Best Things to See and Do in Richmond VA

By Dom Nozzi

The fact that I lived in Richmond VA from 2007 through 2009 was unintentional. I had never given a single thought to living in that city prior to moving there. Richmond has a number of rather unfortunate attributes, such as a downtown that has been eviscerated by the replacement of a vast percentage of downtown with asphalt surface parking (and people STILL complain there about a lack of parking), and enormous highways and overpasses that infest much of the urban area (and powerfully fuels much suburban sprawl).

However, the city has a surprising number of hidden, unpublicized amenities and attractions that make it a city deserving at least a visit. It is, for example, astonishingly impressive as a place harboring much significant history. Who knew?

The following is my personal list of the very best places to visit and experience when in Richmond VA.

  • Single-track mountain biking along the James River.
  • Whitewater and flatwater kayaking on the James River.
  • Day trip to The Historic Triangle: Yorktown, Williamsburg, Jamestown.
  • Island hiking/biking on the astonishingly historic and pleasant Belle Island.
  • Shokoe Slip and Shokoe Bottom & Canal Walk. Very romantic and charming. East Cary St in Shokoe Slip boasts wonderful cobblestone.
  • St. John’s Church. In 1775, Patrick Henry delivered his famous, “Give me Liberty or Give me Death”, speech in St. John’s Church in Richmond.
  • Superb restaurants and pubs, including Momma Zu’s (authentic Italian), Legends: Microbrewery and Pub, Penny Lane (authentic English pub), Europa, Perly’s Diner, 27, Kuba Kuba (authentic Cuban), Hill Café, Havanna, Hardshell, Capt. Buzzie’s Café, Bin 22 (wine bar on Cary St), River City Cellar (wine store on Cary St w/ Friday wine tasting & Sunday beer tasting), Can Can (big city Parisian restaurant ambience on Cary St with Friday happy hour), Capital Ale House, Coppola’s Deli (authentic Italian on Cary St), Mom’s Siam (authentic Thai on Cary St), Nile (authentic Ethiopian cuisine).
  • Monument Avenue is filled with highly impressive monuments on a very impressive rowhouse boulevard. The street is consistently ranked the best boulevard in America, and clearly breeds civic pride. 
  • Carytown is an impressive, vibrant, healthy retail corridor near downtown.
  • Touring the Rowhouse Neighborhoods in the Museum and Fan Districts: Best streets include Park Avenue, Kensington Avenue, Patterson, Grove, Floyd, West (Charming. HOWEVER, the street could be improved if it was reverted back from one-way to two-way), Hanover.
  • Capital Square in downtown Richmond the Virginia includes the State Capitol, impressive monuments (including George Washington on horseback) and nearby, the Confederacy’s executive mansion, the “White House of the Confederacy.”
  • Downtown Train Station and Old City Hall. Both of these buildings are magnificently impressive, and stand as an indictment to the embarrassing, more contemporary renditions of a train station and city hall in downtown Richmond. The new city hall building, in particular, is shameful. It looks like stacked transistors as it sits across the street from its lovable predecessor (now used, tellingly, for storage).
  • The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar Ironworks must be the most impressive civil war museum in the known universe. Don’t miss this if you have any interest at all in the Civil War.

________________________________________________

I urge you to email me (dom@walkablestreets.com) or leave a comment if you have a suggested addition or subtraction from this list. Or if you have any other thoughts about this list.

About

Each list in this blog contains my own personal opinions based on my personal experiences. I acknowledge that there may be a need to add or subtract from these lists (or to create a new subject list), and I welcome such suggestions. The lists are not ordered from higher to lower quality. Each list is a work in progress.

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About Dom Nozzi

Urban designer, Complete Streets instructor, smart growth specialist, town planner, walkable & bikeable streets & trails specialist, writer, editor, speaker, world adventurer, skier, kayaker, SCUBA diver, bicyclist, hiker, dancer, book reader, urbanist. Make my own beer, wine, pasta, bread. Live by the motto that it is the things we do NOT do that we later regret. Life is too short to not live it to the fullest.
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