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Photo by Sarah Walor
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Photo by Ashley Covington Photography
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Photo by Isaac Harrell
Best Pilates Instruction:
11621 Robious Road, Midlothian, 378-1600
Offering everything from mat- to machine-based classes for groups of one to four exercisers, ACAC has Pilates covered. Amanda Harris, an exercise physiologist and certified Pilates instructor with the fitness center, isn't just an instructor; she's also a practitioner. "I like that I can get a total-body workout, but I feel more refreshed than I do with some of my other workouts," says Harris, adding, "I'm about six months pregnant and still doing it."
2. (Tie) American Family Fitness; Gold's Gym
3. Local Barre
Best Class Instructors at a Fitness Center:
Gold's Gym Willow Lawn
1601 Willow Lawn Drive, 285-4653
The instructors at this Gold's Gym location lead a full day of classes starting at 6 a.m. on weekdays, with a wide selection of offerings ranging from the Latin-inspired dance workout Zumba to the colorfully (and accurately) named Butts, Guts & Cardio, plus BodyFlow, BodyPump, BodyAttack, BodyJam, BodyCombat and BodyStep.
2. American Family Fitness West End
3. Zacharias Ganey Health Institute
Best Richmond-Based DJ Playing Clubs in Town:
Perri Young, aka MASSFX
With regular nights at s@mple on Thursdays, deLux on Fridays and Europa on Saturdays, Perri Young has been keeping busy since his first gig in 2010. The 27-year-old native Richmonder, who DJs under the name MASSFX, is currently big on a house-music subgenre dubbed moombahton. "It's electronic house music that slows down to a reggaeton pace, with a very Latin influence," Young says.
2. DJ Long Jawns
3. DJ Phenom
Best New Neighborhood:
It's worth noting that Rocketts Landing opened in 2007, but that may just qualify as "new" in a region full of history. The mixed-use development continues to grow, with new business tenants moving in and the community's first apartment complex scheduled to open next summer with 150 units.
3. Short Pump
Best Richmond Band That Always Gets the Party Going:
Three Sheets to the Wind
Named "Best Local Band" in 2011's Best & Worst poll, Richmond's favorite yacht rockers are back for another round. Band leader Topper Dandy notes that Three Sheets draws a wide cross-section of fans with its covers of classics by the likes of Toto and Christopher Cross, but "they're all united by soft rock and booze."
2. No BS! Brass Band
Best Pick-up Spot:
Off the Hookah
140 Virginia St., Suite 200, 225-1918
With three dance floors, go-go dancers and multiple flavors of tobacco for the hookahs that give this Shockoe nightclub its name, Off the Hookah aims to set the right atmosphere for meeting members of the opposite sex. Asked if he's aware of any marriages resulting from connections made at Off the Hookah, general manager Roland West says, "I know of a few. I also know of a few divorces from Off the Hookah as well."
2. F.W. Sullivan's
3. Tobacco Company
Best Lowbrow Night Out in the Region:
205 N. Shields Ave., 355-2282; 2616 Buford Road, 320-9700
With its elegant wood bar and booths on one half of its Fan location, Joe's Inn might not seem like a candidate for a "lowbrow" distinction. But our readers obviously appreciate Joe's Inn's lack of pretentiousness — after all, they also gave it the top vote for neighborhood restaurant and for being kid-friendly. So, if "lowbrow" means "comfortable," we agree, the title fits.
2. Buz and Ned's Real Barbecue
3. Commercial Taphouse & Grill
Best One Stop Family Fun in the Region:
The goats at the Children's Farm, the otters at the Nature Center, the bears, the bald eagles — you can make a day of visiting the animals at Maymont, without even scratching the surface of what this Richmond treasure has to offer families, from carriage rides to kid-friendly gardens. If you'd like a different view of Maymont, consider signing up for Aug. 24's Family Night Hike, during which families can meet some of the park's nocturnal inhabitants.
2. Kings Dominion
3. The Diamond/Flying Squirrels games
Best School Fundraiser:
Deep Run High School Dance Marathon
More than 800 students participate in this 27-hour dance marathon that raises money for a
dozen student-selected charitable organizations. "They're learning something they can't
learn in the classroom," says faculty co-director Kathleen Kern. In the past six years, the event has raised more than $863,000, and next year they hope to break the million-dollar mark.
2. Fox Elementary Strawberry Street Festival
3. Collegiate Village Green Fair
Best Teen Hangout:
Short Pump Town Center
It's something of a cliché but yes, teens like malls. And there's a lot for them to like at Short Pump Town Center, from ogling the latest releases at the Apple store to shopping for clothes at Abercrombie & Fitch, Urban Outfitters, and H&M, or maybe just feeding their sugar fix with some ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery or fresh fudge from the Sweet Shoppe.
