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10 Things to Do in. . . Richmond

Wednesday, February 19, 2003; Page C02

The Old and the New South rub shoulders in this one-time capital of the Confederacy -- evident from a drive down Monument Avenue, where statues of J.E.B. Stuart and Robert E. Lee now keep company with native son Arthur Ashe. But while Civil War history may be a major part of Richmond's draw, the Virginia capital also boasts Victorian neighborhoods, impressive museums and sophisticated restaurants. And the city claims a laid-back attitude that makes it feel much farther than 90 miles from D.C. Info: 888-742-4666, www.richmondva.org.

-- Jennifer Barger

With its 33 rooms and Tiffany glass windows, Richmond's Maymont Victorian Mansion is a monument to Gilded Age excess. (Richard Cheek)

The Escapes column in the Feb. 19 Style section contained an incorrect phone number for the Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau. The correct number is 888-742-4666.

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1. MUSEUM OF THE CONFEDERACY. Next door to Jeff Davis's White House of the Confederacy, this well-organized museum delves into the southern side of the War Between the States. Exhibits draw on the world's largest collection of Confederate artifacts: uniforms, tattered flags, daguerreotypes. Some items are gruesome (a sharp-toothed saw reportedly used to amputate Stonewall Jackson's arm), while others are touching (a Rebel flag made from a woman's shawl). A combo ticket ($9.50 adults, $5 kids over 7) admits you to the museum and the White House. 1201 E. Clay St., 804-649-1861, www.moc.org. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

2. ST. JOHN'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH. Patrick Henry uttered his fiery "Give me liberty...or give me death!" speech at this white clapboard 1741 structure in the Church Hill neighborhood. A plaque marks the aisle where he rallied the Second Virginia Convention in favor of raising a militia in 1775. On March 23 and on summer Sundays, actors re-create that Colonial turning point. 2401 E. Broad St., 804-648-5015, www.historicjohnschurch.org.

3. WHITE-WATER RAFTING. The James River drops 105 feet over a seven-mile stretch that passes through downtown Richmond and produces up to Class IV white water. When the river is high enough -- generally April through October -- this allows for the only city white-water rafting in the United States. Richmond Raft Co. leads floats, starting at $48 a person, with surreal views of the skyline (800-540-7238, www.richmondraft.com).

4. VIRGINIA MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS. Decorative arts junkies detour to Richmond just to see the VMFA's five Faberge eggs and its impressive cache of art nouveau and art deco furniture, which some critics consider the finest in the country. The museum is also notable for its manageable size, modern art (Warhol Elvises, Bill Viola's startling video installation "The Quintet of the Unseen") and British sporting art. 2800 Grove Ave., 804-340-1400, www.vmfa.state.va.us. Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; suggested donation $5.

5. CARYTOWN. There's not a Gap or Banana Republic in sight on Cary Street. A stretch between Nansemond and Colonial streets attracts browsers to quirky clothing boutiques, antiques shops and housewares stores. Must-hits: toy and novelty fantasia World of Mirth (3005 W. Cary St., 804-353-8991), fashionista source Pink (3158 W. Cary, 804-358-0884) and stylish furniture source Domicile (3142 W. Cary, 804-358-0300). Plan 9 Music (3012 W. Cary, 804-358-0300) caters to indie-music fans. For non-shopaholics, diversions include coffeehouses and the Byrd Theatre (2908 W. Cary, 804-353-9911), a 1928 art deco movie palace that screens second-run flicks.

6. HELEN'S. Grits and Virginia ham still rule at some Richmond restaurants, but spots like this Fan-neighborhood bistro provide New York-y atmosphere and newfangled food. Helen's slightly goofy-sounding menu yields eclectic, Asian- and Euro-influenced dishes. Try the "What the Hell Is a Foie Gras Taco?" or the "Seared Rare Tuna Riding on the Orient Express." The space evokes a romantic, speakeasy chic. 2527 W. Main St., 804-358-4370, $18-$28. Other hip choices: Carytown's southern-influenced, Food and Wine-praised Acacia (3325 W. Cary St., 804-354-6060, $12.50-$26.95) and the funky, are-we-in-Austin? Millie's Diner (2603 E. Main St, 804-643-5512, entrees $18-$27).

7. MAYMONT VICTORIAN MANSION. This many-splendored estate, centered on a castle-like Romanesque revival home, was built for millionaire Maj. James Dooley and his wife, Sallie May. Tours of their 33-room spread point out Gilded Age excesses like a carved swan bed and Tiffany glass windows. The petting zoo (a handful of grain costs a quarter) and fish-filled nature center appeal to kids, as do April-through-October carriage rides around the property. Enter at 2201 Shields Lake Dr., in Byrd Park, 804-358-7166, www.maymont.org. Exhibits and house open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Guided house tours cost $4. Grounds open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

8. THE JEFFERSON HOTEL. Alligators used to lounge in a fountain at this circa-1895 grande dame, one of only 22 hotels in North America to hold both Mobil Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond ratings. The gators are gone, but the Jefferson still summons fin-de-siecle glam. Franklin and Adams streets, 804-788-8000, www.jefferson-hotel.com. Standard rooms start at $265, but weekend specials in March run as low as $209. For more budget-minded lodgings, try the Emmanuel Hutzler House in the Fan, which offers rooms with private baths in a restored 1914 house for $115 to $165 per night. 2036 Monument Ave., 804-353-6900, www.bensonhouse.com.

9. TREDEGAR IRON WORKS. This dramatic riverfront brick structure -- the Confederacy's "mother arsenal" where 1,199 cannons were produced -- has become a one-stop orientation center for the many Civil War battle sites surrounding Richmond. Run by the National Park Service, its exhibits and audio-visual programs recount the defense of the city, the art of iron casting and details on the nearby Richmond National Battlefield Park. Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fifth and Tredegar, 804-771-2145, www.nps.gov/rich/tredegar.

10. SHOCKOE SLIP AND SHOCKOE BOTTOM NIGHTLIFE. Bars, brewpubs and dance spots thrive in these abutting 19th-century neighborhoods of rehabbed warehouses, where gaslights and a few cobblestone streets add to the atmosphere. The Bottom attracts younger crowds to spots like cigar-friendly Havana '59 (16 N. 17th St., 804-649-2822) with its mucho Cubano mojitos and peeling paint. The venerable Tobacco Company (1201 E. Cary St., 804-782-9555) serves mint juleps in a zone of stained glass and exposed brick, and well-dressed patrons crowd the groovy, mismatched sofas at Europa's late-night, lower-level lounge (1409 E. Cary St., 804-643-0911).

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