Get Your Shop, Eat and Play On at NoVA’s Malls

NoVA’s shopping destinations are so much more than clothes.

By Hilary Adleberg

Local malls and town centers have added a few extra incentives to their seemingly ever-expanding list of attractions. With this, “If you build it, they will come,” mentality, retail destinations are becoming so much more than just a place to shop. What used to be thought of as the typical mall or cluster of clothing stores has diversified in development, thus changing its definition. Town centers, plazas, marketplaces and mixed-use development areas alike are broadening their customer base by providing more product categories and services with a mix of franchises as well as small businesses. Reference this list of the top, local, outdoor and indoor retail destinations to find out about the stores, dining options, annual events and insider membership benefits available.

While these major shopping centers do offer customary services such as personal shopping and tailoring, most venues also work to upgrade their customer’s experience by hosting a plethora of events throughout the year. Decorations, festivities and promotions that used to be expected annually or bi-annually are now year-round occurrences.

Old Town Alexandria for example, hosts an Annual Scavenger Hunt in the fall where customers are instructed to get a passport stamped at each of the 35 stores that make up the Old Town Boutique District. When customers arrive at the last store with their passport completely filled out, they receive a goody bag full of gifts from each of the stores. “This type of event helps make customers aware of the shopping destination and various shopping opportunities that the area offers,” says small business owner Kim Putens of Bloomers, located in Old Town Alexandria and Shirlington. She shares, “A lot of the events throughout the year thrive on community involvement.”

From Fairfax Corner’s Fine Arts Festival to the Reithoffer Shows Carnival at Landmark Mall—held this year from March 28 to April 14—to Tysons Galleria’s notorious All Access Fashion Show, there’s truly an occasion for every sense of style. The Galleria’s All Access Fashion Show is a three-day-fashion-event that introduces the season’s collections and invites the public into the trendsetters’ circle to experience the frenzy typically reserved for fashion insiders. Numerous attractions cater to a larger margin of clientele by offering more recreational and entertaining activities, transforming the shopping venue into a community gathering point.

Fairfax County Public Schools holds their annual College Fair at Fair Oaks Mall with more than 10,000 students in attendance and 300 colleges and universities represented. Fair Oaks Mall often opens its doors to invite more community-focused initiatives for the public to participate in. Expos instructing customers of helpful tips for home improvements, healthy lifestyles, green gardens and more are routine on Fair Oak’s calendar of events.

Most every community retail center hosts an event to celebrate the winter holidays. Here are just some of the wintertime festivities to note for the coming season:

From November 8 through December 24, Fair Oaks Mall will hold the interactive Ice Palace experience, which includes visits with Santa. Families are welcome to bring their pets in for photos with Santa during Santa Paws hours and with each specially-designated photo package purchase, Fair Oaks will make a $10 donation to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. “In 2011, we hosted close to 200,000 Ice Palace visitors having their photos taken with Santa,” shares Ed Cassidy, the marketing and sponsorship director for Fair Oaks Mall.

Virginia Gateway (November 11 from 5-7 p.m.) and Fairfax Corner (November 9 from 6-8 p.m.) kicks off the holiday season with a large Tree Lighting event complete with horse and free carriage rides, carolers, crafts, hot chocolate, cookies and a visit from Santa.

The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City provides a few ways to celebrate the holiday season. Photo opportunities with Santa will be available from November 9 through December 25, with pet sessions from November 24 to December 2. During the Holiday Shopping Night Out on November 15 from 6-9:30 p.m., the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City invites shoppers to enjoy one-night-only discounts, hors d’œuvres from Harry’s Smokehouse, music and entertainment. The first 200 customers will receive swag bags and two lucky customers will win a $250 American Express holiday shopping spree. (Happy Holidays!)

Alexandria’s Old Town Boutique District presents their Window Wonderland from November 23 through December 9 when local boutiques decorate their storefronts in hopes of earning the customers’ vote for best holiday window display.

Every year around the holidays Brambleton Town Center holds their Holiday Shopping Spree where shoppers can enter to win $1,000 in gift cards plus a matching $1,000 donation to a local school of the winner’s choice. This year’s Holiday Shopping Spree runs from November 15 through December 7.

The Benefitted Shopper
In the market for a little light pampering? Well good news, when it comes to shopping, you don’t have to be a celebrity to be treated like one. Get the VIP treatment while you indulge in some retail therapy.