2. Sweet Frog
3. Any mall
Best Highbrow Night Out in the Region:
The Jefferson Hotel/Lemaire
101 W. Franklin St., 649-4750
You don't earn AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star awards by being lowbrow, that's for sure. But it's also worth noting that the luxe surroundings at the Jefferson and its award-winning restaurant, Lemaire, can be enjoyed at a bargain price, thanks to the Lemaire Dinner Package, which includes an overnight stay, a three-course dinner at Lemaire, breakfast for two in your room, dinner and breakfast gratuities, and valet parking, starting at $350.
2. Acacia Mid-town
3. (Tie) The Boathouse; Richmond Symphony
Best Kids' Performer:
Juggler, magician and comic Jonathan Austin has been entertaining crowds at Richmond birthday parties for 28 years. What drives him? "I think it's called insanity," he says with a laugh. The entertainer juggles on a 6-foot-tall unicycle and balances a bicycle on his chin at birthday parties for 1- to 100-year-olds.
2. The Diggity Dudes
3. Theatre IV
Best Outdoor Sculpture in RVA:
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' Sculpture Garden
200 N. Boulevard, 340-1400
If you love the E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden now, we have good
news: VMFA has been talking with neighbors and community leaders and the
nonprofit Project for Public Spaces about ideas for improvement, from new sculpture
to more amenities. "We knew we had a good start, but we didn't want to stop
there," says VMFA's Stephen Bonadies. The results of the rethink will be presented
2. Robert E. Lee monument
3. Arthur Ashe monument
Best Street Performer:
Jonathan Austin was just 14 years old the first time he performed on the street, at the 1985 Easter on Parade. "I didn't know what I was doing," he says with a laugh. These days, the juggling magician draws in passersby with simple gag tricks, "and then at the end, you're on a unicycle juggling fire." See him in action at Aug. 5's Watermelon Festival in Carytown.
2. Bucket drummer boys
3. (Tie) Gull; robot/statue man in Carytown
Best First-Date Outing:
James and Sallie Dooley's former estate is a great spot for strolling or picnicking, but if you're looking for a little more structure on that first date, Maymont's Dooley Noted Society regularly hosts fun events (like September's Wine and Beer Classic) that are open to members and nonmembers alike, though a $50 membership grants you discounted event tickets, plus a way to impress your date with your commitment to supporting a Richmond institution.
2. Flying Squirrels
3. The Boathouse
Best Live-Music Venue:
708 E. Broad St., 612-1900
Is it the sound system, the lovingly renovated 1923 theater itself or backstage amenities like a 12-person hot tub? Whatever the draw, The National enables Richmond to snag high-profile acts like The Killers that used to pass us by on their way south from D.C. "Once they're here, we treat them like kings," says General Manager Clayton Dabney, and the word spreads.
2. Snagajob Pavilion/Innsbrook After Hours
3. Brown's Island/Friday Cheers
Best Scenic View in RVA:
From Church Hill/Libby Hill Park
2801 E. Franklin St.
Good choice, Richmond. This is the same view that led our founder, William Byrd II, to give Richmond its name, thanks to a similarity between our vista and one he'd already spied in Richmond upon Thames, a suburb of London. Despite some modern additions to the scene, the view he saw in 1737 remains largely intact.
2. From Hollywood Cemetery
3. From Rocketts Landing/The Boathouse
Best Historic Site:
412 S. Cherry St., 648-8501
Thanks to Hollywood Cemetery's spot on the National Register of Historic Places, many don't realize it still hosts some 200 funerals annually. "In a sense, we feel like we're making history every year," says General Manager David Gilliam. Along with former presidents, Supreme Court justices and Virginia governors, Hollywood is also the final resting place for Tokukichiro Abe, a Japanese ambassador who died in Richmond in 1907. A group from Japan visits his grave annually.
2. Virginia State Capitol
3. St. John's Church
Building That Needs to Be Torn Down:
601 E. Leigh St., 780-4970
City administrators have acknowledged the need to replace the 41-year-old Richmond Coliseum eventually, but, for now at least, the funds aren't there. So before you break out your wrecking balls, remember that the Coliseum is the only local venue big enough to attract visitors like Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and Cirque du Soleil's Dralion, coming to Richmond for seven shows from Aug. 8 to 12.
