Life After Dark

Summer is officially here! In this issue of Life After Dark, we’ll talk about some of my picks for the best events in RVA, both before and after the sun go down.

Summer is for outdoors, and the place to be on a Thursday evening this summer is Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens (1800 Lakeside Avenue, Richmond). Each Thursday, come for Flowers After 5, where you can explore the gardens, grab a drink and listen to a variety of live music genres, and enjoy family-friendly activities in the Children’s Garden. Bonus: during Flowers After 5, two of Lewis Ginter’s popular displays have extended hours. Butterflies LIVE! presented by M&T Bank, will remain open until 8pm. This indoor exhibition in the Conservatory’s North Wing features hundreds of butterflies flying around you, and is perfect for all ages. Butterfly releases are featured daily, and there are special displays in the exhibit, including the Butterfly Nursery. This display will be available until October 14. Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks will also remain open until 9pm during Flowers After 5. This popular display is part of Lewis Ginter’s “The Art of Play”. Twenty-four unbelievably intricate sculptures, using half a million LEGO bricks are on display throughout the garden, including a Monarch butterfly, a hummingbird, a praying mantis, and more. Details about all of these Lewis Ginter offerings and membership information can be found at

The 21st Annual Richmond Shakespeare Festival hath kicked off at the impressive Agecroft Hall (4305 Sulgrave Road, Richmond), and doth continue on until August 4. Even if you do not consider yourself a Shakespeare fan, you will be surprised at how much you enjoy a performance, so pack up your blanket and picnic basket, and head out to enjoy something different and new. The Quill Theatre performs outdoors, in the courtyard of a 16th century Tudor home brought from Lancashire, England across the pond to the States in 1926. Upcoming performances include The Taming of the Shrew (July 11 – August 4 beginning at 7:30pm), and The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr on July 6 at 8:00pm. Come early to enjoy the beautiful gardens and views at the gorgeous Agecroft. Visit for show time and ticket information.

The Richmond Jazz and Music Festival at Maymont presented by Altria, is a combination of jazz, R&B, funk, and soul, featuring artists including Jill Scott, Big Boi, Shaggy, Stephen Marley, and many more. It starts on Thursday, August 8, with performances at the Food Truck Court at Hardywood Craft Brewery (820 Sanctuary Trail Drive, Richmond), the Dominion Energy Jazz Café in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (200 North Boulevard, Richmond), and Homegrown at The Hippodrome Theater (528 North 2nd Street, Richmond) featuring PJ Morton. It continues Friday with An Evening with Gregory Porter at the Dominion Energy Center Carpenter Theater (600 East Grace Street). Finally, there are multiple performances at Maymont (1700 Hampton Street) on Saturday and Sunday, August 10-11. Visit for the full line-up, and to purchase tickets. Early Bird Pricing and Weekend Passes are available.

It is the ultimate RVA summer experience – a street festival with food, folk acts, jugglers, dozens of musicians on the five Capital One stages, and of course - all the watermelony goodness you could possibly consume. The Carytown Watermelon Festival, presented by Publix, is back for its 36th year on Sunday, August 11. Over a hundred thousand people attended last year’s festival, eating almost 3,000 watermelons, which are donated by Publix Super Markets, and sold for $1 per bowl to benefit the Shriner’s Hospital for Children. Bring the whole family for shopping, watermelon-themed food and drink, and children’s activities. Note that parking is available at City Stadium, and on the side streets and parking decks in Carytown. Visit for more information, or to become a vendor.

If you are looking for indoor entertainment during the hot summer months, as well a pause from the busy-ness of the summer, check out Awaken: A Tibetan Buddhist Journey Toward Enlightenment, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (200 North Boulevard, Richmond) until August 18. The exhibit is a display of world-class Tibetan Buddhist art dating from the 9th century all the way to 2016. It includes almost 100 works of art, including a multimedia display, sculptures, and paintings depicting some of the essential teachings of Buddhism. Entrance is included in your VMFA membership (purchased at, or tickets can be purchased for $15 / adult, $12 Seniors 65+. General admission to the museum is free, and it is open 365 days a year.

Another great indoor option for the summer is the Science Museum of Virginia (2500 West Broad Street), where “Curious George™: Let’s Get Curious!” is on display until September 15. Many a childhood contains memories of the H.A. and Margret Ray classics telling the tales of a curious little monkey, and the man with the yellow hat. This exhibition takes kids on an adventure with George, exploring the worlds of math, science, and engineering. Read more at This exhibit is included with Museum admission; visit the website to purchase a membership. While there with the kiddos, check out “One World, One Sky – Big Bird’s Adventure” in the Dome with Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Elmo exploring the night sky with Hu Hu Zhu, a Muppet from China. The story line shows that even though we live in different locations, we share the same sky – in a 27-minute full-dome planetarium show enjoyable for both adults and children.

That wraps up this edition of Life After Dark! Stay cool, and enjoy your summer! As always, my live music schedule is on my website ( with this issue’s featured venue being Industrial Taphouse (10392 Leadbetter Road, Ashland). I’ll be there July 27, and September 7, with live music weekly from 8 - 11pm.

Kari Smith is a professional musician and writer whose winding path has led her through Nashville for a decade, and now back to her native Richmond, Virginia. Follow Kari’s writing adventures at, or