200 N. Boulevard
Second Place: Science Museum of Virginia
Third Place: The Valentine
At VMFA, you don’t even have to go for the world-class permanent collection, although you’re missing out if you don’t. Between dazzling special exhibitions such as “Van Gogh, Manet and Matisse: the Art of the Flower,” monthly wine tastings and weekly performances showcasing the local jazz scene’s best, there’s plenty to do. The cultural institution also gets props for one of the best bars in town, Amuse. Where else does happy hour start at 2:30 p.m. and offer the possibility of a stroll afterward through mind-bending modern art? The Science Museum brings out the kid in everyone, whether it’s with titillating exhibits such as “Wicked Plants” about carnivorous, poisonous and just plain nasty plants, or with the Imax dome, the biggest way to see a movie. The Valentine’s renovations have put it back on the collective radar along with such creative exhibits as “Beard Wars,” featuring so many familiar hirsute faces.