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A Guide to Making Fairfax Your Own

It is hard, when you're stuck in traffic on I-66 or on the Capital Beltway, or somewhere on Route 7, to realize that Fairfax County was once a relatively rural place with roots in the Revolutionary and Civil wars -- except for all those historical markers.

We know how confusing the place can be, which is why this Community Guide is produced: to help you make sense of a county of more than a million people, its towns and two incorporated cities.

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What you will find in these pages is a mosaic of governments, events, activities and opportunities for participation and enjoyment, both within the limits of the circulation of the Fairfax Extra and outside it.

We have tried to include looks at places that might be your favorites or might become your favorites once you know about them and take a look.

Our essay takes a look at the history of Fairfax County through one of its most enduring and largest endeavors, the school district, the state's largest, and its students and a teacher who has a way of reminding his charges about that history.

But there is much, much more than schools, even if you count George Mason and Northern Virginia Community College and the branches of universities that have established themselves here.

Many of our residents are retired or active in the military and their ranks are about to swell, because Fort Belvoir will be almost doubling in coming years, a result of the base realignment and closure process.

For everybody, there is shopping, in just about any venue imaginable. We haven't bothered to list the major groceries or the bodegas or markets, but we have listed the farmers markets, a staple of the area, particularly when summer brings local produce.

There are many major chains, some elegant, some simple, as well as significant ethnic shopping areas and markets where English is not the common tongue.

Tysons Corner has one of the largest concentrations of shopping on the East Coast, and Eden Center, chockablock with restaurants, jewelry stores and market, is a bustling center of the Vietnamese commercial community.

And if you get hungry, these areas can cater to a pretty wide array of tastes, from steakhouses at Tysons and other areas to pho at Eden Center and at many soup shops scattered throughout the county. Want to eat in? Most tastes can be accommodated by carryout or order-in establishments.

Entertainment ranges from theater to outdoor movies to summer orchestras to opera and ballet.

There are almost uncountable programs in the county and regional parks, from watching a cider press work to learning how to find the squirm of life down in the muck or seeing how a colonial farm works. Or watching movies outdoors in the summer.

If you are on the road, make some time to become familiar with some of those historical markers. They can make the past come alive and step out of the jumble of the county's intricate web of the present.

To bring this Guide to you, the regular features of the Fairfax Extra were suspended this week -- to make room for something that might stay with you through the year. Next week, though, the regular features will be back, local and regional news, home sales -- including the top 10 sales from any week's list -- crime watch, entertainment calendar and arts, religion and volunteer notes.

And Dr. Gridlock and Extra Credit bring the lowdown on two major topics -- traffic and schools.

So enjoy the Guide. We hope it helps you find your way around this enormous property that we share. We welcome your comments and suggestions about the Guide. Send them to theguide@washpost.com or call 202-334-6005.

-- Bob Samsot, Editor, Fairfax Extra

» Looking for crime, home sales and animal reports from April 26? Click here.

Where History Can Be Lived

Fairfax County is known today for its affluence, strong economy and well-regarded school system. But one teachers believes it is also a “living learning laboratory” for teaching history. ... READ MORE

What’s in a Name? Plenty, When the Place Is Virginia

Thomas, Lord Fairfax, didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. How else to describe perhaps the only British peer who loved his holdings in America so much that he moved to Virginia and drew his last breath there? ... READ MORE

Despite Slump, N.Va. Housing Prices Still Top Charts

Northern Virginia bore the brunt of the real estate market slowdown locally last year, but its prices remained the highest in the region. ... READ MORE

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Getting Around the Washington Area

Fairfax Area Park-and-Ride Lots

The county's park-and-ride lots come in various sizes. Some offer a few spaces, while others have thousands. Some are private, and others are owned by the Virginia Department of Transportation or Metro. Some are free; others have fees. Lots may be served by buses or by rail. For more information on the lots within Fairfax County, as well as which method of transit connects with them, go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fcdot/parkride.htm.

Slug lines are a way to form impromptu carpools and help drivers meet passenger minimums.
Slug lines are a way to form impromptu carpools and help drivers meet passenger minimums. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
Fairfax Area Bus Service

Fairfax City CUE. These buses operate daily within Fairfax City and to and from the Vienna Metro station and the George Mason University campus. Routes vary. Basic fare is 75 cents, but GMU students, faculty and staff members with ID, and children 3 and younger ride free. Elementary, intermediate and high school students, senior citizens (60 and older), and people with disabilities with a valid ID ride for 50 cents.

Exact change is required. For route, schedule and other information, call 703-385-7859 or e-mail transportation@fairfaxva.gov. Or go to www.fairfaxva.gov.

Fairfax County Connector. Buses run daily across the county and connect with Metrorail and Metrobus routes. Fares are subject to change without notice, but most local routes are $1; check the Web site or call for information on discounts and exceptions.

For information on schedules, routes or fares, call 703- 339-7200 or TTY at 703-339-1608, or go to www.fairfaxconnector.com.

Falls Church GEORGE. Buses run daily to and from the East and West Falls Church Metro stations and across the city of Falls

For schedule, route and fare information, call 202-637-7000 or 202-638-3780 (TDD), or go to www.ci.falls-church.va.us/george/faresAndSchedules.html.

Springfield TAGS. This is a shuttle service, operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro), that circulates in Springfield's business district. Bus stops for TAGS include Metro Park, the Franconia-Springfield Metro station, Springfield Mall and the Springfield Hilton. Fare is 25 cents between Franconia-Springfield Station and the Hilton, and free between Franconia-Springfield Station and Metro Park.

For schedule, route and fare information, call 703-971-7727 or go to www.springfieldinterchange.com/ad/tags.html.

Reston RIBS. The Reston Internal Bus System runs four routes daily across Reston, linking Reston Town Center, Lake Anne and Hunters Woods with Metro stations, park-and-ride lots and other buses. Fares are $1; drivers do not make change. For schedule, fares and other information, call 703-435-5465 or go to www.linkinfo.org/reston.cfm.

Traveling on Metro
Carpool, Vanpool and Commuter Information
Commuting 101: Becoming Fluent in Traffic Talk
Major Airports
Toll Roads
Commuter Rail
Transit Information On the Web
Up-to-Date Traffic Information

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