Best & Worst 2023: Recreation
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Best & Worst 2023: Recreation

Jul 29, 2023

by Richmond magazine staff

August 28, 2023

10:27 AM

Multicategory Winner


1700 Hampton St., 804-358-7166 

Illustration by Iain Duffus

“Maymont is a special place for so many folks,” says Executive Director Parke Richeson. “We’ve done polling, and over 90% of Richmonders have been to Maymont and love Maymont because you get to experience so much. … It’s this unique setting right here in the middle of the city. It’s incredible.” Maymont’s gardens and historic estate offer 100 acres of exploration to first-time and return visitors alike. The picturesque setting makes it a top spot for first dates, while the resident wildlife at The Robins Nature Center and Maymont Farm are a draw for children’s parties. Maymont also offers free admission, although there is a $5 suggested donation. “We want everyone to be able to come here without the expectation of an entrance fee, and thanks to the support of the community, we’re able to offer that,” Richeson says.

1. Maymont

2. Belle Isle

3. Carytown

1. Maymont

2. Hotel Greene

3. Révéler Experiences

1. Maymont

2. The James River, James River Park System and trails

3. Belle Isle

1. Maymont

2. Forest Hill Park

3. James River Park System

1. Maymont

2. Richmond SPCA

3. Gnome & Raven

Libby Hill Park

2801 E. Franklin St.

The view that reminded city founder William Byrd II of a Thames River overlook in Richmond, England, is today a top spot for tourists and sunset watchers. Libby Hill Park is also a destination for live music, special events and other al fresco celebrations.

2. The James River

3. Rocketts Landing


Because they cultivate social and spiritual communion, places of worship are many Richmonders’ favorite spot for meeting someone new. Respondents cite church meetup groups, public gatherings and services as sites for making friends and meeting potential significant others. Of course, churches — historic locations such as Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and St. John’s Church — are also ideal spots for weddings.

2. Révéler Experiences

3. Scott’s Addition

Easter on Parade

After a three-year hiatus, all the frilly bonnets, pet costumes and porch parties returned to Monument Avenue for the 2023 Easter on Parade. “It’s always been a very popular event,” says Jessica Corbett of organizing company Echelon Events. “It really was a shame when COVID hit and we weren’t able to host it. … We really loved bringing the event back, and we hope to keep the tradition alive.”

2. Restaurants

3. Richmond Folk Festival

Deep Run Park

9900 Ridgefield Parkway, 804-652-1430

“Deep Run Park is one of our most popular parks,” says Ruaridh McNicol, recreation manager at Deep Run Recreation Center. “Children can stay active along the trails, multiple playgrounds, a pump track and open fields. Athletes take to the large field at the back of the park to play cricket, soccer and other sports.” Deep Run also offers a new section of paved trails and a recently opened fitness center.

2. Pocahontas State Park

3. Tie: Crump Park; Dorey Park

Canal Walk murals

Access points between Fifth and 17th streets

Richmond’s larger-than-life street art has gained renown over the past several years, and a popular destination for viewing these urban murals is the Canal Walk. Last September’s RVA Street Art Festival added a new series of colorful public art from locals including Emily Herr, Chris Visions and Nils Westergard.

2. Rumors of War by Kehinde Wiley at VMFA

3. “Moonshine” by Etam Cru at Grace and Harrison streets

Photo by Sandra Sellars

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

200 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd., 804-340-1400

One of the 10 largest art museums in America, the VMFA is “a museum for everyone,” says Director and CEO Alex Nyerges. Thanks to free general admission 365 days a year, visitors can take an art class, shop, dine or explore the “global permanent collection of more than 50,000 works of art, representing 6,000 years of world history.”

2. Science Museum of Virginia

3. Gallery5

American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar

480 Tredegar St., 804-649-1861

The ACWM’s collection of Civil War artifacts includes the expected swords and saddles, but President and CEO Robert Havers’ favorite artifact is a glass vial containing an important coded message — that never reached its recipient. The museum’s mission is simple: “Know the past as the past knew itself.”

2. Hollywood Cemetery

3. St. John’s Church

Photo courtesy Venture Richmond

Friday Cheers

For less than $20, attendees can enjoy national talent such as Zac Brown Band, Alabama Shakes and Richmond’s own Lucy Dacus alongside regional artists on Brown’s Island. “It is a great venue located in the heart of the city with both James River views and city skyline views,” says Stephen Lecky, Venture Richmond’s events director. “The bands that come through are always blown away by the event, location and crowds.”

