For years I drove up and down the I-95 corridor passing by the exits for Richmond, Virginia. One day I stopped and stayed a while and what I found was unexpected and delightful. In Richmond, more than 400 years of American history blends effortlessly with trendy shops, world-class museums, outdoor recreation and delicious food and drink. Here are some reasons why you should take that Richmond exit too.
A foodie’s dream
Virginia’s capital city has emerged as a culinary destination demanding the attention of your taste buds. Nowhere is this more evident than in Richmond’s historic Church Hill neighborhood. This is the place where Patrick Henry gave his “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech. Today, this is THE place to eat.
Start your day at one of the Church Hill bakeries. Located in a turn-of-the-century building, WPA Bakery is co-owned by baker David Rohrer and restaurateur Kendra Feather. David was awarded the 2014 Elby Award for Best Pastry Chef. WPA Bakery serves all sorts of yummy treats including sticky buns, almond-glazed pretzels, cakes, pies and parquets.
Everything on the menu at nearby Sub Rosa Bakery is baked in a wood fired masonry oven. All fruits, meats and vegetables are sourced from Virginia farms and organic wheat, corn and rye grains are stone-milled in house.
Cocktails and cider
For inventive hand crafted cocktails and scrumptious cuisine sourced from locally produced ingredients, check out the award winning Heritage RVA in downtown Richmond. I couldn’t resist trying the “Bitter About My Hot Friend” cocktail – a blend of Iunazul Reposado tequila, Campari, agave, lemon and spice. I’m no longer bitter.
Richmond isn’t just about the food; it is also the home of Blue Bee Cider – Virginia’s first and only urban cidery. Named for one of Virginia’s native bees, Blue Bee Cider is located in the heart of Richmond’s Old Manchester district at the fall line of the James River. They produce artisanal ciders on a seasonal basis. Try them out in a tasting and don’t miss the tiny apple orchard outside with a spectacular view of downtown Richmond.
The Mile of Style
Carytown is Richmond’s nine-block “Mile of Style” lined with unique boutiques, restaurants and specialty shops. The eclectic collection of award winning, locally owned businesses guarantees a one-of-a- kind experience. Check out vintage clothing shops like Bygones, Clementine and Ashby. Whatever you do, don’t miss the World of Mirth – quite possibly the funkiest fun store anywhere. Often described as the place where Dr. Seuss meets Pee Wee’s Playhouse, the World of Mirth began as a funky little vintage and novelty shop determined to provide a much needed alternative to the main stream shopping experience. They have succeeded. Stop in and play, you can’t help but be entertained.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Art has been bringing the arts to Richmond since its inception in 1936. The museum houses a permanent collection of 33,000 remarkable works of art from almost every major world culture. Noteworthy collections include the Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Modern and Contemporary American art, French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art and British sporting art and the Lillian Thomas Pratt Collection of Faberge jeweled objects.
One of the most fascinating displays is the museum’s collection of African art featuring figures, masks textiles, regalia, and ritual objects from more than 100 cultures throughout the continent. It is regarded as one of the most comprehensive in the United States.
Strolling Monument Avenue
A stroll along historic Monument Avenue brings you face to face with Confederate heroes from the Civil War with statues of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and more. Interestingly, Arthur Ashe – the city’s best-known native son – takes his place alongside the Confederate heroes. Ashe was the first African-American male to win a Grand Slam tennis event and an active civil rights supporter. The bronze statue of Arthur Ashe faces west with four children facing east. The statue shows him holding books in his left hand and a tennis racket in his right to illustrate the importance of sports and education. Monument Avenue is the only street in America listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Outdoor adventures in the heart of the city
No need to leave the city when you are ready for a little active adventure, Richmond has whitewater rafting, kayaking and canoeing right in the middle of the city. In fact, Richmond is the only urban setting with Class III and Class IV rapids. Float, paddle or ride the rapids of the James River all in view of the downtown skyline. A suspended walkway above the river is the perfect place for a stroll to walk off all that delicious Richmond food.
Have you been to Richmond? What were your favorite experiences? Tell us in the comments below.
Whatever you do in Richmond, be sure to pack your RoamRight travel insurance when you go!