Separate from the programs and incentives that individual stores offer, malls have developed benefits and membership programs to show shoppers just how much they value their customers’ presence. Find out what advantages and opportunities are achievable and see how many deals the savviest of shoppers can really rack up.

Media outlets are the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to learn about promotions, sales and events. Check out a venue’s Facebook or Twitter page to find updates on what’s happening around town. Most every shopping center has a general e-mail club which sends information straight to the shopper. Register on the venue’s website to receive exclusive e-mails about the latest news, sales and goings-on.

Signing up to join shopping center’s insider clubs is also a way to automatically enter into raffles for a chance to win a breadth of prizes.

Leesburg Premium Outlets defines their VIP Shopper Club as a free, membership-based club that allows members to enjoy exclusive online coupons, a voucher for a free VIP Coupon Book, insider info from vendors and e-mail updates on upcoming sales and events. In addition to receiving shopping center updates and sale information, VIP Shopper Club members receive free access to the online VIP Lounge—a password-protected portion of their website where visitors can find exclusive coupons from merchants.

Ballston Common Mall, Dulles Town Center, Fair Oaks Mall, Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, Old Town Boutique District, Reston Town Center and the Village at Shirlington also host insider clubs for shoppers that are free and easy to enroll in.

Tysons Corner Center takes their rewards program a step further by showing the value of each dollar spent at any and every store in the mall. Once the free registration for Tysons Corner Center Shopper Rewards Program is completed, customers are able to track their spending and rewards through a website and mobile app. But to start earning rewards, buyers need to bring their receipts to the concierge desk.

In a single day, if a customer spends a total of $250 they receive one free valet parking valid for 30 days. In a single month, if a customer spends $500 solely at the restaurants they get a $25 gift card to the mall and if they spend a total of $5,000 anywhere in the mall during a one-month period, they get a $50 gift card.

Each month Tysons Corner Center features one lucky retailer as Shopper Rewards Retailer of the Month. Points are doubled for all purchases at the retailer of the month.

Don’t miss out on any of the savings. Get in the know and stay in the now with helpful tips and tricks from the insider programs.

Fashionable Dining
Say goodbye to the days of fast food restaurants as the only dining option at the mall. No longer do customers have to venture to the food court to quench their shopping-induced appetite on fried, greasiness.

Shopping centers have incorporated such impressive restaurants that the retail aspect of a mall is sometimes not even a consideration in choosing a dining destination. Malls and town centers are revamping their mundane selection of munchies and replacing them with trendy dining venues that provide a stylish ambiance and a satisfying menu to match.

As far as indoor destinations go, dining directories can range from nice, sit-down restaurants to quick and easy fast food hot spots to the commonly expected specialty chains found at most area malls.

In recent years, Tysons Corner Center has so successfully updated their dining choices, giving clients even more excuses to pay a visit to the nationally recognized shopping destination. Tysons Corner Center, Fairfax Square and Tysons Galleria veer from the simple food court choices, offering some of the more enticing options for meals at the mall with a list of notable restaurants like Chef Geoff’s Tysons, Gordon Biersch Brewery, P.F. Chang’s, Coastal Flats, Brio Tuscan Grill, La Sandia Mexican Kitchen and Bar and Seasons 52.

Whether catering to an appetite for American, Italian, Thai or seafood, malls in the Tysons Corner area provide some of the more unique and chic restaurants to pair with their sleek selection of the most sought-after retailers. For more low-key, sit-down restaurant options, Ballston Common, Fair Oaks and Dulles Town Center are worthy contenders (Ballston: Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, Union Jack’s British Pub; Fair Oaks: Texas de Brazil; Dulles: Benihana).

At many of the outdoor venues, restaurants are the main allure while the clothing and retail stores are really just the side acts.

The Village at Shirlington boasts a wide array of fine restaurants for Indian, Mexican, American, Italian and Thai cuisine, with stores and services scattered throughout the neighborhood. The Market Common Clarendon, Fairfax Corners and Virginia Gateway offer a more equivalent ratio of restaurants to retailers.

Food establishments and fashion stores are interspersed in these town centers, creating a casual mix of attractions. “The dining options at Virginia Gateway really give the surrounding community of Gainesville many convenient places to choose from,” notes marketing director Brie Cargill. 

While food courts and fast food options are still available—and probably the most prevalent dining option at most malls—there are many alternatives available. Retail destinations continue to update their eateries in an effort to improve customer service, convenience and overall experience.


