Three days ago, we finished packing our bags and drove off to spend the next week and a half with our families before we takeoff on our round the world trip. We wanted to share some of our favorite things about the River City that others may enjoy and hope more folks will visit Richmond, Va. (If you’re local and we missed one of your favs, add it in the comments!) Here are eight things (in no particular order) we’ll miss the most of Richmond:
1. James River Park System – Its hard to think of a week that we weren’t on the James River. The park system connects so many neighborhoods in downtown Richmond, the Fan, and on the Southside. In the summer you can go swimming or lay out at Pony Pasture or Texas Beach, the new pedestrian bridge on Brown’s Island connects downtown to the Manchester Climbing Wall and hooks up to the Buttermilk Trail making it easier than ever to walk or run a loop around the river. Belle Isle is a great place for a walk or a little urban exploration.
2. Richmond’s many festivals – There have got to be over 100 festivals that happen in Richmond every year and no matter when you visit, there is probably some event happening. A long list of some of the best: the Richmond Folk Festival, the Greek Festival, the Richmond Jewish Food Festival, Oktoberfest at St. Benedicts, Carytown Watermelon Festival, the Churchill Irish Festival, the RVA Earth Day Festival, the Armenian Food Festival, Friday Cheers (or any concerts on Brown’s Island downtown)… the list could go on.
3. The Capital Trail – The Virginia Capital Trail, just over a year old, is a 50+ mile dedicated pedestrian and bike trail that connects downtown Richmond to historic Jamestown. Its a new addition to Richmond but quickly became a favorite in our household. Ryan has twice biked the entire trail (and some) to camp overnight in Southeastern Virginia. The trail starts at Shiplock park along at the end of the Canal Walk that goes along downtown and goes right by the Boathouse area where there are lots restaurants. From here you can also hop off the trail to easily get up to Stone Brewing. About ten miles down the trail there’s a great BBQ place that makes a good lunch and turnaround spot if you’re out for a weekend bike ride.
4. Mekong – Its the #1 beer bar! Mekong is a Richmond staple. In a strip mall off Broad Street, Mekong (and the connected Answer Brewpub next door) has delicious Vietnamese food and a huge selection of beer. They seem to always have a selection of Sour beers too and not every bar has those on tap.
5. Richmond’s many breweries – Speaking of beer, Richmond has become a craft beer aficionados dream. There are dozens of breweries around. If you’re looking for a day to taste a few, we recommend going to the Scott’s Addition neighborhood (lots of old warehouses being turned into apartment buildings and breweries) to hop around a few. Our favorites are Ardent (great outdoor seating), Blue Bee (for cider) and, a little farther away, Strangeways, known for their sour beers. This area is also where Hardywood is (the OG in the area) and Veil and a handful of others. We also frequented Garden Grove in Carytown, Final Gravity in Lakeside (this place is also a home brew supply store!), Triple Crossing and many more.
6. VMFA – We lived across the street from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for a year together so it feels more like our backyard than a destination. I was more likely to wonder through an exhibit for 20 minutes on the way home from Carytown than to make a whole day of it. But, the museum and garden is one of my (Sarah) absolute favorite places in Richmond. Just looking at it while sitting on the porch made me happy. They have a phenomenol collection. My favorite room is the French room with lots of impressionist works. They have a section with Art Deco furtinute, Tiffany’s glass work and a wing with Asian and ancient art. There’s really a little of everything. The museum is also home to 5 fabrege eggs from Russia that are worth a trip. Music and happy hour on Thursday and Friday and the best place to lay outside in the sun with a book. The best part, its free! Special traveling exhibits cost $.
7. Maymont & Byrd Park – Maymont is another free thing in Richmond. Its a historic home and gardens (they also have a small collection of animals) that’s along the James River and is a great place for a walk, for kids, to have a picnic or catch some rays. Byrd Park and Maymont are nice spots to go running.
8. South of the James Farmers Market – There are several farmers markets in Richmond but I think this one is the biggest and the best. Its in Forest Hill Park (another great park and neighborhood) on the south side of the River. One of the best things about SOTJ is that its year round. Though its obviously best in the spring and summer when there is lots of sunshine, good weather, and fresh fruits and vegetables. There are also food vendors including the Mennonite Donut truck. I have yet been able to stop myself from getting a hot and delicious donut while at the market. Last summer we also had a CSA (community supported agriculture) share with Victory Farms so we didn’t go to the farmers market as much because we were getting our produce and eggs from Victory Farms. Their farm stand is very close to the market off of Forest Hill Avenue and 44th Street in the parking lot of the Presbyterian Church. One of the things I will miss the most is the farm stand.