Richmond in Two Days and Two Nights

Richmond in Two Days and Two Nights

July 3, 2022
Jordan Wright
Special to The Zebra

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.(Photo/Jordan Wright)

Nothing about Richmond is static. This ever-evolving Virginia capital offers top universities, art exhibitions, notable restaurants, breweries, world-class gardens, and leading museums that keep evolving with vibrant and exciting experiences.

Carrara marble statue of Thomas Jefferson in the Palm Court lobby of The Jefferson Hotel.(Photo/Jordan Wright)

One place stands out as the destination for guests looking to experience Richmond’s glorious Golden Age and to wonder at the magnificent architecture and rich history of The Jefferson Hotel. It is one of America’s grandest hotels. Built by tobacco heir Lewis Ginter in 1895, the Jefferson has welcomed such notables as Sarah Bernhardt, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Charles Lindbergh, Elvis, John D. Rockefeller, and Ray Charles. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was discovered waiting tables in the dining room. (

Halibut Almondine with Almond Crust and Sauce Meunière at Lemaire.(Photo/Jordan Wright)

A recent stay had a packed schedule of a whirlwind of activities but allowed time to take in the hotel’s amenities between adventures. Pro Tip: Book the famous champagne Sunday brunch, sumptuous tea, or seasonal haute cuisine at the hotel’s Lemaire, where Executive Chef Patrick Willis riffs on New American Southern-influenced dishes. Pro tip: When making reservations, and you must, ask to sit on the terrace if it’s a nice evening or in the Grand Dining Room resplendent with crystal chandeliers, heavy silk draperies, and exquisitely carved period architecture. Consult knowledgeable Sommelier Nick Montes and request server Sean. Be sure to visit the hotel’s gift shop, where I found a chic garden ornament and magnolia sachets. (

After coffee and freshly baked breakfast pastries at Roastology (, we headed to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. This extraordinary museum hosts world-class exhibits you will never see in Washington or New York. “Whistler to Cassatt – American Painters in France” is on through July 31, featuring over 100 paintings by James Abbott McNeill, Whistler, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam and others.

A very different but no less thrilling experience is “Tsherin Sherpa: Spirits,” which features the Tibetan artist’s visionary Asian-influenced sculpture and paintings mixing traditional images with contemporary themes. While there, take in the museum’s fabulous Fabergé collection and if by now you’re hungry, grab a quick bite at the cafeteria or dine at Amuse Restaurant, where reservations are recommended.

Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Dutch industrialist Willem van Heythuysen re-imagined as a Black man from Harlem sporting Sean John streetwear and Timberland boots at the VMFA. (Photo/Jordan Wright)

At the entrance to the museum, view the massive Kehinde Wiley statue “Rumors of War.” Wiley was President Obama’s official portrait artist. The VMFA sculpture re-imagines the statue of Confederate General Jeb Stuart that stood on Monument Avenue before it and other statues of Confederate military men were removed. The figure strikes a heroic pose on horseback, but in Wiley’s work, the rider is a young Black man with dreadlocks in a hoodie.

Inside the museum, check out Wiley’s hyper-realistic portrait of Dutch industrialist Willem van Heythuysen re-imagined as a street-smart Black man from Harlem sporting Sean John streetwear and Timberland boots. (

Across the sculpture garden is the recently renovated $30M expansion of the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. It houses an array of Virginia-sourced artifacts and dioramas showcasing the Commonwealth and features lots of kid-friendly interactive exhibits and an immersive film centered on Virginia’s history. In the small gift shop, I snagged a few bags of a favorite coffee from Red Rooster Coffee, a terrific roastery in the Virginia highlands of Floyd, VA. (

If Shakespeare is your jam, the Quill Theatre and Agecroft, an iconic Tudor mansion, are presenting the Richmond Shakespeare Festival in the mansion gardens from July 7 through July 31. (

On day two, we took a short hop over to Shockoe Slip, where the Poe Museum houses truly fascinating, super quirky exhibits of Poe arcana. Check the website for their special Poe-themed events in the home’s charming garden. It’s the museum’s 100th Anniversary and lots of activities are planned throughout the year. Author of classic Gothic horror tales, Edgar Allan Poe was a Richmond native. Many of these fascinating artifacts were donated by city residents, including the gold pocket watch that ticked away while he wrote “A Tell-Tale Heart.” Black cats stroll the property, adding magical realism to the overall aura. (

One of the black cats roams the Poe Museum gardens. (Photo/Jordan Wright)

Lunch beckoned, and we headed to the historic and very hip district of Scott’s Addition, where you’ll find breweries, distilleries, and cideries. Housed in an old warehouse is the upscale casual Pinky’s with Mediterranean-influenced menu items and craft cocktails. (

