Richmond, VA

Destination Location

  • 37.540725, -77.436048:primary
  • 37.505167, -77.319666:secondary

Overview

Ready to turn back the clock and experience a city with more than 400 years of prolific American history? Then you're ready for your trip to Richmond, Virginia.

Located on the James River and founded in 1607, Richmond is home to more than 400 years of some of the richest American history in the country, including the site of Patrick Henry's famous "Give me liberty or give me death" speech and the former capital of the Confederacy.

History comes to life with a visit to the area's many restored historical homes and buildings, some of which offer live re-enactments of this city's heritage highlights. Richmond also offers visitors a myriad of public art to enjoy, including statues, particularly on Monument Avenue and the Washington, D.C. Capitol grounds. Most are dedicated to military and Civil War leaders.

This city is not just for couples or business trips - it's fit for the whole family. From parks to the Richmond Zoo and a variety of museums, visitors young and old will never be bored. Kings Dominion, a 400-acre amusement park just 30 kilometres south of Richmond, is sure to be a hit with kids of all ages. With nearly two million visitors a year, the park offers more than 60 rides, shows and attractions, including 15 roller coasters and a 20-acre water park.

Since the 1600s, Richmond has done well to reflect America's tastes and trends in cuisine. And the choice is yours when you come to this city - enjoy dining at one of the city's 900 restaurants. From down-home southern cooking to upscale modern cuisine to famous local mom-and-pop eateries, there is literally something for everyone to bite into when visiting Richmond.

And be sure to take advantage of the wine selection at lunch and dinner, because you're in wine country. Home to over 140 wineries, and 3,000 acres of vineyards, Virginia is the country's second largest wine producing region in the U.S. The distinctive imprint of flavour defined by the climate and soil in the region produces a wine that is uniquely Virginian. They've had over four centuries to perfect the art of wine-making, so visiting a vineyard tour and wine tasting are a must for wine aficionados.

With its four evident seasons, the Richmond region is a garden lover's paradise. Nature's best is on display with luscious greens and emeralds in the spring and summer months contrasted by yellows, oranges and reds of the fall and winter seasons. Be sure to check out the one million tulip blooms at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in spring and the annual Historic Garden Week, when some of the area's most gorgeous homes and gardens are opened for public tours.

Richmond's location makes it the ideal home base for day trips. Mountains, beaches, historic areas, Southern plantations, and the nation's capital are just a few of the attractions within a day's drive of Richmond. Everything you could want in one place – so what are you waiting for? Book your trip to Richmond today!

WestJet is pleased to offer service to this destination through our code-share agreement with our great airline partners.

Destination basics

The climate in Richmond changes with the seasons. Typically, you can expect encounter cool winters with very little snow activity. Temperatures at this time of year usually average around 0 C (32 F) to 8 C (47 F). Summers are hot and humid - remember, this is the south, so prepare yourself for temperatures in the 30's (90's F), dipping down to the low 20's overnight (65-68 F).

Richmond's dining scene is a rapidly evolving assortment of restaurants featuring everything from the trendiest epicurean delights to authentic international cuisine to traditional southern fare. As the downtown neighborhoods are renovated, more and more places are opening up to accommodate hungry Richmonders and visitors—especially those looking for something a little different. Additionally, the outlying suburbs are no longer areas where chains and fast food places reign. All sorts of eateries—from fine dining to casual pubs—have sprung up.

Downtown
The busy downtown area is home to several places to grab a quick bite on a lunch hour or for entertaining that important business client. Lemaire, at the magnificent Jefferson Hotel, is the ultimate dining experience—superb new southern cuisine in elegant surroundings. Fast becoming a Richmond favorite is Casablanca, with its décor reminiscent of Rick's Café from the classic movie and innovative dishes named after the film's stars. For a casual relaxed atmosphere, the Penny Lane Pub serves up traditional pub fare and plenty of beer on tap to go with it. If you're out late and need something to eat, stop by the Third Street Diner. This 24-hour diner is famous for breakfast which is available anytime.

Shockoe Bottom
This is the place to be for Richmond nightlife. On Friday and Saturday nights many places have live music—from jazz to reggae to rock and roll. Havana '59 is a popular club serving up Cuban food and a Latin beat with plenty of outdoor seating for the warmer months. Cobblestone Brewery has Jamaican/Cajun fusion food and several microbrews including their own. The Surf Rider Grill specializes in seafood but also offers a variety of pasta and meat dishes as well, and for contemporary cuisine, None Such Place is a romantic restaurant with dark wood and candlelight.

