I owe Richmond an apology. Countless times, I’ve zipped past the exits for this capital city, a place not quite far enough from Washington for a pit stop on a road trip, and not quite close enough for a meal. Last month, I ran out of excuses. I pulled off Interstate 95 and entered Richmond for the first time.
Only 100 miles south of the District, this former Confederate capital felt, at times, decidedly Southern, with grayback statues lining a celebrated avenue and shopkeepers offering customers an unhurried welcome. But other times, I felt like Richmond was plucked out of the Rockies, with its steep hills, dozens of breweries and outdoorsy residents. The Richmonders I know and met enjoy “RVA” for its arts, food scene and — above all — its river. The James River Park System is unequaled, and not only for the Class III and IV white-water rapids within the city limits. The riverfront and islands are the city’s centerpiece, home to an annual folk festival that attracts more than 200,000 people, not to mention their notable cycling trails and secluded bathing spots.
I crisscrossed Richmond many times during my visit, and oddly, didn’t once see the Thomas Jefferson-designed Virginia State Capitol building. But I was too charmed by the rest of the city to care. Thirty-six hours after I arrived, I drove home to Washington thinking about returning to RVA with my bike and paddleboard, grinning like I had a crush on a new neighbor who had been there all along.
At lunch one day, a Richmonder commandeered my map and drew an “X” in the middle of the James River. “This is where I hang out in the summer,” he said. “It’s kind of magical.” Short of climbing onto mid-river boulders, strolling over the new, ADA-compliant
Nestled among the city’s largest concentration of craft breweries, in the Scott’s Addition neighborhood, is
The highly anticipated
Residents confess to buying bread intended for friends at
The Fan district felt like home. No surprise, because it looks enough like Capitol Hill that part of “Homeland” was filmed here. Several friends recommended
Recently named Southern Living’s top restaurant in the South,
For many Richmonders, weekend worship means brunch.
If ever I could resist a bookstore, it wouldn’t be one called
Hear ye, fixer-uppers!
An antidote to shabby secondhand shops,
Among several vintage shops in the Carytown district,
Just a few blocks from the James River,
Visitors to the delightfully pink
Starting at Byrd Park, drive across the James at Nickel Bridge (now a seven-nickel toll) to the neighborhoods around 105-acre
Say you’re a vintage-lover, letter-writer, gamer, smoker, vaper, skater, runner, cyclist or old-school reader. Or you want to eat, drink, get inked or get caffeinated. Or you’re still hung up on cupcakes.
Kaplan is a freelance writer in the District. Her website is melaniedgkaplan.com. Find her on Twitter: @melaniedgkaplan