If you want to shop, you’ll find plenty of cool shops in Carytown. One of my favorites is La Petite Boutique, with edgy designer collections of unique hats, accessories, and Krista Larson and Rundholz clothing. (

Insiders know The Stables, and our dinner there didn’t disappoint. The intimate restaurant and bar in the Museum District is in a building purportedly once used as stables and a carriage house for the Richmond Police. The asparagus vichyssoise soup was a standout, as was the Brown Butter Scallops served with Carolina Gold rice. (

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. (Photo/Jordan Wright)

On our last morning we had to choose between the extraordinary Lewis Ginter Gardens, a 50-acre dreamscape with a colossal Victorian glass conservatory, live butterfly exhibit, musical events at night, or the lavish 100-year-old mansion and 100-acre estate gardens plus Arboretum surrounding the magnificent Maymont. Both are eye-poppingly amazing. Whichever you choose, plan to visit the other on a return trip. (, (

LightUp Fest, the Largest Holiday Lights Festival on the East Coast, Comes to Loudoun County

Jordan Wright
November 10, 2018

LightUPFest ~ Tunnel of Lights

Beginning November 8th LightUP Fest will be open every day from 5:30pm till 10:30pm through January 2, 2019 in Loudoun County.  Named a “Top 5 Holiday Light Show” in North America by USA TODAY, this spectacular light show hosts an exhibit combining traditional Chinese lanterns with modern lighting technology.  Spanning 20 acres, the eight-week long exhibition will be the largest light display on the East Coast, featuring a wondrous delight for the whole family.  Attendees will able to enjoy the displays, as well as partake in entertainment, food, interactive craft activities and much more.

LightUPFest ~ Panda

With 77 eye-popping themed installations made up of more than 1 million lights, LightUP Fest will be a magical experience.  The exhibit’s four major themes are “Tour of Fantasy”, “Freedom America”, “Mysterious East” and “Magical World”.  These dynamic displays will combine the latest in lighting technology with artisan-crafted lanterns showcasing the rich heritage, tradition and culture worldwide.

LightUPFest ~ Interactive Kids

In addition to the incredible artisan-crafted light show, LightUP Fest will also feature daily performances from acrobats, dancers and musicians.  An eclectic food court offering a variety of unique cuisines will also be on site.  Look to enjoy the interactive craft and art section to showcase the intricate culture and tradition of craftsmanship with hands-on activities such as sugar puppet making, calligraphy, portrait sketching and rice carving for all ages to participate in. 

LightUPFest ~ Ocean Scenes

One Loudoun is an urban-inspired, mixed-use community located in the heart of Loudoun County at Rt. 7 and the Loudoun County Parkway, Easthampton Plaza, Ashburn, VA 20147. Admission to the event is $29.99 for an adult and $19.99 for kids ages 3 – 12. Children under 3 are FREE.  Discounted family packages and special rates for students and seniors.  Military, police and firefighters with proper identification are welcome to attend for free every Tuesday.  A portion of the proceeds will go to the non-profit Arc of Loudoun at Paxton Campus.

LightUPFest ~ Eiffel Tour

 LightUP Fest is designed by Zigong Lantern Festival and Trade Group, which has over 30 years of experience producing displays in more than 300 cities in China and over 30 countries worldwide. The Festival was first brought to the U.S. in 2014 in Atlanta and has since been held multiple times in Houston and Phoenix.  For more information, please visit

LightUPFest ~ Lights of the North

A Special Celebration of the 130th Anniversary of Twin Oaks ~ Features a Spectacular Display of Taiwanese Orchids

Jordan Wright
September 30, 2018 

Bathe in the beauty of hundreds of orchids at the historic 18-acre estate of Twin Oaks in Northwest DC.  The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) presents the exciting exhibition, “Discover the Beauty of Taiwanese Orchids”.  This exciting exhibit is open to the public from September 27th to October 3rd.  At the opening reception Ambassador Stanley Kao and his wife hosted guests with the President of Taiwan Sugar Corporation, Mr. Yu-Chung Huang in the 24-room mansion built in 1888.

Ambassador Stanley Kao and his wife ~ President of Taiwan Sugar Corporation, Mr. Yu-Chung Huang ~ John J. Norris, Jr Managing Director American Institute in Taiwan ~Tania, Uen-han, Wei Executive Officer TECRO ~ Chuang, Suo-Hang Vice Chairman TAITRA ~ Franklin F.Y. Chen Director TECRO ~ Craig Min-Hsien Lee Press Officer TECRO

“Twin Oaks is a symbol of friendship and strength of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship,” said Stanley Kao, Taiwan’s representative to the United States. “This estate has a storied history, both for sharing the culture of Taiwan and the United States, and also for bearing witness to key historical events in this long the mutually beneficial partnership.”

