Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

March 8, 2021

TRAVEL GUIDE: Ultimate Richmond VA Guide.

      Today's Travel Guide has been a long time coming! I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I believe Richmond Virginia to be one of the most underrated cities in the South, if not one of the most underrated in the US as a whole! Yes- I really do mean that. Richmond is the perfect day trip destination from where I live in Charlottesville, and for the past three years I've been steadily visiting one or twice a month (sometimes even more!). I am so thrilled to finally bring you this Travel Guide to one of my very favorite cities! 


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About Richmond:

     Richmond is the capital city of Virginia, and is located right between the Central and Eastern regions of the state- meaning it's about equal distance from the mountains as it is to the beaches. If you're interested in visiting Virginia from another part of the country and have to travel quite far to get here, I think the ideal Virginia trip would be to pick to spend either a few days in the mountains or a few on the coast, and then combine that with a couple days in Richmond. 

      Richmond is the fourth largest city by population, with the city limits having a population of 200,000+, and the metro area having a population of over a million.  In Virginia, all cities are considered independent entities of counties. So the City of Richmond is its own administrative district! The city limits are surrounded by Henrico and Chesterfield counties. Henrico is home to the airport and some of the best shopping in the area, and both counties do have some lovely suburbs.

       I truly believe that Richmond is essentially a quintessential American city. In Richmond and its surrounding counties you'll find a perfect balance of historic and new neighborhoods, a waterfront scene on the James River, a beautiful downtown, tons of arts and culture, colleges, shopping, excellent restaurants... need I go on?! The only thing that isn't as big of a deal in Richmond compared to other cities of similar size are sports (Fun fact: Virginia is the largest state to not have any of its own professional sports teams. All the nearest ones are in DC!) But as someone who isn't a big sports fan, it doesn't bother me personally that Richmond isn't a sports city. It has everything I do like!


  Travel:

     From most places in Virginia, Richmond isn't a super far drive. It's two hours away from places like Virginia Beach, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg, NoVa/DC area... etc! From Charlottesville, depending on where you're going in Richmond it's an easy 60-90 minute drive. I-64 and I-95 are the main interstates in the city, and I love how drivable Richmond is, and how little traffic it has compared to other cities. I've been going to Richmond once or twice a month for almost three years... and only once have I ever had to sit in bad traffic there, and that was due solely to a car accident! Richmond is so easy to access from so many places in the South and Mid-Atlantic. If you haven't spent a weekend here yet- what are you waiting for?!

     If you'd like to visit Virginia from another part of the country, Richmond has a great airport! It has direct flights to most places on the East Coast, and some of the larger airports in other parts of the country. The airport is about 20-30 minutes from downtown. As I wrote in the earlier section of this post, if you're visiting Virginia from much further away than this region, I highly recommend taking a few days and spending a couple of them in either the mountains or the coast, and then taking a couple to explore Richmond, which would be a great place for you to fly in and out from! 


Stay: 

      Richmond has tons of fantastic lodging options! Downtown itself has a plethora of great hotels to choose from- two that I've been lucky enough to stay at for travel blogging collaborations. If you'd like to get the most bang for your buck, I recommend looking at hotels in Henrico County, as it's a short drive away from most Richmond attractions (and closer to the shopping at Short Pump!). The first two hotels below are ones I've personally stayed at, and the other three are ones I'd like to check out in the future:

  • Graduate Richmond (301 W. Franklin St.) - Graduate Hotels provide a boutique hotel experience typically without the high price tag found at other hotels of this nature. They are always located near college campuses (The Richmond one is walking distance from VCU), and their unique decor is curated to be a reflection of the city they're in and campus that's nearby! I have stayed at Graduate Richmond twice nice and enjoyed both stays- a highlight is the hotel's fun rooftop bar (more about that later in this Travel Guide). They also have a rooftop pool in the summer months! Here's my full review of Graduate Richmond
  • The Jefferson (101 W. Franklin St.) - The most luxurious and famed hotel in Richmond! The Jefferson is a historic five star hotel located downtown. Staying here is a phenomenal experience! If you are seeking cheaper lodging- I still recommend having a drink or meal at the hotel, or doing Afternoon Tea (more about that later in this Travel Guide). Here's my full review of The Jefferson Hotel!
  • Quirk Richmond (201 W. Broad St.) - The premier artsy boutique hotel in Richmond. The Quirk Hotel aesthetic is an Instagram dream- it's very pink and modern and has just the coolest vibes. However- my honest opinion of this hotel is that you can get the full Quirk experience by coming here for a drink either at the bar in the lobby or their rooftop bar and taking some fun pictures... and staying elsewhere. Having stayed overnight at both Quirk and the nearby Graduate hotel, I honestly prefer the Graduate and their room rates tend to be cheaper! It's only a couple blocks from Quirk, so it would be easy to come over and still enjoy a drink or meal. (There is also now a Quirk in Charlottesville, too! Although I think the Richmond one is cooler.)
  • Delta by Marriott (555 E. Canal St.) - This hotel is in the part of downtown that's just a couple blocks from the James River waterfront and all of the trails/walking areas near it. I imagine lots of the rooms have incredible river and skyline views! 
  • Hyatt House Richmond-West (11800 W. Broad St. Ste 1098) - If you want to stay a bit outside of the city limits and be near the best shopping- check out this hotel. The Hyatt House is located at Short Pump Mall! This would be such a convenient choice if you're doing a weekend here where the goal is to shop until you drop (plus- how convenient would this be for Black Friday?! Just saying!). 





Eat:

     Confession: 90% of the time when I'm in Richmond, I eat at one of two chain restaurants- Moe's Southwest Grille OR The Cheesecake Factory. We don't have either of those in Charlottesville, and I miss living near both. (Yes- I know it's super basic to be obsessed with The Cheesecake Factory- but I have no shame okay?!) 

     With that said- if you are visiting Richmond I do not specifically recommend that you only indulge in chain restaurants! Richmond has a fantastic local restaurant scene. I have truly loved every meal I've had in Richmond that isn't at my favorite chains. Here are my favorite Richmond restaurants, as well as two that I haven't personally been to yet that I've heard fantastic things about:

      Breakfast/Coffee shops: 

  • The Fancy Biscuit (1831 W. Cary St.) - A must-visit for a casual breakfast! Some of the best biscuits and biscuit sandwiches that I've ever had. If I'm in Richmond in the morning, I always stop here. The inside also has really cute decor (kind of Nashville vibes!). 
  • Perk (2620 Buford Rd, Bon Air) - My favorite coffee shop in the area that I've tried. They had a phenomenal tea selection and amazing homemade treats. The only downside is Perk is in a neighborhood that's like 15 minutes from downtown, but if you happen to be in this part of town you should go!
  • Stir Crazy Cafe (4015 MacArthur Ave.) - Another cute coffee shop I've been to- this one is in the Ginter Park neighborhood. 

      Lunch (or casual dinner):

  • Can Can Brasserie (3120 W. Cary St.) - A really fun French restaurant in the heart of Carytown- it's open for both lunch and dinner. I have to be honest- French cuisine isn't my personal favorite. But this restaurant is so good that even I liked everything I've tried here!
  • Galaxy Diner (3109 W. Cary St.) - I have to be honest- as a generality I think diners are something that the Northeast does much better than the Southeast (specifically Connecticut and New York!). But Galaxy Diner is an exception to that for Richmond. This diner is so fun and retro themed, and has a great menu with typical diner favorites. They also have great milkshakes!
  • Les Crepes Carytown (3325 W. Cary St.) - I am always down to eat at an authentic creperie, and Les Crepes Carytown most definitely doesn't disappoint! They have a wide array of both sweet and savory crepes, as well as other fun menu items. Their outdoor seating is on their porch or in a very charming courtyard next to the restaurant! 
  • Taza Kitchen (1500 Roseneath Rd.) - A modern and casual spot with a great menu full of American favorites. They have a few locations- the one I've been to is in the trendy and up and coming Scott's Addition neighborhood. 

      Dinner:

  • Lehja (11800 W. Broad St. Ste 910) - Located in Short Pump Mall, this is a great and more upscale Indian restaurant! 
  • Lemaire (101 W. Franklin St.) - This is the fanciest restaurant I've gotten to eat at in Richmond. It's in The Jefferson Hotel, but you of course don't have to be a hotel guest to eat here. They have a phenomenal wine menu and craft cocktail selection, and a fantastic menu. Lemaire describes their menu as being New American with an emphasis on local Virginia ingredients. Read more about Lemaire in my review of my stay at The Jefferson in this post
  • The Mantu (10 S. Thompson St.) - I haven't personally been here yet- but it's on my to-visit list! I learned about this restaurant from the podcast Re-Settled. It's an upscale Afghan restaurant! How cool is that? Their menu sounds phenomenal and I loved hearing about the owner's story on the podcast. 
  • Pho So 1 (9135 W. Broad St.) A phenomenal and authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Pho So 1 is a great place for delicious Pho, Bun, and other favorites. It's just a few miles from Short Pump Mall.