Shockoe Slip
Many of Richmond's best restaurants can be found in this trendy warehouse district. The dining room at the historic Berkeley Hotel is known for their excellent food, impeccable service and serene atmosphere—the perfect spot for a special occasion. Sam Miller's Warehouse is one of the original establishments in this area and has remained popular for its prime rib and seafood and for the live music playing on weekends. The Tobacco Company is a local favorite. Three stories of artifacts and antiques surround diners as they enjoy traditional American fare in the renovated warehouse.

The Fan
The elegant Fan District with its stunning architecture and tree-lined streets is home to several great neighborhood restaurants. The Strawberry Street Cafe is a casual bistro-style place that is great for a Saturday lunch or a weeknight dinner. But it is not all about food in the more laid-back Fan neighborhood—there are several places to hear live music including New-Orleans jazz and zydeco at Gumbo Ya Ya.

Carytown
Eateries like Farouk's House of India and Chopstix Vietnamese restaurant are fine examples of the diversity of this eclectic neighborhood. For wonderful breads and pastries, stop by Baker's Crust Bread Market—a fashionable bistro with a creperie—or visit Coppola's deli for hearty sandwiches. Richmond's finest Italian restaurant is located here as well; Amici Ristorante has received accolades from Bon Appetit and Southern Living magazines. After dinner, relax with a coffee at Coffee & Co. or one of the many sidewalk cafés along Cary Street.

Richmond's restaurant scene is continually growing to meet the needs and adventurous tastebuds of its population. While there is not the huge club presence like in larger cities, many places attract live bands to suit a variety of music tastes. Take a look at the Weekend section of the Richmond Times-Dispatch which comes out on Thursdays or pick up a free copy of Punchline.

From its beginnings as a trading post for early settlers to the thriving economic center it is today, Richmond has grown into a city with a rich history, diverse culture and gracious hospitality. Tree-lined streets and quaint bricked walkways invite locals and visitors to explore this easily manageable city. Stroll along the river that brought Captain John Smith to this area, walk in the footsteps of patriots like Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson and see the Capitol building which once flew the flag of the Confederate States of America.

Downtown
A charming blend of old and new, Richmond's city center is made up of commercial, residential and government buildings. Capitol Square, the seat of Virginia State government, is a good place to begin a visit to the city. On the grounds are the Virginia State Capitol, the second oldest in the country, the Executive Mansion, home of the governor and the historic Bell Tower which houses the Visitor Center. Nearby are the Museum and White House of the Confederacy and St. Paul's Church, reminders of the period during the Civil War when Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States. The The Valentine Museum depicts the city's history through artifacts, paintings and the Federal-style Wickham House, which dates back to 1812. Richmond recently experienced a downtown renaissance when old tobacco warehouses along the James River were converted into residential and commercial space. A large medical research facility and several office buildings contribute to the economic success of the city and especially the downtown area.

Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom
Originally part of Richmond's commercial district, this newly renovated part of town is the hot spot for trendy restaurants and lively entertainment. Its location along the river, cobblestone streets lit with gaslamps and old warehouses converted into shops make it a great place for an evening stroll. The quaint Berkeley Hotel, and the historic Tobacco Company restaurant are highlights of a visit to Shockoe.

Jackson Ward
This historic section of town is nicknamed “the Harlem of the South” because of the many legendary African-American performers who got their start here—among them Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Lena Horne and Nat King Cole. Established by freed blacks in the late 1800s, this became the largest and most successful African-American business district in the South by the early 20th century. Notable citizens include Maggie Walker, founder of the oldest African-American bank in the nation, Giles Jackson, a former slave who became the first black lawyer to address the Supreme Court of Virginia and William Washington Browne, an entrepreneur who established many of the businesses in this neighborhood. The Black History Museum houses permanent exhibits about Jackson Ward and Virginia's black history and culture. The ornate cast iron on many of the buildings is some of the finest to be found anywhere.

The Fan
Richmond's first suburb is so named because the streets fan out from Monroe Park creating wide lots and avenues, which are lined with stately homes. Several types of architecture are represented here including Queen Anne, Tudor, Spanish and what is believed to be the largest collection of Victorian buildings in the country. Monument Avenue is a showcase of these gracious homes as well as a tribute to Confederate heroes with statues of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis among others. The Avenue also features a statue of tennis great and Richmond native, Arthur Ashe. Today the neighborhood is more urban than suburban and has a diverse population and quaint restaurants and pubs.

Carytown
Along the west end of Cary Street is Richmond's version of New York's Greenwich Village or Washington DC's Georgetown. Boutiques, cafes and ethnic restaurants line the streets where some of the city's best people-watching can be done. Everything from used bookstores and antique shops to specialty food stores and art galleries have been established in this former residential neighborhood making it a perfect place for a Saturday afternoon stroll. For those who need a break from all the shopping, coffeehouses are in abundance – more per square mile than anywhere east of Seattle. For something more substantial, restaurants range from casual eateries like Carytown Burgers and Fries to fine dining at Acacia.