Owned by the government of Taiwan, this magnificent estate showcased one of Taiwan’s national treasures – Phalaenopsis amabilisin a myriad of ways.  Trees are now hung with enormous sprays of these many-colored orchids and the portico and mansion’s interiors are chock-a-block with their elegance.

The opening reception were leaders from the Washington business and policy community, think tanks and diplomatic corps and journalists

At the opening reception were leaders from the Washington business and policy community, think tanks and diplomatic corps and journalists.  We were thrilled to enjoy both indoor and outdoor displays of these stunning blooms and hear the stories of the Orchid Symphony.

One particular outdoor display features a winding watercourse with floating teacups to symbolize a poetry game of legend, popular with the country’s ancient literati. Among the trees hangs the calligraphy of Lantingji Xu.  It records one of the games and is the preface to the poems collected during that particular game.  Other displays triumph the culture of Taiwan as well as the 130-year history of Twin Oaks.   In one, a decorated canoe created from nine different kinds of wood illustrates the exquisite workmanship of Lanyu the island celebrated for this native Taiwanese orchid species.  Guests were gifted with a basket of phalaenopsis orchids donated by the award-winning company Taisuco who brought the team who created the eye-popping displays.

Lanyu the island celebrated for this native Taiwanese orchid species

Factoid:  A whopping 32% of Taiwan’s orchids are exported to the U. S. where orchid fanciers have enjoyed their long-lasting beauty and charm.

The Taiwanese Council of Agriculture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (Taiwan) co-sponsored this event. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) has entrusted the Taiwan Association of Orchid Production and Development with landscaping and arrangement of this auspicious celebration.

The exhibit is open to the public through October 3rd.  Twin Oaks is located at 3225 Woodley Road, Washington, DC.

Richmond for the Holidays

Jordan Wright
December 5, 2017
Photo credit Jordan Wright

The holidays are a time for making memories with loved ones.  Agreed?  But if thoughts of capturing your seasonally-imbued memories feature a well-worn sofa and boxed wine, then read no further.  This adventure requires you trot out your childlike sense of wonderment.

In a city that has emerged as a world class destination with cutting-edge cuisine, art exhibitions often seen nowhere else in America and a five-star luxury hotel, Richmond provides everything a couple or family could ever dream of.  Okay, no skiing.  And that’s what the holidays are all about isn’t it?  Making wishes come true.

The magnificent stained glass skylight in the Palm Court lobby

The magnificent stained glass skylight in the Palm Court lobby

I admit, I get a thrill of anticipation each time I check into The Jefferson Hotel – a turn of the 20th century American classic in the tradition of the country’s grandest hotels.  The more familiar I am with its pleasures the more I feel the need to revisit, if only to assure myself that all is well with the world.

Carrara marble statue of Thomas Jefferson amid Tiffany windows in the Palm Court lobby

Carrara marble statue of Thomas Jefferson amid Tiffany windows in the Palm Court lobby

On this trip, I planned to experience the recent room renovations.  The improvements at this 2017 recipient of the Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Award are not mere window dressing, they are both elegant and technologically clever with television screens built invisibly into the vanity mirrors.

New marble bathrooms at The Jefferson Hotel – Courtesy photo

Marble, marble and more marble abounds on bathroom countertops, soaking tubs, and the spacious walk-in showers.

Grand Premier Room – Courtesy photo

Luxuriate on poufy comforters and down pillows adorning beautifully tailored designer bedding.  Recently the hotel’s 262 guest rooms were rebuilt into 181 spacious new rooms, including 15 suites with entry foyers and spacious dressing areas.  Our suite had a kitchen with marble countertop plus a large mahogany dining table and spacious living area with a view of the city.


Jefferson Suite Living Room – Courtesy photo

Perfect for inviting guests in for cocktails before dinner, or entertaining six for dinner in your private suite.  And though room service is 24-hours a day, you’ll want to get out and about.

 Jefferson Hotel Holiday Tree ~ Photo credit - "The Jefferson Hotel".

Jefferson Hotel Holiday Tree – Courtesy Photo

But first we stare in wonder at the Christmas decorations.  Hundreds of poinsettias, yards of garland and ribbon, thousands of twinkling lights and dozens of toy soldiers adorn the Palm Court Lobby and the surrounding areas.  A gingerbread display made from hundreds of pounds of gingerbread, royal icing and candies dazzles even the grownups.  At midday, musical ensembles play familiar carols in the Rotunda and the festive ambiance is utterly magical.

