Summer nights officially begin when that white-hot haze turns gold. The best sunset vantage points involve water and/or verticality, and the romance factor soars when you bring along a bottle, loaf and wedge. (Leave the boom box at home.) Here are some local favorites:
City Hall skydeck: After 5, enter at the 9th Street door, sign in with the guard and ride to the Observation Deck on the 18th floor. A few tables and benches and long views in every direction make this the tallest public spot to check out the city skyline, and the place has an echoey, bird's-eye vibe that's ripe for cooing or tap-dancing as the stars come up.
Chimborazo Park: Though the park closes at sunset, it's OK to linger here for a few moments as the sky reveals its nighttime spectrum. Look for newly refurbished grounds and the mini-Statue of Liberty as you gaze across the hills at 32nd and East Broad streets. Then, run for the car and lock your door.
From a sailboat or canoe on Swift Creek Reservoir: Brandermill and Woodlake residents already know this one sunsets on the lake are a key sales point in the lifestyle package. Put in at one of the neighborhood parks and pray for a breeze.
Manchester Bridge or Boulevard Bridge: For power couples with no time to spare, drive or bicycle across any of the city's James River bridges and look westward about 9 p.m. There's a different view from each span, and from the Manchester and Lee, a red-gold glow over downtown as it lights from within.
At the Alden Aaroe overlook at 21st and East Grace streets, sunset-watching has a following. Couples and others gather nightly to take it all in as the ball drops. Philosophical musings and camaraderie add to the party aspect, and the ambulance dockings on view at MCV make you glad to be anywhere else.
Rocks of the James: Again, water views win. Haul out the boat shoes and rock-walk at Pony Pasture. You might miss the actual sunset, but will marvel at watercolors as night falls. Swooping birds, the occasional bat or snake, and potential for danger make this an almost-extreme take on twilight. Then, dry off with a windows-down ride along Riverside Drive as you head for ice cream or