I grew up in Richmond, VA. It wasn’t until I moved to England and back that I really realized just how much there is to do there. While my hometown is constantly reinventing itself and changing subtly or drastically each year, there are some staples of Richmond life that you just can’t miss.
Richmond does food well. Whether you want to chow down on gyros at the Greek Festival or have bacon 30 different ways at the Bacon Festival there is something for everyone. Food festivals are such a cool way to try local restaurants.
Not only are there festivals, but there are also food tours and the farmer’s markets. My favorite market is the 17th Street Market which has been running for over 275 years!
Beer & Wine
Whether it’s a beer, wine & cider tour or the Maymont Beer & Wine Classic, or Wine & Whiskers, or the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ, Richmond knows how to do booze. Lots of events support local causes or charities so keep an eye out for those whenever you’re in town.
Not going to be in RVA during a festival or event? Not to worry. Richmond has literally dozens of craft and microbreweries. Some are even dog friendly! Now that’s my type of brewery.
This is arguably my favorite part about Richmond. Bands from all over the world come to RVA and there are some really cool venues that are unique to this river town. From small local bands no one has ever heard of to headliners, you can find them all here.
As far as venues go, the list is always expanding. My favorites are Brown’s Island, Innsbrook After Hours, The National, the Camel, and the Canal Club. Brown’s Island is an outdoor venue that holds summer concert series and is home to the Folk Festival. Innsbrook usually hosts larger name bands and the rest of the venues feature a little bit of everything!
Lots of the music festivals feature amazing food and beer/wine and most are really affordable. Don’t miss out on one of the best parts of visiting Richmond!
When you think medium- to large-sized city, outdoor activities aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when constructing your to-do list. Richmond is one of the cities leading the way for what cities can do to promote health and fitness and use it for entertainment and city revitalization and pride.
Trails, trails and more trails. Want to walk by the river? Check. Want to see art while walking on a trail downtown? Check. Want to see historical monuments while exploring outside? Check. Whether it’s the famed Buttermilk Trail or simply a stroll down Canal Walk, there’s is something for all skill levels and ages. Be sure not to miss:
- Maymont Park — Features picnic areas, historic mansion, animal farm, gardens that are so extra you might not believe how amazing they are and so much more!
- Belle Isle — Great for a day outside biking or walking.!
- James River Park System — Check out the various trails, parks, and swimming areas.
- Canal Walk — Art, beautiful scenery, and history is combined on this short stretch.
- Carytown — Shopping and great food. This local favorite is a must-see. Don’t forget to get dinner and dessert here.
- Walking Tours — Art, history, culture, music, food. Need I say more?
Maybe outdoor sporting events are more your style? Try to visit Richmond during the annual Dominion River Rock, a leading multi-sport and music festival. If that’s not enough adventure, try rafting down the James River in its class 4 or 5 rapids. We’re known for our amazing river for a reason!
Stay healthy when you’re on vacation by participating in a fun outdoor activity! Nearly every month, the city or various organizations host a variety of fun runs, bike rides, or walks for charity. They are all so much fun. A few of my favorites include:
- Monument Ave 10k — Run down the famous avenue and past historic monuments highlighting several figures from the Civil War Era
- Tacky Lights Tour — See the best of the best as houses battle it out for who can put the most lights on their houses. It’s a million bulb minimum in certain areas!
- Turkey Trot — Don’t gobble till you wobble without burning off some calories around town in this fun race.
- Cap2Cap Bike Event — This famous bike ride is a fundraiser for the Trail Foundation which keeps the trails we love maintained and fun for everyone.
- Bike & Brunch Tours — Bike around town and get brunch at these fun places!
You can barely go 10 feet in Richmond without running into something historic or something commemorating a historical figure or event. There is no doubt that Richmond is filled with as much history as anyone can handle. From the Civil War to historical movie sets and being a stone’s throw away from Jamestown (the first permanent settlement in the US) you will find anything and everything history lovers search for on a vacation.
- Monument Ave — While some of the statues of Confederate veterans are more controversial than others, they do represent a piece of RVA’s history. (They added an Arthur Ashe statue so that’s some progress!) Make sure to explore more of the city to gain a more all encompassing picture of the past with statues like the Reconciliation Monument and Maggie L. Walker Memorial.
- Tredegar Civil War Museum & Iron Works — Situated right on the James River, Tredegar is a Civil War history museum and historical iron works that was originally built in 1837.
- Belle Isle — Captain John Smith visited the island in the 17th century, it was the site of a Civil War POW camp, once was home to several factories which are now interesting ruins on the island, was featured in the movie Hannibal, and is now home to many bike and walking paths, not to mention being a local favorite in the summer.
- Historical Walking Tours — Whether you want to go by foot, scoot around on a segway, cruise on a bike, or even take a boat ride, Richmond has guided and self-guided tours aplenty.
- Maymont Park — Throughout my entire life this park has always been a favorite of mine for the scenery alone but it does have a big historical aspect to it. It was originally a Victorian estate and now houses a museum in the mansion and even a carriage collection.
- Edgar Allen Poe Museum — The infamous writer was, believe it or not, a Richmond native! The museum is dedicated to all things Poe and their ultimate goal is to interpret the life and influence of the man for everyone’s enjoyment and education. The garden even has stone work from the building of Poe’s first employer.
- Agecroft Hall — This Tudor house was built in the 1400’s and was eventually transported to the New World. See a little piece of England nestled in with the bustling city.
- Virginia Holocaust Museum — I could write an entire post on this and more. It’s moving, it’s educational, it’s inspiring, it’s an absolute must-see. I was even lucky enough to meet a survivor when I visited and hear his story. This is an incredibly special and moving museum.
- Canal Walk — This attraction features 4 centuries of Richmond’s history. The entire walk is a little over a mile and you can see a variety of medallions, exhibits, and statues.
- Slave Trail — 17 markers are displayed along a self-guided path that marks the city’s history with slavery and relevant information, events and places.
If nothing else, Richmond is known for its massive arts scene. Theaters can be found all over town like the Virginia Repertory Theatre, Altria, Firehouse, and many many more. Not in to theatre? That’s okay. There is also art, graffiti that is sanctioned by the city each year, gardens, murals, and sculptures everywhere.
Here are a few of my suggestions:
- VMFA — This might be the most popular attraction in Richmond, especially when it comes to a local favorite. The exhibits are constantly changing and are all interesting while catering to a variety of tastes.
- Botanical Gardens — If gorgeous greenery is your thing, please visit. They even do year-round events but my favorite is their lights display around the holidays.
- Mural Walking Tours — RVA is covered in murals. You can barely go a few blocks without seeing one. Take a self-guided tour around the city to find your favorites. The Richmond Mural Project is creating dozens of murals each year to help tourism and sustain local businesses.
- Canal Walk — The best part about canal walk is the incredible abstract and colorful art towards one end. They are always amazing to see no matter how many times you pass them by.
- Drag Brunch — Yes Queen! You can’t have Richmond without drag brunch. My suggestion is Godfrey’s! Get yourself over there if you’re ready to eat good food, laugh, and see one hell of a show.
- Byrd Theatre — $2-4 movies anyone? How about in an almost 100 year old movie theatre that was intended to be a grand movie palace? What if an organ also starts the show certain days of the week? Please go support local business and see a movie here. It’s iconic, budget-friendly, and, of course, amazing.