Chamomile & Whiskey
Runner-up: Erin & The Wildfire
Honorable mention: Abbey Road
It was over a cup of tea and a fifth of Evan Williams that Koda Kerl and Marie Borgman decided to form Chamomile & Whiskey in the winter of 2011. Since then, the band —which also includes banjo, bass, drums and electric guitar in addition to Kerl’s guitar and Borgman’s fiddle—has released two albums and toured extensively, playing its signature bluegrass folk and earning accolades for its drunken Irish sound to tune-smithing. Erin & The Wildfire, with its rock-soul-funk sound, is this year’s runner-up.
The Jefferson Theater
Runner-up: Sprint Pavilion
Honorable mention: John Paul Jones Arena
An extensive renovation in 2009 returned the Jefferson to its former glory as a stage for famous performers like Harry Houdini and The Three Stooges, restoring its architecture while modernizing the space for a new audience. Almost 10 years later, it still shines thanks to its two full-service bars, sophisticated lighting system and five-star acoustics owing to the high ceilings and sloped floor. Last year saw acts from Tig Notaro to Yonder Mountain String Band to Yo La Tengo take the spotlight. In second place, another venue in the Coran Capshaw empire: Sprint Pavilion, where crowds love gathering during the warmer months for concerts en plein air.
IX Art Park
Runner-up: Second Street Gallery
Honorable mention: The Fralin Museum of Art
You won’t find placards with explanations of the artist’s vision here. Nor will you feel the need to be especially quiet, in reverence to the work—just ask the kids you’ll inevitably find running around (see Best Kids’ Park). No, IX Art Park encourages more than your typical art gallery allows, because IX itself is pretty darn atypical. It’s not everywhere you find a living jungle gym or a bench made from borrowable books, after all, and that’s exactly why it takes the prize. In second place, Second Street Gallery challenges its viewers, too, with provocative work from contemporary artists, as well as lectures, tours and workshops.
Shenandoah National Park
Runner-up: Carter Mountain Orchard
Honorable mention: Richmond
In fall of 2017, the National Park Service announced a huge increase in entrance fees. At Shenandoah National Park, that would have meant a $40 bump per vehicle, to $70 from $30. The proposal, however, was met with public outcry and the NPS’ final decision settled on a $5 increase during peak season, ensuring that the 200,000-acre park (500 miles of hiking trails included) could continue to be enjoyed by many each year. Second place stop Carter Mountain boasts fruit orchards, donuts, wine and a country market, plus a view over Charlottesville proper.
Runner-up: Random Row Brewing Company
Honorable mention: Firefly
There are a few things to know if you want to succeed at Mellow Mushroom’s Wednesday night trivia (besides the answers to the trivia questions, that is, which can range in topic from art and literature to math and sports): First, get there early. The action starts at 9pm, but true players show up by 8. Next, follow @MellowCville on Twitter to get the night’s theme for a team name. And last, don’t forget to order pretzel bites. …Wait. We don’t need to tell you this—you’re a bunch of know-it-alls anyway. You probably even know that, across town, Random Row’s Sunday trivia night with Geeks Who Drink also keeps crowds guessing.
Violet Crown Cinema
Runner-up: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
Honorable mention: Regal Stonefield Stadium 14 & IMAX
What do we want? Booze! When do we want it? At the movies! That seems to be the mantra this year, at least, as Violet Crown and Alamo —two theaters where you can drink while you watch—take the top prizes. Downtown at Violet Crown, grab some avocado spring rolls or a chicken pesto pizza with your Barboursville Pinot before settling into your cushy reserved seat (hint: The front row reclines!). At Alamo, raise your order card for a Bee’s Kiss—rum, honey, vanilla ice cream, Honeycomb cereal—and bottomless popcorn.
LOCAL THEATER (LIVE)
Runner-up: American Shakespeare Center (Staunton)
IX Art Park
Known for pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a local performance space, Live Arts impresses again this year with its commitment to forging community and theater. With the hiring of its new producing artistic director, Bree Luck, came a vow for the 2018-2019 season to reverse an oft-seen ratio: This year, nearly 80 percent of the productions are written or conceived by a woman or person of color, because theater—like community—should welcome everyone. Over Staunton way, ASC gives thespians an authentic experience, bringing to bear the Bard’s best work in a replica Globe theater.
