Richmond, Virginia was recently nominated for the British LGBT awards as one of the best LGBT-friendly destinations. I first discovered the city last year when I was researching underrated hipster cities in America. As the Virginia state capital, the city has been the center of the state’s LGBT rights movement and in the past decade, governors and legislatures have passed many laws cementing equal rights within the state.
Home to one of Virginia’s youngest populations, too, Richmond has a thriving arts and cultural scene. In fact, the city is plastered in street art thanks to the Richmond Mural Project. But besides the hipster vibe, there are actually a number of LGBT-specific things that make Richmond especially gay-friendly.
You might think a museum called The Valentine will be all about love. And you know what? It almost is! The Valentine is Richmond’s city museum which documents, collects and preserves Richmond’s 400-year history. Operating for the past century, their exhibitions focus on the diverse stories from the region’s history. It’s the type of place locals visit on a school trip, but with their temporary exhibitions on display, it’s also worthy of a visit by tourists. In fact, the museum currently has an exhibition on now until September 4, 2017 called “One Love: LGBT Families” which features photographs of local LGBT families.
Supported by Richmond’s OutRVA campaign, the museum hired local photographer Michael Simon to document some of Richmond’s diverse families. It’s a touching portrayal of life and love in the city.
Also: part of The Valentine’s permanent exhibition, the museum has the LGBT pride flag that flew on Richmond’s Federal Reserve Bank in 2011 at the request of some of its employees during pride month. The action caused a national conversation about civil rights in the workplace.
More information: thevalentine.org
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Richmond Triangle Players
There aren’t many theaters around the world dedicated solely to queer and LGBT themes, but the Richmond Triangle Players deliver adventurous and entertaining theater. They’re the leading voice in the community’s explorations of equality, identity, affection and family, across sexual orientation and gender spectrums. Since 1993, the Richmond Triangle Players have produced hundreds of plays (including many world premieres). In their home theater in Richmond (painted with a rainbow of triangles outside), they regularly put on performances highlighting LGBT themes.
I saw a performance of A Christmas Carol this past December—where I was pulled up on stage at one point to play the part of Tiny Tim. It was fun, quirky and cheeky—a clever retelling of the familiar story.
More information: rtriangle.org
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Godfrey’s Sunday Drag Brunch
A longtime local staple in Richmond’s gay nightlife, Godfrey’s is one of Richmond’s popular gay bars and restaurants. Each Sunday they host a drag brunch. They do the show twice a day and the only cost of entry is a brunch dish. The queens take turns coming out from either the street through the main door, or some side entrance in the back of the restaurant. Costume changes, boobie tassels and a number of different props made their appearance during my Sunday brunch last December!
It’s the perfect kind of boozy brunch. While the crowd is mostly bachelorette parties and middle-aged women on a silly afternoon with their girlfriends, it’s still a pretty fun way to finish off the weekend. Reservations are recommended!
More information: godfreysva.com
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One of Richmond’s largest thrift stores, Diversity Thrift has a little bit (0r a lot) of just about everything—furniture, record albums, books, men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and jewelry. The shop opened in 2000 and has grown into one of Richmond’s best shops. Proceeds from the donated items go back to the local community’s LGBT center, Diversity Richmond. The building, like so many other in Richmond, is plastered in colorful street art, and as part of the LGBT center attached to the thrift shop, many LGBT community events take place there.
More information: diversitythrift.org
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Virginia is for Lovers
OutRVA is Richmond Region Tourism’s award-winning campaign to highlight the area as a welcoming travel destination for LGBT visitors. In 2014, Richmond, Virginia did something no other destination had done. Through thoughtful coming out letters addressed to cities and LGBT celebrities, Richmond came out of the closet as being gay and welcoming. Visitors to the area are greeted by Out stickers that businesses display with pride and OutRVA “Insiders” share information with LGBT visitors on the city-funded website RichmondIsOut.com.
In 2015, OutRVA celebrated marriage equality by donating a same sex wedding with community partners that contributed their products and services. The ceremony was featured in multiple weddings publications and blogs. That same year, Governor Terry McAuliffe formed a LGBT Tourism Taskforce to develop recommendations on how Virginia could best welcome LGBT visitors, further exemplifying the state’s long-time motto that Virginia is for Lovers by coming out to say that Virginia is for all Lovers.
This year, Richmond has been nominated as one of the 10 best LGBT travel destinations by the NatWest British LGBT Awards alongside many international hotspots like Amsterdam, Barcelona, Miami, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Stockholm and Vancouver.