Hi all, I moved to Richmond 17 years ago. In my free time, I love to travel, attend the many Richmond food festivals, and sleep -- because frankly naps are underrated! Since 2016 I've run UnlockingRVA, to help dispel the rumor that “there is nothing to do in Richmond.”
Enjoy unlocking these awesome date night ideas! - Faith Wilkerson
Faith's 8 Great Dates for August 18-20
1. Start a Q&A Other Over Some Smoked Meat
The summer is winding down and so are the Richmond food festivals. This Saturday, treat your date to the amazing flavors of the BrewBQ festival right in Shockoe Bottom. With eight food vendors and 15 breweries on tap, this event should not disappoint.
I suggest pairing an Inner City Blues BBQ sandwich with some Jalapeño Mac and Cheese from Alamo BBQ while washing it all down with Isley Brewing Company’s Blueberry Plain Jain White Ale.
Note that because of the renovation of the 17th Street Marketplace underway, the event will be held at 1615 E. Broad St.
2. Get Sweet on Each Other at Shyndigz
You know how when you were a kid you had to eat your food before you could even touch dessert? Well, guess what? You’re an adult now and you can eat dessert whenever you want.
So why not take your date to one of the city’s sweetest restaurants, Shyndigz. Most of its delicious treats are four to five layers tall, so I suggest simply skipping dinner altogether and just load up on buttercream icing and wine -- did you know they had that?
I have only one request: Could you order a slice of Fruit Cake for me?
3. Butter Each Other's Biscuits.
Who says breakfast can’t be a great date? An even better question is, has the person who invented biscuits been awarded the Noble Peace Prize yet?
There are two places that make my mouth water whenever I think about them: the Fancy Biscuit and the Early Bird Biscuit Co. Both places provide a relaxed environment and daily house-made options for every palate type.
4. Up Your Dinner and a Movie
There’s nothing wrong with the traditional dinner and movie date, but let’s take it up just a notch. One way is to eat at local favorite Citizen Burger Bar, where you can customize everything from the bun to the french fries, and afterward cross the street to the Byrd Theater.
Each week the Byrd shows a big-screen classic like “The King and I,” and current films before they head to DVD format. I also believe the Byrd has the best popcorn in town. It must import the butter from some fancy place in France!
5. Dare to Re-Create That Scene From "Ghost"
From painting to pottery, photography and weaving, Richmond Parks and Recs has the adults covered. And learning something new together makes for a great date.
If you’re a Richmond resident you can even secure up to a $20 discount on many of the courses. I know it’s super hard to think of creating things to do with your significant other, but with their online program guide you can plan all the way through 2018.
I’m just excited to turn 55 because the quilting class has my impending retirement life written all over it.
6. Dine on the Go With Real Richmond Food Tours
I wonder every day how couples could ever experience all of the amazing cuisines in each area of town. It’s possible that Real Richmond Food Tours could solve that problem in a matter of hours.
Each of its specialty tours are about 1.5 miles of casual walking, and in most of the restaurants visited you’re able to sit and take it all in.
The “Both Sides of Broad” tour looks quite tasty, featuring such restaurants as Rappahannock, Pasture, Mama J’s, J Kogi and Greenleaf’s Pool Room.
7. Sweat Together While Surfing Between Breweries
At Richmond’s Turn Cardio Jam Studio, you and your date can try a 45-minute fitness class that focuses on burning fat and increasing muscle tone all while paddling out and performing pop-ups on a stationary Surfset Board.
The best part? It’s located between Ardent and Isley Breweries! I just feel like you and your date deserve a celebratory drink after engaging your core, don’t you?
8. Meet the Family
The annual Elegba Folklore Society’s annual Down Home Family Reunion celebrates “aspects of West African cultural traditions that are African American and that were absorbed by the American South.”
It takes place Saturday, Aug. 19, in Abner Clay Park, and will feature world music, a marketplace and most of all, some amazing food for you and your date to enjoy!
Faith's 8 Great Dates for August 11-13
1. Rock the Mic at Tuesday Versus
Open Mic nights will never get old. For more than 10 years, the people behind Tuesday Versus have provided a platform for local poets, lyricist and singers to share their talents. Each Tuesday from 8-11:30 p.m., they fill the Addis Ethiopian Restaurant in Shockoe Bottom to capacity and give attendees an experience that keeps them coming back for more.
