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Museums, Music & Theater Sites

Virginia Is for Lovers – Of Art, Music, And Museums

Come to Virginia for the art, the museums, or the music – or all three! The Old Dominion celebrates arts, culture, history, and music like no other place in America. Come see why! Virginia’s musical traditions are unique, and its contribution to American culture has been immense. Singers who have called the state home include Patsy Cline, Ella Fitzgerald, The Carter Family, the Dave Matthews Band, Dave Grohl, Jason Mraz, Chris Brown, Pharrell Williams – the list goes on and on.

The state is home to some incredible venues large and small. Bristow’s Jiffy Lube Live is an important venue, as are Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach, the Richmond Coliseum, the Hampton Coliseum, and the Norfolk Scope. The Old Dominion Opry, near Colonial Williamsburg, is popular with visitors, and Wolf Trap boasts the 7,000 seat Filene Center.

Mary Chapin Carpenter got her start at The Birchmere in Alexandria, and you can still see rock, bluegrass, country, folk, and jazz here. The Virginia Opera can be heard at the Landmark Theater in Richmond and the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk. In Lynchburg, you can see great live music at Phase 2, and in Richmond, 929 West Grace is the spot for punk – it’s been hot for more than 30 years – and Strange Matter is the spot to see up-and-coming local and national acts.

Clementine in downtown Harrisonburg is one of the top music spots in the Shenandoah Valley. Hampton Roads’ Norva Theatre is a small venue with great acts. In Richmond, Alley Katz and The National are great spots for live shows.

There’s nothing quite like a music festival, and Virginia has plenty to choose from. FloydFest is one-of-a-kind and has bluegrass, folk, zydeco, African, rock, and Appalachian music. The Virginia Blues and Jazz festival is held each June and is one of the nation’s best jazz events. In Harrison, MACROCK festival takes place each April – it’s the spot for modern and alternative rock.

Of course, if you are in Virginia for the music you are probably into Blue Ridge mountain music. Blue Ridge is the home of old-time mountain music – the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention is the center of the action, but you can also check out the Fairview Ruritan Club Fiddlers’ Convention and the Wayne Henderson Music Festival. Local music festivals also take place in spots like Vesta, Bassett, Baywood, Troutdale, and Stuart.

Virginia loves its art. Richmond is likely the state’s cultural center, thanks in part to the presence of Virginia Commonwealth University and its School of the Arts. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has a collection of more than 33,000 works – there are Impressionist paintings, abstract sculpture, and pre-Columbian textiles.

Roanoke is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, and those peaks serve as inspiration for this city’s great art traditions. Stroll through the Harrison Museum of African American Culture – it has both historic and contemporary African and African American art displayed. The Roanoke Pinball Museum is a one-of-a-kind stop which celebrates pop culture. Kids love the Science Museum of Western Virginia. There are lots of galleries to explore downtown – check out Gallery 202, Art and Iron, and the Market Gallery. There are more than 2,000 pieces in the Taubman Museum of Art’s permanent display and more are rotated through in rotating exhibits.

With Washington, D.C. just across the river is should come as no surprise that Alexandria is a major stop on Virginia’s art trail. The Torpedo Factory Art Center should be on your can’t-miss list – it has more than 80 studios where you can watch artists at work, plus six galleries and the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. The Art League, an outreach and education center, is based here, too.

Abingdon is in the far southwest corner of the state and is home to the Arts Depot, a restored train station with three galleries and the studios of a half-dozen resident artists. Check it out, then head to the William King Museum of Art, which has galleries, a studio, a sculpture garden, and a library with a research archive. And don’t miss Heartwood, which mixes a restaurant, a gallery, and a music venue in celebration of mountain traditions and heritage.

Down on the coast, Norfolk hosts the Virginia Arts Festival each spring, spotlighting dancers, artists, and performers from around the world. Top galleries include Selden Arcade, Harbor Gallery, and d’Art Center. The Chrysler Museum of Art has a collection housing thousands of works including pieces from Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Paul Gauguin.

Old Dominion has an outstanding collection of museums!

Verona’s 116th Infantry Regiment and Foundation Museum preserves the history of that arm of the Virginia Army National Guard. In Danville, the A.A.F. Tank Museum has an international collection of tank and cavalry artifacts. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller’s donations make up a museum named in her honor in Williamsburg – the collection is focused on folk art.

In the Plains, the Afro-American Historical Association maintains a museum and research library chronicling African American culture and heritage. In Hampton, Air Power Park has a collection of plans and rockets, plus models and artifacts – military buffs love it! Local history is the theme of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society Museum, and Charlottesville is also home to the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

In Lynchburg, Amazement Square is just for kids, while New Market’s American Celebration on Parade is a unique collection of parade floats and stage settings from American political and entertainment history. The Civil War is interpreted from Union, Confederate, and African American perspectives at the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar, and local history is explained at the Appomattox County Historical Museum. Staunton’s Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia has five historic, reconstructed working farms – two from Virginia and one each from Germany, England, and Northern Ireland.

Arts, culture, history, music, and military might all play a distinct role in Virginia’s history and its evolution today – come learn more about the state and its people.