It’s the final weekend before Christmas, so with any luck, you’ll be spending the next few days smugly relaxing at home with all your holiday preparations finished. But more likely, you’ll be spending the weekend rushing around the mall with the rest of us procrastinators.
If you’ll be heading to Tysons Corner Center over the next few days, be sure to step outside and explore the Christmas Market and Winterfest on the Plaza. If you don’t know to look for it, you will miss it. You can’t see it from your car or inside the mall. It’s tucked away on a bridge outside the second level of the mall, near Lord and Taylor and the Metro station. There is so much happening out there on the Plaza, and I highly recommend that you go check it out.
I wrote about summer activities at the new Tysons Corner Plaza in an article a few months ago. This new community gathering place provides an outdoor experience for mall shoppers with fun things to do all year round. During the warm months, it has outdoor dining and free games like ping pong, chess, and cornhole. During the winter, there is an ice skating rink with a live DJ. All year round there is a fantastic playground shaped like a pirate ship. And for most of December, a pretty Christmas market occupies the Plaza.
The Tysons Christmas Market is modeled after traditional German markets, with German food, hot drinks, art and craft vendors, and musical performances. A giant Christmas tree hovers over the market, and sparkling lights are strung throughout the Plaza. Strolling through the Plaza is a fun change of scenery from the madness inside the mall, and a literal breath of fresh air.
The Plaza is set up as a place for outdoor recreation and relaxation. It feels like a clean, contemporary oasis in the middle of the hectic chaos of the Tysons area. I particularly love how it is surrounded by tall buildings but removed from street traffic, so it feels urban and fresh while being far from cars and bustle.
The centerpiece of the Plaza is the new ice skating rink. It will be open throughout the winter until Wednesday, March 11th. Skate rentals are available. Refer to the ice rink website for hours and rates. If your spouse and kids get worn out while shopping, or if you want to distract them while you purchase a few surprises, send them to the ink to burn off some energy.
To celebrate the launch of the new rink and the beginning of the holiday season, Tysons Corner Center hosted a figure skating show on December 5, 2014. The show featured many notable figure skaters, with Nancy Kerrigan as the host and headliner.
Another highlight of the Christmas Market and Winterfest is the Käthe Wohlfahrt tent, which sells German handcrafted Christmas decorations. People who have traveled to Germany may recognize this beloved maker of Christmas nutcrackers and ornaments. I have loved Käthe Wohlfahrt products since my childhood, and apparently many people in Northern Virginia feel the same way. I spoke with the manager of the Tysons shop, and she said that the Käthe Wohlfahrt company chose Tysons Corner for one of their few US locations, because so many government contractors and members of the military who live in this area have spent time in Germany and love these traditional decorations.
Even if you aren’t familiar with Käthe Wohlfahrt, be sure to step inside their large tent just beyond the ice rink. If you want to buy a real German nutcracker, this is the place to do it. I also love the hand-carved wooden ornaments and elaborate candle pyramids. I could wander this tent for a long time, absorbing every detail.
As you walk beyond the Käthe Wohlfahrt tent, you’ll come to the booths of several other artists and artisans. There are lots of real treasures to be found in these booths! I was impressed with the quality and style of lots of the products available. Here is just a small selection of items that caught my eye:
Interspersed among the booths are food and drink vendors, many of which offer traditional German food. Shown here are Helmut’s Strudel and Wild Bill’s holiday drinks.
If you still aren’t sure where this Plaza is, you aren’t alone. It really isn’t easy to find. As you can see here, it’s located on the bridge that connects the mall with the new Metro station. You can access it from inside the mall on the second floor next to the new Zara store or from inside Lord and Taylor. It’s also accessible from the 4th level of the parking garage near the restaurants and movie theaters, but that area is still under construction and tricky to navigate.
It’s hard to believe how much hectic activity is happening below the quiet Plaza. When you’re there, you don’t see the traffic at all. It’s a cozy and refreshing addition to the mall, and a definite improvement to the Tysons area. Please go check it out and support the art vendors who are helping to bring a fresh new lifestyle to this busy part of Northern Virginia. I’m glad they’re there.
Have you been to the new Plaza yet? What are your thoughts?