      Dessert:

  • Charm School (311 W. Broad St.) - This ice cream shop has some of the most unique flavors that I've ever seen, and they're all delicious! It's located downtown, and the shop itself is also adorable on the inside. Must-visit if you're a big ice cream person!
  • Coco + Hazel (411 N. Ridge Rd.) - You know those crazy over-the-top milkshakes that are becoming super trend in cities like NYC and Las Vegas? You can now get one in Richmond at Coco + Hazel! They have a whole menu of dessert shakes, which taste amazing and are equally cool to look at! They also have a variety of other desserts and beverages on their menu. This is located a bit outside of downtown- pretty close to the University of Richmond campus.
  • Shyndigz (1903 W. Cary St.) - This is another spot I haven't been to yet, but I've heard so many great things about! Shyndigz is supposedly the number one dessert destination in Richmond. Their inside restaurant remains closed for COVID, but they have remained open for take-out and cake orders. This is right next-door to The Fancy Biscuit!





Play:
     Oh my gosh- there is so much to do in Richmond! Even spending a full weekend here I'm not sure that you'd have time to do it all. I've been making regular day trips and full weekend trips here for the past three years and still feel like I always have more to discover. I managed to narrow all of the places and experiences I love in Richmond to the 11 best ideas of things to do:

Afternoon Tea at The Jefferson Hotel: My absolute number one most favorite thing to do in Richmond is going to Afternoon Tea at The Jefferson Hotel. You don't need to be a hotel guest to attend this, but you do need to reserve it in advance. This is a true formal High Tea with the most delicious and fancy tea varieties, snacks and desserts. It's held in the lobby of The Jefferson which is absolutely stunning. It's not the cheapest activity but I believe this to be worth every penny. I love this so much that I've gone multiple times, and hope to continue to do it in the future as well. See my full blog post about Afternoon Tea here!


Belle Isle/James River waterfront: I can't believe that it took me almost three years of living in Virginia to finally make it to Belle Isle and enjoy the James River watefront area that goes through the City of Richmond! This is a must visit- I can't stress that enough! Belle Isle is an island on the James River that is filled with miles of nature trails. To get to Belle Isle, there is a waterfront parking lot in the city, and then you walk across the coolest pedestrian bridge to get there! The bridge has the most incredible views of the river at the whole Richmond skyline. It is so beautiful! There are also a lot of other riverfront trails nearby, and the Canal Walk (more info about that here). I already can't wait to come back here and discover more of the trails.


Virginia State Capitol tour: Richmond happens to be Virginia's capital city! The Capitol building is centrally located downtown and has free guided tours M-F that are so cool. You get to see some of the prominent rooms in the building, and also learn a lot of state history. (As of early 2021 I believe these tours are still cancelled right now due to COVID-19, but I imagine they would re-open them sometime in the future again!) Even if you aren't able to get a tour and see inside, it's a beautiful building to get your picture with outside! 


Rooftop bars at The Graduate and Quirk hotels: If there's one thing that I am an enthusiast of in cities, it's a good rooftop bar! I love the views and cool experiences that rooftops are able to provide. The Graduate and Quirk hotels both have fantastic rooftops! I've been to both and I can tell you that the drink and dinner menus at both are very similar- both for the menu items and the prices! So you really can't go wrong at all going to either. The two hotels are a couple blocks from each other and have slightly different but mostly similar views of the skyline. Both are great options for a fun evening!


Maymont: Maymont is a 100 acre historic estate just a few miles from downtown Richmond! There are tons of gardens and green spaces that are free for visitors to enjoy and explore. (Before COVID, on certain days you could tour the historic mansion. That is currently unavailable but I do expect it to re-open at some point!) The grounds and gardens are absolutely beautiful- and this is such a lovely space to spend a nice day at. Each fall, Maymont also does a really cool annual event called Garden Glow. They light up their gardens with thousands of multicolored spotlights, and you get to walk through in the dark and enjoy. I've been to Garden Glow for two years in a row with friends, and I plan to keep going as long as I live close enough! 