Courtesy photo

Pro tip: If you’re planning on being here on a Sunday, book ahead for the lavish ‘Champagne Brunch’, and do not miss the spoonbread.  The hotel’s signature breakfast concoction with deep Southern roots, is as light and fluffy as a cloud.  Ask for the recipe.  No, beg!  I did.

Oh, and be sure to swing by Blooms at The Jefferson, the flower and gift shop on the lower level.  I always find great hostess gifts and, of course, petits bibelots pour moi.

The hotel is currently offering a Holidays at The Jefferson Package for those wishing to celebrate the season with an overnight stay.  It includes a newly constructed Grand Premier Room, complimentary valet parking, and rates from $275 per room, per night.

Sally Bell’s Kitchen

Sally Bell’s Kitchen

There is so much to do in town that after dropping off our luggage with the bellman, we head for lunch at the iconic Sally Bell’s Kitchen, a luncheonette directly across from the Science Museum of Virginia where you can tour special holiday exhibits including Ralphie’s, A Christmas Story, and “Fruitcake Science”.

At Sally Bell’s find throwback lunch fare like pimento cheese, corned beef spread, Smithfield ham on a roll, tomato aspic (this must be a Southern thing) and more, plus thirteen different flavors of cupcakes (caramel!) and five different kinds of pies (lemon chess!) with which you can fortify yourself for the day ahead.

Black History Museum of Virginia is housed in the former Leigh Street Armory

Cross the street to visit the Science Museum or opt for the Black History Museum and Cultural Center featuring art exhibitions and artifacts commemorating the accomplishments of African Americans in Virginia.

Black History Museum of Virginia

Black History Museum of Virginia

Recently relocated to a beautifully renovated location (at the Leigh Street Armory), it is an interactive and modern museum.  For hours of operation visit website.

A must see is the Lewis Ginter Gardens spectacular Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights from 5 till 10pm.   This annual holiday tradition glows with more than half-a-million twinkling lights, hand-crafted botanical decorations, model trains, holiday dinners, a fire pit with s’mores and hot chocolate, nightly family activities and more.  For tickets and information visit website.

A restaurant I’d been hearing a lot about is L’Opossum, where chef and proprietor David Shannon has been creating masterfully complex dishes in an eclectically decorated, nondescript corner spot on China Street.  I promise you’ve never seen anything like it with its Flintstones throw pillows and 50’s satellite chandeliers in a cozy, candlelit, appealingly garish room that feels like Gay Paree meets your granddad’s rec room. But don’t cast a gimlet eye on the quirky décor or the 1940’s illustration of a chic pirate on the menu – Shannon has a curatorial eye for mid-century modern – this is serious cuisine and it’s the essence of the new Richmond.

Charred and chilled Chinese five-spice slices of venison – Chasing Dragons Above the Clouds of Yuzu with Lotus Chips (Left) – Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Fernet-Branca soaked Apricots, Butternut Squash Puree, Cherry-brandied Apples and Brown Butter Toasted Pecans (Right)

Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fab craft cocktails made with top shelf liquor and house made ingredients.  Expect the unexpected.  The ‘Hooty Hoo’ is a White Russian served with Yoo-Hoo, Black Lava salt and Xocolatl bitters.  The ‘Honey Badger’ is a blend of Belle Isle Honey Habanero Moonshine, muddled jalapeno and orange, Ginjo Sake and St. Germain.  Go on with your bad self.  Have one of each.

Les Escargots a la Ham Biscuit with Sweet Garlic Beurre Blanc (Left) Old Thymey Chicken Fricassee - Port and Chardonnay Drenched Breast and Thigh Topped with Lemon Spaetzle, Escarole and Lardons in a Mustard Jus (Right)

Les Escargots a la Ham Biscuit with Sweet Garlic Beurre Blanc (Left) Old Thymey Chicken Fricassee – Port and Chardonnay Drenched Breast and Thigh Topped with Lemon Spaetzle, Escarole and Lardons in a Mustard Jus (Right)

Shannon, who was a semi-finalist for ‘Best Chef Mid-Atlantic’ by the James Beard Foundation, likes luxe ingredients – caviar, foie gras, brandied figs, absinthe mists, escargots and flambéd desserts.

La Petit Mort au Chocolat en Flambe avec une compote de la cerises noir (Left) – The Rainbow Spoonicorn – “A mythical saffron and citrus confection with hand churned blackberryice cream. “A defiant lack of inhibitions and sprinkles” (Right)

Expect a dining experience that would wow even the most sophisticated palate.  Reservations are a must in this tiny, romantic spot.

