If you have a love of jazz, you’ll find a lot to love in Virginia. April is Jazz Appreciation Month and as such, we’re shining a spotlight on our most beloved jazz musician, Ella Fitzgerald.
Don’t miss the upcoming Hampton Jazz Festival in Hampton, Virginia.
Ella Fitzgerald, called “The First Lady of Song,” was born in Newport News, Virginia on April 25, 1917. Shortly after birth, she and her mother moved to Yonkers, New York. In 1934 Ella’s name was drawn to compete in Amateur Night at the Apollo. She planned to dance but changed her mind after seeing the dance act that preceded her. Instead, she sang “Judy” by Hoagy Carmichael and was cheered on to perform an encore. Impressed with the natural talent he saw, saxophonist and arranger Benny Carter helped Ella launch her career. Ella became the singer of the Tiny Bradshaw Band in 1935 before recording her first song, “Love and Kisses” in 1936. In 1938, Ella scored her first number one hit with “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.”
Worked with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie
National Medal of Arts Award by President Ronald Reagan, 1987
NAACP Image Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1988
Recorded more than 200 albums
Thirteen-time Grammy Award winner
Gave her last concert in 1991 at Carnegie Hall
Presidential Medal of Freedom Award by President George H. W. Bush, 1992
On what would be Ella’s 97th birthday (April 25), The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra will present A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald at the Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News. Tickets from $29. Buy Now
Additional Notable Jazz Musicians from Virginia:
James Genus of Hampton is a jazz bassist who has played in the Saturday Night Live Band and most recently studio recorded with Grammy Award-winning Daft Punk. His talents are heard on “Giorgio by Moroder,” “Touch,” “Beyond,” “Motherboard,” “Fragments of Time,” and “Contact.”
Lonnie Liston Smith of Richmond is a jazz pianist and keyboardist who has recorded with the likes of Pharaoh Sanders and Miles Davis. Smith is noted for mashing jazz with rap in the 1990s.
Steve Wilson of Hampton is a jazz instrumentalist best known as a flautist and saxophonist.
Don Pullen was a Roanoke native and jazz pianist who was well received in Europe for his avant-garde style.
It’s warm and you’re ready to get moving on the weekends. Festivals should be top-of-mind, of course, but when kids are in tow, look to these great opportunities they’re sure to love.
Annual International Children’s Festival, Hampton.
April 13 – The Rockfish Valley Foundation Kite Flying Festival in Nellysford includes demos with Richmond Air Force, instruction, games, a duck race, a kite store, and free kites to the first 150 kids. It’s all free and you’re welcome to bring a picnic and stay a while.
April 19 – The Annual International Children’s Festival in Hampton is like traveling the world, from a kid’s point of view. More than 35 countries will be represented with cultural arts and performances, foods, and activities. Be sure to pick up your passport and have it stamped at each country to be entered to win a prize. Festival Map
April 26 – RIVERFest is held at Colonial Place in Norfolk and is a free outdoor celebration that promotes the restoration of Lafayette River. Kids will enjoy fireboat rides, and can create treasures with Indian beads, ECO arts, or “build a buoy.” Older kids even might join in the embellished craft race with a parent (requirements).
May 3 – Waynesboro Riverfest is a day of fun built to reach kids and adults for the purpose of emphasizing commitment and responsibility to conservation. Kids will love the canoe rides, arts and crafts, reptile and animal shows, and the fish and fun rodeo, not to mention the South River duck race!
May 10 – Jamestown Day is bucket list worthy for kids and their parents. If you’ve never been to Jamestown, you’re in for a real treat. The ships will be sailing and there are demonstrations, music and activities everywhere you turn. Get to know all about the 1607 founding of America’s first permanent English colony.
May 17 – Fundango Festival is called the #1 family fun festival in Virginia Beach and you’re invited to find out why. Meet Olympians and participate in the Olympic Experience, enjoy amazing entertaining acts, make faces in the photo booth, toss some corn hole, get your crafting on, and tons more.
May 24 – Delaplane Strawberry Festival in Delaplane is all about strawberries, of course. Bring your little ones out for old fashioned games, petting zoo, arts and crafts, hayrides, and more.
June 6-9 – Celebrate Fairfax! is 25 acres of family fun, including the ExxonMobil Children’s Avenue! Expect to find interactive activities, petting zoo, children’s entertainment stage, Inova Trackless Train, crafts, and so much more. This area is designed for kids 12 and younger.
