The 2nd Annual Secret Garden Party

Catch up with friends, meet some new folks, drink historic beverages, and nibble on Southern favorites while enjoying the sometimes surprising lush greenery within our fair city at tonight’s Secret Garden Party.

I was giddy as a child to attend the first incarnation of the Secret Garden Party last year, and it lived up to my expectations. The progressive cocktail party, featuring five downtown historic sites and their gardens, happens again this Thursday, May 12, from 5.30pm – 8.30pm. I saw a lot of familiar faces, met some new folks, drank historic beverages, and nibbled on Southern favorites while enjoying the sometimes surprising lush greenery within our fair city.

Bring a date. Seriously — it’s one of the most unique and romantic date occasions you could ask for. Picture it: walking hand-in-hand from site-to-site, sipping on Champagne underneath a giant dogwood tree, stealing away to historic corners, to perch upon bits of stone where ghosts of loves-past once lingered. Sigh. Call that person who you’ve had your eye on. It worked for me. Now the secret garden party has become a personal anniversary of sorts.

Get there on time — there’s a lot to see and with travel time the night gets away from you. The sites are absolutely walkable, so wear comfortable shoes. A free shuttle is available, but I never once saw it last year. It’s probably faster just to walk. Park at the VCU Hospital Deck at Leigh & 12th streets, the VA Department of Transportation lot at E. Broad and College Streets, or anywhere on the street (what I did). Very limited parking also is available at the Valentine Richmond History Center lot.

You have until 5pm today to get tickets ($30/single, $50/couple). After that, the price at the door goes up to $35/single, $60/couple. The price includes one drink ticket and food at each site and admission to the historic sites themselves.

You can start at any site you wish, but I recommend the order below, both for ease of progression, and also flow of atmosphere.

John Marshall House Garden,

  • 818 E. Marshall Street
  • Madeira and colonial strawberry shrub drink, paired with ice cream and other delicious desserts
  • Live colonial dancers and music from the Federal era
  • Quoits set up for play in the garden
  • 1st floor of the Marshall House open for tours

Wickham House Garden

  • Valentine Richmond History Center, 1015 East Clay Street
  • Ham biscuits, vegetables and seasonal fruit
  • Rum & Cokes
  • Live music by the Dean Christesen Jazz Quartet
  • Exhibition galleries and Wickham House open

This picturesque, private green space is nestled among high brick walls and magnolia trees and extends from the portico of the historic Wickham House, an early 19th century home built by prominent attorney John Wickham, who raised 17 children on the property.

Sally Archer Anderson Garden

  • The White House of the Confederacy, 1201 E. Clay Street
  • Virginia Wines
  • BBQ and cobbler from Double T’s BBQ
  • Live music by Wayside
  • White House and museum galleries open

The Museum of the Confederacy contains the largest collection of Confederate artifacts in the world. The historic White House of the Confederacy, located next door, has been meticulously restored and displays personal belongings of the Davis family, which lived in the home from 1861-1865.

  • VCU Massey Cancer Center, 401 College Street
  • Cancer fighting foods
  • Red wine and iced green tea
  • Classical guitar by Leah Kruszewski
  • Researchers will discuss the relationship between nutrition and cancer

This beautiful and restorative space was designed to heal the mind and spirit and to support Massey Cancer Center’s mission of total nurturing care.

Betty Moore Garden

  • Monumental Church, Historic Richmond Foundation, 1224 E. Broad Street
  • Virginia wine tasting, featuring Grayhaven Winery and Byrd Cellars
  • Food by Very Richmond Indeed, Inc.
  • Live music
  • Tours of the historic church

Historic Richmond Foundation (HRF) is the conscience of the built environment for the City of Richmond. As the oldest preservation organization in the city, HRF operates a revolving fund under which it currently owns and maintains five historic properties, including Monumental Church, a National Historic Landmark.

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Holly Gordon

Holly Gordon spends her days working with Richmond’s hearty nonprofit community and her nights singing in a community chorus. She loves her feminist book club, and is always distracted by shiny things.

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