Richmond, Virginia: Bringing You Plenty of Reasons to Exit I-95
Story by Terri Marshall, Photos by Gregory Holder
Over the years I’ve driven the I-95 corridor between Florida and New York several times. Each time I saw the signs for Richmond, Virginia. I passed the city by occasionally gazing at the cityscape as I drove on through to my final destination. Last summer, I followed the exit signs into the city to stay a while. Now I’m wondering what took me so long.
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 you should take that Richmond exit too.
Virginia’s capital city has emerged as a culinary scene 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-last-century building WPA Bakery is co-owned by baker David Rohrer and restaurateur Kendra Feather. David was awarded the 2014 Elby for Best Pastry Chef while Kendra was Richmond Magazine’s 2013 Restaurateur of the year; 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.
For inventive hand crafted cocktails and scrumptious cuisine sourced from locally produced ingredients, check out Heritage RVA in downtown Richmond. The restaurant opened in 2012 and was named Richmond Magazine’s Best New Restaurant in 2013. 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- I guarantee you will want to take some home. Don’t miss the tiny little apple orchard outside with a spectacular view of downtown Richmond.
Where there is cider, there is bound to be beer. Craft brews are all the rage in Richmond and just as important as the cuisine. According to Richmond’s Style Weekly, “In the last year, more craft breweries have opened or announced plans to open here than the number of PBR cans in a hipster’s recycling bin.”
Carytown is Richmond’s eclectic 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.
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.
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 food and beer! www.visitrichmondva.com
Where to Stay:
Located at 12th and Cary Streets NW, in the historic Shockoe Slip district, the four star Berkeley Hotel offers comfortable luxurious accommodations, excellent service and an ideal location for all your Richmond explorations.
Opened in 1895, The Jefferson Hotel is a charter member of Historic Hotels of America, a National Historic Landmark and a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts. This gorgeous property offers extensive amenities and unsurpassed service. Be sure to have lunch at TJ’s, a Southern bistro serving mouthwatering globally influenced Southern cuisine.
You can’t help but notice the bronze alligators throughout the hotel. Years ago Richmond residents would travel to Florida on vacation and bring back baby alligators as pets. Of course, once the alligators grew up, they weren’t such good house pets. Residents would bring them to The Jefferson to live in the marble pools. See how many alligators you can find in the hotel’s public areas – don’t worry, there are no more live alligators onsite!
Terri is a New York City based writer who is happiest when she’s globetrotting. She is the Special Projects Editor for TravelSquire.com, the National Chocolate Examiner, the Globetrotting Grandmom for TravelingMom.com and a contributor to several other publications. Tough life, right? You can find more of Terri’s work along with tales of her adventures on the NYC subway on her website: www.trippingwithterri.com Follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TrippingwithTerri and on Twitter @terrimarshall60