One of the Science Museum of Virginia’s current exhibits includes a few basketball players—just don’t expect LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. These basketball players are two rats, playing a live one-on-one game to demonstrate operant and classical conditioning. Throughout the three-story museum, more hands-on examples of science await at five permanent exhibits. Inspect a rock from the moon, explore a life-size space capsule, and generate energy by pedaling a stationary bike. Kids can even build their own playground with materials such as mats and foam blocks.
Inside the IMAX Dome, a screen 10 times the size of a typical 35 mm screen shows a wide range of educational films. Outside the museum, plants in the BayScapes Garden thrive without pesticide, fertilizer, or the encouragement of a motivational speaker, and an onsite greenhouse offers free planting areas for visitors to contribute greenery and learn about sustainable farming.
At CinéBistro, a luxurious dining theater, patrons settle into wide cushioned seats as they watch the latest action flicks and comedies flicker on the silver screen. Viewing companions alternate drawing buttery, salty puffed maize out of a shared tub of popcorn, hoping to find Gene Hackman's golden business card buried somewhere inside. Although not included with this Groupon, CinéBistro serves seated cinema aficionados a wide menu of appetizers, entrees, and desserts to complement their popcorn, from a caesar salad for a light meal ($10.75) to a pan-seared Atlantic salmon cooked to order ($19.50). Dessert indulgences include a deconstructed peanut-butter pie ($8), and liquid indulgences proffer a wine list full of international vintages to guzzle during foreign movies, as well as domestic and imported beers, martinis, and cocktails.
Elegantly lit and plushly upholstered, The Byrd Theatre looks much the same as it did on its opening day in 1928—and sounds much the same, too, thanks to its centerpiece, the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. Every Saturday night, resident organist Bob Gulledge takes his seat at the orchestra-pit console and might preface the evening's second-run screening of a blockbuster film with selections from Phantom of the Opera or a rousing rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." The antique pipes and bells—which occupy four rooms above the stage—roar back to life with a candy-colored sonority that triggers nostalgia and wakes up any vaudeville performers napping inside.
Since 2007, The Byrd Theatre Foundation has helped facilitate the restoration and preservation of the 1,300-seat auditorium and its organ, making sure it stays State and National Historic Landmark it is today. The Byrd Theatre supplements regular screenings with year-round events, ranging from film and comedy festivals to public-arts forums.
At ComedySportz Improv Theatre, audience suggestions keep a family-friendly and fast-paced vortex of scenes, games, and songs spinning in competitive shows that pit two improv teams against each other. Inside the intimate, 100-seat theater, spontaneity rules as a referee moderates the all-ages-appropriate hilarity pitched between the Richmond Legends and Virginia Hams. At the end of each comedic duel, the audience votes for the winning team, sentencing the losers to feed the doves that live inside the winners' top hats. ComedySportz's laugh-masters also host regular workshops to teach aspiring yuksters the art of improvised hilarity and the essential virtues of spontaneity, risk taking, and engagement with the moment. Through scene work, ComedySportz games, and short- and long-form improv, students learn to keep audiences roaring in order to jump-start a career or become a more affable bank robber.
Film buffs across six states stare wide-eyed at large cinema screens, losing themselves in first-run Hollywood movies and the smell of fresh, buttery kernels within Your Neighborhood Theatre's 17 locations. Though all theaters prioritize comfortable seating, old-fashioned friendly service, and high-stakes preshow trivia slideshows, each location encompasses its own distinct charm, be it through arthouse décor, 3-D screens, or Rhode Island's vintage 1950's drive-in setting.
It's a good idea to arrive early at Movie Tavern, and not only if you hate missing the opening credits. Early birds can peruse the extensive menu of chef-crafted American cuisine, from kobe beef sliders to pizza and sandwiches. But even after the show begins, the snacks keep coming. Unobtrusive servers slip in during the show to deliver orders, and can be called on for more drinks or dessert with the push of a button. Guests can even sip margaritas or signature cocktails at the full bar before heading in to the theater. The family-friendly establishment also serves finger food for kiddies.
As for the entertainment, audiences get to enjoy all-digital presentations of first-run films any day of the week, plus Retro Cinema every Wednesday morning at 11:30 a.m. as well as Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. Audiences also benefit from Movie Tavern's membership program. Anyone can sign up for free online to receive one free bag of popcorn, plus a free ticket every year on their birthday, special offers, movie news, and invites to screenings and other special events.