Traveler: Mike Ramsden
When: November 2017
Richmond was a fun & easy city to navigate. I was in town on business for a couple days, so I took advantage of the booming beer scene & delicious southern eats that await you at every turn. With a population of just over 200,000 Richmond or RVA (as the locals like to call it) is big enough to keep you busy, but small enough not to get lost in. I was fortunate to have a local alongside me during my stay to navigate my experience through all the fun neighborhoods and trails in the city.
RVA is only 108 miles south of Washington, DC. So it was just under a two hour drive for me. There is an international airport conveniently located 10 miles east of downtown. From there you can take most of the typical means of transportation (bus, taxi, Uber etc.) for the exception of a metro. If you’re staying in town for an extended period of time, I suggest renting a car. The bus system (GRTC) is pretty extensive though, stretching as far as Bellvue to the North, Henrico County to the west, Montrose to the East & Southside to the south.
I stayed in the Linden Row Inn- Boutique Hotel. It is situated right smack in the center of the downtown by VCU’s campus on Franklin St. Rates for this historic boutique hotel start around $100 a night. It is a unique hotel as it’s comprised of seven attached row homes built in the 1800’s. Both the rooms and parlors are furnished with antiques from the mid 1800’s. Linden Row is also featured on the National Register of Historic Places. There is a beautiful courtyard that can be used for a morning coffee or breakfast. They also provide a shuttle service to most parts of town. Linden Row even has you covered when it comes to your food. Urban Farmhouse Market & Café (a local breakfast spot with four other locations) is on the ground level facing Franklin St.
The Jefferson Hotel- Is a sprawling Forbes five star hotel located down the street from the Linden. This is another spot worth considering when visiting Richmond. It is recognized as Richmond’s “grandest” hotel but at a cost of $275/night. I note this as an activity because if you travel during the holiday season they have beautiful Christmas decorations setup all over the hotel grounds. From November 27th through January 7th the hotel goes into Holiday overdrive. On the 27th they have the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. The tree is located through the front entrance and to the left side of the lobby, standing roughly 30’ tall. Every week the hotel has musical performances along with Christmas themed events to keep visitors entertained. I strongly recommend stopping by for at least a few minutes during your stay to grab some photos. The Tree Lighting ceremony & events that follow are free to the public. All musicals are free as well but, you must call for reservations as the spots fill up fairly quickly.
Riverfront Canal Walk- Located between 5th & 17th streets along the James River, this is a great spot to go for a stroll and check out some shops or restaurants. There are over 70 restaurants along the way. It stretches roughly 1 ¼” mile along the river. As you can imagine the canal walk takes you through some of the rich history that you will find in RVA; it is the only city in the world with a triple main-line railroad crossing still in operation and in 1888 RVA built the first electric street car system in the world. If you’re tired of walking and want to relax, then you can take one of the river canal cruises. It’s a 40 min ride offered from noon through 5-8pm depending on the time of year. Prices range from $6 (seniors & children 5-12) to $8 (all other adults). Children under the age of 5 are free.
Pipeline Trail- The actual address to the trail is 310 S. 14th st. located near the floodwall. You can access the trail via a catwalk at the top of the pipeline. There is a large steel ladder that you will climb down to reach the pipeline, so be careful. The trail runs underneath the railroad bridge along the James River. The walkway currently (December) is well above the water line but sometimes the water levels reach all the way up to the pipeline. During your walk you’ll encounter a pretty large Great Blue Heron Rookery. I saw hundreds of herons throughout the walk and across the river on the small island nearby. In the summertime the rapids feature dozens of kayakers & rafters. Surprisingly, most of the rapids through this portion of the James are class III rapids. The walk itself is only about 25-30 mins and pretty easy. So I highly recommend checking it out during your stay. Once you complete the walk it takes you near the entrance to the canal walk with plenty of spots for a bite.
Ghost Tours- I was unable to check out a ghost tour as the tours are only offered from May-October. But I wanted to make a note of this because if you’re traveling during that time frame it’s a fun activity to check out. Haunts of Richmond is the name of the tour group. The tours last 75 minutes and they offer three different options; Shadows of Shockoe, Church Hill Chillers & Haunted Capitol Hill. The tours are only Friday & Saturday @ 9pm.
