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IntroductionFounded in 1737, Richmond is a city in tune with its history. The progressive and cultured capital of Virginia is laced with stately monuments and historic homes and collections. A push to revitalize several historic districts has helped downtown spring back to life with new clubs, restaurants and shops.
In DepthNot many state capitals can claim to have also been the capital of a nation. As capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War, Richmond can, which is why many folks associate the city with that battle between North and South. What they might not know, however, is the role the city played in an earlier struggle, the war for American independence.
The rallying cry of the Revolution, Patrick Henry's stirring “Give me liberty or give me death” speech was delivered in 1775 at stately St. John's Church. In attendance were such patriots as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Richard Henry Lee. Henry's impassioned plea moved the Colonies closer to their inevitable split with England.
Many of the Revolution's respected names were also members of Virginia's senate and house of delegates that met in the state Capitol. Designed by Thomas Jefferson and in continuous use since 1788, “Mr. Jefferson's temple” sits majestically on a hill above the James River, its six columns reminiscent of traditional Roman design. In its elegant rotunda stands Houdon's life-size statue of George Washington. Another period icon, John Marshall, the fourth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, built his home in Court End in 1790.
Richmond's compact downtown is very walkable. Historic 18th-century buildings coexist seamlessly with those from a more turbulent part of American history, the War Between the States. The White House of the Confederacy served as the executive mansion of Jefferson Davis. The Davis family as well as Gen. Robert E. Lee and his wife worshiped at nearby St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The 1845 Greek Revival church is a perfect architectural complement to the Classical Virginia State Capitol across the street.
Richmond's early years were, indeed, a who's who of early American history. On the James River just outside downtown's historic district is Hollywood Cemetery, the city skyline intruding as a modern backdrop. Named for its profusion of holly trees, the tranquil, beautiful burial ground is the final resting place of two U.S. presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler; Jefferson Davis; six Virginia governors; Confederate generals J.E.B. Stuart and George Pickett; and more than 18,000 Confederate soldiers.
The War Between the States greatly impacted Richmond. A succession of Union generals tried but failed to capture the Southern capital, but it wasn't until Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's victory at Petersburg (a week before the South's surrender at Appomattox) that the city was evacuated.
Civil War heroes are honored along Monument Avenue, a historic landmark that also is considered one of the country's most beautiful streets. The tree-lined avenue, graced by restored historic gems, is known for the statues of Confederate champions Jefferson Davis, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart. A more recent addition is the statue of tennis legend and humanitarian Arthur Ashe, a Richmond native and the first black man to win Wimbledon.
Though the Revolutionary and Civil wars certainly helped mold Richmond, the city has built on its past to become a modern, progressive destination. The downtown area, in particular, has undergone a revival. Shockoe Slip, once a warehouse district, is now the center of Richmond's nightlife scene. Nearby Shockoe Bottom also boasts nightclubs as well as trendy warehouse apartments. Jackson Ward, a historically African-American neighborhood, was home to Maggie Walker, the first woman to found a U.S. bank, and celebrated tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.
Just west is the Fan District, so-called because its streets “fan out” from the downtown core. The genteel residential area, a mix of affluent Richmonders and Virginia Commonwealth University students, is known for its Victorian homes and shady lanes.
By CarRichmond is served by numerous highways, including two major interstates. To the southwest, I-295 misses Richmond by sprouting off I-95 in Petersburg and catches up with I-95 north of Richmond in northern Henrico County; I-295 continues westward until it dead-ends into I-64 near Short Pump. The 3rd Street approach offers access to downtown on I-95 (Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike) from the north; take Broad Street if entering from the south.
East-west I-64 from Williamsburg enters the city from the southeast, joins up with I-95 downtown and then re-emerges south of Dumbarton near Joseph Bryan Park to continue its trek northwest toward Charlottesville. The 3rd Street exit off I-64 provides access to downtown if coming from the west; the 5th Street exit off I-64 takes you downtown from the east.