During this date night you can kick back and just enjoy the amazing food and artistry or decide to jump on the microphone and profess your love. Just be sure to think that plan through: Remember, I said the restaurant is filled to capacity. And that’s a lot of people who could go Facebook live with your spoken-word tragedy!
2. Tug at Heartstrings with the Symphony and Common
I never thought I’d ever suggest the symphony for a date night, but thanks to the people at Richmond Symphony my opinion has completely changed.
After attending more than 10 shows this year, I’ve seen them make the biggest effort to make shows engaging, family-oriented and inexpensive. I also love that whenever they can they take the performance outside of the theater, they do.
There are weekly performances at local breweries, museums and local festivals. In fact, this weekend the symphony is performing alongside Chicago rapper Common at the Richmond Jazz Festival. How cool will that be?
3. Let the Zoo Fuel Your Animal Urges
Yes, it’s true: We have a zoo. It’s in Chesterfield County, a 20-minute drive from Richmond. But what’s the hurry when you know you’re about to see some really awesome goats, llamas, chickens, sheep and budgie birds -- I don’t know what they are either.
There’s also have a safari sky lift train ride, as well as, an option to combine your admission with a day at the Treetop Zoosfari, where you get to travel from tree to tree via zip lines above the zoo. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t get stuck over the cheetah cage!
4. Feel Your Heart Beating Faster at G-Force
Go-karts, laser and archery tag, and an arcade. You should know by now I think date nights are meant for a little competition, and this place provides the best platform for just that all under one roof. I can never get enough of the go-karts.
Hitting speeds up to 35 mph on the quarter-mile, indoor track, you begin to really feel like you’re in a NASCAR race. To up the ante, perhaps have the loser pick up the tab.
5. Go for the Group Date with Richmond Brewery Tours
In an earlier post I encouraged you and your date to try to complete the Richmond Beer Trail. One of the ways to complete that task could be taking a public tour with Richmond Brewery Tours, which run Thursday-Sundays.
You'll head to three award-winning and up-and-coming breweries across town. This could serve as a fun way for you and your date to meet new people along the way and to learn a very important fact: Do you like sour or IPA?
6. Take a Carriage Ride at Maymont
I’ve seen this date night activity a lot and it melts my heart each and every time. Did you know that Maymont offers two-passenger, private carriage tours around the estate? I hear one of the stops is the Japanese Gardens, which features a koi pond and an amazing waterfall. Who knows, maybe this could be the start of planning wedding locations. No pressure!
7. Get Inspired at St. John’s Church
Reading about this in school almost made me not want to see this reenactment. But the moment the doors to St. John’s Church closed and the fake Thomas Jefferson and George Washington walked in I was sold!
My date and I really felt like we were in 1776 attending the Second Virginia Convention watching Patrick Henry proudly declare he was ready for an American Revolution, with “Give me liberty or give me death.”
I promise you and your date will have much to talk about afterward. How about splitting a signature meatball pizza at nearby Anthony's on the Hill, and share a canolli and gelato afterward?
8. Share a Sweet Slice at the Carytown Watermelon Festival
I actually refuse to eat watermelon until August every year. The Carytown Watermelon Festival this weekend will feature five outdoor stages, more than a hundred street vendors, and of course, freshly chopped watermelon provided by grocery-chain newcomer Publix.
It takes place Sunday, Aug. 13, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Its free and a great way for you and your date to enjoy local fares in a casual fun environment. (Plus, you can play against each other in our Carytown Watermelon Fest BINGO.)
Faith's 8 Great Dates for August 4-6
1. Get on Top of the World
Nothing says romance like a date with a view. The great thing about Richmond is it doesn’t have to be only for dinner or at night. Scale to the top of the Hofheimer building in Scott’s Addition, or head downtown to Quirk Hotel for some delicious apps and specialty drinks.
My favorite is the Kabana Rooftop at 7th and Main streets. Because it’s right in the middle of downtown, you can grab some amazing 180-degree views of the city and the James River.
2. Get Chopped
A cooking class can serve as a great way to look into your future. If your date has issues with boiling water, it could be a great time to rethink the entire relationship.
One of my favorite places to go is Sur la Table in the Stony Point Fashion Park. From classes on pasta making to surf and turf, there’s truly something for all palate types. The best part is when get to assemble each piece of the dish you worked so hard on and well, eat!
