By LIZ BECKER • Special correspondent
It was a long, frigid winter, but the azaleas and tulips in bloom promise sun-filled days and a welcome sense of renewal.
There is no shortage of fun to be had in the city in these warmer months, but there are some essential spring experiences unique to the Richmond area that are absolute musts. Don’t miss them.
1. Happy Hour at the VMFA
There may be no better way to welcome warm spring evenings than Friday Happy Hour at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ Best Café, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Grab some snacks and a bottle of something crisp and refreshing and then head out to the gardens, where you can admire the sculptures in the fading light or peek at the goldfish as they swim among the tall, red reeds of Chihuly glass. (vmfa.museum)
2. The gardens at Maymont and Lewis Ginter
There are gardens, and then there are gardens. Maymont (above) and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden provide the latter. Head to either to see spring in all of its colorful, vibrant glory. Don’t miss the shaded, ethereal Japanese garden at Maymont, with its koi ponds and geometric bridges, or the delicate magic of Lewis Ginter’s “Butterflies LIVE!” exhibit, which starts Friday. (maymont.org, lewisginter.org)
3. Monument Avenue 10K
Whether you run it or stand on the sidelines and cheer, the annual 10K along Richmond’s famous avenue — this year on April 14 — always feels like spring’s unofficial kickoff. Whether from the exercise-induced endorphins of the 30,000 participants, the silly costumes or the lively bands along the route, the race simply exudes happiness and good, warm-weather vibes. (sportsbackers.org/events/monument-ave-10k)
4. South of the James Farmers Market
While the Saturday morning market at Forest Hill Park runs year-round, it truly shines during the spring and summer, as the local produce explodes in variety and quantity. Head there in early May before the heat arrives, grab the biggest, juiciest strawberries you’ll find all year, enjoy the food trucks and live music, and don’t even think about leaving before you grab one of Mrs. Yoder’s enormous sourdough doughnuts fresh out of the fryer and dripping with frosting — the huge line is worth it. (growrva.com/soj)
5. Eat shad roe
Each year, American shad gather below the falls of the James River for their annual spawning run, and each year a select group of local restaurants briefly feature the niche seasonal delicacy on their menus. It’s difficult to pin down which restaurants will feature shad roe and when, but Lulu’s, Mamma Zu, Acacia, and Dutch & Company have all been known to feature it in the past.
6. Biking the Virginia Capital Trail
In Virginia, there’s a slim window between the chill of winter and the smothering humidity of summer. Take advantage of it and enjoy one of the region’s finest outdoor activities: biking either all or part of the gorgeous, 52-mile trail that runs between Richmond and Williamsburg. To really make a day of it, embark on a specialty tour or picnic ride and soak in the springtime beauty of the historic state Route 5 corridor. (virginiacapitaltrail.org)
7. RVA Earth Day Festival
The planet never seems worthier of devotion than in springtime, so there’s no better time to celebrate Earth than with this annual street festival in Manchester that benefits Feed RVA. On April 21, from 12 to 7 p.m., pack up the kids and the dogs and enjoy live music, craft beer and great food, as well as a plethora of local vendors. Eco-friendly, educational and sustainable never looked so fun. (rvaearthdayfest.org)
8. Rooftop bars
A warm spring night more than warrants a visit to one of Richmond’s recent crop of rooftop bars. You can’t go wrong with Quirk Hotel (above), Kabana Rooftop, The HofGarden or Postbellum. The scent of spring blossoms, fresh air and a view of twinkly city lights simply make a good cocktail taste even better.
9. Return of the Flying Squirrels
The Flying Squirrels may be our boys of summer, but things get underway at The Diamond (below, on Monday) in the heart of spring. Head to the ballpark on opening day, April 13, for a first pitch by former Atlanta Braves star Fred McGriff, hot dogs, postgame fireworks and, of course, plenty of Nutzy. (milb.com)
10. Osprey tours on the James
The annual arrival and nesting of migrating osprey along the James happens every spring, but that doesn’t make it any less inspiring. Take a walk along the Potterfield Bridge to try to catch a glimpse or book an osprey boat tour. You can also check out the osprey cam online — just don’t be surprised if your productivity level drops significantly if the birds successfully lay and hatch eggs. (discoverthejames .com, richmondospreycamera.com)