SR 150 semicircles the western side of the city, coming in from the south as the Chippenham Parkway on the James River in eastern Chesterfield County, crossing the James River to the west of Richmond as Parham Road, crossing I-64 northwest of the city and joining US 301/Chamberlayne Road north of Richmond near I-295.
US 1/301 enters the city from the south as Jefferson Davis Highway, crosses the James River over the Robert E. Lee Bridge, becomes Belvidere Street as it runs through downtown, and splits just north of I-95 (Richmond-Petersburg Parkway) with US 1 heading north as Brook Road and US 301 heading northeast as Chamberlayne Road.
Street SystemDowntown Richmond is bounded by the James River to the south and I-95 to the north and east. Belvidere Street (US 1/301) is roughly the eastern edge of downtown. Broad Street (US 250) bisects the area.
Richmond resembles a grid pattern. Numbered streets 1st through 40th fall either in the East End (in the Church Hill and Shockoe Bottom area) or on the South Side (in the Forest Hill and Bainbridge area). Some streets change names, including Monument Avenue, which becomes W. Franklin Street at Stuart Circle; Malvern becomes Westwood as it crosses Broad Street; and The Boulevard flows into Hermitage Road northbound and Westover Hill Boulevard southbound as it traverses the river (it changes again to Belt Boulevard as it crosses Midlothian Turnpike).
Six bridges cross the James River east to west: I-95/Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike, Mayo's Bridge (US 360), Manchester Bridge (US 60), Robert E. Lee Bridge (US 1/301/Belvidere Street), Boulevard Bridge (SR 161) and Powhite Parkway (SR 76).
Many of the roads throughout Richmond are toll roads, including the Boulevard Bridge (SR 161) over the James River; SR 195/Downtown Expressway from Powhite Parkway to I-95; and the Powhite Parkway Bridge over the James River.
The city speed limit is 30 mph, or as posted. Rush hours are usually 7:30-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. Unless otherwise posted, a right turn on red is permitted.
ParkingLike any big city, Richmond has some downtown street parking; metered parking is limited and strictly monitored. If your car is towed from a downtown street, phone police information at (804) 646-5100 or Seibert's Towing at (804) 233-5757. Numerous parking lots and garages are available throughout the city. Hourly rates vary from $3-$5.
Sales TaxVirginia levies a 5.3 percent sales tax, which includes a 1 percent tax levied by city or county governments. The Richmond area has a lodging tax of 8 percent.
Police (non-emergency)(804) 646-5100
HospitalsBon Secours-St. Mary's Hospital, (804) 285-2011; Henrico Doctors' Hospital, (804) 289-4500; VCU Medical Center, (804) 828-9000.
NewspapersThe daily newspaper is the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
RadioRichmond radio station WRVA (1140 AM) is an all news/talk station; WCVE (88.9 FM) is a member of National Public Radio.
Visitor InformationRichmond Region Tourism 405 N. Third St. RICHMOND, VA 23219. Phone:(804)783-7450 or (800)370-9004
Air TravelRichmond International Airport (RIC), off I-64 exit 197A, is served by Air Canada, (888) 247-2262; AirTran, (800) 247-8726; Allegiant, (702) 505-8888; American Airlines, (800) 433-7300; Delta Airlines, (800) 221-1212; JetBlue Airways, (800) 538-2583; Southwest Airlines, (800) 435-9792; and United Airlines, (800) 241-6522.
Limousine service is available between the greater Richmond area and the airport; phone (804) 360-2122.
Rental CarsHertz, at Richmond International Airport, offers discounts to AAA members; phone (804) 222-7228 or (800) 654-3080.
Rail ServiceAmtrak train service is available at 7519 Staples Mill Rd., (800) 872-7245, and at historic Main Street Station at 500 E. Main St., (804) 646-2041.
BusesThe Greyhound Lines Inc. bus terminal is at 2910 N. Boulevard St. across from The Diamond baseball field; phone (804) 254-5910.
