Richmond’s Gay-Friendly Neighborhoods: The Fan & Museum District
Read More: Avalon, Babe's of Carytown, Bamboo Cafe, Boulevard, Byrd Theater, Carytown, Garnett's Cafe, gay, Gay-Friendly Neighborhood, Gayborhood, Lesbian, LGBT, Maury Place At Monument, Metro Grill, Mongrel, Nacho Mama's, Nations, Phoenix Rising, Real Estate, Richmond, Sticky Rice, The Empress, Virginia Historical Society, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, VMFA, Xtra's Cafe
With row houses and pockets of walkable shops and sidewalk cafes, the Fan is the top spot for a gay or lesbian city dweller who wants to be outside the downtown fuss, but close to the action. This historic Richmond neighborhood is named after its fanning streets and was fully developed in the early twentieth century.
Bordering the Monroe Park campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, the Fan attracts a diverse mix of students, young professionals, and families through a cross-section of old Richmond and its progressive undercurrent.
Realtor Robb Moss asks clients what they enjoy when recommending neighborhoods. ”If they want the nightlife and a little more activity, the number one neighborhood is the Fan District because of its proximity to different restaurants and bars,” he says. ”The community is peppered with gay couples.”
On Main Street, galleries open for a monthly First Friday that is more low-key than the hoopla you will see on downtown Broad Street’s Art Walk.
Although not traditional gay bars, staples on Main Street like Sticky Rice, Bamboo Cafe, and Avalon draw mixed clientele. Metro Grill is a popular Sunday brunch spot after an eventful Saturday night on the town.
On Broad Street by Boulevard, gay bar and restaurant Nations offers up something different almost every night of the week from drag shows and karaoke to piano brunches.
A few blocks down, The Empress, lesbian-owned by Melissa Barlow and her wife Carly Herring (who is also the chef), serves up plates with European flair fit for sharing. With food made with love and attentive personable service, you feel at home.
Lunch at the retro Garnett’s Cafe and nosh on a Croque Monsier then sample one of their homemade cakes or pies.
Plenty of rentals and duplexes in converted row houses are available for rent, but to buy, you will still have to pay the price. For more affordable living, check out the area west of the Boulevard, coined the Museum District because of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and Virginia Historical Society’s proximity.
Besides museum, the area is home to Richmond’s premiere outdoor shopping destination Carytown.
Carytown offers LGBT-supportive gift and stationary store Mongrel and Richmond’s only lesbian restaurant and bar Babes of Carytown. In the warm months, catch a concert or game of volleyball on their outdoor patio. If you’re looking for gay-lite, try Xtra’s Cafe with Art Deco-themed interior and balcony overlooking the bustle of Cary Street.
The historic Byrd Theater offers second-run movies for $1.99 and plays host to special events and local movie premieres. On the third Friday of each month, gay-owned Nacho Mama’s serves up late-night margaritas and cocktails during Mama’s After Dark.
“When someone asks me, is there a gay area to meet or hangout, I usually refer them to Carytown for shopping. Carytown is a great place to live as well. It’s edgier, it’s up-and-coming. For the folks that their budget doesn’t allow them to live in the Fan, Carytown is an alternative.” Moss says
From Carytown, walk down Belmont Avenue to Phoenix Rising, the city’s only remaining gay bookstore.
Host friends out of town or have your own staycation at Maury Place at Monument – the Bed & Breakfast owned by partners Mac Pence and Jeff Wells is within walking distance to Carytown and the nearby VMFA. Walk the streets of Monument Avenue and take in the architecture of grand houses.
What makes these neighborhoods an ideal spot for living? According to Moss, it’s comfort and openness.
“You can be in public with your partner. You can show affection and you just don’t get the reaction. You’re comfortable when you greet your friends on the street and give them a kiss – you’re not going to see anyone freak out,” he says. ”And it’s just no big deal.”
What are your thoughts on the Fan and Museum Districts?
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