Citizen restaurant

Citizen restaurant

On day two we rose early and headed downtown for breakfast at the industrial-cute, Citizen.  Laser-focused on the Southern thing, we order bowls of stone ground Byrd Mill grits topped with swirls of melted butter, sour dough toast with pear butter, Benton’s bacon, lentils with feta (too healthy?) and steaming hot cappuccinos.

Citizen’s bar and open kitchen

Citizen’s bar and open kitchen

This lively spot serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a menu that trends hip, healthy and international.

At the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

At the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The Virginia Museum of Fine Art, one of the nation’s premier museums, is currently featuring ‘The Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China’.  The exhibition showcases ten majestic terracotta figures, including a cavalry horse and 130 works that tell the story of China’s birth.

The Sculpture Garden at VMFA

The Sculpture Garden at VMFA

You’ll also see arms and armor, horse and chariot fittings, ritual bronze vessels, works in gold and silver, jade ornaments, precious jewelry, and ceramics from the First Emperor’s mausoleum complex.  If that isn’t thrilling enough, there’s the reinstallation of the museum’s breathtaking Fabergé Collection.  For timed tickets to The Terracotta Army exhibit visit website.

The Urban Farmhouse Market & Kitchen

The Urban Farmhouse Market & Kitchen

You can linger at lunch at Amuse or the more casual café, or head over to Scott’s Addition to The Urban Farmhouse Market & Café, a nifty, rustic place that features local artists and farm-to-table.  It’s a friendly, low-key hangout with wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling retractable windows and, naturally, a farmhouse vibe.  The daily selection of gourmet sandwiches and salads, smoothies, espresso drinks, fresh pressed juices and fair-trade teas are listed on the chalkboard menu.  Browse the antique wooden cupboards for local foodstuffs to take home.

Scott’s Addition is the trendy neighborhood for millennials, with its reconverted warehouse loft apartments, hipster eateries, coffee brewers, and craft beer breweries like The Veil Brewing Company, Strangeways Brewing, Isley Brewing Company, Väsen Brewing Company, Ardent Craft Ales and more.  It’s the holy grail for brewhounds and those who like their aging done with apples.  Blue Bee Cider has moved to the hood and is now firmly ensconced in a 19th century reconverted stables.

Blue Bee Ciders

Blue Bee Ciders

While in the neighborhood, scour Class and Trash for cool retro collectibles, farmhouse tables, architectural elements and garden ornaments.

The tasting room at Buskey Hard Cider ~ Buskey Founder/Owner William Correll (Left)

The tasting room at Buskey Hard Cider ~ Buskey Founder/Owner William Correll (Right)

Stop by for a tour and tasting at Buskey Hard Cider.  You’ll probably meet Founder/Owner, William Correll, whose usually on site to explain the aging process – some ciders in steel barrels, some in old whiskey barrels from the Virginia Distillery Company.

Stocking up at The Veil Brewing Company

Stocking up at The Veil Brewing Company

Nearby is The Veil Brewing Company. When we arrived, just before the 4pm opening, there was a line around the block.  We were so shocked we thought they must have been having an early bird bargain sale.  No such luck.

This über popular brewery has a comfy lounge area and a very efficient pick up area for take away and growler refill.  You’ve probably heard of their ‘Double Espresso Hornswaggler’, an espresso chocolate milk stout that shouts “school’s out!”.

Back at the hotel we took a relaxing dip in the indoor pool before dressing for dinner at Lemaire.  There’s no way to prepare you for Lemaire, except to describe it as the height of destination dining.  The hotel’s lavish dining room fairly sparkles with grandeur.  The capacious room is resplendent with crystal chandeliers, heavy silk draperies and exquisitely carved period architecture.

Pearl Oysters, with champagne mignonette ~ Chilled Cucumber Soup with Georgia Olive Oil, Poached Shrimp and Preserved Lemon

Pearl Oysters, with champagne mignonette ~ Chilled Cucumber Soup with Georgia Olive Oil, Poached Shrimp and Preserved Lemon

Place yourself in the expert hands of sommelier Shawn O’Keefe who will gently guide you toward the perfect pairings for Executive Chef Patrick Willis’ seasonal haute cuisine.

