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Richmond, Virginia | 20 Travel Tips from an Insider

When I first moved to Richmond, my expectations of the city were pretty low. I hadn’t heard much about the capitol of Virginia and expected it to be a somber, even boring place. As I explored the city on foot, bike, and car I was so pleased to witness how wrong I was. Richmond has now become my favorite city that I have ever lived in.

You can experience some of the best of all four seasons in Richmond, while taking in the wonderful nature trails, parks, and architecture dotted throughout the town. You’ll find yourself always peeking over your shoulder for a picturesque view of the James River, only to discover that there are many places throughout Richmond that offer it. You may bump into festivals while walking through historic downtown, Church Hill, Jackson Ward, and Carytown. Richmond has so much to offer to people of different tastes and preferences. Art lovers will find a home at the VMFA, music lovers can commune with local bands and national artists at theaters all over the city, and you will bump into history around every corner (Maymont and Hollywood Cemetery). And if your stomach is rumbling, don’t fret. Every neighborhood boasts its own restaurants frequented by locals. Just don’t forget about brunch!
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pierogi at Perly's in Richmond Virginia

Eat at Some of Richmond's Best Restaurants

You are not going to have a problem finding a good place to eat in Richmond.  Sprawled throughout the city are all types of restaurants that will peak your curiosity.  It just takes a bit of digging to find out what they are. Here are a few that you can start with…

Dinamo’s is an off-the-beaten path restaurant owned by Richmond locals serving delicious twists on Italian cuisine. Perly’s is a Richmond classic serving up delicious Jewish cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   Head eastward to Millie’s for what some locals consider the best brunch in the city. But beware, it’s a small diner and you may have to wait! 

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VMFA on the outside during the evening

Enjoy Happy Hour at the VMFA on Fridays

Kick off happy hour at the VMFA where local Richmonders go to relax in the gardens and get great deals on drinks for Happy Hour.  Afterwards, you can take the opportunity to explore the museum’s collection of ancient, classic, and modern art. You won’t leave disappointed.  Oh, and it’s free. So, that’s always a plus!

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Belle Isle in Richmond Virginia

Spend a Day on the Rocks at Belle Isle

Spend the day relaxing and hanging out on Belle Isle.  You can hike, bring a picnic, or even play on the rocks.  It’s just a great place to hang out by the water in Richmond.

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Shuffleboard at the Tang & biscuit

Play Shuffleboard in a Great Atmosphere

If you are up for some friendly competition, head to the Tang & Biscuit for a fun game of shuffleboard.  The atmosphere is nothing short of lively, and while you wait for a board, make sure to check out their many other games such as life size Jenga, big UNO, and, of course, cornhole.

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thrift shopping in Richmond Virginia

Go Thrift Shopping

Thrift shopping is a preferred pastime in Richmond, Virginia.  You’ll find vintage stores, furniture shops, thrift clothing, antiques, and “junk” that you can turn into your own treasure. We ended up going to Class and Trash, and they had a really cool assortment of vintage and modern pieces there.

Enjoy Richmond's Nightlife Scene

When it comes to nightlife, whatever you are searching for, can be found here in Richmond.  Babes is a gay bar for everybody, Tobacco Company is a club underneath an upscale restaurant downtown, Helen’s in the fan is a popular spot, Siné’s is an Irish pub where you can hear great local bands, Sullivan’s in the fan is a bar with with a dancing scene. If you’re looking to have an early night, try brewery hopping in Scott’s Addition or checking out the arcade bars there as well (Bingo and The Circuit).

Experience Richmond's Watermelon Festival in August

One of the most popular festivals in Richmond, the Watermelon Festival takes place every August in Carytown. And yes, there are watermelon-themed games, drinks, and food. If you miss the Watermelon Festival, just check out the many other festivals happening almost every single weekend in Richmond! It’s a festival city and sometimes you can find multiple festivals in one weekend! 

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Libby Hill Park during dusk

Watch the Sunset from Liberty Hill Park

Libby Hill is a park located in a historical Richmond neighborhood that has a relaxed vibe.  With views of the Richmond skyline, it also happens to be one of the best places to watch the sunset in the city. From one vantage point, you can sit on the stairs and watch the sky change colors over the James River and discover how this city came to be coined Richmond. Looking westward toward downtown, you can watch the sun wade below the buildings while enjoying the company of your companions and/or some delicious aperitifs!

Bike the Capital Trail

Beware, The Capital Trail is a 55-mile trek from Williamsburg to Richmond! If you nearly fainted reading that, never fear for you can always bike portions of the trail by either turning around whenever you reach your halfway point or by using a service to shuttle you to and fro locations. With beautiful nature, parks, and restaurants along the way, it is worth checking out if you fancy an active day outside of the city proper.

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Brewery Hop in Scott's Addition

Scott’s Addition is currently Richmond’s fastest growing neighborhood, and is home to old warehouses that have been converted into breweries, cideries, distilleries, and taprooms.  Everything is close together, so it’s easy to hop between breweries and bars. The neighborhood also has a fun and lively atmosphere, and for those of you who are not big on alcohol, there’s also quite a bit to keep you entertained (shuffleboard, the arcade, bowling, and the movies). It’s really a great place to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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carrytown burgers and fries at night

Eat & Shop in Carrytown

Carytown is one of the cutest parts of Richmond, and is really a must-visit for tourists.  There are more great restaurants to eat at than you probably have time for, as well as some really neat places to go shopping, and not just for clothes! This part of Richmond sports a novelty item and candy store, a shop just for board games, antiques, and more! If you can, check out a movie at the historic Byrd Theater after dinner.

