RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — So many shopping and dining areas are just like any other - chain stores and chain restaurants. Carytown breaks the mold.
Carytown is a ¾-mile stretch of shops and restaurants a few miles west of downtown Richmond, Virginia, near the museum district. It's where I tend to go when I'm having trouble finding the right gift or just want to have a pleasant afternoon window-shopping. The neighborhood hosts several annual events, including the Watermelon Festival, Chalk up the Town, Savory Strolls and Halloween Scarytown.
The architecture is an eclectic mix, with many of the businesses in converted row houses painted in bright colors. Carytown also is home to Cary Court, described on Carytown's website as the "oldest outdoor shopping center on the East Coast." The neighborhood is a favorite among locals but attracts tourists, too.
My college-age daughter loves Carytown because its restaurants are so vegetarian-friendly, and many of the shops are inexpensive (although you can find expensive, too).
In Carytown, you can find bicycles, bakeries, books and beer. Have a craving for something sweet? Stop by a store called For the Love of Chocolate. Or, for a salty snack, pick up some Virginia-grown peanuts at the Virginia Diner Shoppe.
Shoppers can buy dancewear or guitars, used books or record albums, games or tobacco. When our son was into chess and other games, we often stopped by One Eyed Jacques, which also sells toys, party games, puzzles, trading cards and more.
And of course there are many clothing stores, such as The Phoenix for a wide variety of women's clothes and accessories, Lex's of Carytown for formal gowns and Bygones Vintage Clothing, one of about a dozen second-hand and consignment stores in Carytown.
Restaurants cover a wide range. Ethnic cuisine found here includes Japanese, Thai, Korean, Mexican, Greek and Indian. Some of our favorite restaurants include The Daily (known for organic and locally produced food), and Don't Look Back for a wide selection of affordable tacos. We're also big fans of Burger Bach (just off of Cary Street at the west end of Carytown) and Ellwood Thompson's, a health food store/cafe across the parking lot from Burger Bach.
Near the east edge of Carytown you'll find the Byrd Theatre, an 88-year-old movie palace that retains a lot of its original splendor. (Beware: some seats are more comfortable than others.) The theater shows second-run movies for $2 a ticket. It's a great place for a second viewing of a movie we truly loved or to see a show that almost got away from us.
If you catch a movie on a Saturday night, you can see and hear Bob Gulledge play a short, pre-movie concert on the Byrd's Mighty Wurlitzer, a massive pipe organ that is as old as the Byrd itself. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the Byrd shows "It's a Wonderful Life." All showings include performances by Gulledge on the Wurlitzer.
If You Go...
CARYTOWN: Near Richmond, Virginia, http://carytownrva.org/
BYRD THEATRE'S 'MIGHTY WURLITZER': http://byrdtheatre.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/byrd-organ-short.mp3
PARKING: Parking on Cary Street can be a challenge, especially on weekends. Try side streets or the garage behind the Byrd Theatre.