Fair Oaks Mall

Through December 24
The interactive Ice Palace experience and visits with Santa (in 2011, the mall hosted close to 200,000 Ice Palace visitors having their photos taken with Santa). During the run of the Ice Palace, the mall also features five “Santa Paws” opportunities (on weekends, either prior to the center opening or after hours) for thousands of families to bring their pets in for photos with Santa (and with each specially-designated photo package purchase, Fair Oaks makes a $10 donation to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter)

December 6
The mall is presenting a day with an ASL-signing Santa and ASL-signing Mrs. Clause for deaf and hard of hearing children and their families.

February 9 and 10, 2013
Lunar New Year Celebrations, with more than 30 featured musical and dance acts attracting more than 200,000 people

February 16 and 17, 2013
Active Kidz Summer Camp Expo, with more than 60 participating vendors

March 1-10, 2013
Fair Oaks Home and Garden Expo

August 2013
Virginia tax-free weekend with the Fair Oaks Women and Children’s Expo

September 2013
Fair Oaks Fall Home Improvement Expo

October 2013
Fairfax Country Public Schools’ annual College Fair, with more than 10,000 students visiting with 300 colleges and universities

October 31, 2013
Fair Oaks Mall-O-Ween, the largest indoor Halloween event of its kind attracting more than 16,000 trick-or-treaters (this year is the 25th annual Mall-O-Ween)


Tysons Corner Mall

December 2, 8-10 a.m.
Santa arrives at Tysons Corner Mall. Welcome him and his winter wonderland friends with a breakfast celebration.

Every Wednesday throughout the year
Tysons Corner Center’s Kid Krusaders Kids Club brings children live entertainment each Wednesday at varying times.

September 2013
Each year the All Access Fashion event strues the runway with the must-wear trends of the seasonand hosts the big players in the fashion industry. (The 2012 event brought Eric Daman, AAF host and costume designer of “Gossip Girl” and “The Carrie Diaries” in to host the event.)


Landmark Mall

March 28-April 14, 2013
Reithoffer Shows Carnival


Fashion Centre at Pentagon City

November 9–December 24
Santa will be available daily; hours and photo package pricing available at 

November 15 from 6-9:30 p.m.
Join the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City for a night of fashion. Shoppers will enjoy one-night-only discounts, hors d’œuvres from Harry’s Smokehouse, music and entertainment. The first 200 customers will receive swag bags and $250 American Express holiday shopping sprees will be given to two lucky winners.

November 25 and December 2 from 6-8 p.m.
Bring your furry friends to have their holiday photo taken with Santa. All animals must be on a leash or in a cage. Domestic pets only; no exotic pets allowed. Please use the Hayes Street entrance next to Brookstone to enter the mall.

December 6 from 6-9:30 p.m.
The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City is partnering with Uptown Magazine to bring together luxury retailers and consumers. For every $100 spent at participating retailers, shoppers will receive a raffle ticket to be entered to win luxurious giveaways. Participating retailers include: Godiva, Henri Bendel and Michael Kors. Guests are invited to jam out to music tunes, nibble on finger foods and get a jump start on holiday shopping.


Manassas Mall

December 1 at 1 p.m.
Join Osbourn High School Marching Band and Santa as they parade around the mall to holiday music. Also stop by and purchase beautifully crafted holiday ornaments as a fundraising initiative by The Battlefield Young Marines near Walmart and JCPenney form 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

December 12 at 6:30 p.m.
Meet the big man in red daily in the J.C. Penney court section of the mall.

Through December 24
Join Santa in JCPenney Court at the Santa set for story time.


Brambleton Town Center

November 24
Help out your community by shopping on Small Business Saturday

Through December 7
During the Town Center Holiday Shopping Spree enter to win a $1,000 shopping spree and matching donation to local school of your choice.

December 8
Jingle Bell Run/Walk, Carriage Rides, HOA’s Holiday Open House

December 31
New Year’s Eve Ringing In Hope Charity Run/Walk

Shopping Meccas of Northern Virignia

Where they are, what they are doing, and how you can save money while shopping

Ballston Common Mall, 4238 Wilson Blvd., Arlington;
52 stores, 30 services, 1 movie theater, 25 restaurants
Membership benefit program: Ballston Common Mall e-club;

Dulles Town Center, 21100 Dulles Town Circle, Dulles;
112 stores, 30 services, plans for movie theater in a couple years, 33 restaurants
Membership benefit program: Dulles Town Center email club;

Fair Oaks Mall, 11700 Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax;
114 stores, 24 services, 34 dining and food specialty options
Membership benefit program: eBulletin;

Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, 1400 S. Hayes St., Arlington;
72 stores, 21 services, 19 restaurants
Membership benefit program: Join their Mall Insider Club and get emails on deals, events and news.