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charm school sundae

And Save Room for Dessert!

You can’t travel somewhere without dessert being the focus at some point!  Luckily for you all, I have a few great dessert places that the locals will love, and you will too.

Charm School is known for its fresh homemade ice cream. They rotate the flavors every week and have delicious vegan and nut free recipes.  Shyndigz has both a sit-in and a carry-out location, so you can try this Richmond dessert with an ambience or in the comfort of your home. Scoop is also a great ice cream choice and is located on the cute Strawberry Street! Of course if donuts are more of your style, check out Sugar Shack on Lombardy and Leigh!  Carytown Cupcakes is a local favorite, as well!

Hike Along the James River

If you are looking to explore Richmond’s nature, then an easy hike along the James River might be what you are looking for.  Two trails, the Northbank Trail and the Buttermilk Trail, run along opposite sides of the river, and will make you forget that you are in the city. If you have time, the two trails do connect and generally takes about 4-5 hours to hike them together. If you happen to walk along the Buttermilk Trail on a Saturday morning, the trail connects to the South of the James Market where you can purchase local goods, including breakfast, flowers, eggs, produce and more!

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buskey cider in richmond virginia

Drink a Buskey Cider

If you are looking for a drink that calls Richmond it’s home, head over to Buskey Cider, and sample some of their delicious ciders.  My personal favorite was their classic RVA, because it reminded me of the cider I drank in Spain, but they also have a variety of other seasonal and limited edition flavors that are also more than worth a try.  

Catch a Show at a Historical Theater

Richmond was once an epi-center for theater in the United States. Many familiar names performed on stages in the city (Frank Sinatra, John Wilkes Booth, and Elizabeth Poe). Many of the theaters in use today all have fantastic histories too detailed to list here, but are worth checking out if you intend to visit any of the theaters. Check out  The Carpenter Theater, The Altria, The Byrd Theater, The Hippodrome, and The National, to name a few. These theaters bring in a variety of entertainment including: dance, comedy, music, and plays.

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looking out at richmond from hollywood cemetary

Get a View of Richmond from Hollywood Cemetery

You can always get a glimpse of history as you walk through a cemetery, but Hollywood Cemetery is just on a whole other level.  As you stroll to the top of the cemetery, you’ll find the graves of presidents James Monroe and John Tyler.  Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States, is also buried there, as well many soldiers who fought for the confederacy during the Civil War.  

If history just wasn’t enough of a reason to make a stop at Hollywood Cemetery, there’s also an excellent view of Richmond and the James River as well.  The outlook is right by the Monroe and Tyler’s graves.  What a great way to kill two birds with one stone.

 

Meet Locals at Karaoke and Trivia

If you are looking to hang out with some locals, or perhaps you just love trivia, a quick search on google will easily direct you to the many breweries and bars hosting trivia throughout the week. Every night of the week you can find trivia and many nights you should be able to find karaoke!

Hang Out at the Rooftop Bars

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many places to enjoy Richmond’s weather from a rooftop around the city. Luckily, there are a few spots around town that are worth checking out. Quirk sits atop a unique and fresh hotel downtown on Broad Street. The Graduate is located on the border of the Fan and Monroe Ward and offers great views of downtown and more. The Hoff, in Scott’s Addition, hosts a great ambience and good Happy Hour deals. If you venture across the river, check out Legend Brewery to catch a view of Richmond from a different vantage. If you plan on going out downtown, Kabana is a great spot to enjoy a drink on a rooftop before you dance the night away.

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egg and gravy biscuit

Have Brunch Like the Locals

Just like in many other cities, brunch is a thing in Richmond.  Lunch & Supper are two of the most popular places to eat for brunch with Lunch serving both breakfast and lunch, while Supper serves just lunch.  Confusing, right? The company also opened a new location called Brunch that serves classic breakfast all day long.

Millie’s Diner is also popular amongst locals, but prepare for a wait!  I’ll also add that I ate some of the best French toast ever at Heritage. If you have money to spend, The Jefferson hosts an all you can eat and drink Sunday brunch.  A few other Richmond favorites places to eat brunch are at Lulu’s, Tarrant’s Cafe, 821 Cafe, and The Daily Kitchen.

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relax on the grounds at Maymont

Take a Stroll Around Maymont

There’s a lot to do at Maymont.  From touring it’s Victorian mansion to strolling it’s beautiful gardens and exploring the wildlife on the estate, there’s more than enough to occupy an entire afternoon on its premises.  Locals use the grounds as a place to relax, spend an afternoon picnicking or even play games (like kickball in the picture above!).

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Natalie and Monica are sisters who both contributed to this travel article about Richmond.  Natalie is the creator of this website, Tourist 2 Local, and was able to experience Richmond on her various trips to Richmond to visit her sister in the city.  Monica lived in Richmond for a few years while working as a political scientist professor, and really enjoyed exploring all corners of Richmond.

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