Virginia’s stately capital city is steeped in 400 years of history. The Civil War capital of the Confederate States holds mansions and museum artifacts that are a testament to the city’s central role in 18th- and 19th-century American life. But this genteel southern city, with its boulevard of Civil War monuments, leafy riverside parks and languid air, is dialing up the hip quotient. With a locavore farm-to-fork movement, wide-ranging art scene and percolating nightlife fed by the city’s 10 colleges and universities, Richmond both honors its past and stretches toward the future.
Reasons to Visit Richmond
Civil War History: In its short life, the Confederacy had its own White House, a columned confection of antebellum grandeur; the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, lived there until the city was evacuated in 1865. More artifacts from the War Between the States—including weaponry, doll furniture and even knitting—are on exhibit at the American Civil War Museum. The grand boulevard known as Monument Avenue, lined with somber memorials to Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, got a surprising addition in 1996: a statue dedicated to Richmond native and African-American tennis pioneer Arthur Ashe.
Presidential Graves: No, you won’t find movie-star gravesites in Richmond’s historic Hollywood Cemetery, but this pastoral 135-acre garden cemetery holds plenty of heavy hitters. Here are the final resting sites of US presidents James Monroe and John Tyler, not to mention two Supreme Court justices, 22 Confederate generals and Jefferson Davis. Look for the statue known as Iron Dog, keeping eternal watch over a child’s grave.
Art & Architecture: Richmond’s vital art culture is a mix of cutting-edge galleries and first-rate museums, such as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, with its Fabergé eggs and Tiffany lamps. The city’s ornate cast-iron architecture is a happy byproduct of its longtime role as an iron foundry hub. Head from your Richmond hotel and pay a visit to the neoclassical Virginia State Capitol, designed by Virginian Thomas Jefferson.
Food & Drink: The city’s culinary revolution is in full swing, driven by the marriage of sustainably sourced foods and traditional southern flavors. Sample classic soul food in historic Jackson Ward, or hang with the foodies in buzzing Church Hill. State legislation in 2012 allowed breweries to sell their beer at the source, and now Richmond’s craft brew scene matches that of any midsized city in the country, with 15+ breweries and counting.
Whitewater Rafting & Bike Trails: Richmond isn’t called River City for nothing: its perch alongside the James River means year-round water recreation, from biking riverside trails to running the James’ Class IV whitewater rapids.
Off the Beaten Path: Richmond Mural Project
The Richmond cityscape is flowering with powerful street art—a product of the 2011 mission of the Richmond Mural Project to create 100 street murals in five years. The project has brought some of the world’s top muralists to the city and created a dynamic and colorful streetscape that some call the country’s best compilation of street art. Inquire at the tourist office for a current map of the murals.
When to Visit Richmond
This Mid-Atlantic city enjoys four distinct seasons: spring and fall both offer pleasant, sunny days in the 50s and 60s, making this an ideal time to stroll the city.
Be prepared for hot, humid weather during a summer vacation. Don’t wait for a cool breeze to offer relief: instead, plan to tour air-conditioned museums tackle the James River.
Winter, the off-peak season, is the perfect time to save on your Richmond Country Inns & Suites hotel stay and avoid crowds. Worried about being snowed in? Avoid planning your visit for December or January.
Richmond Travel Tip
Book lovers: Make a beeline for the used bookstore Chop Suey. Located across from the Byrd Theater, this local favorite stocks some 45,000 used titles on two floors, brimming to the rafters. Look for signed books by regional authors and a big collection of graphic novels—and a house cat named