Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Vacation Guide: Richmond, Virginia

When my parents moved to Richmond, VA, I thought, This is going to take some getting used to. Even though there weren't green golf courses everywhere like I was used to, I was pleasantly surprised at how WONDERFUL this city is! If you're a young professional, particularly a young person who appreciates the arts, you MUST visit this great place. It does help to have some guidance on some favorite spaces and places  to fully enjoy the life of Richmond! Some of the hidden treasures are not easily stumbled upon.

Top Accommodations

The Jefferson Hotel- It has been regarded as one of the grander hotels and one of the finest in America. The architecture is phenomenal! If you're able to splurge on a more expensive stay, this hotel is the way to go. It's fun, interesting, beautiful, and right in the heart of downtown! Experience the history of Richmond through Jefferson's unique tours while unwinding and indulging in the spa, great service, and marvelous food!

The Westin Hotel- Located on Broad Street just off of Interstate 64 makes it easy to explore all of the popular landmarks and local attractions of Richmond. But, you may not want to leave once you check out the indoor pool, spa services, and exercise facilities! This hotel is moderately expensive - definitely cheaper than the Jefferson by far.The best part about The Westin is it's sensory, relaxed feel; the soft lights, music, and fresh scents are truly wonderful!

Hilton Hotel at Short Pump - This is one of the newer hotels in the upscale Short Pump area. If you want access to Short Pump Town Center, one of the best shopping spots in Richmond, you'll want to book your reservations here! This hotel offers a lot of features and specials on rates, so your best option is to plan ahead.  The Hilton at Short Pump offers some pretty great honeymoon packages, and they make it easy if your reserving space for a group. 

Top Restaurants

Edo Squid - This is my favorite restaurant in Richmond, by far; some of the best seafood and pasta dishes around! Edo Squid is a fun, cool spot in the fan and in the heart of VCU. You can't beat the atmosphere! Located on the second floor of a building, the restaurant is beautiful and intimate with the exposed brick and unique windows overlooking the street. The service is excellent and the dishes are exquisite - just make sure you make reservations and don't be surprised if the parmesan asparagus is all gone!

Mama Zu -The owner of Edo Squid also owns Mama Zu (go figure). Mama Zu is more popular than Edo Squid and offers uncommonly great Italian food. The space is tiny and crowded, but well worth the wait. The experience is different and fun; while you wait for your food, you are welcome to select a bottle of wine from the wall. Definitely the best fresh, authentic Italian cuisine. Warning, they only accept cash!

American Bistro - The charm of Richmond is often in the small, neighborhood communities. Bellevue is one of those neighborhoods that offers beautiful, eclectic homes often occupied by young working professionals and families. American Bistro is located in Bellevue, on MacArthur Avenue, a quaint, fun street to explore. The food is exceptional and moderately priced. American Bistro casually presents a wide array of cuisines and the menu is always changing. There is a creative selection of wine, beer, and cocktails.

Strawberry Street Cafe - Also located in a great neighborhood community and another favorite of mine, Strawberry Street Cafe is in the fan on one of my favorite "dream-home" streets. The area is wonderful and the restaurant atmosphere is cozy, comfortable, and homey along with the "home-cooked" menu. You can chose anything from the menu and feel like your eating grandmother's chicken pot pie! The menu is affordable, and the service is personable. 

Can Can Brasserie - Located in Cary Town, my favorite shopping and walking parts of Richmond, Can Can is a restaurant that embodies the essence of Paris in the 20s...[Actually, I can't believe my fiance and I didn't go there for desert after watching Midnight in Paris.. which by the way is INCREDIBLE... I'm sure I'll be blogging about it later]. The restaurant won Style Weekly's Restaurant of the Year, so really, there's no need to continue... unless you want me to add that strangely enough, Can Can feels like Christmas.. and I think you do :)

Sweet 95 - Don't worry, I'm not forgetting your sweet tooth. If you're looking to indulge in some pretty incredible tasty treats, don't miss Sweet 95. Located right next to Kitchen 64, another Richmond-favorite up-scale restaurant directly off of I-95, Sweet 95 will seriously satisfy your chocolate, crazy sweet wants. The ice cream is produced by the (Wirtz) Virginia-based Homestead Dairy, which is near Virginia's Smith Mountain Lake and uses milk from two local, older family farms to make ice cream using milk free of antibiotics and hormones. It's the good stuff, y'all! You can get different but incredible shakes, like Baklava with honey and chocolate, and the "Monster" cookie dough, marsh mellows, graham crackers, fudge.. the list goes on!

I could go on and on about the restaurants in Richmond, but those are a few of the best!

Top Activities 

Short Pump Town Center - Like your typical, outdoor and indoor shopping center except on steroids. This place offers EVERYTHING you can imagine from shopping, theaters, and dining. You haven't truly visited Richmond until you at least check out the West End and Short Pump. 

Cary Town Shopping in the trendy, midtown part of Richmond. Cary Town includes various shops and restaurants from cute boutiques, vintage stores, and Thai cuisine. Cary Town also provides fun community events like "New Years Eve in Cary Town." Everyone comes out to socialize at the fun, popular bars and to watch the ball drop. The buildings in the fan are always fun to check out, too!

Maymont Park - Maymont is a super-sized park, a 100 acre American Estate. I'm a little bias to say this is a top spot/activity in Richmond because this is where Aaron proposed, in a little hut on the pond at the Japanese Gardens! Maymont  is an incredible place to explore for a day of fun. And get this.. it's FREE. Pack a lunch, take a tour, and feed the koi fish :) There are often weddings in the Italian Gardens  you can get sneak-peaks of, and there are some great climbing trees! There is also a small zoo to check out. Bring some blankets and a camera! Great day date or family event. 

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts - This is a MUST. Richmond is well known for its art community, and visiting the exhibits at the VMFA is well worth your money. There are wonderful and always changing exhibits like the Picasso exhibit, and fun events and package deals like "Art After Dark" that includes Friday Art and Wine, Jazz Cafe, films, poetry readings, and dancing. There are also some great children programs and summer art camps!

Happy Travels!

Love, Mollie

image by: Soul of America

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