The results are in! Here are the winners of our Best & Worst 2015 survey in the Family & Neighborhoods category.
Best Art Classes for Kids: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (200 N. Boulevard, 340-1400)
From drawing and painting, to metalworking and graphic design, the VMFA offers more than 100 classes for children and teens. Megan Endy, the museum’s youth and family program coordinator, says, “A lot of places underestimate what these kids can do, but we allow them to go as far as they want to take it.”
2. Visual Arts Center of Richmond 3. ArtHaus Visual Arts Studio
Best Youth Orchestra or Band: (Tie) American Youth Harp Ensemble; Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra (4200 Dover Road, 353-7001; 612 E. Grace St., Suite 401, 788-4717)
Members of the American Youth Harp Ensemble have displayed their talents on tour in London and in performances at Carnegie Hall. The students are also involved in multiple community-engagement efforts. The Richmond Symphony takes pride in perpetuating its art form by working and playing alongside the talented kids in the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra.
2. (Tie) Atlee High School; James River High School
Best Youth Choir: Richmond Boys Choir (200 S. Third St., 788-6405)
Coming to the close of its 19th season, the Richmond Boys Choir offers boys from the ages of 7 to 17 what artistic director Craig Matthews calls, “a place where they can develop, where we don’t only teach them music, but how to succeed in life.” One former member found a good deal of success this year — American Idol finalist Rayvon Owen got his start with the choir.
The Richmond Boys Choir won the title of Best Youth Choir in this year's B&W survey. (Illustration by Phong Nguyen)
Best Place to Cycle With the Entire Family: Belle Isle (jamesriverpark.org/visit-the-park/getting-there.php)
According to Michael Burton Jr., trails manager for the James River Park System, Belle Isle is “one of the few places where every level of riding is compressed into one place.” In addition to multiple trails, Belle Isle includes a bike skills park, where kids and adults can practice their biking capabilities on varied terrain and obstacles in preparation for mountain biking.
2. Virginia Capital Trail 3. Pocahontas State Park
Most Kid-Friendly Coffee Shop: Cartwheels and Coffee (2820 W. Cary St., 355-5437)
The slides, jungle gym and toys adjacent to coffeehouse tables and chairs make Cartwheels and Coffee the perfect place for parents to relax while kids have an entire indoor playground at their fingertips. Owner Chris Barras conceived the shop as “a place where kids can do their thing and where parents can enjoy their lattes.”
2. Perk 3. Lamplighter Roasting Company
Most Kid-Friendly Menu at a Locally Owned Restaurant: Joe’s Inn (2616 Buford Road, Bon Air, 320-9700; 205 N. Shields Ave., 355-2282)
“We’re really more of a family restaurant,” says Joe Driebe, owner of Joe’s Inn at Bon Air. Driebe offers his 12-and-under customers free meals from the restaurant’s extensive kids’ menu on Mondays and Tuesdays at the Bon Air location, and juggler Jonathan Austin visits Joe’s Inn at Bon Air every Wednesday. The restaurant’s Fan location offers a low-priced kids’ menu with classics from chicken fingers to PB&J.
2. The Mill on MacArthur 3. Toast
Best Family-Focused or Children’s Nonprofit: Children’s Museum of Richmond (2626 W. Broad St., 474-7000; 6629 Lake Harbour Drive, Midlothian, 474-7075; 2200 Old Brick Rd, Glen Allen, VA, 545-1272; Short Pump Town Center)
Visitors at the Children’s Museum are “engaged … from the minute they walk in to the time they walk out the door, according to Director of Parent Engagement Liz Pearce. With CMoR’s smartphone app, children can continue lessons in math, reading, responsibility and sharing well after they leave the museum.
2. (Tie) Chesterfield County/Colonial Heights Crime Solvers Scholastic Program; SCAN 3. (Tie) ASK; CJ’s Thumbs Up Foundation; Visual Arts Center; YMCA
Best Kid’s Birthday Party Location: Children’s Museum of Richmond (2626 W. Broad St., 474-7000; 6629 Lake Harbour Drive, Midlothian, 474-7075; 2200 Old Brick Rd, Glen Allen, VA, 545-1272; Short Pump Town Center)
The whole museum is part of your child’s birthday party,” says CMoR Director of Parent Engagement Liz Pearce. Parties ranging from $150 to $400 begin in a special celebration room with party supplies and goody bags, then move into the museum.