2. After Hours Concert Series

3. Music at Maymont

Broadway in Richmond

Altria Theater, 6 N. Laurel St., 800-514-3849

Richmond theatergoers’ tastes “have become very sophisticated and diverse over the past 15 years,” says Cindy Creasy, spokesperson for Broadway in Richmond. The upcoming season includes Richmond premieres of popular musicals “Frozen,” “Six,” “Tina” and “Beetlejuice,” and Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

2. Virginia Repertory Theatre

3. The Richmond Forum

Photo courtesy Richmond Folk Festival

Richmond Folk Festival

This free three-day event celebrating diverse cultural traditions “is Richmond at its best,” says Stephen Lecky, Venture Richmond’s events director. Visitors can enjoy a craft market, international dishes and performances. This year’s festival (Oct. 13-15) includes music from Michael Cleveland and Richmond’s Bio Ritmo.

2. Richmond Jazz and Music Festival

3. Riverrock

The Tin Pan

8982 Quioccasin Road, 804-447-8189

“We are all about the music,” says Patrick Zampetti, Tin Pan’s co-owner and director. Audiences dine and dance a few feet from musicians ranging from Grammy Award winners to high school jazz bands at this intimate venue, which also offers an expansive food menu and specialty drinks. This fall, look for the Yellowjackets, The Smithereens and Love Canon.

2. The Meadow Event Park

3. Richmond Raceway

The National

708 E. Broad St., 804-612-1900

A self-proclaimed “music-lover’s fantasyland,” the 1,500-capacity theater combines Italian Renaissance design with a state-of-the-art sound system. General admission only, the 300 balcony seats are “first-come, first-served.” Look for national touring artists including Candlebox (Aug. 29), Sylvan Esso (Sept. 27), and Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors (Oct. 5).

2. Brown’s Island

3. The Broadberry

Photo by Sarah Ferguson

Richmond Ballet / Richmond Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”

407 E. Canal St., 804-344-0906

Over 65 years, Richmond Ballet has developed into a professional company of elite dancers. Each December, performances of “The Nutcracker” mark a holiday tradition. “While it constantly evolves with new choreographic elements, vibrant costumes and dazzling scenery, I have always maintained the classic storybook feel,” says Richmond Ballet Artistic Director Stoner Winslett.

2. Richmond Ballet Studio Series

3. Salsa night at Havana ’59

Photo courtesy Arts in the Park

Arts in the Park

Each spring, more than 350 artists from around the nation exhibit paintings, pottery, jewelry, furniture and more in Byrd Park. It began “as a way for our neighbors to come together for a common cause,” says Director Cindy Lasher. The juried art show (returning May 4-5) is free, and attendees can purchase artwork directly from the exhibiting artists.

2. Richmond Greek Festival

3. Riverrock

Sweet Wynns

1209 E. Main St., 804-749-3329

“We wanted to create a unique experience for the Richmond community inspired by our love of ice cream,” say owners Pierre and Taryn Wynn, who celebrate their first year as a brick-and-mortar in November. Their workshops guide participants step by step in creating the frozen treat.

2. Mise En Place

3. The Kitchen Classroom

Honorable Mention: Publix Aprons Cooking School received top votes, but was discontinued July 31, 2023.

Photo courtesy Children’s Museum of Richmond

Children’s Museum of Richmond

2626 W. Broad St.; 6629 Lake Harbour Drive, Chesterfield, 804-474-7000

Visitors to the museum’s Broad Street location can experience “Moon to Mars” until Aug. 13. Sarah Moseley, a museum spokesperson, says, “We’re planning to bring traveling exhibits back each year. We want to [introduce] new dynamic experiences for our visitors.”

2. Science Museum of Virginia

3. Maymont

BTM Movieland at Boulevard Square

1301 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd., 804-354-6008

Since opening in 2009, BTM Movieland at Boulevard Square has looked to improve the moviegoing experience. Owner and Operating Partner Joseph Masher says, “We’ve been very nimble with making changes such as offering more independent films [and] adding reserved seating.”

2. CMX CinéBistro Stony Point

3. The Byrd Theatre

Photo by Jay Paul

Monument Avenue 10K

The Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K celebrates 25 years in April 2024. With supportive onlookers and fun costumes, the event is an entertaining extravaganza with broad appeal. “It really is for everyone,” says Nan Callahan, a spokesperson for organizer Sports Backers. “You can walk or run, and ... people are able to participate no matter their fitness level.”

