eliza berkon is a journalist and musician based in washington d.c. 

Winter survival guide


Binge-watch ’90s high school movies. Try to match the quote with its movie and find the answers at the bottom of this post.


Take the kids to the Children’s Museum of Richmond, Fredericksburg.

Yes, this museum is actually in Fredericksburg despite its name, and is one of the organization’s four locations. Bring your tots or slightly older children for hours of educational play, involving simple machines, an art station and rooms that simulate real-world experiences. // Children’s Museum of Richmond, Fredericksburg


Read a memoir by a minor celebrity you’d mostly forgotten about or never heard of.

Candy at Last, Candy Spelling (Turner Publishing)

Behind the Bell, Dustin Diamond (Transit Publishing)

Unforgettable You: Master the Elements of Style, Spirituality and True Beauty, Daisy Fuentes (Atria Books)

Dancing to the Music in My Head: Memoirs of the People’s Idol, Sanjaya Malakar (Gallery Books)

unSweetined, Jodie Sweetin (Gallery Books)

Never Say Never: Finding a Life That Fits, Ricki Lake (Atria Books)

Flavor Flav: The Icon The Memoir, Flava Flav (Farrah Gray Publishing)


Become a multi-cooker master chef.

Spice up your cooking routine with the Instant Pot, a favorite of Arlington-based home cook Emily Connor (Instagram: @emily_c99).


Throw a throwback game night.

Before Netflix, before DVR, before DVDs—maybe even before VHS—you probably got together with friends for some face-to-face fun with actual board games. Embrace the nostalgia with some Tab, Cheese Nips and a pile of the classics.

And if your living room is making you a bit stir-crazy, head for a bar that specializes in this brand of fun: The Board Room, Arlington


Develop an elaborate nacho recipe.

Before you reach for the Hint of Lime Tostitos and a block of mild cheddar, review these tips from Taco Bamba chef Victor Albisu:

Chilaquiles, or ‘fork-and-knife’ nachos, are my favorite kind to build at home. Chilaquiles have and always will be a great way to utilize leftover tortilla chips. Make sure you get good coverage on all levels of the nachos; naked chips are bad. Build different levels of flavors, use chiles for heat and cremas to cool. Chilaquiles are extra hearty; add an egg, shredded chicken or pork, and you have a full meal.

Tip #1: Choose good cheese, some sort of crema and something spicy.
Tip #2: Use pickled chiles, a drizzle of your favorite salsa or hot sauce for spice.
Tip #3: Nachos are a blank canvas for your favorite toppings. We use unexpected things like seafood, mushrooms, different hot sauces, different types of pickles, different cheeses and more.


Buy a treadmill and consider actually using it.

Dick’s Sporting Goods // Multiple Locations
Gym Source // Falls Church
Leisure Fitness // Multiple Locations


Try indoor skydiving.

If jumping out of a plane in the dead of winter doesn’t sound appealing, how about simulating the experience in a controlled, indoor environment? iFly gives both adults and children the feeling of freefall without the risks of traditional skydiving.


Make a playlist of beach-ready songs to get your mind off the cold.

To immediately capture that summer je ne sais quoi, start with these track recommendations from local musicians:

“L.A. Girl” (The Five One), RDGLDGRN; Reston

“Waiting in Vain” (Bob Marley and the Wailers), Julian Junior Marvin; Arlington

“Rum” (Brothers Osborne), Amy Wilcox; raised in Arlington, lives in Venice, California


Try life as a vegan.

KK Brady co-owns Cowbell Kitchen, a Leesburg purveyor of plant-based food. About four years ago, she experimented with veganism and her body promptly thanked her. Today, she shares plant-based recipes on Instagram (@theguacwardkael), and is more adventurous in the kitchen, adding that her diet “contributes directly” to her well-being. Check out what she had to say, here.


Stop drinking 2-buck Chuck and finally start learning about wine.

Find area classes, here.


Donate your time at a local charity.

If you’re passionate about pets, try: Gray Face Acres Senior Dog Rescue and Retreat, Haymarket

If you’re passionate about literature, try: Reach Out and Read, Multiple locations

If you’re passionate about supporting domestic-violence victims, try: Bethany House of Northern Virginia, Alexandria

If you’re passionate about services for homeless and low-income community members, try: Cornerstones, Reston


Try one month at a boutique fitness center and go 5x a week.

Go beyond traditional workouts with aerial arts, barre, boot camp, boxing, CrossFit, cycling, kettle-bell training, OrangeTheory, pilates, pole fitness, indoor rock climbing, rowing and yoga.


Host a record party.

Back in the early days of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, teens gathered for dance parties with an armful of 45s. Today, capitalize on the resurgence of vinyl with your own modern-day record party, trading the rock ’n’ roll for more contemporary tracks—easily found at area vinyl stores.

Blue Groove Soundz, Arlington
CD Cellar, Falls Church
Crooked Beat Records, Alexandria
Mobius Records, Fairfax
Right On! Records, Herndon


Lace up a pair of ice skates.