2. Sky Zone 3. Maymont
Best Youth Minister or Leader: Pastor Daniel Prugh (goodshepherdmidlo.com)
“I’ve always had a heart for kids,” says Head Pastor Daniel Prugh, 35, who works with children as young as 6 weeks old in daycare, school and worship at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and Child Development Center. He knows their favorite activity during school is singing. “We jump around, do a lot of hand motions, and we have lots of fun.”
2. (Tie) Pete Bowell, Hope Church; Angie Frame, Powhatan Community Church; Dane Jackson, Second Baptist Church
Best Volunteer Group for Youth: Church Hill Academy and Tutoring (chatrichmond.org)
More than 160 youth from ages 2 to 18 come to CHAT’s tutoring and specialized learning programs for lower-income students each week. As the nonprofit’s Communications and Development Director Caitlin Barnes explains, “People just get excited about getting to know the kids that are involved with CHAT.” The after-school programs, tutoring and week-long summer camps are always looking for new volunteers.
Best Youth Summer Athletic Camp: (Tie) Riverside Outfitters; VCU/Will Wade Basketball Camp (6836 Old Westham Road, 560-0068; 1200 W. Broad St., willwadecamps.com)
Between tree climbing and river play, Riverside Outfitters gives campers memories. “We keep the groups small,” says Camp Director Scott Ross. At Will Wade Basketball Camp, Lauren Wade, wife of the VCU head basketball coach, says “[Kids] get exposed to the players and staff, and they really get to hear and learn from them.”
2. YMCA 3. (Tie) ACAC; Passages; Peak Experiences; St. Christopher’s
Best Family-Focused Festival: Richmond Folk Festival (200 S. Third St., 788-6466)
The Richmond Folk Festival is not only an enriching exploration of culture, music and food, but its partnership with the Children’s Museum of Richmond also makes it perfect for families. Activities include crafts, hula hoops, petting zoos and magicians. Festival Manager Stephen Lecky explains, “The children’s area each year … keeps bringing families back, and it’s one of the more robust family features to a folk festival.”
2. Dominion Riverrock 3. Watermelon Festival
Best Family Day Trip: Williamsburg (colonialwilliamsburg.com, (888) 965-7254)
From theme parks to outlet shopping, Williamsburg offers a wealth of family-friendly activities. This summer Colonial Williamsburg is offering a new version of the spy game “Rev Quest,” an interactive scavenger hunt following the footsteps of Revolutionary War spies. According to Communications Manager Barbara Brown, “Entire families really get into it.”
2. Busch Gardens/Water Country USA 3. Washington, D.C. (Smithsonian museums)
Best Pet-Friendly Neighborhood: The Fan
“When you have a dog, you’re constantly out and you’re constantly meeting new people, and having a dog and being outside significantly contributes to that great sense of community here,” says Fan District Association President Matthew Stanley. If a local canine gets tired of the concrete, Monroe, Federal and Grace parks are just a few of the grassy areas Fan residents can take their dogs.
2. Church Hill 3. Museum District
Best Pet Boarding: Holiday Barn (3800 Mountain Road, Glen Allen, 625-4114; 900 Southlake Boulevard, 601-4794)
When boarding pets at Holiday Barn, owner Michael Hughes says, “We find out the pet and owner lifestyles and match those here,” whether that means individual or group playtimes, multi-level cat condos, full-service grooming or obedience training. And since it’s summer, Hughes reminds us, “You can’t forget about our swimming pool.”
2. Impawsible Pups 3. Diamond Dog House
Best In-Home Pet Sitter: (Tie) Pets at Play; Sarah Sits -N- Stays (319 N. 25th St., 286-4665; (434) 444-0640, sarahsitsnstays.com)
“Love is, to me, one of the most important things,” says Pets at Play owner Marialyn McGinnis, who personalizes her at-home pet sitting by sending owners pictures of their furry friends, as well as leaving notes. In addition to Sarah Sits-N-Stays’ weekly midday walks while you’re at work or overnight stays when you’re out of town, the company offers group walks and play dates. “We offer so much socialization … puppies and dogs get socialized and learn good social skills,” says owner Sarah Hays.