Food & Drink:
Tarrant’s Cafe- Described as “upscale American meals in cozy former pharmacy with tin ceilings and wooden booths”. Back in the late 1800’s Richmond went through a revitalization period following the evacuation fire of 1865. In 1883 this location would open as a drug store. Then in 1905 it was taken over by William Tarrant who renamed it Tarrant’s Drug Company. After William’s death in 61’ his son Bill took it over until 87’. It now is one of the more popular spots on the Broad Street strip. I was able to stop in for dinner on my first night in town. It came highly recommended by the concierges at the Linden. I ended up settling on the Pork Chops in bourbon glaze with vegetables & mash potatoes. It was fantastic and at the reasonable price of just $19.95. I also got an order of the fried calamari as an appetizer which was excellent. Their menu is huge, offering everything from pizzas, sandwiches, calzones, steaks, seafood, pasta, wraps, soups & salads. So there is something for everyone. As for drinks they have a wide variety of white & red wines along with eight different cocktail drinks. They also have 10 beers on tap at any given time, 9 rotating drafts & 9 bottled options. They offer brunch on both Saturday & Sunday until 3pm. All in all it was a fantastic meal that I would go back to in a heartbeat.
Continental Westhampton- Another spot that had a wide array of American fare. Their menu was probably larger than Tarrant’s, honestly if you can’t find something you like here then I don’t know what to tell you. They have tons of sandwiches, burgers, french dips, 14 starters, steam options for crab legs & shrimp, salads & soups. In regards to the main course they have 8 different types of oven baked pizzas such as bbq chicken & bacon or cheesesteak. They also serve fish or pork belly tacos, meatloaf & smoked half chicken as some of their main course options. The ambience has a bit of retro/diner like flair along with a full service bar and heated outdoor patio enclosure for extended seating.
Breweries: The RVA beer scene is exploding! The Wall Street Journal recently mentioned Richmond as “one of the regions fastest growing beer scenes”. Currently there are over 30 craft breweries to choose from. To put that in perspective Washington DC, roughly 3 times larger than RVA only has 10 breweries. As a matter of fact RVA is where the first beer was ever sold in a can, back in 1935. One of Richmond’s breweries (Mekong) was even recently voted the # 1 beer bar in the US. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit all 30+ during my stay. But below is some info on the breweries I did get a chance to visit.
Stone Brewing- Opened back in 1996 out in San Diego, California. It is considered one of the fastest growing craft breweries in the US. They produce roughly 325,000 barrels per year. An interesting fact on Stone is that they have literally never paid a cent on ads in either print or broadcast media. All their success has been via word of mouth. They have five locations in the San Diego area and then recently opened this Richmond location a couple years back. They have five beers on tap year round, two seasonal beers in rotation along with around 15 special release beers over the years. Their IPA’s are some of my favorite led by the Stone Tangerine Express IPA & the Stone IPA.
Three Notch’d- Opened in 2013 in Charlottesville, VA. There are four locations between Richmond & Charlottesville. They have a unique story behind their name. The brewery is named after the road Jack Jouett took in 1781 to warn Thomas Jefferson that Benedict Arnold & the British army were coming. Jack made a 40 mile trek from his home once he caught wind of the British forces planning to siege Charlottesville that night. They have six beers on tap along with two seasonal options. I tried the ghost IPA, 40 mile IPA (the length of the ride from Jack’s home to Charlottesville) & minute man IPA. My favorite was the 40 mile IPA. It is their flagship IPA and an American West Coast style IPA.
The Veil Brewing Company- Arguably the most popular brewery in Richmond. It is located in Scotts Addition which is a trendy part of town for night life. They currently have 13 beers on tap. I tried the Master Shredder which came recommended by my friend and it was delicious. It is their flagship brew (IPA) and extremely popular. As a matter of fact every few weeks the Veil will sell their beers via cases or 6-pack. There is literally a line around the block to purchase these coveted beers. They generally sell out within a few hours and if you want the beers you need to arrive hours before opening.
Triple Crossing- Located in the downtown part of RVA, Triple Crossing was another great brewery that I had the chance to check out. It is only a five minute walk from the Linden. So if you stay there it’s a great landing spot for some drinks. It is much more low key than Three Notch’d or the Veil. They had over eight beers on tap and in the summer time there is a nice rooftop to enjoy the RVA scenery.