Elegant, distinguished and proud of its long history, Richmond, VA, is an exceptional destination for an urban getaway. Virginia's largest city and state capital has something for everyone, from live music to great food, unique shopping experiences and plenty of historical sights.
If you want to explore the history of the USA, Richmond is a good place to start. Learn about the Civil War at the American Civil War Center, visit the long-term home of Edgar Allan Poe, one of America's greatest writers, and marvel at the State Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson himself.
Then again, you don't need to love history to be enchanted by Richmond. Shoppers can lose themselves in the boutiques and specialty stores of Carytown. Sports lovers can raft, kayak, bike or hike along the James River. Music fans can attend major festivals like the Richmond Jazz Festival or head to local venues like the Canal Club.
Whether you want to immerse yourself in the past or enjoy a vibrant modern city, Richmond has what you need.
Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy and one of the most prosperous cities in the South, which means that history buffs will be in paradise. Head to museums like the American Civil War Center, located in the Tredegar Ironworks, or take cycling tours of the major historical sights.
Modern Richmond has plenty to offer visitors of all ages. For starters, there are two huge amusement parks a few miles out of town (King's Dominion and Busch Gardens), along with summer attractions like Water Country USA and outdoor activities that include kayaking, Segway tours and cycling.
Richmond is a major cultural center and has a packed events calendar. If you love music, head to the Richmond Jazz Festival in August or Dominion Riverrock in May. Ale fans shouldn't miss the National Beer Expo in July while the Richmond Folk Festival in October brings great music and dance acts to the city.
Richmond is also a fantastic place for people who can't resist the call of the wild. Head out whitewater rafting or kayaking on the James River, rent mountain bikes for a tour of Belle Isle or fire up your golf-kart to take on challenging courses like Belmont Park.
Recent years have seen an explosion in the number of live music venues across Richmond, turning it into one of the South's liveliest cultural hubs. Popular spots include the Cary Street Cafe, where you can expect anything from bluegrass to reggae, and the Canal Club, where rock music reigns supreme.
Richmond is lucky to have some superb family amusement parks just a few miles from the city center. When you visit, mix up historical sightseeing with a trip to King's Dominion Amusement Park or Busch Gardens or the pools and slides at Water Country USA.
During the Civil War, Richmond was America's other capital, hosting the government of the rebel states. Nowadays, you can learn about that fascinating period at the Museum of the Confederacy or the American Civil War Center, or enlist Civil War Tours to tell you all of the city's wartime stories.
Edgar Allan Poe was one of America's greatest writers, conjuring up some nightmarish horror stories from his Richmond home. Find out everything you need to know about this literary great at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, which hosts rare manuscripts and personal artifacts like his embroidered vest and walking stick.
If museums aren't your passion, Richmond is a fantastic place to go on a shopping spree. Head to Carytown where you'll find a huge selection of independent stores, including accessory and clothing boutiques, chocolatiers, jewelers and much, much more.
Belle Isle is gorgeous. This island park is within Richmond's city limits and offers miles of secluded trails, the chance to rent kayaks, swim in the James River and soak up the sunshine, all within walking distance of city center hotels.
Those in the know say that spring and fall are Richmond's best seasons. Summer can become uncomfortably hot and humid, and the amusement parks will be crammed with local people and vacationers. April, May, October, and November are usually ideal, with warm weather, cheaper accommodation and much smaller crowds.
Richmond International Airport is located a few miles east of the city center, and is served by major airlines like American, Delta, and Southwest, along with a few budget carriers like JetBlue. If you want to take a taxi into the city, expect to pay around $20. Otherwise, the cheapest way into town is to take GRTC bus number 56 (towards South Laburnum) which costs just $1.50.
Richmond has two Amtrak stations. Staples Mill is a few miles north of the city center and is served by the Carolinian, Silver Meteor, Palmetto, Silver Star and Northeast Regional routes. Main Street Station is much more central, but the only services stopping there are regional trains via Newport News. If you arrive at Staples Mill, buses 18 and 27 stop nearby and will take you into the center of town in 20 minutes.
Getting to Richmond from northeastern cities like New York, Philadelphia and Washington is simple. Just take I-95 straight into the center. If you are coming from the south, I-95 might be the best route to take (from Florida), but I-85 is more convenient for those driving from New Orleans or Atlanta. Anyone coming from Chicago should take I-65, then switch to I-64 in Louisville.
Greyhound runs intercity bus services into Richmond, but their stop is a few miles out of the city center at 2910 N Boulevard. If you want to take the bus directly into the center, choose Megabus, who stop at Richmond Travel Plaza and regularly offer $1 fares.
If you have the means, no hotel in town can match the Jefferson Hotel, which offers a 5-star accommodation experience and stunning interior architecture. Failing that, other luxury options include Maury Place and the Grace Manor Inn, while slightly lower down the price scale you might want to look at the DoubleTree or the Ramada Plaza Richmond West. There's even a hosteling international hostel in town, which offers cheap dorm beds in a convenient location.
Downtown – Although Downtown Richmond has its share of skyscrapers, it also includes charming historic neighborhoods like Shockoe (which dates back to the 1740s) and Jackson Ward, once called the "Wall Street of Black America". So there are plenty of historical attractions, as well as great restaurants, bars, clubs, and theaters.
The Fan – Named after the roads that "fan out" from Richmond city center, The Fan is a university district and one that is full of museums and galleries. Local highlights include the Museum of Fine Arts, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, and the Children's Museum - making it the perfect area for culture lovers to stay.
The West End – If you love to dine or shop, Richmond's West End is the neighborhood for you. There are outdoor malls like Short Pump Town, boutiques in historic Carytown and restaurants serving dishes from all over the world.
Public transit in the Richmond area is provided by GRTC, who offer excellent coverage in the Downtown district (but not such a useful service to the city's suburbs). Basic fares are $1.50, and you can either pay using exact change on the bus or via a prepaid Go-Card which can be purchased from local stores.
Taxi rates in Richmond are typically $2.50 for the first mile, then $2.50 for every subsequent mile, so they can be an affordable way to get around over short distances. Be aware that a $1 surcharge usually applies after 9 p.m. Uber is active in Richmond as well. Their basic UberX service charges a meter drop of $1, then $0.80 per mile with a minimum fare of $5.50.
Most of Richmond is laid out in a classic grid system, so getting around by car shouldn't be too confusing once you get used to it. However, be aware of one-way and narrow streets when planning your journeys. There's plenty of on-street parking and Downtown garages like CityParking on E Main St and the West Main Street Parking Deck.
Shopping is one of Richmond's major attractions. The city's independent retail scene is centered around Carytown, to the west of the city center. Here you'll find all kinds of small stores, including fashion boutiques like Phoenix or Fabrik, accessories stores like Schwarzschild Jewelers and specialty stores like For the Love of Chocolate or Carytown Dolls & Bears. There's a huge selection in the area, so check the list of local vendors before you visit to avoid missing out.
In general, the cost of living in Richmond is lower than average. You can expect to pay around $2.70 for 12 eggs and $1.40 for a pound of tomatoes - making self-catering an attractive option if you want to save money. Good places to shop for essentials include supermarkets like Ellwood Thompson's (an upscale grocery store) along Kroger and Walmart.
Richmond has a wildly diverse dining scene, from authentic southern home cooking to French and Japanese cuisine. If local seafood is your thing, don't miss the Rappahannock Oyster Company. Julep's serves the best southern meat and seafood in town (and great mint juleps!), while Edo's Squid is a great Italian trattoria and Sidewalk Cafe is a wonderful budget eatery. A good meal shouldn't cost more than $20, and it's easy to find excellent food for much less.