TaxisSome of the larger cab companies include Galaxy, (804) 560-4408; Yellow, (804) 222-7300; and Richmond Taxi, (804) 439-0009. Base fare is $2.50 for the first one-fifth mile, 50c for each additional one-fifth mile and 50c for each 80-second period of delay, including traffic. Base fare rises $1 for each additional passenger over age 6 and for rides between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. A $2 access fee is added to fares originating at the airport.
Public TransportationThe Greater Richmond Transit Co. (GRTC) operates buses throughout most of the city and parts of Henrico County. The base fare for local routes is $1.50. Transfers cost 25c. Transfers must be purchased at the time your initial fare is paid. Reduced rates are available for senior citizens and the physically impaired. Go Cards, used in lieu of cash by customers boarding GRTC vehicles, are available for advance purchase at retail locations throughout the Richmond area for $10. Phone (804) 358-4782.
EssentialsExplore Maymont (2201 Shields Lake Dr.), a dairy farm-turned-Gilded Age showstopper that has been enjoyed as a public park and museum since 1925. The 100-acre site on the James River, once the home of business leader James H. Dooley and his wife, has got it all: a luxurious 33-room mansion, zoological exhibits, historical carriages, meticulously groomed gardens and more than a few captivated guests.
Lose count at The Museum of the Confederacy (1201 E. Clay St.), whose imposing collection of relics, manuscripts and photographs includes 1,500 decorative objects, 550 flags, 177 firearms and 150 paintings. After viewing the displays, tour the adjacent The White House of the Confederacy . During 40-minute guided tours, docents lead visitors through this gray-stuccoed Court End mansion, which Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family inhabited 1861-65.
Take in Grace Arents' gift to the city, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (1800 Lakeside Ave.). In her will, the green-thumbed philanthropist stipulated that a botanical garden be established on the property in honor of her uncle Lewis Ginter, a local businessman who bought the site in 1884. Today, the year-round site attracts both locals and out-of-towners with more than a dozen themed gardens and a striking conservatory crowned by a 63-foot-tall dome.
Catch a second-run flick for $1.99 at The Byrd Theatre (2908 W. Cary St.), a restored 1920s movie palace in the funky Carytown shopping district. Go on a Saturday, when an organist named Bob puts on a rocking pre-show recital on a “Mighty Wurlitzer,” a pipe organ originally designed to accompany silent films.
Conserve your souvenir shopping fund at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (200 N. Boulevard), where admission to the permanent collection of more than 23,000 works—from French Impressionist paintings to glittering Fabergé eggs—is always free.
Revel in all things touristy in Capitol Square , between 9th, Governor, Broad and Bank streets. Ask a passerby to snap a pic of you with the Washington Monument as your backdrop. Pick up brochures at the state visitor center in the 1825 Bell Tower. Take a guided tour of the neoclassical Virginia State Capitol (1000 Bank St.), then hit up the gift shop for “Virginia is for Lovers” shot glasses, paperweights etched with the state seal and a wide selection of presidential bobbleheads.
Walk along tree-shaded Monument Avenue. Located in the heart of the historic Fan District, the architecturally noteworthy residential street boasts statues of Confederate heroes, including generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson; the “Pathfinder of the Seas,” Matthew Fontaine Maury; and Richmond-born tennis champ Arthur Ashe.
Riddle me this: What do a pair of 19th-century boot hooks, a lock of hair glued to the back of an envelope, and a stuffed raven (come on, this one's a dead giveaway) have in common? All are exhibits at the Poe Museum (1914 E. Main St.), which relates the life of onetime Richmond resident Edgar Allan Poe.
Tour Richmond National Battlefield Park . Headquartered in Richmond, the park encompasses Civil War battlefields in Hanover, Henrico and Chesterfield counties. Get out and stretch your legs during the 60-mile drive at the Fort Harrison Visitor Center (8621 Battlefield Park Rd.), the Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works (470 Tredegar St.), the Chimborazo Medical Museum (3215 E. Broad St.) and The American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar (500 Tredegar St.).
ShoppingThere's lots more to shopping in Richmond than just malls.
Let's start with downtown. Shockoe Slip, originally a 1600s trading post near the James River, has been transformed into a trendy shopping area. The renovated 19th-century brick warehouses that line several blocks of cobblestoned E. Cary Street now house fashionable gift shops, boutiques, galleries, antique shops, restaurants and clubs.