LOCAL RADIO STATION
Runner-up: 91.9 WNRN
Honorable mention: 99.7 CYK
The feather in Monticello Media’s cap (along with honorable mention 99.7), Hot 101.9 hit the Ruckersville airwaves in 1990 and, in the years since, has kept listeners engaged with contemporary pop hits from morning to night. Get a jumpstart when you wake up from the morning zoo—Elvis Duran and company—followed by best radio DJ Kevin Graham (see below) and then “PJ in the PM,” PJ Styles’ afternoon offering from 3 to 7pm. If you turn the dial to 91.9, listener-supported WNRN gives you a little bit of everything, from blues and rock to country and alt-Latino.
LOCAL RADIO PERSONALITY
Kevin Graham (Hot 101.9)
Runner-up: Sherry Taylor (Z95.1)
Honorable mention: Tom Morgan (99.7 CYK)
Kevin Graham is your guide to midday listening, hosting Hot 101.9’s 10am to 3pm slot. Not surprisingly, he’s also your pick for wedding DJ (see Weddings). Safe to say, the man is pretty immersed in music, and has been for a while: He started DJ for All Occasions back in 2004 and serves couples from here to Fredericksburg. In the runner-up spot, Sherry Taylor wakes up early to play you the hits from 5 to 10am. This includes Impossible Trivia, a segment during which the 25-year radio pro asks listeners questions like “We spend about 18 minutes a day thinking about what?” and “Statistics show you’re likely to make more than $2,000 extra per year if you have what trait?” At least we know where to listen for the answer.
LOCAL TV PERSONALITY
Josh Fitzpatrick (NBC29)
Runner-up: Norm Sprouse (NBC29)
Honorable mention: Kasey Hott (NBC29)
Following the great blizzard of March 2013, a young Josh Fitzpatrick decided he’d like to study meteorology. Snow was his favorite type of weather and he wanted to learn more about it. Cut to November 2017 when, after 10 years as a meteorologist in West Virginia, he joined the NBC29 weather team. A few months later, runner-up Norm Sprouse (and a perennial winner in this category) scaled back his own role at NBC29 from an on-air weatherman to a more behind-the-scenes position.
ANNUAL EVENT OR FESTIVAL
Tom Tom Founders Festival
Runner-up: Virginia Film Festival
Honorable mention: Charlottesville Dogwood Festival
A week-long festival around Thomas Jefferson’s birthday (and, coincidentally, festival founder Paul Beyer’s, too) that’s focused on the tenets of the third president —entrepreneurship, innovation and culture among them—Tom Tom introduces to town movers, shakers and tastemakers. Spring 2018 brought legendary newsman Dan Rather to the stage. But the fest isn’t out of mind the rest of the year either. The foundation also hosts Tomtoberfest, a block party in Market Street Park with live music, food trucks and vendors, each September. Taking the silver medal is the Virginia Film Fest, an annual celebration of all things movies, with four days of exclusive screenings and, often, celebrity sightings.
Honorable mention: Fry’s Spring
Cost of living notwithstanding, the Downtown Mall (and surrounding North Downtown neighborhood, which is what we suspect readers were going for here) offers modern conveniences—a grocery store, a movie theater, coffee shops aplenty—across eight historic city blocks. And is it a coincidence that the best neighborhood is also the best place to discover a doggo (see below)? We think not. Runner-up Belmont/Carlton offers some of the priciest real estate in the city, but readers say it’s worth it for the creative community, divine dining and walkability to nearby downtown.
PLACE TO DOG-WATCH
Runner-up: Chris Greene Lake
Honorable mention: UVA Grounds
No doubt you’ll be delighted to make the acquaintance of Mozart, the friendly Mastiff who turns heads whenever he traverses the mall. Or Roo, the beagle-Chihuahua mix who sometimes shops with her owner at Urban Outfitters. You’ll want to stop and dole out a few pets to labradoodle Jockamo and say hello to Gizmo, the corgi who lives at Blue Whale Books. It’s clear the mall is a spot for paws. Traditionalists might spot Spot at Chris Greene Lake, where he loves splashing away a case of the zoomies.