June 7 – Manassas Heritage Railway Festival in Manassas offers a children’s stage of entertainment to go with the kids rides and Thomas the Tank Engine Kiddie Train. Load the whole family into the VRE Excursion Train for a ride to Clifton and back for just $6 each.
Chocolate is a tempter. Indulgent, smooth, delicious. Fulfill your sweet cocoa desires with a visit to a Virginia chocolatier or an upcoming event.
The Ultimate Chocolate Experience by Chocolate Spike
Alexandria – Artfully Chocolate - Part art gallery, part chocolatier, part cocoa bar and completely fabulous!
Arlington – Artisan Confections - Specializing in high-quality, hand-made chocolates that are elegant in both design and flavor.
Blacksburg – Chocolate Spike – Artistic chocolate endeavors by by Genie Ranck, producer of exciting creations.
Charlottesville – Gearhart’s Fine Chocolates - An artisanal chocolate shop in Historic Downtown Charlottesville that specializes in handmade confections of uncompromising quality.
Dayton – Warfel’s Sweet Shoppe - Homemade in the heart of Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley: old fashioned creme fudge, chocolate creme truffles, and “sugar free” chocolates, just to name a few.
Glass House Winery
Free Union – Glass House Winery – You read right. A winery that not only excels at wine making, but also makes their own in-house chocolates. Win-win.
Harrisonburg – Chocolate Occasions – See for yourself how the goods are made, then take home a box or two!
Lexington – Cocoa Mill Chocolate Co. - Offering a wide assortment of chocolates in dark, bittersweet, milk and white. Also featuring turtles — hand poured caramel over fresh pecans topped with milk chocolate; butter cremes, hand rolled truffles … the list goes on!
Louisa – Cooper Vineyards – Drink your chocolate! Noche Chocolate is a Virginia Norton dessert wine infused with chocolate. It’s also an award-winning wine (2012 Silver Virginia Governor’s Cup and others).
Richmond – Chocolates by Kelly - See chocolatiers make world-class chocolates right before your eyes. Take a class, buy a gift, try something new and exciting, or taste a treat that’ll make you feel like a kid again!
Richmond – Gearhart’s Fine Chocolate - Voted one of Chocolatier Magazine’s “Top 20 Artisan Chocolatiers” in the U.S., Tim Gearhart combines Single-Bean Venezuelan Chocolates, fine local and exotic ingredients, and passionate craftsmanship to create chocolates of unparalleled depth and complexity.
Virginia Beach – The Royal Chocolate - Indulge from cases filled with store made chocolates using Belgian Chocolate – truffles, creams, caramels, chocolate and caramel coated pretzels, not to mention the famous chocolate covered apples!
Williamsburg – MAD About Chocolate - A chocolate cafe by Marcel Desaulniers, author of Death by Chocolate and nine other cookbooks.
February 7 – Winchester – Chocolate Escape – Thirteen participating downtown restaurants are offering a $2 chocolate sampling menu while and 16 retailers have chocolate themed deals and offers available.
February 8 – Warrenton – 4th Annual Chocolate Extravaganza – This is a chocolate tasting fundraiser in memory of a 22 year old who lost her life to Leukemia. Six samples for $10.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond rolled out their first of “60 Films in 60 Days” on November 29 to coincide with their beautiful new exhibit, Hollywood Costume, on display through February 17. At a very reasonable $5 per person, seeing a film every now and again is an easy and affordable way to entertain guests into the New Year.
With titles like The Birds, The Matrix, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Chicago, Moulin Rouge, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Titanic, and Twilight Saga: New Moon, there’s certainly a film to appeal to most everyone.
Films are shown at 6:30 p.m. on Fridays and 1:30 p.m. the other days of the week.
Prior to the movie, take your ticket stub to Amuse for a discount on lunch or dinner. Additionally, your receipt from Amuse will get you $1 off another film. Just take it to the Visitor Services desk for redemption.
Virginia’s historic homes are beautifully decorated this season. Truly, this is one of the key times to see your favorite historic home in all its period glory. Candlelight, fresh swags of greenery, pineapples, and really stunning Victorian spreads await.
Saturdays and Sundays in December George Washington’s Mount Vernon opens for candlelight mansion tours between 5 and 8 p.m. Fireside caroling and other festivities make it an appealing family affair. $22/adult and $15/child 11 and younger.