2. Richmond Marathon

3. Richmond SPCA Dog Jog and 5K

Photo courtesy Peak Experiences

Peak Experiences

1375 Overbrook Road, 804-655-2628; 11421 Polo Circle, Midlothian, 804-897-6800

“We think of rock climbing as the opposite of extreme sports,” says Molly Mason, a spokesperson with Peak Experiences. “It’s accessible to everyone at all ages, abilities and body types.” The new 3 Peaks Sampler is an introduction to climbing. Mason says the instructors “help you get comfortable with how to climb and then they belay you.”

2. Triangle Rock Club

3. Riverside Outfitters

Funny Bone Comedy Club

11800 W. Broad St., Suite 1090, 804-521-8900

“It’s all about bringing the best comedians available on a rotation every year,” says Todd Leinenbach, vice president of Funny Bone Comedy Clubs. Patrons of the Short Pump club can catch local talent during open mic nights, as well as seasoned performers such as Dan Cummins (Sept. 8-9) and Jay Pharoah (Nov. 17-18).

2. CSz Richmond Theater

Photo courtesy Richmond Flying Squirrels

Richmond Flying Squirrels

3001 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd., 804-359-3866

More than 400,000 fans visit The Diamond annually to watch the Richmond Flying Squirrels, but the experience transcends baseball. “We’re not in the baseball business, we’re not in the entertainment business, we’re in the memory-making business,” says CEO Todd “Parney” Parnell. Special events include Movies in the Outfield and theme nights.

2. Richmond Kickers

3. VCU Rams men’s basketball

Richmond SPCA Fur Ball

2519 Hermitage Road, 804-521-1300

Among the notable guests who have descended the grand staircase at The Jefferson Hotel are Barack Obama, Elvis Presley and Cupcake one of many pets that have participated in the SPCA’s black-tie fundraising affair, the Fur Ball, which marks 25 years on Nov. 4. The annual ball raises funds for providing lifesaving veterinary care.

2. Bon Secours Children’s Hope Gala

3. FETCH a Cure Pets on Parade

Photo by Rachel Lee

Hotel Greene

508 E. Franklin St.,

An indoor miniature golf course in an eerie hotel setting, Hotel Greene offers “romance, mystery and unease,” according to co-owner Jim Gottier. For a night out with friends, the lobby bar provides a social space and occasional live music. “They don’t even have to play golf. They can just come and have snacks and one of our cocktails, and it’s a neat vibe,” Gottier says.

2. Révéler Experiences

3. Brewery hopping

River City Roll

939 Myers St., 804-331-0416

As River City Roll celebrates its fifth anniversary, Marketing Director Heather Nicholas marvels that the bowling alley wasn’t considered family friendly when it first opened because it’s 21 and up after 7 p.m. Families love to spend time there, she says. “It’s bigger than bowling. … The adults can enjoy adult beverages, we have brick-oven pizzas that the kids love, and, of course, bring your dog because we have a huge dog-friendly patio.”

2. Uptown Alley

3. Gnome & Raven

Independence Golf Club

600 Founders Bridge Blvd., 804-601-8600

“Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned player, Independence provides an environment where you can improve your game and enjoy the challenges of a world-class course,” says Director of Marketing Jocelyn McCool. She says more is coming this year, including a barbecue eatery and a rental golf cart business.

2. Belmont Golf Course

3. The Country Club of Virginia

Multicategory Winner

The Jefferson Hotel

Illustration by Iain Duffus

101 W. Franklin St., 804-649-4750 

Stately and Southern, The Jefferson Hotel has been a Richmond favorite for more than a century. Beautifully appointed rooms, elegant dining options and grand traditions make the hotel a destination for visitors and locals alike. “No matter how many times they have visited the hotel for an event or dining, Richmonders staying overnight for the first time always say they wish they had done it years ago,” says Jennifer Crest, The Jefferson’s director of communications. The hotel entices locals with seasonally discounted room rates and special features. “The Jefferson has curated the perfect group of services and amenities to allow guests the flexibility to create a staycation or getaway that perfectly suits their personal ideal of a relaxing escape,” Crest says. 

1. The Jefferson Hotel

2. Quirk Hotel

3. Graduate Richmond

1. The Jefferson Hotel

2. Quirk Hotel

3. Linden Row Inn

Photo courtesy The Boulevard Inn

The Boulevard Inn

1 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd., 804-359-1211 

Celebrating their first year in business, Mitch Dorsey and Ron Rivera bring experience in hospitality and the kitchen to their first B&B. Situated in the Fan, their 1914 Colonial Revival-style townhouse embraces area history while offering updated rooms. They offer a European-style breakfast and host afternoon happy hours with locally sourced charcuterie.

