|Skyline of Richmond, VA - Photo courtesy of Adam Marable|
"While you weren't looking, Richmond got cool."
- Frommer's Top Destinations for 2014
Yes, that's right. Richmond has blossomed into an up-and-coming destination for travelers and culture enthusiasts alike, having been named in Frommer's Top Destinations for 2014 - one of only two U.S. cities to make the list and rubbing shoulders with more well-known travel destinations such as Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, Scotland and the Dominican Republic.
So what makes the River City so special?
Invariably, when you ask Richmonders this question, their responses can be summed up in five words: History. Culture. Food. Nature. Location.
|J.E.B. Stuart Statue on Monument Ave|
And when it comes to history, one can't overlook Hollywood Cemetery, the last resting place for two U.S. presidents, six Virginia governors, two Supreme Court justices, and countless other important figures; Monument Avenue with its impressive statues and beautiful gilded-age style houses; or the Edgar Allan Poe Museum.
|Friday night racing at RIR|
Both geographically and culturally, Richmond is where North meets South, and over the years, this mixing-bowl effect has manifested itself in a wide variety of community events. Whether it's donning ties and pearls to cheer on their favorite horses at Colonial Downs, watching the Monster Truck show at the Coliseum, enjoying a night of movies under the stars at the Goochland Drive-In Theater, or throwing on their favorite driver's number to tailgate at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Richmond International Raceway, Richmonders are multicultural. They take their Southern heritage seriously, but are not so closed-minded as to disregard the diversity that has come to the area in recent years.
The Richmond music scene is just as multifaceted as its residents - with venues for everything from classical music, country, heavy metal, and all genres in between. The metal scene is especially vibrant in Richmond with local bands such as Seraph aspiring to reach the same level of recognition as GWAR and Lamb of God, who both found their beginnings in Richmond. Or you could check out country group River City Gang playing their song "This Old Town" in a restaurant somewhere in the city. Other venues such as The National, Innsbrook After Hours, Pocahontas Live or one of Richmond's many festivals draw big-name stars from all over the country if that's more to your liking.
|Martini's at Bar Louie|
Photo courtesy of Meghan M.
The best food is paired with an excellent beverage, and when it comes to having craft beers on the menu, Mekong takes the cake, winning the top spot for best Great American Beer Bar in 2012 and 2013 according to CraftBeer.com. Or if wine is more your style, you could try the Wine Loft in Richmond's West End. And speaking of wine, Virginia currently ranks fifth in grape production in the U.S. and is working hard to emerge as the "East coast capitol" for the wine industry. There are almost 200 wineries in the state, many of which are within easy striking distance of Richmond. If visiting in October, the Virginia Wine and Oyster Classic in the Northern Neck or the Powhatan Festival of the Grape showcases Virginia wineries all in one event location. Bring a designated driver, because over thirty wineries usually show up for the Powhatan event!
Photo Courtesy of Joanna Landrum
Nature near Richmond
Is nature more your thing? Well, Richmond is the perfect spring-board for your outdoor activities, especially water sports. With the James River as its backbone, how could it not be? Black Dog Paddle and Riverside Outfitters are just two places offering paddle-boarding, kayaking, and canoeing in the Richmond metro area. Or if you're up to creating your own adventure, grab a few inner tubes and use the public landing access points along the James to lazily float the day away. There are many parks and walking trails to take advantage of in Richmond as well. Maymont Park is a local favorite year-round with 100 acres of gardens, woods, paths, and even a small zoo to enjoy. For more manicured beauty, you should stroll through the gardens of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, ranked second on USA Today Travel's 10Best Readers' Choice award for Best Public Garden in North America.* Or if raw landscapes appeal to you more, Belle Isle is a favorite with VCU students looking to sunbathe and wade in the summer. If you're looking for a camping adventure, there are many state and private campgrounds in the general area.
|Shenandoah River near Luray; 2 hrs from Richmond|
Photo courtesy of Brittany James
So, yes! Richmond has a lot to offer, not only to its residents but to travelers from all corners of the globe. And this Richmonder is particularly happy to see that the world is finally taking notice!
~ Just a Thrifty Gypsy
Have you visited Richmond? What are some of your favorite places there?
P.S. If my piece hasn't sold you on a visit yet, be sure to drop me a line with your particular interests, and I'd be glad to tailor-fit a few sites for you!
*Updated 04/03/14 13:21 to mention Lewis-Ginter Botanical Garden's ranking as #2 Best Public Garden in North America by USA Today Travel's 10Best Readers' Choice awards.