“Roaring 20′s” is the Christmas theme at Oatlands in Leesburg, so expect to see plenty of glitz along with the greenery and numerous Christmas trees in this 1804 mansion. Tours are offered every 30 minutes daily through December 30. $12/adult; $10/senior; $8/child 6-16.
Special candlelight tours are offered December 15, 20, 21, 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. Cookies, cider and musical performances are included. Rates are the same as the daily tour.
Celebrate the season at Maymont in Richmond and revel in Victorian holiday splendor! Major & Mrs. Dooley’s spectacularly decorated Gilded Age home brings the wonders and festivities of Christmas past to life. Tours are offered every half-hour daily (except Mondays) through January 5. $5 suggested donation.
December 6 – Come to Richmond to find out how people celebrated Christmas during the Victorian Era. Take a guided tour of the White House of the Confederacy, specially decorated for the holidays!$5 admission.
December 6, 7, 13, and 14 – Experience centuries of Christmas traditions at James Madison’s Montpelier during the Christmas candlelight tours. Visitors are greeted by the gracious hostess Dolley Madison in the Mansion’s Drawing Room as she speaks about early 19th-century Christmas customs. Linger in the duPont Gallery, enjoying light refreshments, wine, and wassail while listening to harp music and Christmas carolers. $25 in advance; $35 at the door; $10 for children ages 6 to 14.
December 7 – Get a glimpse of Christmas from the Colonial period through World War II when you experience Rippon Lodge in Woodbridge. Candlelight tours on the half-hour with a visit from Santa in the cabin. Santa is free for everyone; tours are $10/person with the exception of children younger than 6, who are free.
December 7 – Celebrate the holidays at Bacon’s Castle in Surry to learn about 17th century English Christmas traditions and decorations. Guided tours of the mansion and hot mulled cider will be offered all day. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. $8/adult; $6/senior; $5/student; children 6 and under are free.
December 7, 13, 14, 20-23 and 26-30 – Head to Charlottesville to take advantage of the unique opportunity to explore Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello after dark with a special small-group house tour. The tours, which include the Dome Room, offer visitors an intimate look at how the holidays were celebrated in Jefferson’s time, plus the rare opportunity to experience Monticello after dark. Tours begin at 5:30, 5:45 and 6:00 p.m. $45 in advance. Reservations required. Not recommended for children younger than 6. Portions of the tour are not handicapped-accessible.
December 7 and 8 – Seasonal holiday decorations and local entertainment will be featured at Centre Hill Mansion in Petersburg as part of their annual holiday open house. Refreshments will be served. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
December 7 and 8 – Don’t miss the annual Christmas weekend at Walton’s Mountain Museum in Schuyler. They’re decorated inside and out, with cookies and cider for your warmth and joy. These two days are the only two of the year when visitors are permitted to go beyond the roped areas.
December 7, 8, 14 and 15 – See the lavishly decorated Victorian house, Avoca Museum in Altavista, celebrating Christmas memories with light refreshments and hot cider, Santa on Saturday afternoons, and a silent auction to benefit education programs. $5/adult; $4/senior.
December 14 – Enjoy holiday candlelight, music and refreshments at Liberia Plantation in Manassas, the 1825 house that hosted both Confederate and Union forces, as well as President Lincoln. The house will be decorated as it would have been in the 1860s when the Weir family occupied it. Tours begin at Manassas Museum where guests will be bussed to Liberia. $15/adult; $7.50/child 12 and younger.
December 14 - Take a candle lit tour of the main house and slave quarter at Ben Lomond every half-hour between 5 and 7 p.m. to learn how the enslaved community celebrated the holidays and how they resisted the institution that kept them enslaved. $7/person; free for children younger than 6. Reservations suggested.
December 14 and 15 – Celebrate an 18th century Christmas holiday at Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown in Beaverdam. Enjoy the decorations, food, and holiday surprises. $5/person.
December 14 and 15 – Historic Berkeley Plantation in Charles City welcomes you to learn how the Harrison family celebrated Christmas during the 18th century. Partake in the festive atmosphere created by colonial music and decorations of fresh greenery and natural arrangements from Berkeley’s gardens. Costumed guides will add a special treat to your holiday season with stories about Christmas hospitality over 200 years ago. Holiday refreshments will be served. $11/adult; $7.50/student; $6 for ages 6 to 12. Reservations required.
December 15 – Enjoy period inspired holiday decorations and music, living history interpreters in the kitchen, storytelling, various children’s activities and demonstrations from craftspeople when you visit Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest retreat in Forest. Free with non-perishable food donation.