Virginia Museum of Fine Arts: Richmond is home to a beautiful and large art museum! The best part? It's FREE to visit! All of the permanent collections at the VMFA are 100% free (they do charge admission for some of the temporary exhibits). I have to be honest- I'm not normally a huge art museum person. But even I have really enjoyed visiting the VMFA. However- my favorite part of visiting here isn't the museum itself... but the stunning grounds. The green area outside the VMFA might just be my very favorite little spot in Richmond. The museum has the most lovely courtyard area, complete with some Chihuly Glass installations in a small pond. This area is so lovely! The VMFA is located next-door to the Virginia Museum of History and Culture (I still haven't been here yet!), and it's within walking distance of the The Fan District neighborhood- which is a must-visit on its own.


The Fan District: The most charming and colorful neighborhood in Richmond! The Fan is filled with blocks and blocks of colorful, historic row houses. The streets in this neighborhood are the perfect balance of quiet yet lively. It's my favorite place for a stroll in Richmond, especially in the fall! The Fan is even more magical when there is beautiful foliage on the trees. There is a good amount of street parking in The Fan- you might have to drive a little to find a spot, but there will be some. Or, you can visit the nearby neighborhood of Carytown and walk over the few blocks to The Fan, and see both!


Carytown: A really cool neighborhood near The Fan District! Carytown is filled with unique restaurants and tons of local shops, especially thrift stores and consignment shops. This is Virginia's number one destination to shop secondhand! I've really enjoyed checking out some of the thrift stores here before, but I don't visit quite often enough to be able to recommend specific stores to you. But what I can tell you is there is a secondhand store for all budgets in Carytown! Everything from Goodwill prices to upscale designer consignment boutiques. There are other fun stores in the area too that aren't just secondhand. There are also some cool murals in Carytown, like the one I'm standing by below!


Libby Hill Park: If you love skyline views, Libby Hill Park is a must-visit. Located on a giant hill just a few miles from downtown, you can enjoy some amazing views of Richmond. Libby Hill the neighborhood (streets surrounding the park) is also lovely to enjoy a walk in. There are some beautiful houses here- similar but a little different from those in The Fan District. Libby Hill Park has a good amount of street parking!


Lewis Ginter Bontanical Garden: Whenever I'm in a city that has a botanical garden, I always want to visit. I just love them! I always joke that I have a "black thumb" (meaning I'm horrible at taking care of living plants myself), but I definitely appreciate gardens when I'm not the one actually taking care of them! The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is a beautiful place to visit in Richmond. They have gardens that are both outdoors and inside greenhouses, and so many beautiful pathways to explore. I think the best time to visit would be in spring or summer, but at the holidays in December they do a fun event called GardenFest of Lights where they light up the whole property in Christmas lights after dark (kind of similar to the event Maymont does in the fall for their Garden Glow). I went to it this year for the first time and enjoyed it!


Short Pump Mall: Here is my top shopping recommendation in Richmond. This blog did begin as a fashion blog after all- so you had to see this coming! I absolutely love Short Pump Mall. It has a more upscale variety of shops- you'll find Lilly Pulitzer, Kate Spade, Kendra Scott, Lululemon, Dillard's, and many more. But in addition to the good shops themselves, Short Pump is just a lovely mall to spend an afternoon at. It's an outdoor mall, and it's filled with fountains and gardens throughout. And at Christmastime, there is just no tree like the Short Pump Christmas tree (see it in this blog post!). 


     And finally- here is a custom Google Map with all of the places I mentioned! 


    
      This has to be one of my longest Travel Guides that I've ever written, but I hope it is helpful! And I hope it conveys how much I truly do love Richmond. It's grown to be one of my very favorite cities, and I am so thankful to live close enough to visit it when I want to.



     God Bless,


     xoxo Annaliese 




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1 comment

  1. This makes my RVA-loving heart so very, very happy. And to see Perk listed - AH! I can't even tell you how big I smiled! I do know it's not *technically* in Richmond City, but it's so close, and there's lots of fun to be had nearby Bon Air/Forest Hill where it's located as well :) Great Richmond wrap-up post, friend!

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