by Zenda Douglas
images courtesy Richmond Region Tourism and VisitRichmondVA
Richmond, Virginia, is located 98 miles south of Washington, D.C., by the James River, and between the Virginia coastline and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Interstate highways I-95 and I-64 intersect here for easy access. It’s easy to get into and easy to get back out, but you’ll definitely want to spend as much time as possible in between.
The only ambivalence visitors to Richmond may experience is in deciding if this intriguing city is a college town or an arts community, a foodie hot spot or a sports center, a historic site or a hub of government. It won’t take long to figure out that it’s all of these things and so much more.
A ride on the Historic RVA Trolley Tour will help visitors gain their bearings. Meet the trolley at the Richmond Region Visitors Center to begin a two-hour guided tour showcasing the riverfront, architecture, historical sites, and many of the popular landmarks throughout one of America’s oldest cities.
See a grand view of the city from Libby Hill Park, where, in 1737, William Byrd II was inspired to give Richmond its name because of the striking similarity to the views of Richmond on the Thames in England. The fabric of Richmond is interwoven with history that dates back to Pre-Revolution times. This vantage point offers a breathtaking and impressive view of the city, the James River, and neighboring regions.
Another great view of the city skyline is available from the Virginia War Memorial, now a major education center whose goal is to honor military veterans by passing their stories of sacrifice on the future generations. The Memorial’s Virginians at War series of documentary videos, narrated by Virginia veterans, can be seen in the Memorial’s theater. Unique artifacts are on display in exhibits situated throughout the Center’s galleries. The Shrine of Memory contains the engraved names of 11,639 Virginians who made the ultimate sacrifice during the 20th century. The statue, Memory, sits at the southern end of the Shrine along with the Torch of Liberty, an eternal flame. A large outdoor amphitheater overlooking the James River is the perfect venue for concerts and ceremonies.
Fortunate visitors will get settled in downtown at The Jefferson Hotel, truly one of America’s grand hotels. Its breathtaking architecture and elegant décor will impress the most discerning guests, but most memorable of all is the completely genuine, friendly, and helpful service. For more than a century, The Jefferson Hotel has provided visitors to the Richmond region with an extraordinary travel experience. Guests will be immersed in luxury, from the fine art exhibited throughout the hotel to state-of-the-art amenities.
In March 2013, The Jefferson Hotel began a three-phase reconstruction project. The hotel’s 262 guest rooms were quietly transformed into 181 spacious new rooms and suites, featuring entry foyers, dressing areas, and luxurious new marbled baths. Centrally located in the heart of downtown, The Jefferson Hotel is just blocks from the state capital, historic Shockoe Slip, the Richmond Convention Center, and Richmond’s financial district. Visitors to Richmond not staying at the hotel are equally welcome to enjoy the Palm Court, Rotunda, History Room, and restaurants of the hotel. Indulge in the Sunday Champagne Brunch at Lemaire, and upscale casual fare at TJ’s. Whenever possible, local produce, naturally-raised meats, and sustainably-harvested seafood are featured in the globally-influenced Southern cuisine.
Holding more than 5,000 years of art from around the world, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is worthy of top billing on visitor itineraries. The airy interior is home to 33,000 works of art comprising the Museum’s permanent collection. Coming up in May 2017 is the Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style exhibit. Look forward to seeing Hear My Voice: Native American Art from the Past and Present exhibit coming in August 2017. Marvel at history on Monument Avenue.
Cultivated on land that was once Powhatan Indian hunting ground, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden offers 40 acres of spectacular gardens and a one-of-a-kind classical domed Conservatory housing more than a dozen themed gardens. Gardens include a Children’s Garden, Healing Garden, Sunken Garden, Victorian Garden, and a Rose Garden with more than 80 varieties. Get up close and personal at Butterflies LIVE! as hundreds of tropical butterflies feed, flutter, and take flight all around you. Visitors can explore the origins, preferred habitats, and lifecycles of butterflies.
Continue in the gardening spirit by visiting Maymont. Stroll through acres of magnificent gardens including a Japanese, Italian, and Victorian garden, among many beautiful others. Maymont, an elaborate Gilded Age estate on a site high above the James River, was built in 1893 by James and Sallie Dooley. Upon their deaths, the property, which included its architectural complex, the 100-acre landscape, and a collection of exquisite furnishings, was gifted to the people of Richmond. Travelers can explore natural-setting wildlife habitats and the Children’s Farm and Nature Center.
Maymont Mansion, the gardens and historic artifacts have been lovingly restored to look much as they did when the Dooleys called it home.