Landmark Mall, 5801 Duke St., Alexandria;
58 stores, 27 services, 7 dining options
Membership benefit program: none

Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets, 241 Fort Evans Road NE, Leesburg;
110 stores, 6 restaurants
Membership benefit program: VIP Shopper Club;

Manassas Mall, 8300 Sudley Road, Manassas;
48 stores, 12 services, 10 restaurants
Membership benefit program: none

Potomac Mills Mall, 2700 Potomac Mills Circle, Woodbridge;
162 stores, 22 services, 1 movie theater, 24 restaurants
Membership benefit program: Find deals, events and news online;

Springfield Town Center, 6500 Springfield Mall, Springfield;
150 stores and restaurants
Membership benefit program: N/A

Tysons Galleria, 2001 International Drive, McLean;
84 stores, 13 services, 11 restaurants
Membership benefit program: The Club at Tysons Galleria: Exclusive Promotions, hottest deals, upcoming event alerts;

Tysons Corner Center, 1961 Chain Bridge Road, McLean;
208 stores, 1 movie theater, 47 restaurants
Membership benefit program: Tysons Corner Center Shopper Rewards Program

Fairfax Square, 8075 Leesburg Pike, Vienna;
1 restaurant (Chef Geoff’s Tysons), 2 service (Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon and Equinox), 2 stores(Hermès of Paris and Tiffany & Co.), Mara Olguin

Brambleton Town Center, 42395 Ryan Road, Brambleton;
46 stores/offices, 17 restaurants/dining options
Membership benefit program: None, however property management company (Rappaport) sends a quarterly “Cinema Clips” coupon booklet to residents and other households in the nearby ZIP codes

The Market Common Clarendon, 2700 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington;
21 stores, 7 services, 10 restaurants
Membership benefit program: None

Crystal City Shops, 2100 Crystal Drive, Arlington;
51 stores, 49 services, 42 restaurants
Membership benefit program: None Coming soon: contemporary Wi-Fi customer dining lounge, Mind Your Body Oasis and several other dining options

Fairfax Corner, 4100 Monument Drive, Fairfax;
Over 20 stores & over 12 service businesses (Salons, etc) & 1 movie theater, 15 restaurants
Membership benefit program: None

Fair Lakes, 12500 Fair Lakes Circle, Fairfax;
31 stores, 26 services, 29 restaurants
Membership benefit program: Fair Lakes e-mail List;

Mosaic District, 2910 District Ave., Fairfax;
19 stores, 3 services 7 restaurants, 4 dining
Membership benefit program: N/A Coming soon: retail space additions expected in 2014

Old Town Boutique District, Old Town, Alexandria;,
35 stores e. n/a
Membership benefit program: Boutique Buzz:

Old Town Manassas, 9431 West St., Manassas;
29 stores 16 restaurants
Membership benefit program: Historic Manassas Inc.;

Pentagon Row, US 1, Arlington;
26 stores, 18 restaurants
Membership benefit program: Pentagon Row E-Member;

Reston Town Center, 11900 Market St., Reston;
50 stores, 16 services, 1 movie theater, 35 restaurants
Membership benefit program:

Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center, 14900 Potomac Town Place, Woodbridge;
20 stores, 12 restaurants
Membership benefit program: Stonebridge News & Events;

Villages at Leesburg, 1602 Village Market Blvd., Leesburg;
34 stores, 8 restaurants
Membership benefit program: Village at Leesburg E-Club;

The Village at Shirlington, Campbell Avenue, Arlington;
10 stores, 16 services, signature theatre, 1 movie theater, 1 library, 25 restaurants
Membership benefit program: Shirlie Mail;

Virginia Gateway, Linton Hall Road, Gainesville;
Over 40 stores & over 20 service businesses (Salons, etc), 25 restaurants
Membership benefit program: None

New Visions for Springfield and Landmark Malls

Melissa Kidd was twelve when her Mom took her to grand new Landmark Mall in 1968. Six years later, Kidd, an Army brat back in the area, chose her prom dress at Springfield Mall.

Earlier this year Kidd, now living in New England, brought her own daughter and granddaughter to the area seeking old mall memories. She knew Springfield Mall was undergoing redevelopment, but her main nostalgia target was Landmark.

She never got past the parking lot.

Kidd says she was shocked because the online mall site “made the place seem as vibrant as I remember.” Instead, she found an empty unwelcoming parking area and decided to keep on moving.