2. The Diamond
3. Richmond City Hall
Apartment Community with the Best Pool Scene:
River Lofts at Tobacco Row
2310 E. Cary St., 977-3856
The urban apartment community in converted Tobacco Row warehouses has two lounge
pools that feature a waterfall, a hot tub, a sand volleyball pit and a gazebo. In late August, the property managers hope to host a volleyball tournament that will benefit the American Diabetes Association.
2. Malvern Manor Apartments
3. American Tobacco Center Apartments
Best Bridge Over the James:
The steel-truss Boulevard Bridge is affectionately referred to as the Nickel Bridge because, for many years, the toll was 5 cents (as opposed to today's 35-cent fee). Back then, Westover Hills residents got a free pass to drive across, "which we all still want," says Debra McClane, former president of the neighborhood association. "Instead I have a SmartTag."
2. Willey Bridge
3. Huguenot Bridge
Best Neighborhood for Yard Sales:
The community-wide yard sale at Woodlake was almost too popular when it debuted nearly a decade ago. "People were hearing from their shoppers that there were so many houses, they couldn't do it all," says Community Services Manager Cindy McVey. So they spread out the sale to two weekends in April, followed by a community cleanup. This year, there'll be a second neighborhood-wide sale, over two weekends in October. Individual yard sales are also listed throughout the year on Woodlake's website.
2. Westover Hills
3. The Fan
Best Picnic Spot on the James River:
What could be better than carting a picnic basket over the suspension bridge to Belle Isle and then settling in for a lunch en plein air overlooking the James? Judging from the final vote tally, not much. And if you feel like you need to work off some of the calories you just consumed, bring your bike and go for a ride on Belle Isle's trails, engage in some rock hopping on the river or practice your climbing.
2. Pony Pasture
3. Brown's Island
Best Neighborhood House Tour:
Fan Kitchen & Garden Tour, Holiday House Tour
These tours offer attendees a glimpse at spectacular domiciles, but they also offer motivation to participating homeowners, says Patty Loyde, who headed up the Kitchen & Garden Tour in 2011 and 2012 and whose home has been featured on the holiday tour. "I find that you get a lot of the projects done that have been on the list for a while," says Loyde, laughing. "You finally have a good reason and a deadline."
2. Church Hill
3. Museum District
Most Unusual House in Richmond:
"Igloo"/"Rock"/"Cave" house south of Willey Bridge
Known to some as Barney Rubble's house or "the melted marshmallow," the 500-square-foot section of Graham and Jennifer Gardner's home already attracts a lot of attention, but Graham Gardner has considered adding some flair. "We've thought about putting an inflatable Santa on top and a big pole that looks like the North Pole," he says.
2. Saguaro Hill on Staples Mill
3. Rice House
Best Workshops and/or Classes for Aspiring Writers:
James River Writers
Best-selling writer Tom Robbins will speak at the James River Writers's 10th annual conference on Oct. 20. The author of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Jitterbug Perfume graduated with honors from Virginia Commonwealth University and worked as a copy editor at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in his 20s.
2. Visual Arts Center
3. Valley Haggard
Best Private Golf Course:
Kinloch Golf Club
100 Kinloch Lane, Manakin-Sabot, 784-8000
This invitation-only golf club is home to Marvin "Vinny" Giles II, an American amateur golfer who is best known for winning the U.S. Amateur and the British Amateur golf tournaments. "The type of surface, the infrastructure and the staff that we have is just top of the heap,"says Kinloch Director of Operations Phil Owenby.
2. (Tie) Country Club of Virginia; Hermitage Country Club
3. Willow Oaks Country Club
Best Amusement or Activity Park:
16000 Theme Park Way, Doswell, 876-5000
Kings Dominion transforms into Jurassic Park this summer, when 36 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs arrive at a 6-acre section of the park. "It's a great educational experience," says Communications Manager Gene Petriello. The exhibit includes an excavation-site replica, a kids' paleontological dig site and a dinosaur-themed gift shop.
3. Byrd Park
Best Local Film Festival:
French Film Festival
The largest festival of French films in the United States attracted 21,000 admissions in 2012. "French cinema is really rich and diverse," says festival co-founder and University of Richmond professor Françoise Ravaux-Kirkpatrick. Last year, the festival, held at the Byrd Theatre in Carytown, showed 15 features and 15 shorts.
2. James River Film Festival
3. The 48-Hour Film Project
Best Public Golf Course:
Independence Golf Club
600 Founders Bridge Blvd., 897-8641
Designed by golf course architect Tom Fazio, who has more U.S. courses ranked in the top 100 than anyone else in the business, Independence Golf Club is "very player-friendly," club director Mike West says. "It's not the kind of golf course where you hunt for a lot of golf balls."