Richmond's location in the center of Virginia provides easy access to other areas of interest as well. Washington DC is only 90 minutes to the north and a drive to the east leads to the resort town of Virginia Beach and Colonial Williamsburg. Charlottesville and the Shenandoah National Park are due west and historic Petersburg is just south of Richmond.

With the opening of its first theater in 1786, Richmond has always put a great emphasis on the cultural arts. A busy calendar of theater, music and festivals has made the downtown area a popular spot to spend an evening. The renovated Shockoe Bottom area is the hub of clubs and a variety of music, and Carytown is a lively neighborhood for strolling and window-shopping after dinner. The Parks, Recreation and Community department operates many city-funded activities throughout the year including outdoor concerts and festivals.

Cinema & Theater
The Landmark Theater is the place to see big shows in Richmond–Broadway musicals, the Richmond Symphony and the annual performance by the Richmond Ballet of the Nutcracker Suite. The 3500-seat venue was designed so that all seats have a good view of the stage. For fans of Shakespeare, the Encore Theater Company performs the bard's classic works outdoors in the Elizabethan Garden at Agecroft Hall. The 15th-century Tudor mansion provides the perfect setting.

The historic Empire Theatre, built in 1910, is home to the Theatre IV company, which performs plays designed especially for children and teenagers. The troupe's year-round program includes both classic plays and new productions. The Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts was built in 1928 as a movie theater and now houses the Virginia Opera. Performances by the Richmond Ballet and Richmond Symphony are also featured. Housed in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Theatre Virginia presents a variety of musicals and plays.

Cinemas can be found throughout the city and suburbs, but for a special movie experience visit the Byrd Theater in Carytown. This magnificent hall shows the latest box-office hits in a glamorous atmosphere of marble, hand-painted murals and chandeliers. On Saturday evenings, an original Wurlitzer organ entertains guests before the movie starts.

Music & Dance
Music from classical to contemporary can be heard in the bars, clubs and concert halls of Richmond. The Richmond Symphony performs throughout the year with a mixed program; some concerts are specifically designed to introduce younger audiences to the classic composers. Among the best ballet companies in the country, the Richmond Ballet performs throughout the state of Virginia and also runs the renowned School of Richmond Ballet, which caters to all levels of dance ability.

The sultry sounds of jazz are perfect for hot summer nights in the South, and Richmond has many places to listen to live musicians. Medley's in Shockoe Bottom is famous for its blues bands, which perform throughout the week. For contemporary tunes, see who is playing at The Tobacco Company Club or at the Main Street Grill.

For those who have more energy, dance clubs abound in the downtown area. Kick up your heels to the sounds of rock and roll, country and the South's own beach music at Lightfoot's or the Peppermint Lounge. Most clubs vary themes each night, so check the local paper ahead of time. Club Fahrenheit is the "in" place to be seen, so expect crowds, but go for the fun atmosphere.

Every Friday evening in the summer, the city presents "Fridays at Sunset." This series of jazz concerts has become a favorite way to start off the weekend.

Festivals
Throughout the year Richmond commemorates its cultural heritage with festivals and events celebrating holidays, seasons and historical events. The Maymont Flower and Garden Show in February is held indoors at the Richmond Centre and features all sorts of plants and garden accessories. It is a great place to get landscaping ideas before spring arrives.

At the River City Real Beer Festival, held in June, vendors pour out samples of brews from around the world. Listen to live music and feast on fresh seafood as well. A summer-long Festival of the Arts is held at the city-run Dogwood Dell. Activities include theater and dance performances, music programs from reggae to pop and the Ha'Penny Stage for children.

Virginia is horse country and one of the best ways to celebrate that is at the Strawberry Hill Races. The steeplechase event takes place in April and proceeds benefit the Richmond Symphony and other community and cultural organizations. It is generally an all-day affair with visitors bringing picnics and enjoying the entertainment.

The traditional start to the harvest season is the State Fair and Virginia's is held here in the state capital. Livestock shows, cooking competitions, an arts and crafts market, live entertainment and food make the event fun for everyone. The Virginia Harvest Celebration at the Farmers Market focuses on produce and southern cooking with demonstrations by local chefs.

Although relatively small, Richmond is a city with a wide variety of activities to appeal to its diverse population. For specific information, pick up a copy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch or Punchline Weekly.

