Richmond is only a 90-minute drive from D.C., but until a few weekends ago, Nick and I had only ever driven through Virginia’s capital.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, we decided to take a last-minute trip to Richmond and spent two fun-filled days touring the city. Our first stop was to the South of the James Market, a local farmers market that sells fruit, produce and handmade items.
Since we arrived right before lunchtime we couldn’t resist hitting up one of the food vendors for some loaded hotdogs.
After the farmers market, we headed north of the James River to Byrd Park, a huge 300-acre park. It was a warm, sunny day, so we enjoyed a leisurely stroll around Fountain Lake and on some of the paved walking trails.
The park is beautiful and would be great for picnicking or relaxing on a blanket all afternoon, but Nick and I had lots of activities planned during our trip, including a visit to the trendy Carytown shopping district.
We had so much fun browsing through the eclectic shops that line Cary Street in Richmond’s midtown, and I’d definitely recommend a visit to this popular area, with enough stores and restaurants to keep you busy all day.
We shopped for an hour or so before stopping at the Portrait House to enjoy a drink on their outdoor patio, which is directly across the street from the historic Byrd Theater, which still shows daily movies (sadly we weren’t able to get in for a look since it didn’t open for several more hours).
After relaxing for awhile, we walked a few blocks north to the Virginia Fine Arts Museum. Admission to the art museum is free (there is a small fee for a few special exhibits), and it’s definitely worth a visit. I’d also recommend walking through the beautiful gardens that surround the museum – the benches are great for resting your weary legs after a long day of walking and sightseeing. 😉
Our day wasn’t done though, we hopped in the car and headed to Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. Since it was early evening we weren’t able to take a tour of the brewery, but we were able to enjoy the live band that they had playing for the holiday weekend. The brewery is large and had an open-air tasting room and dozens of picnic tables outside to enjoy a beer (I had the Singel and Nick had the Hoplar) and the warm weather. They even had several food trucks parked outside.
As tempted as were to try one of the wood fired oven pizzas from the food trucks, we left after the first band ended their set and headed to Kuba Kuba, a small Cuban restaurant that serves great tasting, authentic dishes in huge portions. Nick and I shared the empanadillas pastries as an appetizer and the paella mariscos (with clams, mussels and shrimp) and the portion was so large that we couldn’t even finish it (sadly I didn’t get any pictures of this place or our meal, but I’d definitely dine there again).
On Sunday morning we went to Millie’s Diner for breakfast, a well-known eatery that always has a line at the door (including the day we visited). Thankfully the wait isn’t so bad with a mimosa and bloody mary in hand, and the spicy egg dishes they serve were definitely worth the wait.
After breakfast we drove a short distance to the Church Hill neighborhood and Libby Hill park, which has some of the best views of the city.
Since it was Memorial Day weekend, we also planned a stop at the Virginia War Memorial, which honor’s the state’s veterans of war since World War II.
The memorial had a beautiful outdoor wall of names as well as an indoor museum with local war artifacts.
Our next stop was to Richmond’s Hollywood cemetery, a sprawling historic cemetery that is the resting place of Presidents James Monroe and John Taylor and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
While visiting a cemetery may sound strange, it’s a beautiful site along the James River and one of Richmond’s major tourist attractions with daily walking tours (and the ornate memorials and headstones dating from the 1800’s are breathtaking).
After the cemetery, Nick and I made our way to the James River Park, where we crossed the pedestrian suspension bridge over to Belle Isle, a 54-acre island where the locals head for swimming, kayaking and hiking.
It was another warm, sunny day and there were hundreds of people swimming, grilling and sunning themselves on the huge granite rocks that line the river.
A nice passerby stopped us and volunteered to take our picture, and I’m so glad she offered since I’m usually behind the camera and we rarely get pictures of the two of us. 🙂
We walked down amongst the rocks and swimmers for awhile but eventually retreated to our air conditioned car and our last stop, Blue Bee Cider, for a tour of the new cidery in Richmond’s Old Manchester neighborhood.
Unlike many commercial ciders, the craft ciders they brew aren’t sweet and are meant to be drank like a wine. The tour was short and interesting (it was delivered by the cidermaker’s retired father who was former military) and we learned a great deal about cidermaking and fermenting apples.
We also made a stop at Legend Brewing Company, which is right next door to the cidery, and enjoyed a large German pretzel on their patio. (For any visitors to Richmond, this place is more brew-pub and less brewery, but their large patio has a great view of the river).
We didn’t get any pictures, but that evening we dined at Mekong, a vietnamese restaurant in Far West that was very simple but had amazing food, it was some of the best vietnamese we’ve eaten.
The last thing we did before heading back home to D.C. was stop by Strawberry Street Cafe, a really cute neighborhood cafe in The Fan district that serves a traditional brunch with a salad bar in something that resembles an old bathtub and is popular with locals and tourists alike. (You know a restaurant is good when there is a line outside before it opens.)
Nick and I had a really great time eating and sightseeing our way across Richmond; I can’t believe we waited so long to make the trip. We’ll definitely be heading there again soon. Anyone else ever visit Richmond? Did we miss any attractions?