Best Pet Daycare: Impawsible Pups (2109 Spencer Road, 285-2359)
“We spend a lot of time and energy to give as much back to the facility and the dogs as we can,” says owner Valerie Paul, who is dedicated to making sure the facility’s furry guests stay happy and healthy. “We recently installed new yards with K9Grass, so dogs stay cleaner and healthier,” Paul says. The artificial turf is specifically designed for dogs and equipped with antimicrobial protection.
2. Holiday Barn 3. Diamond Dog House
Best Family-Friendly Park: Maymont (1700 Hampton St., 358-7166)
“This is a kind of place where families can do as much or as little as they want,” says Carla Murray, assistant director of marketing at Maymont Park. Whether they’re taking advantage of summer family-night hikes, checking out the animals at the Children’s Farm, enjoying tea parties in Maymont’s mansion or just picnicking in the gardens, families have options that are easy on the budget.
2. Deep Run Park 3. Bryan Park
Best Family-Focused Holiday Event: Dominion GardenFest of Lights (1800 Lakeside Ave., 262-9887)
“The event has something for everyone of all ages,” says Beth Monroe, marketing director for Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, home of the GardenFest of Lights, the holiday event featuring more than half a million lights strung across the garden. “It changes in theme every year, so it always has a fresh and interesting angle that also relates back to the garden,” Monroe adds. “Things like that allow us to tell [the garden’s] story.”
2. Christmas Parade 3. Tacky Lights Tour
Best Place for a Family Outing on a Rainy Day: Science Museum of Virginia (2500 W. Broad St., 864-1400)
“The museum … puts the guests in the driver’s seat,” says SMV Chief Wonder Officer Richard Conti. “They get in the labs with our scientists and do experiments, travel with our astronomers through the cosmos in The Dome, and challenge themselves physically and mentally in the Boost! Gallery.”
2. Children’s Museum of Richmond 3. (Tie) movie theater; VMFA
Street with the Best Gardens/Yards: Monument Avenue
Sure, sure, this street is lined with Gilded Age mansions with small front yards east of the Boulevard, but what it does have is one long and wide grassy median for running, sunning and Friday night corn hole games. West of the Boulevard toward Libbie Avenue, the front yards get longer and describing them as manicured is an understatement.
2. River Road 3. Cary Street/Cary Street Road
Best Family-Friendly Neighborhood in the City: The Fan (fandistrict.org)
With shady streets, striking architecture, parks aplenty and the annual Holiday House Tour to fund neighborhood improvement projects, it’s no surprise that Richmond families are fans of the Fan. “The Fan is very diverse and welcoming of everyone,” says Fan District Association President Matthew Stanley, noting that the elegant charm of the Fan and its historic character appeal to both families and individuals alike.
2. Church Hill 3. Museum District
Best Family-Friendly Neighborhood in Henrico: Twin Hickory (4601 Twin Hickory Lake Drive, 360-2971)
“For many reasons, Twin Hickory is a great place to live,” says One South Realty Group owner Rick Jarvis, whose company sells many homes in the area, adding that “the proximity to schools and to shopping is excellent, for one. It has easy access to the interstate and is situated closely to both Innsbrook and the Capital One campus.” Families in this planned community enjoy eight miles of pedestrian paths and the Twin Hickory neighborhood pool.
2. Wyndham 3. Westham
Best Family-Friendly Neighborhood in Chesterfield: Woodlake (14900 Lake Bluff Parkway, 739-4344, woodlakeonline.com)
From paddleboarding to moonlit movie nights under the stars held four times a year, this waterside neighborhood pleases all members of the household. “There truly is a sense of community here,” says Diane Renkin, a 23-year resident of Woodlake. She credits community events and the Swift Creek Reservoir setting with drawing families to the neighborhood.
2. Hallsley 3. (Tie) Brandermill; Rountrey; Walton Park
Best Family-Friendly Neighborhood in Hanover: Rutland (rutlandnewhomes.com)
Rutland is characterized by the harmony of old and new. The Rutland House, once used by Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart as a military headquarters, serves as the community clubhouse. “Wine tasting, family float nights at the pool and cookies with Santa are a few events that families of Rutland always look forward to,” says Summer Baker, marketing manager for Rutland’s developer, HHHunt Communities.