Nothing says winter like bundling up and hitting the rink.

The Reston Town Center rink is open through March and offers Rock ’n’ Skate on Friday nights and Cartoon Skate sessions on Saturdays from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

If you’d like to try out your triple lutz in an indoor location, head to the Fairfax Ice Arena, open all year long.

Public skate sessions, including Friday Fun Skates, are offered throughout the week at the Ashburn Ice House, an indoor rink.


Cozy up at a hotel bar and people-watch.

Coton & Rye At Lansdowne Resort and Spa, Leesburg

Jackson 20 at The Alexandrian, Alexandria

Tavern 64 at the Hyatt Regency, Reston


The Chocolate Method

Get your finger on the pulse (or better yet the soft exterior) of local chocolate before you pick out that perfect box.

Where to Buy:

Artisan Confections, Arlington and Fairfax

Blüprint Chocolatiers, Alexandria

Chesapeake Chocolates, Reston

Fleurir Chocolates, Alexandria

Schakolad Chocolate Factory, Arlington

Sweet Signatures, Sterling

Where to Learn:

The Conche Chocolate Lab, Leesburg

Cookology Recreational Culinary School, Sterling

Where to Totally Immerse Yourself:

Chocolate Lovers Festival
Feb. 2-4
This annual weekend soiree of sweets features the Taste of Chocolate sampling event, a cake/edible sculpture competition and a chocolate-chip pancake breakfast.


The Music Method

A Romantic Valentine Package
Feb. 10, 8 p.m.
The American Festival Pops Orchestra plays famed love songs—including Titanic’s “My Heart Will Go On”—as you and your date sip on champagne in commemorative glasses, nibble on chocolates and steal away for a photo in front of a Valentine’s Day-themed backdrop.

Valentine Date Package
Feb. 17, 8 p.m.; Feb. 18, 2 p.m.
Celebrate just after the big day with two tickets for Virginia Opera’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, two glasses of champagne in signature glasses, chocolates and access to a photo booth. // GMU Center for the Arts Concert Hall, Fairfax


Conduct an extensive analysis of fuzzy socks based upon cuteness factor, level of residual toe lint, resilience after repeated washes and ability to fit inside a boot.


Lovingly tend to a bonsai tree.


Host a Meryl Streep living-room film festival.

With more Oscar noms than any other actor, male or female, Meryl Streep is an unparalleled performer—regardless of what some may tweet. Thus, the challenge isn’t finding enough great films for your fest, but narrowing down the list. Here are some suggestions, based on a loose combination of critical acclaim and personal bias:

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Manhattan (1979)

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Silkwood (1983)

Marvin’s Room (1996)

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Doubt (2008)

Mamma Mia! (2008)

It’s Complicated (2009)

Suffragette (2015)

The Post (2017)


Get the royal treatment.

Just because you don’t feel like leaving home doesn’t mean you should let everything go. Keep up on your locks, your lox and your laundry with these home services:

Mobile Spas and Salons:

Alani Beauty, Aldie
In the Nick of Time, Fairfax
Day-Lux Mobile Spa, Vienna
Recoup Massage, Burke

Food Delivery:

Food delivery apps are a necessity for everyone without a bicycle basket. Try Uber Eats, Grubhub, Seamless, Eat24 and City Cheetah.

Laundry Pick-Up:

Cleanly, Washington, D.C.
Crest Advanced Dry Cleaners, Multiple locations
Total Cleaners, Multiple locations


Fill an entire adult coloring book.

Sharpen those colored pencils and grab the car keys because coloring is not just about passing the time—with area coloring clubs, it’s also about community-building.

Adult Coloring Corner, Washington, D.C.

D.C. Metro Area Coloring for Adults,Washington, D.C.

Oodles of Doodles, Herndon


Write a script for a new sitcom or short film about your workplace.

Most offices are teeming with material for a comedic script if you just pay attention. Turn some of the banal and sensational moments you’ve witnessed into a piece for the small or big screen, and submit them to these area groups and festivals:

D.C. Film and Digital Video Media Creation Community, Arlington

DC Shorts Film Festival & Screenplay Competition, Washington, D.C.

Northern Virginia International Film and Music Festival, Alexandria

NoVA Amateur Filmmakers, Arlington

Richmond International Film Festival, Richmond


Sink into an extended spa day at the Salamander.

The Middleburg resort’s 23,000-square-foot spa has plenty of room for relaxation, including 14 treatment rooms and a salon. After a mani/pedi, lose yourself in the spa’s Winter Warming Signature Treatment, which includes a skin brushing, facial cleanse, scalp “experience” and hot-stone back massage. // Salamander Resort and Spa, Middleburg


Visit the Mall museums you haven’t been to yet.

Here are a few newer spots, as well as other sites that may not be on your radar:

Art Museum of the Americas

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Museum of the Bible

National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Portrait Gallery


Enjoy afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton.

