When I was in Richmond over the holidays, I wanted to put together a guide to spending a weekend enjoying all of the amazing food and art that the river city has to offer. People so often ask me what Richmond is like, and I always tell them, “it’s super hip — nothing like it was when I grew up there.”
So, here I am, finally proving that here on the blog. Richmond used to be known as a sleepy, southern conservative town, but now the food, drink, and art scene is exploding. It’s an awesome place to spend a weekend away from the District.
HOW TO GET THERE
Oh, driving down 95 South, what a bear. Yet, it’s how I typically end up getting to Richmond. Perhaps it’s because I enjoy having the freedom to travel between downtown and my parents’ house, but I still see Richmond as primarily a driving town. However, I have also taken Amtrak and it’s easy enough. It’ll spit you out either downtown at Main Street Station or at Staples Mill, which is a little further out but runs more trains and is a straight shot into the city. For the purposes of this post, let’s assume you get into town Friday afternoon.
SPEND YOUR FIRST DAY IN SCOTT’S ADDITION
You’ll get into town Friday afternoon, drop your stuff at your hotel — I stayed at the Graduate Richmond, then head over to the formerly industrial neighborhood of Scott’s Addition. When I was growing up, the only reason to go over to Scott’s Addition was to eat at the Dairy Bar Restaurant, but now it’s seen a complete renaissance and is filled to the brim with breweries, restaurants, shops, and hip converted apartment buildings.
Make your first stop Blue Bee Cider. I’ve been on a lot of alcohol tours in my day and done a lot of tastings — wine, beer, bourbon, you name it — but I have never been so consistently impressed with every offering in a tasting as I was at Blue Bee. We walked out with three different bottles — the Harrison, Rocky Ridge Reserve, and Hopsap Shandy. We’ll be drinking cider for days, and I don’t hate it. Plus, look at those pictures below, how adorable is this space that’s built into a historic stable?
STAY AT THE GRADUATE RICHMOND
I stayed a night at the Graduate Hotel Richmond, which was perfect for all the spots we wanted to hit while we were in town. Located right near the heart of VCU, its central location makes for easy exploring. You can head north to the Museum District, west to Carytown, south to downtown, or east to Jackson Ward.
The decor strikes a chord between modern and retro, with mid-century chairs, quirky wallpaper, and rotary dial phones. With views over the city, I can’t think of a better place for home base for an urban Richmond weekend.
WALK ALONG THE CANAL BEFORE BREAKFAST IN MANCHESTER
Your first morning in Richmond, head down to the Riverfront Canal Walk to get your blood flowing before making the trek over the bridge to Manchester. An area that was once dilapidated, Manchester has seen its old warehouses turned into modern apartments and condos, and street art find its way onto cold buildings. We met a friend for an easy breakfast at Plant Zero Cafe and walked around the neighborhood taking in all that’s changed and in transition.
EXPLORE THE VIRGINIA MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
After breakfast, head over to the Museum District and spend your afternoon exploring the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Every time I’ve gone home recently, there’s been an amazing special exhibit at the VMFA and this time was no exception. The museum itself is free, but it’s worth spending the extra money to see Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China. Last time I was in town, the exhibit was a retrospective of Yves Saint Laurent’s work and it was absolutely incredibly.
Of course, there are also exhibits within the collection that you could spend hours taking in. After working up an appetite walking around the museum, head a few blocks north to Stella’s and sit at the bar enjoying a few Greek appetizers and cocktails.
After such a busy 24 hours, opt for a casual but hip dinner at a spot in Monroe Ward. Pasture is a bright, airy spot with high ceilings and funky turquoise details. You’ll fill up on Southern small plates and put together a dinner of fried pickles, pimento cheese with Ritz crackers, and cornbread sticks. Don’t miss the cocktails, including the Surry.
A confession: I also made a late night stop by Charm School in search of something sweet. With peppermint ice cream, a waffle cone, and hot fudge, I wasn’t disappointed.
RELAX A BIT
Now, unless you’re up for searching for a late night drink, it’s time to head back to the Graduate hotel, kick back on the comfy velvet sofa, then climb into bed for a good nights’ sleep.
GRAB A QUICK BREAKFAST
If you’re on a schedule like we were, grab a quick breakfast at Brookfield downstairs at the hotel. I opted for a healthy oatmeal, Adam sprung for a delicious breakfast biscuit, and, no surprise here, I got a homemade pop-tart for the road. The lattes were also superb. While we didn’t have time to eat dinner at Brookfield, the menu that included avocado toast, duck fat fries, and a fried chicken sandwich looked incredibly tempting.
STROLL AROUND CARYTOWN
On your way out of town, make a stop by Carytown for a bit of shopping. You’ll find an eclectic assortment of shops from high end home decor at Ruth & Ollie to uncommon gifts at Mongrel to a whole slew of vintage stores and sleek style at Need Supply. Take in the eccentric sights, the eccentric people, and hit the road with an appreciation for this hip, and old, Southern city.