Richmond Summer Bucket List


There’s nothing better than a Richmond summer.

The James comes alive. Outdoor concerts are in full swing. Rooftop bars open, the Squirrels take over as our boys of summer, and fireflies light up the night sky.

There are endless events, activities, and moments that make a Richmond summer so special. The only hard part is trying to squeeze it all in. However, if your summer is already jam-packed and you have to narrow it down, don’t miss these ten uniquely Richmond summer experiences.

1. Cocktails at a rooftop bar.

Whether it’s for a girls’ night, a date night, or a special event, a visit to one of Richmond’s rooftop bars is a must-do. Spend a balmy summer evening with a drink in hand as you soak in some truly incredible views. If you want fun and youthful bar vibe, head to The Hof rooftop beer garden in trendy Scott’s Addition, where you can sip a cold pint, snack on German bratwurst, and take in the sights of the Boulevard. If you want a sophisticated lounge feel and absolutely stunning views of the skyline and the river, check out Kabana (they also make a killer Moscow Mule). There’s Postbellum’s rooftop deck for a casual, low-key drink in the Fan. Or if you want a quintessentially cool downtown night, don’t miss the Q rooftop at Quirk Hotel (and their on-tap sparkling wine).

2. A post-dinner family date to get ice cream.

When your kids are older, they won’t remember that they missed bathtime or went to bed late or that mommy and daddy broke their diet. They’ll remember the nights the whole family piled in the car, grabbed ice cream, and laughed, talked, and tried not to let their cones melt in the warm summer air. There are a ton of great, locally-owned options in Richmond, but you can’t go wrong with Gelati Celesti, Bev’s, Boyer’s, DeLuca Gelato, or La Michoacana.

3. An outdoor summer concert.

From Friday Cheers at Brown’s Island to big names at Innsbrook to free concerts at Short Pump mall and West Broad Village, there are so many different ways to enjoy live music this summer in Richmond. You can make it an adult only night out or take the kids to one of the free, family-friendly concert series. No matter how you do it, just make sure you enjoy it while these concerts last.

4. A trip to the Goochland drive-in.

There’s a lot that’s great about summer in 2018, but sometimes it’s nice to take a little trip back to the past. The Goochland Drive-In Theater lets you do just that with its old-school movies under the stars. Dess your kids in pajamas, throw them in the back of the car and let them experience the retro magic of a drive-in. If you’re really lucky they may even fall asleep.

5. A Squirrels game at the Diamond.

The Diamond may now be home to the Squirrels instead of the Braves. But to any Richmonder, the place still hums with the magic nostalgia of childhood summer. For the true Diamond experience, go on a night with fireworks. Order hot dogs, nachos, and soft-serve ice cream served in a plastic baseball cap. Buy a couple of beers (for the adults). Then sit back and soak in some of those classic Americana summer vibes.

6. Sunbathing and splashing on the James.

It’s easy to live in Richmond for years and never really appreciate the wide, gray river that runs right through the heart of the city. Summer is the perfect opportunity to enjoy all the James has to offer. You can sunbathe on the rocks at Pony Pasture, wade in at Huguenot Flatwater, stroll along the paths at Belle Isle, or simply admire the river’s beauty up close from the vantage of the Tyler Potterfield bridge.

7. The Carytown Watermelon Festival (August 12, 10am-6pm)

The Carytown Watermelon Festival is a rite of summer passage as comforting and dependable as cold iced tea on a hot day. It’s worth the trip just for a huge slice of the juicy red fruit. However, there’s also plenty there for the whole family, from food vendors to bands to plenty of kid-friendly activities and entertainment.  

8. Hanover tomato season.

There are a lot of things that smell and sound like summer, citronella and cicadas and charcoal burning. But locally-grown Hanover tomatoes taste like summer. Sample them at a local farmers market or vegetable stand. Celebrate them at the Hanover Tomato Festival. Or simply take one home, slice it, and sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper. Then sit back and enjoy the fresh, vibrant, beautiful flavor. You’ll realize that all other tomatoes are just pale imitations.

9. Splash pads.

Pools are great, but as a parent, you can never fully relax at one. You’ll always be slightly on edge, ready to spring into action. But splash pads are places where kids can have a total blast in the water and the parents can actually sit back and breathe a little. The best part? There are a ton of ones all around Richmond. My family’s favorites are Short Pump Park,  The Children’s Garden at Lewis Ginter, Stony Point Fashion Park, and Twin Hickory Park.

10. South of the James Farmers Market (Saturdays, 8am-12pm)

Farmers Markets are a wonderful way to show your kids the bounty of a Virginia summer. From gorgeous, plump berries to crisp cucumbers to bright yellow ears of corn. Bring the whole family to this huge farmer’s market in Forest Hill Park. Get your weekly fruit and veggie shopping done while enjoying plenty of cool local vendors and crafts. And if you want the full South of the James experience, grab a massive, hot, dripping-in-icing Mrs. Yoder’s doughnut before you go. They’re worth the huge line.

Those are my Richmond summer bucket list items. However, there are so many more great things that make a Richmond summer so special. What’s on your family’s bucket list?