Welcome to the world of mall transition.

Landmark—Dinosaur into Dynamo?
Landmark Mall is a good example
of what might be called a retail dinosaur. With 900,000 square feet of retail space, the mall has a vacancy rate that is three times the national average. While national vacancies run about nine percent, Landmark has some 30 percent empty.

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, Landmark’s tenant sales averaged $138 per square foot at the end of 2010. That compares with a northeast regional mall average of $424 per square foot during the same period.

Jill Parker Landsman, vice president of communications and media relations for the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors points out, “Suburban malls have long been known as the new ‘town center,‘ the new ‘Main Street’. The current trend in retail development is part of the ‘smart growth’ planning equation.”

Principles of “smart growth: ”malls, residential areas and nearby commercial projects are pedestrian-friendly, green conscious and flank mass transit. Landsman points out: “The region’s malls do have excellent choices between indoor and outdoor venues. In the early 1990s, Potomac Mills was the top destination in Virginia.

The two malls at Tysons Corner Center are perfect examples of successful projects that are trying to capture that downtown feeling. Multiple new mixed-use project plans are on the drawing boards that will add more residential, hospitality and commercial offerings that will help support the malls. Clearly, the coming Silver Line will be a Tysons asset for this new urban identity.”

Gadi Kaufmann, CEO and managing director of RCLCO, proved prescient when he predicted three years ago that young “Gen Y” buyers/renters and their “baby boomer” forbears would both gravitate to close-in, high-density living, walkable spaces with a town center feel.

Landmark, now owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation, has some forward-thinking ideas but still faces tricky logistics issues.

In 2009, the Landmark/Van Dorn Small Area Plan was approved by the City of Alexandria, the city working with then-Landmark owners General Growth Properties (GGP). GGP went into bankruptcy—Hughes took over.

According to Faroll Hamer, director of planning and zoning for the City of Alexandria, Hughes has had meetings with the city and is interested in presenting several different redevelopment options. “They want to redevelop the mall, itself, as soon as possible with an open-air ‘Main Street’ approach,” she says, adding that Hughes also has interest in the mixed-use concept, but wants to do something quickly. And they must work around Sears and Macys, which together own about two-thirds of the mall property. Even so, Hamer says, they are looking at a restaurant row and a theater concept, somewhat like Shirlington.

All things considered, it may be six months until plans for Landmark redevelopment are ironed out.

Springfield—After Princess DI
Melissa Kidd isn’t the only one
who remembers Springfield Mall even before Princess Diana’s memorable visit in ’85. Supervisor Pat Herrity weighs in with historic memories:

“The Mall was a big part of my life growing up in West Springfield. I still have fond memories of birthday parties at Farrell’s, playing the old games at Timeout and going to movies,” he says. “It was where West Springfield and the surrounding communities shopped. The revitalization has been a long time coming and I will be really happy when it will finally be safe enough that my Mom, who still lives in my childhood home, can shop there again.”

In 2009, the Board of Supervisors approved rezoning, permitting Vornado Realty to pursue redevelopment. Supervisor Jeff McKay has “insisted and succeeded in getting Fairfax County to do everything possible to ‘fast-track’ the development process” for Springfield Mall.

“For years, Springfield Mall was the premier shopping experience in the region,” says McKay. “As times changed, the mall, with its absentee owner, remained static and did not evolve with changing demographics and new retail demand.”

“At this point, all tenants with the exception of the anchors (J.C. Penney’s, Target and Macy’s) have vacated the property so that construction can commence. The renovated mall will have a completely new interior in design and concept, a movie theater, food court and health club.” There will be a restaurant row on the Loisdale Road side of the mall.

McKay adds “The redevelopment plan has always been for a town or village center with the redeveloped mall as the first phase. The other phases will follow; I expect that market conditions will drive the schedule.” The initial mall phase will take 18 to 24 months.

Nancy-jo Manney, executive director of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, praises the work to date. “While a big, showy, ground-breaking event was the No.1 thing on my wish list for 2012, I’m happy with having the ground broken and dumpsters filling.”

Mall renovation remains at the top of the economic development pile for Springfield, Manney believes. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the redesign of the mall proper and the addition of high-end, external-facing restaurants will bring shoppers flooding back.”

And Landsman sums up the bottom line when it comes to mall renovations: “With the incremental improvements in the state of the economy, those cash registers will keep on ringing at the new ‘Main Street’.”


(December 2012)

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