Get your awe on at the Science Museum of Virginia, where hundreds of experiential exhibits await your participation. Become mesmerized in the Dome Theater, with a Digistar 5 full dome 3D system—the largest screen in Virginia. The Science Museum of Virginia presents dynamic programming to hundreds of thousands of guests each year. The Museum features permanent exhibitions about space, health, electricity, and the earth, as well as hosts visiting exhibitions from around the world. Spend time in the “Boost!” exhibition, where the exhibit challenges and inspires visitors.
The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar is unique in that it’s the nation’s first museum to interpret the war through three interwoven perspectives: Union, Confederate, and African-American. Expected in late 2018, a new building at Tredegar will combine the Center’s collections with those of the Museum of the Confederacy.
Opened in 1922, in The Old Stone House, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum is only blocks away from Poe’s first Richmond home and his first place of employment, the Southern Literary Messenger.
Richmond’s Poe Museum boasts the world’s finest collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s manuscripts, letters, first editions, memorabilia, and personal belongings. The Poe Museum provides a retreat into early nineteenth century Richmond where Poe lived and worked. The museum features the life and career of Edgar Allan Poe by documenting his accomplishments with pictures, relics, and verse, and focusing on his many years in Richmond.
In most places, visitors tread a bit out of town to take advantage of water sports. Here, rafters and kayakers glide and maneuver right through downtown. Richmond also has the only class III and IV urban rapids in the entire country, and the mighty James River is available for swimming.
Moving around the city, visitors will get acquainted with the neighborhoods that make up Richmond. Tour the numerous neighborhoods including Carytown, which contains Richmond’s eclectic nine-block “Mile of Style;” the Fan District; Jackson Ward; Church Hill, and Shockoe Slip. The blocks along Cary Street (in Carytown) are lined with unique boutiques, restaurants, and specialty shops. The Church Hill neighborhood stands out with new restaurants such as The Roosevelt and Dutch and Co., and is also carving out a niche
as the bakery district.
Repast in Richmond
Indeed, eating through Richmond is delightful, adventurous, and completely satisfying.
Enjoy lunch or dinner at The Daily Kitchen & Bar, which strives to serve foods that are not only delicious, but also health conscious, environmentally friendly, and socially responsible. The restaurant uses organic, all natural, local, and sustainable ingredients
as much as possible. It also offers an extensive selection of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free items. The Daily Kitchen & Bar hosts a large menu of items that include butter croissants, tofu omelets, rare tuna salad, blackened mahi, BBQ tofu sandwiches, fava bean bruschetta, lump crab stacks, Angus beef burgers, tuna banh mi sandwiches, and chicken paninis.
Bistro 27 is a lively European bistro with floor-to-ceiling, wrap around windows and airy 20-foot ceilings. It offers a stylish dining experience. The eclectic menu shows a contemporary take on European classics with a carefully-chosen wine list that ranges from inexpensive, little-known gems to world-class award winners. Try the Lamb Osso Bucco, five-hour braised lamb shank served in a rich demi sauce with polenta and vegetable, or the Pan Seared Sea Scallops with tomato, garlic, and pine nuts served with citrus butter sauce, risotto, and vegetable.
Lucy’s Restaurant is situated in the revitalizing Jackson Ward neighborhood. A small restaurant seating only 40 diners, Lucy’s offers daily specials, a full complement bar, wine by the glass or bottle, and draft or bottled beer. The duck breast—pan-seared duck breast with an apricot glaze over a sauté of farro, scallion, baby greens, and Sausage Craft chorizo—may well tempt you. Here, diners can find Non “Spaghetti & Meatballs,” which is made up of artichoke, spinach, and avocado meatballs served over sautéed spaghetti squash, with caramelized onion pomodoro sauce and grated parmesan.
Since its opening, Heritage has garnered numerous accolades including: Richmond Magazine’s Chef & Restaurant of the Year Elbys 2015; StarChef.com Rising Star Winner 2014 Washington DC area; Southern Living’s 100 Best Restaurants in the South 2014; and Richmond Magazine’s Best New Restaurant 2013. While awards say a lot, serious diners will want to experience it all for themselves. Get things started with a lovely housemade charcuterie with smoked guanciale, shoyu coppa, pork rillette, pancetta, mustards, jam, chutney, and toast. Choose between small, medium, and large plates with dishes such as kale gnocchetti with shrimp, andouille sausage, broccolini, red sauce, and Parmesan, or local rockfish with fresh garbanzo beans, fingerling potatoes, preserved lemon, and peanut romesco sauce.