2. King’s Charter 3. AshCreek
Best Community Playground: Mary Munford Elementary School (211 Westmoreland St., 646-5733)
Complete with an athletic field, a tot lot, tennis and basketball court, the outdoor space at Mary Munford welcomes families and sports teams. Its central location and quarter-mile exercise trail make it a community hub.
2. (Tie) Chimborazo Park; Huguenot Park; Rockwood Park; Three Lakes Park
Best Community for Continuing Care: Brandermill Woods (brandermillwoods.com)
“We pride ourselves on the fact that most of our staff has been here for 10-plus years,” says Brandermill Woods Marketing Director Amy Willmarth. The Chesterfield retirement community’s recent expansion has brought residents an indoor swimming pool, movie theater and 93 new apartments.
2. Westminster Canterbury 3. Lakewood Manor
Best Neighborhood for Empty Nesters in Chesterfield: Brandermill (brandermillwoods.com)
“You can literally do it all in Brandermill,” says Community Manager John Bailey. With schools, churches, restaurants and medical facilities all located within the bounds of Brandermill, its 13,000 residents rarely need to leave the hometown atmosphere of their waterfront community.
Best Neighborhood for Empty Nesters in the City: The Fan (fandistrict.org)
Aesthetically captivating, the Fan offers a walkable living environment that includes some of the city’s best restaurants and museums. The neighborhood’s free events, such as a concert series held at Meadow Park, are an added bonus.
2. Church Hill 3. Museum District
Best Neighborhood for Empty Nesters in Henrico: CrossRidge (3300 CrossRidge Glen Way, 756-6100)
Featuring six villages and 746 homes, CrossRidge is home to roughly 1,400 age-qualified residents. Those 55 and older can enjoy indoor and outdoor pools and more than 100 social events per month. “What truly makes people happy here are the relationships,” says on-site manager Susan Dunn. “Unique to CrossRidge is our neighborhood theater group called the Forever Young Players, whose productions are some of the most fun things our residents love to come to.”
2. West Broad Village
Best Neighborhood for Empty Nesters in Hanover: (Tie) Ashland (town.ashland.va.us); Rose Hill (7446 Rose Stable Court, 523-4663)
Ashland residents are never far from local festivals, frequent art openings and town meetings. As for Rose Hill, this one-floor-living community is “perfect for people looking to simplify their lives,” says site agent Clyde Parsons. Rose Hill’s age-qualified residents (55 or older) wishing to travel have a “lock-and-leave” lifestyle thanks to provided lawn-care services.
Best Summer Non-Sport Program for Kids: Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Child Development Center (1401 Old Hundred Road, Midlothian, 897-0260)
“What sets our camps apart is the character base … and our staff,” says Assistant Director Stephanie Kilby. “We really promote good character traits for children of all ages,” each age group learns the importance of sharing, respect and patience.
2. (Tie) ArtVenture; Visual Arts Center of Richmond 3. (Tie) Maymont; SPARC; YMCA
Best Community Pool: Southampton (sra-fun.org)
Thanks to an on-site ice rink, the fun doesn’t stop at Southampton Recreation Association when summer comes to a close. “Our ice rink is an unusual offering in a place like Richmond, Virginia, and it is something we are very proud of,” says Membership Director Caley Cantrell.
2. (Tie) Granite; Kanawha; Canterbury 3. Woodlake
Under-the-Radar Neighborhood: North Side
Home to some of Richmond’s most eclectic eateries and diverse architecture, North Side is quietly making a name for itself within the Central Virginia housing market. The neighborhoods of Ginter Park, Laburnum Park, Rosedale, and Bellevue are near Bryan Park, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, and Lakeside Farmers’ Market.
2. (Tie) Oregon Hill; Scott’s Addition; Woodland Heights 3. (Tie) Barton Heights; Lakeside; Union Hill
Best New-Home Community in the City: Manchester
The community of Manchester has seen impressive residential growth in recent years. More than 3,700 apartments have been built since 2004, with 1,200 under construction, including Reynolds South.
Best New-Home Community in Henrico: (Tie) Grey Oaks (11535 Nuckols Road, 317-3006); Twin Hickory (Twin Hickory Lake Drive, 360-2971)
The five neighborhoods of Grey Oaks are designed to please every type of homebuyer, whether they’re in search of no-maintenance living or an affordable entry price. Nearby Twin Hickory has similar offerings, including close proximity to the fast-growing, shopping-centric Short Pump area.