3. Is That a Van Gogh or Are You Happy to See Me?
Paint nights have to be my No. 1 activity. I mean it. I love paint nights so much I have an entire wall in my dining room dedicated to my craft, and I dare someone to judge me for it. There’s a company called Paint Night that I appreciate the most because it rotates among various restaurants and bars across the city and surrounding counties. This provides a great opportunity for you to show off your artistic side while trying out a brand new restaurant at the same time.
4. Take the Road Less Traveled
Question: Have you ever thought about ditching that Uber and just taking a stroll to your next date destination? May I suggest the Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge? If you were to start at the Manchester side and take the 1,600-foot pedestrian pathway to the other side you would end up on Brown’s Island. Once you’re there I suggest a nice picnic while watching a few brave souls whitewater raft along the James River. Or, you could keep moving and pop into the Tredegar Historic American Civil War Museum.
5. Get a Little Handsy
Volunteering is something we don’t do enough of in this world. What better way to really gauge one’s purest intentions than by watching them give back to others? HandsOn Greater Richmond’s mission is to provide fun and unique ways to connect to the nonprofit sector. I absolutely love its site because at any time you can log in, click “I want to volunteer,” and instantly see a ton of opportunities pop up. This could be a rewarding addition to any date night.
6. Make Reading Sexy and Fundamental
The library -- cues up dramatic pause -- I know you’re having flashbacks to your college days, but think back to when you were a kid and used books as a way to escape reality and learn new things. It might be hard to believe, but Richmond Public Libraries offer some of the top programming across town and provide access to thousands of books both new and old.
With a variety of locations, the options are endless. I believe books provide great ways to have someone understand feelings you may not be able to express in your own words. Maybe you want your date to know why you have an obsession with over-communicating -- and if that’s the case a copy of “Men are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” could be the first on the check-out list!
7. Go Electric!
Maybe you hated me for suggesting that you actually get out of your car and walk somewhere. How about a good old-fashioned bicycle ride with a twist? Have you heard of Pedego RVA? This local company offers electric bike tours of this amazing city. Guides encourage you to exercise as little or as much as you like “with no fear of getting tired.” I personally, like the way that sounds.
You and your date could do the two-hour tour of the Hollywood Cemetery or the four-hour wine-tasting tour at Shirley Plantation, which is enough incentive for me to complete any sort of physical activity!
8. Root for the Home Team
Who needs to live in a New York or Los Angeles to get your sports fix? From the Flying Squirrels, to the Kickers, and the championship-winning Roughriders arena football team, you’re covered all season. If you throw some Virginia Commonwealth University or University of Richmond basketball in the mix you’re looking at never-ending date-night options.
What I love the most is every one of our local teams offers affordable ticket pricing, great entertainment and some of the best mascots you’ll ever meet. I have a little secret to share: I really want to be Nutzy the Squirrel’s best friend. Which one of you can make that happen?
Faith's 8 Great Dates for July 28-30
1. Visit a Local Farmers' Market
Our Richmond farmers’ markets are a great place to not only experience locally sourced foods, but also mix up that future dinner date at home.
Use this time to buy some impressive-looking fruits and vegetables or even something sweet. Have you ever tried an amaranth and honey treat called Alegria? It’s made by MaloKin, a brother a sister team who can be found at the West End Farmers' Market each and every Saturday. There's also South of the James Market, the Lakeside Farmers' Market and many more.
2. Follow the Ale Trail
Unless you've been living under a rock you know that one thing Richmond has a lot of is breweries!
Saturday, July 29, is a great time to kick things off at Hardywood as it brings you the 2nd annual Heart & Soul Fest.
Also, I almost forget to mention, there's actually a reward for moving along that trail map! Once you've visited five local breweries you're eligible to redeem limited-edition Richmond Beer Trail gear. I see matching selfies in your future! Cheers!
3. Spell it B-I-N-G-O
Pay attention to what I am about to say next: Bingo is not just for your grandma’s Canasta club.
If you haven’t already noticed, I love a date with a little bit of competition mixed in. Pops Bingo Hall is the perfect place for just that! There's a full snack bar and a chance to win the money you need to finish that Richmond Beer Trail!
4. Let the Fluff Cool You
These are some pretty hot days around the Capital City. And who doesn’t like to cool down with a big scoop of ice cream?
Charm School is truly one of my favorites because it offers free sprinkles, and every flavor deserves that dollop of toasted fluff on top.
Oh, just in case you were wondering, balancing a book on your head is not required!
