Hotspots in Richmond, VA
A beautiful, clear view of Richmond is visible at all hours here, and hailed by some as the best view in town -- especially at sunset. The James River, lush woodlands, and bustling Shockoe Bottom are all visible from this perch in a quiet corner of historic Church Hill. It was from this spot in 1737 that wealthy landowner William Byrd named Richmond, after the city in England it closely resembles. Lounge on a bench with coffee from nearby Captain Buzzy's Beanery, bring a picnic and spread out on the grass, or take a stroll down one of the park's cobblestone lanes.
There’s a reason why Maymont is one of Richmond’s favorite dates: it’s in the city but makes you feel like you’re on a rural getaway, and it has something to please everyone. Choose between a Victorian mansion, wildlife, long walks, internationally-inspired gardens, a petting zoo, huge expanses of comfortable grass, and dozens of large shade trees, or just do everything. Don't miss their seasonal events like garden fairs, concerts, and historical talks. Even just finding a quiet spot and relaxing in silence is a satisfying experience, as the park’s 100 acres are gorgeous year-round.
Discovered in 1878, this U.S. National Landmark has been operating for 130 years. Paved and well-lit pathways take visitors through millions-old, 10-story high underground caves. General admission includes a Luray Caverns tour, a self-guided tour of the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum and access to the Luray Valley Museum. Adults: $24 and children ages 6-12 years: $12. Discounts are available for younger children, groups, and senior citizens. Several special events are offered there, including a triathlon and civil war reenactments. One highlight is the Stalacpipe Organ, the world’s largest musical instrument. Stalactites covering 3 1/2 acres of the surrounding caverns produce tones of symphonic quality when tapped by rubber-tipped mallets. Conceived and constructed by Virginians, it took 36 years of research and experimentation to complete.
Known for five years for his taco cart at local farmers markets and a bustling business on Virginia Commonwealth University's campus, proprieter Nate Gutierrez has been a mostly one man show. He's recently broken out of the taco box to expand to a permanent location in the Taco Truck Stand. The emphasis is on simple and fresh, with a few more-exotic offerings, like crispy chicken skin, chicharones, or lengua. The Frito Pie is surprisingly good as well. Get the chicken or chorizo taco on corn tortilla if you are unsure. Hours vary, but they're only open weekdays for lunch; however, they did just extend hours to 6:30 pm Fridays for those who want to get tacos on their way home from work. Strictly takeout for now, bar stools for the waiting area will probably arrive soon. Credit cards are accepted through an attachment to the owner’s smart phone.
Don't let the "wine bar" part intimidate you -- Secco is accessible to both beginners and seasoned wine lovers, and it's a fantastic date restaurant as well. The elegant but comfortable atmosphere is best enjoyed sitting at the bar, where the friendly bartenders can recommend appetizers and wine pairings according to your specific taste. Don't miss their delicious sandwiches featuring local cheeses and meats, or their standout appetizer, the deep-fried olives. Beware of just "coming in for a quick drink," because you will not want to leave once you're there!
In just a decade, Comfort has become a pillar of the Richmond dining world and the only place to go for comfort food. Somewhat rustic and entirely southern, this place serves up the best stick-to-your-ribs, down home cooking in town. Settle into one of the straight-backed wooden booths and sample the crispy fried catfish, macaroni and cheese, homemade meatloaf, squash casserole, and fried okra. If it's humanly possible for you to have dessert after such a huge dinner, try the banana creme brulee. And if whiskey is a passion, you've come to the right place -- with over 70 bourbons in the house, even the biggest connoisseur would be satisfied.
This Salvadoran-family run bakery has made a bit of a splash amongst foodies in town, with dozens of types of baked goods, from cakes and pies to cheese breads and puff pastries. Familiar Latin favorites like conchas, pan de Agua, and specialty cakes for Quinceañeras are popular. Their recent 5,000 square foot expansion now includes a cafe-style seating area serving locally roasted Blanchards Coffee and a small Latino market. They're open 7 days a week from early to late. La Sabrosita also sells their baked goods to about 250 Hispanic stores across Virginia and North Carolina.
Wild Ginger is a bit of a study in contrasts. The high-end, pan-Asian menu reflects the affluent, suburban neighborhood in which it is located. Entrees are mostly above $20 and signature maki rolls are in the $15 range. Small plates and noodles are a better deal. Tattooed, opinionated, and talented bartenders along with a thoughtful cocktail and extensive wine menu make it worth the drive. The space is gorgeous—modern, chic, and colorful, with glowing bars, banquette seating, and back-lit water features. The bar area is separated from the dining room by a large partition allowing for separate vibes. A private room for parties and events features a huge crystal chandelier. Despite overlooking the parking lot and a sheep farm across the street, the covered patio looks welcoming, and where else would you get such a view?
Olio has some of the best combinations of flavors in town. Half European market and half casual bistro, you can choose from a variety of wines, cheeses, meats, and other raw ingredients from the market side or enjoy one of their gourmet sandwiches, salads, pizzas, antipasto, or entrees in their cozy, sit-in area, overlooking a busy street. An impressive selection of imported beer is sold at retail, not restaurant prices (read: CHEAP). Their popular wine dinners are casual and affordable. Be sure to visit their lunch cart on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. Lately, they’ve also allowed you to bring the gourmet experience home, with high-end carryout for holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day, in fully reheat-able containers.
2012 will mark the fifth year of this extraordinary outdoor public art festival inspired by light, presented by 1708 Gallery. Unique to anything else in town, artists from all over the world exhibit their light installations in late October in response to a specific outdoor location in Richmond. Last year focused on the historic Riverfront and Tredegar Iron Works, an area which was key during the Civil War. In addition to light, the artists use sound, performance, sculpture, video, electronics, animation and more to help viewers re-imagine the landscape. Participants are invited to participate in the lantern parade, with workshops held all month prior to learn to make–your-own lanterns to employ on a semi-organized parade around the exhibition area.