Fresh Strawberry and Beet Salad with Wildflower Honey Chèvre, Orange, Ginger and Aged Balsamic Vinegar ~ Pan Roasted Swordfish with Carolina Gold Rice, Grilled Alliums, Roasted Fennel, Pine Nuts, Red Veined Sorrel and Strawberry-Rhubarb Gastrique

Fresh Strawberry and Beet Salad with Wildflower Honey Chèvre, Orange, Ginger and Aged Balsamic Vinegar ~ Pan Roasted Swordfish with Carolina Gold Rice, Grilled Alliums, Roasted Fennel, Pine Nuts, Red Veined Sorrel and Strawberry-Rhubarb Gastrique

Whether your preference leans toward seafood or meat, vegetarian fare or poultry, everything is sumptuously prepared and exquisitely plated.  Desserts are as pretty as they are delectable and you’ll want to linger over a postprandial port or brandy till the cows come home.

Slow Braised Spring Lamb Shank with Mascarpone Cheese Grits, Baby Carrots, English Peas and Trumpet Mushrooms and Port Jus ~ Meyer Lemon Tart with Toasted Meringue and Raspberries

After a quick breakfast of muffins and coffee at the hotel’s bistro, TJ’s, shopping was on our minds and there are plenty of specialty clothing boutiques in Carytown.  Bygones, the vintage clothing store for men and women, comes to mind.  But my personal favorite is Helen Campbell’s La Petite Boutique on MacArthur Avenue.

La Petite Boutique

La Petite Boutique

Helen has an eye for distinctive and feminine statement clothing in luxe fabrics, often with embroidery or intricate pleating.  She also carries fabulous hats and accessories to complete a stunning ensemble you’ll see nowhere else.

Holiday Happenings

Jordan Wright
December 1, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times

Synetic Theater ~ MetroStage ~ The Little Theatre of Alexandria ~ ICE! at National Harbor ~ Christmas at Mount Vernon ~ Signature Theatre ~ Symphony Orchestra of Northern Virginia 

Raven Wilkes (Babysitter), Justin Bell (Hansel), and Sharisse Taylor (Gretel) Photo Credit: Johnny Shryock

Raven Wilkes (Babysitter), Justin Bell (Hansel), and Sharisse Taylor (Gretel) Photo Credit: Johnny Shryock

Hansel and Gretel at Synetic Theater During the bustle of holiday crowds, Gretel tries to keep her brother, Hansel, out of trouble while their babysitter leaves Gretel to fend for them both. As Hansel embarks on his own wonder-filled exploration of his everyday surroundings, he and his sister fall into a magical realm that takes them far away from home. In this wordless production, the well-beloved Grimm fairy tale embraces the fantastical through the eyes of those who see the world through a different lens.  Directed and choreographed by Elena Velasco and Tori Bertocci.  Through December 23rd at 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington in Crystal City.  For tickets visit

Christmas at the Old Bull and Bush

Christmas at the Old Bull and Bush

The Old Bull & Bush at MetroStageOriginally staged in the Old Vat Room at Arena Stage writer, director, and actor Catherine Flye will be transferring her 9-person troupe to a circa 1912 replica of the famed Hampstead, England pub to jolly up your holidays with food, 35 songs, jokes, dance, a sing-along and an abbreviated reenactment of Dickens’ Christmas Carol.  With Christmas crackers, British beers and sausage rolls for purchase, the classic British music hall entertainment runs through December 24th at 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria, 22314.  For tickets visit

Larry Grey as Fezziwig and Hannah Pecoraro as Mrs. Fezziwig and cast ~ Photo credit Michael DeBlois

Larry Grey as Fezziwig and Hannah Pecoraro as Mrs. Fezziwig and cast ~ Photo credit Michael DeBlois

A Christmas Carol at The Little Theatre of Alexandria – In a fresh interpretation by director Eleanor Tapscott, enjoy a return of the Christmas classic by Charles Dickens. Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable Victorian humbug, travels with diaphanous ghostly guides (beautifully choreographed by Ukranian Victoria Blum) through Christmas past, present, and future to find the true meaning of the holidays.  Complete with special effects, Victorian carols and Tiny Tim. Through December 16th at 600 Wolfe Street.  For tickets call 703.683.0496 or visit

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer atICE!” at the Gaylord National Resort & Conference Center – A 9-degree winter wonderland carved from over two million pounds of ice, a Christmas Village, merry-go-round, Glacier Glide ice skating rink, “JOY” – an eye-popping, Broadway-style holiday musical show, nightly snowfalls and dancing fountains at this first-class holiday destination.  Additional events are a Mistletoe Mixology class, Build-A Bear Workshop, photos with Santa, Cookies with Mrs. Claus and so much more. Through January 1st at 201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745.  For tickets and event times visit

Photo credit Melissa Wood

Photo credit Melissa Wood

Christmas at Mount Vernon Tour George and Martha Washington’s mansion by candlelight and make merry with 18th century dancing, fireside refreshments and caroling.  Meet Aladdin the Camel, watch holiday fireworks on December 15th and 16th, hear period music, experience a military encampment and more.  For tickets and event times visit

Holiday Follies at Signature Theatre – Starring jazz singer Ines Nassara, David Rowen (Signature’s Diner) and Katie Mariko Murray (Signature’s West Side Story) singing classic holiday songs.  Through December 16th at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets visit

The Symphony Orchestra of Northern Virginia in collaboration with the Office of the Arts presents a “Friday Evening Chamber Concert Series”.  The next concert “A Brass Christmas” is scheduled for Friday, December 15th at the Durant Arts Center, 1605 Cameron St.  For online tickets visit  Tickets are also available at the door.