5. Just Bust a Move
From tap dancing to hip hop, Zumba and Latin dance, Dogtown Dance Theater has it all. And with each class run by an independent artist each week, Dogtown is able to offer up several options for you to choose from at affordable prices.
I have to say the hip-hop dance class run each Wednesday by the Studio 4 Dance Company is my favorite. Any time a Bruno Mars song hits the airwaves I now have a full choreographed routine waiting for anyone who wants to battle!
6. Eat RVA
If there was a gold and shiny award for the city with the best food festivals it would have to go to Richmond each and every time! I feel like every single weekend there's a festival highlighting everything from bacon to oysters.
On this section of UnlockingRVA, I curated a few that could be a great way to plan future dates and some of Richmond’s local restaurants.
7. Laugh Until You Make It
I'm a firm believer that laughter should be a huge part of your dating life. Comedy shows provide the groundwork for those beautiful “inside jokes” that just the two of you share.
One of my favorite places to catch a show is the Richmond Funny Bone. It offers not only amateur local comics, but also top performers like Gary Owen and Aries Spears.
8. Go Topless
Richmond’s surrounding counties hold some of the area’s most precious gems. The Goochland Drive in Theater is one of them.
Each week you can spend a night under the stars while catching the latest releases, coupled with your concession-stand favorites, all from your vehicle. This weekend it's serving up a triple feature of "The Emoji Movie," "Spiderman: Homecoming," and my top choice, "War for the Planet of the Apes."
Faith's 8 Great Dates for July 21-23
Nestled alongside the 17th Street Market, this top-20 wine bar in America is a great place to grab a light meal and find the perfect wine to keep the conversation flowing.
They have an amazing selection of small plates. I suggest trying the deviled eggs and empanadas. There’s an extensive list of wines from around the world. The atmosphere can be both quiet and filled with the sweet sounds of live jazz each week.
The best part: They take reservations!
I can’t be the only one daydreaming about what a night in Havana, Cuba, would feel like. Fortunately for us, Havana ’59 is sure to mimic that very feeling.
Did you know on Thursdays they offer salsa lessons? Nothing can bring a couple closer than a hot night of Latin dancing on a rooftop patio. To top it off, if you work up an appetite -- no worries. The Cuban nachos and deep-fried plantains can save the day.
Oh, and did I mention you’ll fine some of the tastiest mojitos and one of the widest selections of cigars in the city?
If you haven’t been to VMFA After Hours, go. I know what you are thinking: “The museum, for a date? How boring is that?”
Trust me, this event isn’t your ordinary trip to an art gallery. During this event, one price allows you and your date to experience a comedy show, live music, spoken word, a fashion show, gain access to the “Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style” exhibit -- and wait, there’s more: free parking!
If you don’t score major brownie points with this cultural immersion I don’t know what else will.
Not every date has to be super-extravagant. Sometimes simple is best.
Tucked away at First and Franklin streets, this Urban Farm House location has some pretty cool features -- my favorite being the outdoor patio. This is a cozy environment to kick back and enjoy each other’s company with a light brunch. I go for the brioche French toast each and every time.
And don’t forget the chai tea latte to wash it all down.
You don’t have to travel two hours to have some beach fun in the sun! Cobblestone Water Park is one of Richmond’s hidden gems.
Make your next date a cool one while lounging on its expansive beach area in “one of the largest pools on the East Coast.”
And you can certainly heat things up with a bit of friendly competition in the basketball or volleyball areas of the 1-acre lake!
You can join Richmond Canal Cruises for an informative, 40-minute, historically narrated tour or a private charter of the James River and Kanawha Canal along Richmond’s historic Canal Walk.
The covered boats can hold 35 passengers and leave from the Turning Basin at 14th and Dock streets on Virginia Street.
You must see this musical. Besides winning four Tony Awards, “In the Heights” makes you want to sing, dance, cheer and somehow board the next flight to New York City!
This is a great double-date-night activity and opens up the possibilities for lively dialogue after the show.
And if that’s not enough, it was created by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Yep, the same guy who created “Hamilton”!
When this event hit my inbox for Sunday, July 23, I’ll admit I scratched my head a bit, but then I thought about it. It has to be impossible for a sketch comedy show called “Alimony Tour, Final Showdown” to not be absolutely hilarious!
Plus, it’s happening in one of my all-time favorite places, TheatreLab, so there is no way this comedy team could disappoint. According to the description, you’ll get “90 minutes of electrifying stand up, sketch comedy and audience-interactive games.” Nothing screams date night like audience interactive games!