My idea of a good time isn't usually quite so flexible as to include mall events. But recent Saturday evening concerts at Reston Town Center have forced me to reconsider. First of all (pardon me if you've been there), the mall itself is a cut above the average suburban space-gobbling soul-killer. The plan is to replicate a traditional downtown, complete with narrow streets lined with high-rise office buildings and fronted by ground-floor shops and restaurants. There's even a multiplex theater with a neon marquee, and a large plaza leading to a splashing fountain.

Each Saturday through the end of August, the plaza (which becomes a skating rink in the winter) is the site of free performances by worthy acts ranging from zydeco to reggae to swing and big-band jazz, including an appearance by the Charlie Byrd Trio on Aug. 14. The music starts fairly promptly at 7:30 p.m. and goes till 10, but if you want to grab a table at one of the restaurants beside the plaza, or plunk down a folding chair close to the stage, come at least an hour early. Even if you come late, it's not so crowded that you can't find a pleasant place to stand or sit around the fountain (turned off during the performance). There's ample free parking in a surface lot west of the mall or in parking structures north and south of it.

As the sun goes down, the breeze picks up and the music plays, it's easy to forget it's just another suburban Saturday night.

Call 703-866-5373 for more information.

The Farming Life

There's no fanfare about the Claude Moore Colonial Farm--no big signs, fancy entrances or exit gift shops. It is almost unbelievably true to itself, a working re-creation of an 18th-century yeoman farm. Winding dirt paths through the woods open on small fields planted in wheat, vegetables or tobacco, then dead-end at simple log buildings arrayed with homemade tools and furniture. The people in period costume who go about their business--the real business--of maintaining buildings and crops take their roles with a seriousness born of an obvious passion for the history.

It is pleasant simply to wander around the site, amazingly devoid of reminders of the present. But it would be a mistake to miss some of the farm's special events, which are always carried off in a way that maintains authenticity. The next two are participatory: "Help the farmer bring tobacco plants to readiness for harvest" (Saturday) and "Help gather the cut plants and hang them on tobacco sticks to cure" (Aug. 22).

The farm is at 6310 Georgetown Pike in McLean, deep in CIA country. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children, and slightly more for special events. Call 703-442-7557 for information.

--Tom Shroder, Vienna

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