Add some old-school charm to a weekend afternoon with a tradition that Britain’s Duchess of Bedford is said to have started in the 1840s. Choose from scones served with clotted cream, seasonal sandwiches, a variety of teas and a bit of bubbly. // The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, Arlington


Paint an accent wall in your home.

June Shea, of Shea Studio Interiors in Fairfax Station, shares some pointers on getting the paint job right the first time, here.


Finally determine which tastes better: Coke or Pepsi?


Add some Broadway magic to your weekly routine.

Intermediate Theater Dance
Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.
BalletNova, Falls Church


Take a dive for a good cause.

Brave the wintry water in a polar plunge for a worthy charity:

Northern VA Polar Plunge Festival
Feb. 24, Event opens at 10 a.m.; Plunge at 3 p.m.
Jump into the Potomac River to raise funds for Special Olympics Virginia, an organization that assists more than 27,000 athletes. Prior to your plunge, listen to live music and show off your plunge wear at the festival costume contest. // Dumfries

Freezin’ for a Reason
Feb. 3, 2-4 p.m.
There is something special about donning a bathing suit and jumping into below-freezing-degree waters. There are supposed medicinal benefits, but this event is focused on benefitting Camp Sunshine, a retreat in Maine where families who have children with life-threatening illnesses can go to recharge, free of charge. This year’s goal is to raise $100,000 so 40 families can attend camp Sunshine. // Lake Anne Village Center: 1609 Washington Plaza W., Reston


Ala The New Yorker’s Cartoon Caption Contest, submit a caption for this wordless cartoon.

Prove to all your friends just how hysterical you are by winning our cartoon caption challenge. Think up the perfect line to pair with this cartoon and email it—along with your full name, city of residence and age—to eberkon@northernvirginiamag.com with the subject head “Cartoon Caption Challenge” by Feb. 6. The winning caption will appear in our March issue.


Adopt a kitten.

If you think you’re miserable this winter, imagine how an orphaned cat feels. Be the change in some feline’s future by adopting.

Fancy Cats Rescue Team, Herndon

King Street Cats, Alexandria

Tails High, Alexandria


Unplug for a day (or at least an hour).

It may be unrealistic to chuck your smartphone out the window, but even limiting your time on it has benefits. To assess the current state of your screen time, try apps that monitor usage, such as Moment, or lead you in a personalized program to help you cut the cord over time, such as SPACE.


Find out if you’re meant for Mensa.

Founded in 1946, Mensa is an international group for intellectuals, as defined by their IQ. To get a sense of whether you’d qualify, try their 30-minute, 30-question online quiz, the Mensa Workout.


Make a snow angel.


Become an expert on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding plans.


Head for the slopes.

Bryce Resort, Basye

Massanutten Resort, Massanutten

Wintergreen Resort, Wintergreen

Don’t feel like facing the frigid weather? Try Leesburg’s Inside Ski Training Center.


Brush up on a language you haven’t studied since college, or start learning a new one.

If you don’t feel like leaving the couch, try apps such as BabbelDuolingo or Memrise. And for some in-the-classroom learning, try courses through Northern Virginia Community College (including Arabic, Japanese and Portuguese) or the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia (Spanish, Hebrew and Yiddish).


Start writing your novel.

Sure, it sounds daunting. But perhaps getting in a room with a bunch of other novice writers will take a bit of the edge off:

Members of the Northern Virginia Writers Club gather in different NoVA spots to discuss different components of the writing process, such as motivation and self-evaluation. // Multiple locations


Go out for a chichi dinner just because.

2941 Restaurant, Falls Church

Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VA

L’Auberge Chez Francois, Great Falls

L’Auberge Provencale, Boyce

Trummer’s on Main, Clifton


Try your hand at crochet.

Sign up for an introductory course at one of these fine, yarn-heavy establishments:

Fibre Space, Alexandria

Needles in the Haymarket, Haymarket

The Yarn Barn, Burke

Yarn Cloud, Occoquan


Become a brewmaster with a home-brewing kit.

Scott Hoffman, whose experience as a home brewer in college led him to launch Ono Brewing Company in Chantilly, offers the keys to successful home brewing, here.


Re-organize your closet and exchange your old duds for some new-to-you ones at consignment shops.

Auntie Te’s, Merrifield

Current Boutique, Arlington and Alexandria

Forage, Fredericksburg

Havana Vintage, Great Falls


Enjoy a special screening at Alamo Drafthouse.

In keeping with the tradition of other boutique movie houses (see Angelika Film Center at the Mosaic District), Alamo Drafthouse Cinema offers craft beer, cocktails and gourmet food. But what’s especially visit-worthy are its movie parties and screening events—a chance to see an old or new crowd-pleaser and interact a bit with the big screen. On tap for February:

Rowdy Screening: Fifty Shades Freed
Feb. 9-11 and 14, Times Vary
As you enjoy the final chapter of the Fifty Shades of Grey film trilogy, you’re invited to share your reaction to, shall we say, the NSFW scenes aloud. // Alamo Drafthouse Cinema One Loudoun, Ashburn

ANSWERS: 1) C  2) E  3) D  4) A  5) B

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