2. Virginia Cliffe Inn

3. Museum District Bed & Breakfast

Covington Travel

1021 E. Cary St., Suite 1225, 804-747-7077 

For more than 50 years, Covington Travel has been sending business and leisure travelers all over the world. From customized business travel programs to exotic vacations, Covington knows where to go and how to get there. “It’s all about service and experience,” says Josée Covington, owner and CEO. “We know what to recommend because we have been there.” 

2. Stacy Luks, SmartFlyer


With more special events than there are months in the year, from the Festival of the Book to the Virginia Film Festival, there is always something to do in Charlottesville. Forty nearby wineries, numerous breweries and a few distilleries add to the appeal. Among its many cultural draws is the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia, which houses the largest collection of Aboriginal art outside of Australia. 

2. Williamsburg

3. Virginia Beach

by Richmond magazine staff

August 28, 2023

10:27 AM

MaymontBest Place to Take a First-time Richmond Visitor 1. Maymont2. Belle Isle3. CarytownBest Place for a First Date 1. Maymont2. Hotel Greene3. Révéler ExperiencesBest Free Fun 1. Maymont2. The James River, James River Park System and trails3. Belle IsleBest Park in the City1. Maymont2. Forest Hill Park3. James River Park SystemBest Place for a Child’s Party1. Maymont2. Richmond SPCA3. Gnome & RavenBest Place to Watch the SunsetLibby Hill Park2. The James River3. Rocketts LandingBest Place to Meet Someone NewChurch2. Révéler Experiences3. Scott’s AdditionBest ComebackEaster on Parade2. Restaurants3. Richmond Folk FestivalBest Park in the CountiesDeep Run Park2. Pocahontas State Park3. Tie: Crump Park; Dorey ParkFavorite Mural or Public Art PieceCanal Walk murals2. Rumors of War by Kehinde Wiley at VMFA3. “Moonshine” by Etam Cru at Grace and Harrison streetsBest Gallery or MuseumVirginia Museum of Fine Arts2. Science Museum of Virginia3. Gallery5Best Historical AttractionAmerican Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar2. Hollywood Cemetery3. St. John’s ChurchBest Concert SeriesFriday Cheers2. After Hours Concert Series3. Music at MaymontBest Theater Event or SeriesBroadway in Richmond2. Virginia Repertory Theatre3. The Richmond ForumBest Music FestivalRichmond Folk Festival2. Richmond Jazz and Music Festival3. RiverrockBest Live Music Venue in the CountiesThe Tin Pan2. The Meadow Event Park3. Richmond RacewayBest Live Music Venue in the CityThe National2. Brown’s Island3. The BroadberryBest Dance Event or SeriesRichmond Ballet / Richmond Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”2. Richmond Ballet Studio Series3. Salsa night at Havana ’59Best Nonmusic Festival or EventArts in the Park2. Richmond Greek Festival3. RiverrockBest Cooking ClassSweet Wynns 2. Mise En Place3. The Kitchen ClassroomBest Attraction for Kids Children’s Museum of Richmond 2. Science Museum of Virginia3. MaymontBest Movie Theater BTM Movieland at Boulevard Square 2. CMX CinéBistro Stony Point3. The Byrd TheatreBest Local Walk or RunMonument Avenue 10K 2. Richmond Marathon3. Richmond SPCA Dog Jog and 5KBest Extreme Sports VenuePeak Experiences2. Triangle Rock Club3. Riverside OutfittersBest Local Comedy ShowFunny Bone Comedy Club 2. CSz Richmond TheaterBest Local Sports TeamRichmond Flying Squirrels 2. Richmond Kickers3. VCU Rams men’s basketballBest Local Fundraising EventRichmond SPCA Fur Ball 2. Bon Secours Children’s Hope Gala3. FETCH a Cure Pets on ParadeBest Friends-night-out Activity Hotel Greene 2. Révéler Experiences3. Brewery hoppingBest Family EntertainmentRiver City Roll 2. Uptown Alley3. Gnome & RavenBest Golf Course Independence Golf Club 2. Belmont Golf Course3. The Country Club of VirginiaThe Jefferson Hotel Best Hotel1. The Jefferson Hotel2. Quirk Hotel3. Graduate RichmondBest Staycation Spot 1. The Jefferson Hotel2. Quirk Hotel3. Linden Row InnBest Local Bed-and-breakfast or Vacation Rental Property The Boulevard Inn2. Virginia Cliffe Inn3. Museum District Bed & BreakfastBest Travel AgentCovington Travel2. Stacy Luks, SmartFlyerBest Day Trip Destination From RichmondCharlottesville2. Williamsburg3. Virginia Beach