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A rousing dinner theater or drama under the stars; a state-of-the-art concert hall or old-time music in a converted barn; a jazz festival or the pipes and drums of the Virginia International Tattoo. Virginia's venues for theater and music run the gamut, thrilling groups of all sizes.
When the azaleas bloom in April, it's time for Norfolk's Azalea Festival, celebrating NATO and the Virginia International Tattoo. More than 800 performers from seven nations take part in the part-parade, part-military band concert to overwhelm the senses in one of the greatest patriotic displays. And this only beginning, kicking off the seven-week celebration of dance, music and theater that is the Virginia Arts Festival taking place throughout Hampton Roads.
Strains of symphonic music, Dixieland jazz, folk, and country rise up from the hills around Orkney Springs on summer weekend evenings. It's the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, an outdoor concert series held at a historic hotel and spa, Shrine Mont.
Hampton hosts the Jazz Festival in June, Portsmouth the TodiMusicFest in July, Galax the Old Fiddler's Convention and Abingdon the Virginia Highlands Festival, both in August.
At Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, audiences can hear living legends in the Filene Center, lie outside on a blanket, or sit inside a cozy barn. Nature meets art in this unique setting on a former farm in the rolling Northern Virginia hills. Meanwhile, the Patriot Center at George Mason University hosts sporting events, theater, and top-name music acts.
The I.M. Pei-designed Ferguson Center for the Arts at Christopher Newport University is a new 1,700-seat performance hall hosting big-name acts from the Beach Boys to the annual Ella Fitzgerald Music Festival in April.
Music rings across the Elizabeth River during outdoor concerts at the Ntelos Pavilion at Harbor Center, a 6,500-seat venue under a huge, white, sail-like tent, a Portsmouth landmark.
Just across the river, Norfolk is home to the Virginia Symphony, the Virginia Stage Company, and the Virginia Opera, where groups can get a behind the scenes tour of the Harrison Opera House.
Richmond's Landmark Theater hosts Broadway, ballet and concerts in a 1926 Shriner's temple, complete with towering minarets and desert murals.
Blackfriar's Playhouse in Staunton is home of the American Shakespeare Center , the troupe faithfully reproducing the Great Bard's plays in a venue that replicates England's first indoor theater. Swift Creek Mill Theatre in Colonial Heights offers dinner packages inside a truly unique venue believed to be the oldest grist mill in the nation.
At Abingdon's historic Barter Theatre performances range from classic musicals like "Singing in the Rain" to an Appalachian drama festival. Riverside Center Dinner Theater in Fredericksburg is a popular destination for motorcoach groups.
Norfolk's smaller venues include the NorVa in a re-functioned building on Granby Street, and the restored Attucks Theatre, once again the cultural center of Norfolk's vibrant African American community.
Enjoy German food and the outdoor Bier Garten during a musical at the Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theater in Wytheville.
Unique performances take place at the Yoder Barn Theatre, a historic dairy barn in Newport News, and in Richmond's historic Hanover Tavern, where Barksdale Theatre established the nation's first dinner theater in 1953.
Groups eat family-style at the Birchmere in Alexandria, a mural-covered converted warehouse hosting the likes of Dave Matthews and Emmylou Harris.
Danville's Auctioneer's Park is now the Carrington Pavilion, an outdoor amphitheater hosting national recording artists.
The Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail driving tour links eight classic mountain music venues. In Galax, bluegrass and country musician take the stage every Friday night for the Rex Theater's live radio show.
At the Blue Ridge Music Center, groups can see instruments being made, then hear local musicians play on the sloping lawn outside. Strummers and fans meet at the Floyd Country Store for the Friday Night Jamboree, while The Carter Family Fold in Hiltons invokes A.P. Carter's spirit every Saturday.
Country Cabin II in Norton has expanded facilities to accommodate large groups for weekly performances. And in rural Clintwood, one of Virginia's leading men of old time music is celebrated in the state-of-the-art Dr. Ralph Stanley Museum. Wherever you stop, the Crooked Road leads to the heart of Virginia's mountain music country.
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