Best New-Home Community in Hanover: Rutland (rutlandnewhomes.com)
“We make sure we build communities that are really walkable,” says Summer Baker, marketing manager for HHHunt Communities, the real estate developer for Rutland. In addition to walkability, activities such as late-night swims and food drives keep residents connected.
Best New-Home Community in Chesterfield: Hallsley (hallsley.com)
The community of Hallsley offers amenities such as an outdoor pool with beach-like entry, a dog park and even a zip line. “Combine that with great schools, shopping, restaurants and entertainment, and you can see why so many now call Hallsley home,” says Connie Pollard, vice president of marketing for developer East West Communities.
2. Magnolia Green 3. Rountrey
The Fan and Bellevue appeal to young homeowners because the neighborhoods’ are near to downtown work and play. Additionally, “because everything is [within] walking distance, people are more out and about, so you just get to know people,” says Bellevue Civic Association President Margaret Hutchison.
2. Museum District 3. (Tie) Church Hill; Mary Munford area; Near West End
Best Neighborhood for First-Time Homebuyers in Henrico: Lakeside
“There’s a calm that comes over everything once you enter Lakeside,” says Peter Francisco, the owner of Lakeside Farmers’ Market and a longtime resident. That calm might be disrupted a tad next month, however, as the neighborhood will serve as the starting point for part of the 2015 UCI Road World Championship bike races.
2. Twin Hickory
Best Neighborhood for First-Time Homebuyers in Chesterfield: Brandermill (brandermill.com)
“For any community, location is important, and we are centrally located to just about anything,” says Brandermill Community Manager John Bailey, who also notes that while Brandermill incorporates more than 200 businesses, the waterfront neighborhood is “extremely environmentally friendly,” thanks to 15 miles of walking and biking trails, as well as the weekly “Green Market,” held for six months of the year to promote buying locally.
2. (Tie) Greenfield; Hallsley; Rountrey; Walton Park
Best Neighborhood for First-Time Homebuyers in Hanover: Rutland (rutlandnewhomes.com)
“The area is superb,” says Summer Baker, marketing manager for HHHunt
Communities, adding that offering the latest in home design with a low price point helps draw first-time buyers to Rutland. Lifestyle coordinators, who plan neighborhood Independence Day celebrations and deliver pumpkins to residents every fall, bolster the Rutland camaraderie.
Whether you fancy reserving conference space through the county public library systems or meeting rooms in the city’s libraries, there’s always a place for your gathering. Meanwhile, besides serving up local organic food to Richmonders for more than a quarter century, in recent years Ellwood Thompson’s has also served local residents with its community room.
2. (Tie) Gather; Mary Munford Elementary School
Best Condo Development in the City: Rocketts Landing (rockettsvillage.com)
Thanks to panoramic views of the James juxtaposed with the capital city skyline, Rocketts Landing is quintessentially Richmond. The riverfront community, which plans to expand in the coming year, also has hosted events such as this month’s Dragon Boat Festival and a Memorial Day celebration appropriately titled “Rocketts Red Glare.”
2. (Tie) Lock Lane; Old Manchester Lofts; Vistas on the James
Best Condo Development in the Suburbs: Monument Square (monumentsquare.com, 1200 Balustrade Blvd., 288-2680)
“Monument Square offers a great Henrico County location, maintenance-free living, and modern luxury and convenience,” says Maryann Moulton, sales manager for the development. Mirroring the architectural qualities of the Fan District, the new condos and townhomes of Monument Square redefine life on “the Avenue.”
Best Apartment Development in the City: Shockoe Bottom area residences
Shockoe Bottom has been revitalized not only as a historical symbol of endurance, but also as a popular place to call home. For example, the Dill Building, built in 1854 as a tobacco factory, was renovated in 2008 into 55 new downtown apartments, and the Pohlig Box Factory, a former Confederate military hospital and paper box factory, became a 65-unit apartment building in the early 2000s.
Best Apartment Development in the Suburbs: Garden Springs in Chester (10801 Dylan’s Walk Road, 717-5466)
Locally owned and managed, Garden Springs features wooded surroundings and indigenous landscaping. Ronald Evans, president of R.C. Management Group Inc., describes the complex as a “classic in-fill site,” where Tuscan-inspired homes “blend the community into its natural environment.”