Nearby Shockoe Bottom, just down the hill from Shockoe Slip, is a little less polished though still an interesting place to shop; expect shops similar to those in Shockoe Slip. A fixture in Shockoe Bottom is the 17th Street Farmers' Market , at 17th and Main streets, one of the country's oldest public markets. You'll find homegrown fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked items and crafts at the market, which is open Saturday and Sunday from early May to early December.
Carytown, on W. Cary Street between Boulevard and Thompson Street, is an eclectic area of small, locally owned shops ranging from casual to funky to chic, all with a distinctly bohemian vibe. Numerous restaurants and sidewalk cafes are perfect spots for relaxing and people watching.
For a more upscale experience, head to Libbie, Grove and Patterson, a decidedly stylish area in the city's fashionable West End. The shops and restaurants locals refer to as “on the Avenues” are known for their service and attention to detail. Clothing boutiques, home goods stores and jewelers are among the avenues' specialty shops.
When you are looking for a classic mall experience, it's a short ride to Chesterfield Towne Center , built in 1975. Home to such national retailers as JCPenney, Macy's and Sears, the mall is about 12 miles southwest of downtown Richmond at US 60 (Midlothian Turnpike) and SR 147 (Huguenot Road). Another venue for browsing is Short Pump Town Center , about 16 miles northwest of downtown Richmond via I-95 N/I-64 W. The two-level, open-air mall draws savvy shoppers with names like Apple, Hollister and Urban Outfitters. Dick's Sporting Goods and Dillard's locations are anchors of both Short Pump Town Center and its rival, Stony Point Fashion Park , a fashion-forward outdoor shopping center about 12 miles west of downtown Richmond at 9200 Stony Point Pkwy. Stony Point also features a Saks Fifth Avenue as well as smaller upmarket chains like Anthropologie and Restoration Hardware.
NightlifeIf you're in Richmond and looking for nightlife, the place to be is Shockoe Slip. Founded as a trading post in the 1600s, the Slip grew to become Richmond's commercial center, aided by its proximity to the James River. This historic district, which roughly runs from 12th to 15th streets and from Main to Dock streets, maintains a late 19th-century feel. Restored brick warehouses along cobblestone streets are repurposed as hip restaurants and shops, taverns, offices and residences. Just down the hill is Shockoe Bottom, equally lively as a nightspot, but not as renovated and somewhat less chic than the Slip.
South of Shockoe Bottom in the Rocketts Landing neighborhood is The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing (4708 E. Old Main St.), which looks like a crystal structure rising out of the James River. This contemporary glass-enclosed spot with views of the river on all sides is a perfect place at sunset to have a drink on the open-air deck and admire the Richmond skyline. Phone (804) 622-2628.
Performing ArtsBuilt upon a rich history, Richmond's cultural scene began in 1786 with the opening of the city's first theater. The Altria Theater, 6 N. Laurel St., was formerly known as the Mosque because of its resemblance to a Moslem Temple. Built in 1926 by the Shriners, the 3,500-seat theater today offers performances by national touring companies; phone (804) 646-0546. On the corner of 6th and Grace streets, Dominion Arts Center is home to three performance venues: Carpenter Theatre, Libby S. Gottwald Playhouse and Rhythm Hall. Phone (804) 592-3330 for ticket and event information.
Offering five major concerts and several smaller venues, the Richmond Symphony is for classical music lovers; phone (804) 788-1212. The Richmond Philharmonic also presents five concerts a year throughout town; phone (804) 673-7400 for information. Concerts by top-name performers regularly take place at the Richmond Coliseum, 601 E. Leigh St.; phone (804) 780-4970 for the box office.
The Richmond Ballet, the commonwealth's only professional troupe, performs year-round and travels throughout Virginia presenting its repertoire of both classical and contemporary works; phone (804) 344-0906.