2. Hunting Hawk Golf Club
3. Belmont Golf Course
Mary Munford Elementary School
211 Westmoreland St., 780-6267
The climbing structure and the swings are the most popular features of Richmond's first fully accessible playground. "It's for the whole area," Principal Greg Muzik says of the playground that was built five years ago with help from the Munford Parent Teacher Organization and the community.
2. Deep Run Park
3. Huguenot Park
Best Local Sporting Event or Tournament:
Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball
359-FUNN (3866), squirrelsbaseball.com
Squirrels weren't the only airborne mammals at a sold-out game this season when a human cannonball launched himself onto home plate. "We try to bring the unusual to the ballpark,"says Vice President and COO Todd "Parney" Parnell. All of the 71 home games each season have fireworks, themes, giveaways or special appearances.
2. Monument Avenue 10K
3. CAA Tournament
Best Daycare Provider:
The Goddard School
12400 Three Chopt Road, 360-8282
Programs in Spanish, yoga, European cultures and sign language prepare Goddard School students for the future. "Our philosophy is that children learn through play," says Debbie Nguyen, director of education at the Midlothian location. The child-care provider for infants (from six weeks old) through fifth graders has nine locations in the Richmond metropolitan area.
2. Primrose Schools
3. Tuckaway Child Development Center
Nonprofit That Hosts the Best Events:
Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)
2519 Hermitage Road, 643-6785
Rhinestone collars, Chanel jewelry, tuxedos and headdresses adorn guests at the SPCA's annual black-tie gala, and that's just the 50 four-legged partygoers. The Fur Ball will celebrate its 14th anniversary this October. "We like to call it the most fun and least stuffy event in Richmond,"says SPCA COO Tamsen Kingry.
2. Greater Richmond SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now)
3. Massey Cancer Center
Best Dance Company:
407 E. Canal St., 344-0906
For more than 25 years, the Richmond Ballet has introduced the region to this form and, through its school, taught young people the discipline and art of the dance. Under founding artistic director Stoner Winslett and the guidance of ballet master Malcolm Burn, the 19-member troupe has made successful tours in New York City and went to London this summer. The company performs a repertory that includes 47 original works, and its Minds In Motion program brings ballet to fourth-graders statewide. Its Studio Series gives audiences up-close experiences of original works.
2. Jessica Morgan School of Dance
3. Latin Ballet of Virginia
Best Art Class for Kids:
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
200 N. Boulevard, 340-1438
Education is a key component of VMFA's more than 200 art classes for preschoolers through 18-year-olds. "Math, science, social studies, English — that's all relative to our programs," Youth and Family Studio Programs Coordinator Megan Liles says of the classes, which coordinate with the Virginia Standards of Learning for public schools.
2. Visual Arts Center
3. Arthaus Visual Arts Studio
Best Art Classes for Adults:
Visual Arts Center of Richmond
1812 W. Main St., 353-0094
The more than 300 adult classes in painting, glass work, letterpress and beyond are taught by working artists and other experienced teachers. What makes the classes so popular? "It's cheaper than therapy," says Vice President of Arts Education Aimee Joyaux.
2. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
3. Spirited Art
Best Commercial Art Gallery:
311 W. Broad St., 644-5450
Quirk Gallery celebrates seven years in business this September with an exhibit of oil-on-canvas paintings by local artist Andras Bality. "His paintings just make you feel good," Exhibitions Director Maggie Smith says of the collection of paintings of interior spaces. The gallery collects and sells crafts, art jewelry and two-dimensional work, mostly from local artists.
2. Glave Kocen Gallery
3. Eric Schindler Gallery
Best Nonprofit Art Gallery:
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
200 N. Boulevard, 340-1400
In order to bring the world to Richmond, VMFA curators spend a lot of time on airplanes. "Last year, I was five nights away from home, three nights in three different places," Director Alex Nyerges says on the phone from Kecskemét, Hungary. "Coach class, sleeping sitting up, in case you want to know how luxurious our world is."
2. Gallery 5
3. 1708 Gallery
Best Arts and Culture Nonprofit:
0 E. 4th St., 233-4180
Philanthropic organization Impact 100 recently awarded Art 180 with a $100,000 grant for a youth art center that will open in Jackson Ward on Oct. 5. The gallery and performing space will be open monthly for First Fridays. "It's part of our new direction to engage more teenagers," says Marlene Paul, co-founder and executive director.
2. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
3. Visual Arts Center
Best Art Event:
Arts in the Park
A few of the 450 vendors at last year's art show started selling their work at the show's inception 42 years ago. "One of the reasons we started Arts in the Park was because the beginning artist didn't have a place to exhibit except in galleries or museums," saysco-founder Pat Lovelace.
2. First Fridays Art Walk
3. Picasso exhibit at the VMFA
Best Suburban Neighborhood Entrance:
woodlakeonline.com , 739-4344
The newly renovated entrance is most beautiful in the morning: "You get a lot of reflection off the water and on the sign," Community Manager Julie Joyner says of the copper compass-rose emblem that mirrors the waters of the Swift Creek Reservoir. "When the sun shines off it, it's really neat."
2. Bellevue/Pope Arch
Neighborhood With the Widest Variety of Architectural Styles:
Art deco, American Craftsman, colonial, Jacobean, Tudor, Gothic Revival and modern architecture line the streets of this Richmond neighborhood. "I don't think any one of the styles is necessarily unique, but what's unique is that they are all successfully mixed together in the same place," says the Virginia Center for Architecture's executive director, Helene Dreiling.
3. Church Hill
Best-Designed Residential Development:
With 12 miles of biking trails, a waterfront pavilion and five miles of shoreline along the Swift Creek Reservoir, Woodlake leaves little to be desired. "[We have] those connections that make a neighborhood feel like a community,"says Community Manager Julie Joyner. The 1,353-acre development in Chesterfield County has apartments, townhomes, condos and single-family homes.
3. Rocketts Landing
Most Unusual Leisure Activity:
Electronic trance band the Disco Biscuits took a segway tour in 2010. "We were careful to make sure there weren't any broken arms that would've been used to play drums or guitar,"says the company's manager, Chad Harvey. Former Gov. Tim Kaine and Mayor Dwight Jones have also taken a whirl.
2. Corn hole
3. Disc/Frisbee golf
Most Unusual Sporting Event:
The down and dirty races have gained popularity in the past three years, according to the Sports Backers event director, Megan Schultz. "It definitely seems to be a trend right now,"she says. "It's kind of reliving childhood." Sports Backers organizes the Dominion Riverrock Filthy 5K and the Henricus Dauber Dash in the summer.
2. Dominion Riverrock
3. Roller derby
Best Bar in Which to Wait Out the Mayan Apocalypse:
Capital Ale House
623 E. Main St., 643-2537
With 51 taps, two cask-conditioned ale hand pumps and a selection of more than 200 bottled beers, this downtown draft house would be a premiere location for the last last call. Don't expect Capital Ale to pick up the tab, though. "Legally we're not allowed to buy,"says Vice President Chris Holder. "ABC rules."
3. (Tie) Can Can Brasserie; Joe's Inn; Lady N'awlins
Mulberry in Children's Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
1800 Lakeside Ave., 262-9887
The leafy green tree produces ripe, reddish mulberries that children visiting the garden pick and eat each May. "It's a really magical spot," says Early Childhood Program Developer Kristin Mullen. The tree is used as a reading spot or gathering space for preschool and elementary programs.
2. Magnolias at Maymont
3. Oak in Short Pump near Bowl America
Best Swimming Hole:
A popular destination for picnicking and river wading in the summer, Pony Pasture is favored for its fishing conditions — it has bass and sunfish year round — bird watching, inner tubing and more. "People do treasure it,"says Judith Warrington, communications coordinator with the James River Association.
2. The James (in general)
3. Belle Isle
Best Pro Sports Team for Bradford Burgess:
The forward from Midlothian says he'd like to play for the Memphis Grizzlies. "It's a great coaching staff, great city and not too far from home," Burgess says. No matter where he goes, he says he'll miss playing for VCU. "Just the atmosphere in the Siegel Center is what I'm going to miss the most." (Burgess' name wasn't called in the June 28 NBA draft, but he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he expects to go pro one way or another.)
2. Boston Celtics
3. (Tie) Charlotte Bobcats; Chicago Bulls; LA Lakers; Oklahoma Thunder
Best Team Mascot:
Nutzy the Squirrel
359-FUNN (3866), squirrelsbaseball.com
In his more than 600 public appearances last year, the face of the Flying Squirrels has rappelled off the SunTrust building downtown, opened the city's skating rink at CenterStage, conducted the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and was among the bachelors up for bid at a charity singles auction. "Nutzy is fearless," says Squirrels Vice President and COO Todd "Parney" Parnell.
2. Rodney the Ram
3. Richmond Spiders/WebstUR