Charleston City Including Backroads and Byways – Test Driving Hyundai’s 2018 Sonata and Elantra

Jordan Wright
October 9, 2017
Photo credit: Jordan Wright


Historic Charleston

The beautifully preserved port city of Charleston and its neighboring countryside proved an excellent opportunity to test drive the soon-to-be-released the sporty 2018 Sonata with its minimalist design and 8-speed transmission, and the 2018 Elantra GT.  Two daytime road rallies exploring this area on its cobblestone streets, highways and country lanes were no challenge for these two excellent-performing, mid-priced cars.

2018 Elantra GT

2018 Elantra GT

Both the 2018 Elantra GT and 2018 Sonata presented well through sudden downpours, bumpy roads, last minute turns and quick braking.  Our 90-plus degree day consisted of a four-hour morning drive in the Elantra GT and the same time in the Sonata.  We drove the vehicles past horse farms and golf clubs, across bridges and beside lush gardens with no stops for a refuel.  Plenty of highway and two-lane roads were instrumental in testing its maneuverability, comfort level and braking system.  Both dual clutch and manual are equally fuel-efficient and can be started and have the car’s temperature set by using Google.  Gotta love that in both hot or frigid climates!

Hyundai’s 2018 Elantra GT at the Charleston National Golf Club

Hyundai’s 2018 Elantra GT at the Charleston National Golf Club

For our early morning road rally 18 Elantra GTs started out from the beautiful Belmond Charleston Place, a magnificent property in the tradition of America’s grand hotels.  It was exciting to see them all lined up on the hotel’s cobblestone driveway in all their shiny new colors.

Charleston National Golf Club

Charleston National Golf Club

Our morning drive took us down Meeting Street and across the city then on to Route 526 to Sullivan’s Island and Route 703 on the Isle of Palms.  From there we drove inland to Mt. Pleasant arriving at the Charleston National Golf Course for snacks and cold drinks in their beautiful clubhouse set amid old Live Oaks and swaying Spanish moss.

A different route with different challenges defined our return.  From sizzling hot country roads that billowed clouds of steam from the frequent bursts of rainfall, the car handled it beautifully as we headed back to the hotel for a lunch break.  We had the chance to note the air conditioning and inside defroster were effective to handle such quickly changing weather conditions.  As we drove east on Route 526 beside the Ashley River and across the Cooper River, two rivers that converge at the port of Charleston, we enjoyed the panoramic views of the low country marshes with their acres of sweetgrass that the Gullahs make their intricately woven baskets from.  From there we passed the Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens before making our way back to the hotel for a lunch break.

Low country marshland along the route

Low country marshland along the route

Our afternoon drive in the Sonata took us across the Stono River on Route 700 and down through John’s Island to stopped at The Plantation at Stono Ferry and on to the Links at Stono Ferry Golf Club in Hollywood before heading back to town.  It is a stunning drive, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in touring the area.

Both cars exceeded expectations.  Most especially in what comes standard, though add-ons can raise the final price.  They are zippier, snazzier and more comfortable than earlier models with great attention paid to overall design, mileage and performance.

For fuel economy, you can expect the Elantra to give you a ton of savings at the pump.

FUEL ECONOMY City Highway Combined
2.4L (SE) 25 MPG 36 MPG 29 MPG
2.4L (SEL, Sport & Limited) 25 MPG 35 MPG 28 MPG
2.0T (Sport) 23 MPG 32 MPG 26 MPG
2.0T (Limited) 23 MPG 32 MPG 26 MPG
1.6T (Eco) 28 MPG 37 MPG 31 MPG

And as for safety, its braking system tell the story.

Front Dual diagonal, split circuit, power-assisted 12.0-in. ventilated disc with pressure proportioning valves (2.4L/1.6T)
Dual diagonal, split circuit, power-assisted 12.6-in. ventilated disc with pressure proportioning valves (2.0T, Optional on SEL, Limited 2.4L)
Rear Dual diagonal, split circuit, power-assisted 11.2-in. solid disc with pressure proportioning valves

You can choose either the 6-speed electronic automatic with torque converter, shift lock and SHIFTRONIC™ manual shift mode on the 2.4L or the 8-speed electronic automatic with torque converter, shift lock and SHIFTRONIC™ manual shift mode on the 2.0T.  And there’s also a turbo model.

