To say flying this summer has been a hassle is an understatement. From cancellations to delays to cantankerous passengers, the airline industry has been saddled with issues that can even make considering booking a flight unpleasant.
Why not take a road trip instead? For the most part, driving is less expensive and more flexible when it comes to planning. Another perk: you can pack as much as you need, and take breaks galore along the way.
While East Coasters have charming destinations aplenty within a day’s drive, Richmond stands out for several reasons. Smaller than major U.S. cities but bigger than a town, the size of Virginia’s capital city feels just right. (Meaning: you can do a lot in a single weekend.) Richmond also brims with history, culture, and a thriving food scene, so there’s something for everyone.
But most importantly, you’ll discover a unique sense of camaraderie. “The Richmond community is super supportive of small businesses,” says Kristen Gardner Beal, co-owner of Penny’s Wine Shop, a wine bar in Jackson Ward. “The sense of pride and respect that RVA has is like no other, and everyone around us pulls together for the greater good.”
Read on for a handy guide on how to plan an unforgettable end-of-summer road trip to Richmond.
Where to Eat and Drink in Richmond
One of the best things about Richmond’s culinary scene is how approachable even the most reputable spots are. Opened earlier this year by longtime pals and Virginia natives Kristen Gardner Beal and Lance Lemon, Penny’s Wine Shop is the antidote to the glut of too-cool-for-school wine bars nowadays. “Wine is our gathering place,” explains Gardner Beal. “We wanted to create a warm, familiar space—almost like a living room or den where you’d spend hours with friends and family over great food and wine.” The atmosphere is truly inclusive, the staff is happy to share everything they know about Penny’s natural and low-intervention picks—which are available by the glass and bottle to take home—and chef Manny Baiden’s seasonal and ingredient-driven small plates, like the irresistible head-on shrimp slathered with nduja butter, are as easy on the eyes as they are on the palate.
After working at San Francisco’s iconic Tartine Bakery and Del Popolo, Ashley Patino returned to her hometown and opened Church Hill’s Pizza Bones RVA in 2021. The pies are puffy, crunchy, and packed with flavor thanks to the naturally leavened dough—whose crusts become more delectable after a dunk in the herbaceous “ranch bone-dipping sauce.” For the perfect pairing, whisk your fresh-from-the-oven pizza next door to Friend Bar, a cozy nook specializing in natural wines, and request a dry pét-nat. Then, after dinner, stroll over to The Emerald Lounge, a new retro and tropical-themed lounge where drinks are spirited and strong, the staff is chummy and laid back, and good times are guaranteed.
If you’re seeking a quick bite, pop by Richmond institution Soul Taco for imaginative and affordable tacos merging Latin American and Southern flavors (think buttermilk fried chicken and oxtail “al pastor”). Because Garnett’s, a nostalgic cafe in the Fan, fills up quickly, show up right when they open for their homestyle sandwiches, salads, and pies. Need to shake off the excess of a late night and start the morning on a bright note? A hefty breakfast sandwich from Chewy’s Bagels starring their handrolled, sourdough creations will have you covered.
What to See and Do in Richmond
Started by Adrienne Cole Johnson and Melody Short and held on the second Saturday of every month through December, Richmond Night Market is a family-friendly and open-air social gathering showcasing the talents of minority creatives and entrepreneurs with an Artisan Village, Creative Kids Hangout, Main Stage, and Maker Space. There’s no admission to attend, and you’re bound to leave with high spirits, a full belly, and a lovingly-crafted item or two in tow.
Another terrific way to enjoy summer’s final days is at the 50-plus acre Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Currently on display is “Incanto: An Oasis of Lyrical Sculpture,” a series of five outdoor stunning sculptures by Virginia artist Kate Raudenbush paired with poetry by Sha Michele.
Meanwhile, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has two deeply stirring and can’t-miss exhibitions, Benjamin Wigfall and Communications Village and Whitfield Lovell: Passages, soon wrapping up on September 10. Want to squeeze in some history and culture but short on time? Check out The Poe Museum, which is home to an expansive collection of the prolific writer’s artifacts, and can be experienced within an easy thirty minutes.
Where to Stay in Richmond
Quirk Hotel Richmond opened in 2015 as the city’s first true boutique and design-driven hotel. Today, it still ranks among the best accommodations in town, and that’s because the focus has always been on welcoming everyone in a wonderfully fun and quirky (hence the name) environment. The 73 guest rooms are appointed with beds crafted from the historic building’s original wood beams and vibrant artwork by local talent, while Q Rooftop Bar is the perfect spot to soak in the end of summer with breathtaking views of Richmond and creative cocktails such as the Quirk Spritz, a blush sparkler of rose wine, vodka, and fresh lemon topped with club soda.
Starting this week, your furry companion can also make the most of a stay at Quirk with the new Doggy’s Dream Vacation package. In addition to comfortable and pet-friendly rooms, the special rate—which includes the hotel’s $75 pet fee—offers a travel-friendly bowl, cozy blanket, toy, snacks, and waste bags. Even better? a $10 donation to RACC’s (Richmond Animal Care and Control) Tommie Fund will be made with every booking to support less fortunate pets in need statewide.