Sports and RecreationCentrally located, Richmond offers a wealth of recreational opportunities. To the west are the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah mountains and the chance for such winter sports as skiing and sledding. To the east are Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean where anglers and water sports enthusiasts alike can revel in the miles of shoreline.
The James River is a great place to lure in smallmouth bass; catfish, bream, largemouth bass and muskie also can be caught. Saltwater fishing can be found nearby in the Hampton Roads area and in Chesapeake Bay. For information about fishing licenses contact the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; phone (804) 367-1000.
Richmond boasts the only urban class IV rapids in the country. Rafting and tubing trips on the James River are available through River City Adventures; phone (804) 233-4000. Riverside Outfitters, (804) 560-0068, also offers rafting trips as well as tube, canoe and kayak rentals.
Some 60 parks can be found throughout the greater Richmond area. Some of the activities available at the parks include tennis, bicycling, hiking, picnicking, swimming, boating and horseback riding. For information contact the Department of Parks and Recreation; phone (804) 646-5733 in Richmond, (804) 748-1623 in Chesterfield County, (804) 501-7275 in Henrico County or (804) 365-4695 in Hanover County.
James River Park, at 22nd Street and Riverside Drive, is a good place to fish or hike. As part of the park, Belle Isle is reached via a footbridge on Tredegar Street or from the parking lot on 22nd Street. The island has walking trails with interpretive signs, a floating fishing pier and the opportunity for kayaking, canoeing, bicycling and rock climbing.
Pocahontas State Park, in nearby Chesterfield, offers 7,920 acres of outdoor opportunities for camping, swimming, hiking, boating and fishing.
More than 20 public and private golf courses can be found within the Richmond area. Some of the public and semi-private courses are Birkdale, (804) 739-8800, 8511 Royal Birkdale Dr. in Chesterfield; The Crossings, (804) 261-0000, 800 Virginia Center Pkwy. in Glen Allen; Glenwood, (804) 226-1793, 3100 Creighton Rd.; The Hollows, (804) 883-5381, 14501 Greenwood Church Rd. in Montpelier; and Sycamore Creek, (804) 784-3544, 1991 Manakin Rd. in Manakin-Sabot.
The Richmond Kickers play soccer in the United Soccer League's Professional Division at Richmond City Stadium, 3201 Maplewood Ave.; phone (804) 644-5425 for schedule and tickets.
With four major colleges and universities in the area, Richmond is home to many rivalrous collegiate games. Basketball and football are popular at the University of Richmond where the Spiders play ball in Robins Center and Robins Stadium, respectively; phone (804) 289-8388. The Virginia Commonwealth University Rams play basketball at the Stuart C. Siegel Center; phone (804) 828-7267. The Panthers at Virginia Union University play football on campus at Hovey Field and basketball at the Barco-Stevens Hall; phone (804) 342-1484. A variety of sports is offered at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, including baseball, football and both men's and women's soccer, basketball, tennis, lacrosse and field hockey; phone (804) 752-7223.
Boat ToursRiverfront Canal Cruises
Trolley ToursRichmond Trolley Co.
Walking ToursRichmond History Tours, a service of The Valentine, offers 380 guided walking tours of downtown and surrounding areas April through October. The tours cover such historic sites as the Byrd Theatre, Carytown, Riverfront, Hollywood Cemetery, Shockoe Bottom, Church Hill, the Court End, Jackson Ward and Richmond's Wall Street. Year-round specialty bus tours also are offered; phone (804) 649-0711.
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Belle Isle, once home to a Civil War prison camp, can be reached by the pedestrian bridge under the Lee Bridge at 7th and Tredegar streets. A 1-mile walking trail allows visitors to walk along the falls and view the historic earthworks. Brown's Island is the former site of the Confederate Laboratory that exploded in 1863, killing some 50 workers.
Visitors can view remnants of the buildings of Tredegar Iron Works, the most important iron works in the South during the Civil War. The armor used for the CSS Virginia, formerly the USS Merrimac, was manufactured at this plant.