Utility without sacrificing driving dynamics is one of the key benefits to hatchbacks, and the 2018 Elantra GT brings an 8 percent increase in cargo capacity versus the prior generation.  It is one of only a few hatchbacks classified by the EPA as a Large Car due to total interior volume eclipsing 120 cubic feet.  In fact, Elantra GT has more cargo volume than other hatchbacks such as the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf and Toyota Corolla iM. Elantra GT is also a sporty alternative to small CUVs. Elantra GT with the rear seats folded down has more cargo capacity than the Toyota CH-R, Mazda CX-3, Chevrolet Trax and Jeep Renegade.

Even more sophisticated safety features are standard on some Elantra models.  Advanced Driver Assists are available on Elantra GT Sport through Automatic Emergency Braking w/ Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keep Assist, High Beam Assist and Smart Cruise Control that features stop/start capability.  A Hyundai-first, Driver Attention Alert, analyzes driver inputs to determine attention level and provide both a visual and audible warning if it determines the driver’s attention level has become too low.  Great for a teen’s first car.

All that utility is wrapped in an evolution of what they call the “Fluidic Sculpture” design language that features Hyundai’s new signature cascading grille, which is flanked by standard LED Daytime Running Lights.  Pretty sexy!  To further enhance the front light signature, available LED headlights are utilized for both the low and high beams.  The side profile is strongly supported by standard 17-inch alloy wheels and 18-inch alloy wheels on the Sport. At the rear, the liftgate features wraparound glass and a rear spoiler.  Available LED tail lights and split dual outlet exhaust further support Elantra GT’s fun-to-drive positioning.

Model Engine Transmission MSRP
Elantra GT 2.0L 4-cylinder 6-speed Manual Transmission $19,350
Elantra GT 2.0L 4-cylinder 6-speed Automatic Transmission w/ SHIFTRONIC® $20,350
Elantra GT Sport 1.6L Turbo GDI 4-cylinder 6-speed Manual Transmission $23,250


2.4L (SE) 25 MPG 36 MPG 29 MPG
2.4L (SEL, Sport & Limited) 25 MPG 35 MPG 28 MPG
2.0T (Sport) 23 MPG 32 MPG 26 MPG
2.0T (Limited) 23 MPG 32 MPG 26 MPG
1.6T (Eco) 28 MPG 37 MPG 31 MPG

The Sonata’s ABS braking system comes in 4-wheel, 4-channel and 4-sensor with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and ESC.

Extensive features on the Sonata include, a standard seven-inch color display audio touchscreen with both Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto® integration. Models equipped with Blue Link Telematics get three years of complimentary Connected Care and Remote services; including the ability to activate many of the features using the Amazon Echo and Google Home virtual assistants. The available navigation system is enhanced with a bird’s-eye-view feature and HERE HD real-time traffic flow data. Furthermore, the inconvenience of outdated map software is now a thing of the past as owners now have three years of complimentary Guidance Package services, which include downloads to maintain up-to-date navigation programming.

Keeping on-trend with today’s connected passengers, smartphones can now be charged without a plug using the available wireless charging pad (Qi standard) while a second-row USB charge port provides additional charging flexibility.

The Sonata is equally impressive.  Distinctive new exterior styling transforms Sonata’s visual signature. The dramatic new appearance is highlighted by Hyundai’s bold new “cascading grille” in front and an all-new rear with more prominent branding and relocation of the license plate in the bumper in this category.

Every 2018 Sonata is equipped with Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA).  It’s the only mainstream mid-size car sold with this safety technology as standard equipment. And with its 18.5 gallon tank, the mileage is impressive too.

Pricing throughout the Sonata’s lineup gives consumers a compelling choice.

Model Engine Transmission MSRP
SE 2.4L GDI 4-cyl 6-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC® $22,050
Eco 1.6L Turbo GDI 4-cyl 7-Speed EcoShift® Dual Clutch Transmission


SEL 2.4L GDI 4-cyl 6-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC® $23,700
Limited 2.4L GDI 4-cyl 6-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC® $27,400
Sport 2.4L GDI 4-cyl 6-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC® $25,200
Sport 2.0T 2.0L Turbo GDI 4-cyl 8-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC® $27,600
Limited 2.0T 2.0L Turbo GDI 4-cyl 8-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC® $32,450

Whichever you choose, driving will be an awesome adventure.