Richmond

State: Virginia

Country: United States

Richmond by the Numbers
Population: 220,300 (city); 1,260,000 (metropolitan)
Elevation: 166 feet / 46 meters
Average Annual Precipitation: 44 inches / 112 centimeters
Average Annual Snowfall: 10 inches / 25 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 36°F / 2°C
Average July Temperature: 78°F / 26°C

Quick Facts

Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT-5; Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 804

Did You Know?

Richmond is historically significant, having served as one of the capitols of the Confederacy  during the American Civil War. As such it was the focus of much conflict and large portions of the city were burned by Union troops.

Orientation:

Richmond is the capital of Virginia and is about 142 miles (229 kilometers) southwest of Baltimore and 98 miles (158 kilometers) south of Washington DC.

Richmond, center of controversy and commerce, capital of Virginia and of the Confederate States of America, has a rich and vivid history. Its strategic location, both militarily and commercially, brought two major wars–the American Revolution and the Civil War to its doorstep. Both left their mark on the city but through all it has endured, Richmond has retained the trademarks of a classic southern city - hospitality, charm and fortitude.

Just ten days after the English landed at Jamestown in 1607, Captain John Smith traveled up the James River looking for a connecting route to the East Indies. The region was inhabited by the Powhatan tribe, and ruled by Chief Powhatan, father of John Rolfe's future bride, Pocahontas. Settlements were established along the river as early as 1611 in and around what is present-day Richmond. The communities thrived on the export of tobacco, coal and timber; the river providing easy access to the ocean. In 1737, William Byrd laid plans for the city of Richmond and named it after Richmond-on-the-Thames, in England.

“Give me Liberty or Give me Death,” rang out from St.John's Church in 1775 during a meeting of the Second Continental Congress. Patrick Henry's cry for freedom from Great Britain fell on the ears of his fellow patriots, among them George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Thirty days later the “shot heard round the world” was fired from Concord, Massachusetts and the American Revolution began. In the early years of the war, most of the fighting took place in the north. However, Richmond first played a major role by supplying American troops with tobacco – used for cash – and cannons, guns and powder. By 1779, Williamsburg, then the capital of Virginia, was a target for British naval attack because of its proximity to the ocean. Important documents were transported to Richmond for safekeeping and the capital was officially established here in 1780.

In January of 1781, the British army marched into Richmond led by former Continental army general, Benedict Arnold. Arnold turned treason against the United States with the promise from Britain of a high military rank and a large sum of money. He received neither at the end of the war.

The British troops, led by Lord Cornwallis, burned much of Richmond and nearby Petersburg before heading down the James River towards Williamsburg. They were defeated at Yorktown by combined French and American armies led by the Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington and surrendered in October, 1781.

After independence, Richmond was immediately caught up in the westward expansion of the new country. A canal was built along the James River to facilitate trade with communities farther west and Richmond, as a result, became an important commercial center. The city was enjoying its own economic boom with tobacco production, iron works and many other manufacturers opening up. Along with the canal route, a railroad was built through Richmond in 1834, further enhancing its already flourishing economy.

Although initially reluctant to secede from the Union, Virginia was nevertheless forced to make that decision after Lincoln called upon the state to take up arms against its southern neighbors. Richmond quickly readied itself for war, becoming the main source of armaments and munitions to the southern states as well as the capital city of the Confederacy. Soldiers from all over came to Richmond to train under Robert E. Lee, a Virginia native who was first asked to lead the Union army, but felt he could not turn against his home state. With its strategic location and importance, it is not surprising that a familiar war cry of the Union troops was “On to Richmond”.

One quarter of the battles fought in the Civil War were fought within a 75-mile radius of the city and sixty percent of the casualties happened at them. Seven attempts were made to capture the city; two came close enough to see the Capitol building before they were thwarted by the Confederate army. Many of the captured Union men were incarcerated at the infamous Libby Prison–notorious for its deplorable conditions.

Richmond was finally overcome by Union troops after the Siege of Petersburg which caused Lee's army to retreat and eventually surrender at Appomattox in April, 1865.

After five years of reconstruction following the war, Virginia was readmitted into the United States. Just as it did after the Revolution, Richmond rebounded into a strong manufacturing center. Businesses sprang up and by the turn of the century, the city was a major producer of large commodities including iron, tobacco and flour. The city became a principal banking center as well, being named the headquarters of the Fifth Federal Reserve district in 1914.

Richmond continued to thrive throughout the twentieth century, surviving the Great Depression better than most cities due to its tobacco-based economy. Since the 1980s, the city has welcomed several large corporations who have made Richmond their home because of its proximity to the Washington-Baltimore area and the major shipping ports of the Hampton Roads, and because of its extreme livability.

Points of interest in Richmond, VA

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