Coming attractions

Parkway anniversary, art events, highlight calendar

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Print this page by Maya Payne Smart

Virginia’s state parks enjoyed record attendance of 7.5 million visitors in 2009, up 4 percent from the year before.  “There seems to be a resurgence of people discovering camping as a good family activity,” says Nancy Heltman, director of operations for Virginia State Parks.  “It’s relatively inexpensive and everybody’s looking to save money.” 

Moreover, she says, there’s a growing recognition that young people spend too much time inside and are too sedentary.  “Today’s children are not relating to nature,” Heltman says.  “Taking your kids outdoors is probably the best legacy you could give them.  It has a de-stressing effect and contributes to a healthy mind, body and spirit.” 

Besides parks, Tamra Talmadge-Anderson, director of public relations for the Virginia Tourism Corp., says wineries, bed and breakfasts and nature retreats continue to be popular.  “What we’re hearing from busy working professionals is that they want to relax and reconnect with family and friends.”  Whether indoors or out, Virginia will offer some new attractions come spring.  Mark your calendar for the best of both worlds.

•  The 75th Anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway ( There’s no better time to visit part of the 469-mile stretch that’s home to 100 species of trees, 54 different mammals and 59 species of birds.  The parkway, which connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, offers 721 tent sites, 351 RV sites, 275 parking overlooks and nine campgrounds.  Dozens of events from tree plantings to music nights will celebrate the anniversary. Park representatives also will be available to speak to civic groups and organizations about the past, present and future of the country’s longest rural roadway, built in the 1930s.  There’s a legislative moment afoot by Virginia and North Carolina U.S. senators to expand the parkway by 50,000 acres to protect its scenic vistas from development.

•  Minds Wide Open ( The first-ever statewide celebration of women in the arts kicks off in March and runs through June.  The huge collaboration will feature plays, performances and art exhibits, all honoring the contributions of women to arts and culture.

•  The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts ( The museum reopens in Richmond on May 1 with 165,000 additional square feet, including new exhibit space, library, museum shop, café and galleries.

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