Running along the James River, the Richmond Floodwall is a 1-mile-long concrete levee that varies in height from 7 feet to 30 feet. Highlights of the walk atop the levee include views of the river where walkers can spot various wildlife, including blue herons, Canada geese and turtles.
1-day ItineraryAAA editors suggest these activities for a great short vacation experience.
MorningHollywood Cemetery (412 S. Cherry St.) is the final resting place of two U.S. presidents (James Monroe and John Tyler) as well as Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In addition to elaborate mausoleums and tombstones, the graveyard safeguards a 90-foot-high pyramid honoring 18,000 fallen Confederate soldiers, some of whom are said to haunt the grounds.
Spend the rest of your morning (and, if you're really interested in the subject, your afternoon) learning about Richmond's past life as the capital of the Confederate States of America. Just a short jaunt east of Hollywood Cemetery are the Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works (470 Tredegar St.), the main visitor center for Richmond National Battlefield Park , and The American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar (500 Tredegar St.), which offers Confederate, Union and African-American perspectives on the 4-year conflict.
When hunger strikes, Millie's Diner (2603 E. Main St.), flaunting a righteous compilation of 45s and old-timey Wall-O-Matic jukebox selectors, is a good bet. FYI: Seats at this tiny joint go quick, especially during brunch hours.
As an alternative to the game plan above, make your way to the Fan District. Despite the parking headaches of the Fan, the grandma-approved boxed lunches from Sally Bell's Kitchen (2337 W. Broad St.) are worth the stop. On weekdays, polite Virginians form ranks outside this tiny Richmond institution founded in the 1920s. Half the fun is in scooting off the butcher's string and peeling back the wax paper to reveal a sandwich, a deviled egg, potato or macaroni salad, a cheese wafer and an upside-down cupcake.
After refueling, while away your remaining daylight hours at Maymont (2201 Shields Lake Dr.), whose manicured gardens and 12,000-square-foot mansion will have you daydreaming about winning the Virginia Lottery. The ethereal Gilded Age estate is on the banks of the James River.
EveningChange into your stepping out clothes and spend the evening in Shockoe Slip. Once the city's mercantile hub, the historic district flaunting Italianate-style brick and iron front buildings is now the epicenter of Richmond nightlife.
A funkier bar scene continues down the hill into Shockoe Bottom, where refurbished warehouses now accommodate hip cafés, taverns and other businesses. Chill out at a manly wood-paneled watering hole or see a band play at a divey live music venue. If your dining tastes swing toward the casual end of the spectrum, duck into Bottoms Up Pizza (1700 Dock St.), a local hangout celebrated for tasty pies and, thanks to its location beneath the railroad tracks, raucous urban atmosphere.
For a more upscale meal, reserve a candlelit table at Julep's, New Southern Cuisine (420 E. Grace St.), housed in a former lumber storehouse. Or, rub shoulders with Richmond VIPs at Lemaire ; heralded for its farm-to-table approach, this special occasions spot is in downtown Richmond's lavish 19th-century masterpiece The Jefferson Hotel (101 W. Franklin St.).
EventsIn addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
February is a busy month in the capital, with the Richmond Camping RV Expo early in the month and the Richmond Boat Show mid-month; both are held at the Richmond Raceway Complex.
In April, Dominion Family Easter draws families with young kids to the Maymont estate with Easter egg hunts, puppet and magic shows and hands-on activities. Occurring along four blocks of Monument Avenue every Easter Sunday, the Easter on Parade event includes arts and crafts vendors, music and a petting zoo.
Historic Garden Week takes place throughout the state at various times in late April. During this special event, private homes and gardens, and historic venues are opened up to the public for viewing. In early May Byrd Park is home to Arts in the Park , one of the largest outdoor craft shows on the East Coast.
In November the Science Museum of Virginia presents the Craft and Design Show , during which more than 50 craftspeople display their wares. Also in November is the Capital of The Confederacy Civil War Show , with exhibitors and vendors setting up shop at the Richmond Raceway Complex. Running from late November to mid-January at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Dominion GardenFest of Lights features holiday lights and decorations, along with plenty of fun family-friendly activities.
See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
Places in Vicinity