festivals and events over the next few months. These are not just for out-of-towners. You’ll find they offer a new perspective on fall and winter, and make the holidays so much more fun. If you haven’t recently taken in a ghost tour around Halloween, the Scottish Christmas Walk or the Parade of Lights on the Potomac, give it a try, invite friends and stop for a drink or a snack. You’ll have an incredible time and as a side benefit you’ll stimulate the local economy.
You can also be welcoming to the tourists that generate hundreds of millions of dollars for local businesses, support thousands of Alexandria jobs and reduce the tax burdens on our households. If you see someone who’s struggling with a map or looking lost, ask if you can help. If someone’s ever done that for you, you know how it makes you feel, and how inclined you are to recommend that place to others. Also be ready to give them suggestions for attractions or places to shop or dine.
You owe it to yourself to make this season a more rewarding experience, and Alexandria has so much to offer.
The writer is executive director of Alexandria’s Small Business Development Center. The SBDC can be reached at www.alexandriasbdc.org.