By Sam Boykin
Posted: Thursday, May. 02, 2013
This month is an ideal time to travel to Richmond, Va., as the city is hosting Dominion Riverrock, a three-day (May 17-19) music and outdoor sports festival along the downtowns scenic riverfront. Its the perfect opportunity to explore a city thats not only a great destination for outdoor adventure, but also one noted for its rich history, great restaurants, and bustling cultural scene. And its all less than a five-hour drive from Lake Norman.
During Dominion Riverrock (www.dominionriverrock.com), thousands of spectators and competitors will gather at Browns Island, a picturesque urban setting situated along the James River, which boasts Class IV rapids.
The festival will feature trail running, kayaking, biking, stand up paddleboarding, and bouldering. There will also be more than a dozen bands, along with food and beer vendors and an interactive village where you can demo the latest gear and test your skills at different outdoor sports.
For accommodations during your visit, theres the grand and luxurious Jefferson Hotel (www.jeffersonhotel.com), which has hosted everyone from rock stars to presidents. Built in 1895, the hotel features a dramatic and elegant lobby, with soaring ceilings and a towering white marble statue of Thomas Jefferson. Also look for bronze statues of alligators throughout the hotel, a tribute to when the creatures swam in the lobbys marble pools during the early 1900s.
All the guest rooms are meticulously appointed, and if you really want to splurge reserve one of the 37 suites, including the 1,400-square-foot presidential suite, with a baby grand piano, separate kitchen and dining areas, an oversized Jacuzzi tub, and French doors leading to a marble balcony. Other hotel amenities include two award-winning restaurants, a state-of-the-art fitness facility, and an indoor pool.
The Jefferson is centrally located in the heart of downtown, making it a great home base for exploring the city, including nearby Shockoe Slip, a historic and fashionable neighborhood with cobblestone streets and bustling shops, bars, and restaurants.
A must-see stop here is the Urban Farmhouse Market & Café (www.theurbanfarmhouse.net), a former tobacco and liquor warehouse popular with everyone from business executives to hipsters. Featuring a simple menu with fresh, local items including eggs, soups, salads, and sandwiches, its a fun, casual place to grab a bite to eat and people watch.
Other popular Richmond restaurants include The Hill Café (www.thehillcafe.com), located in Church Hill, one of the citys oldest neighborhoods. The cozy little spot is known for its delectable Southern comfort food, such as meatloaf, grilled pork chops, ribs, and shrimp and grits. Its also within walking distance to Libby Hill Park, which has fantastic views of the downtown Richmond. For fine dining, theres Arcadia (www.arcadiarichmond.com), located near Richmonds Farmers Market in the Shockoe Bottom neighborhood. Noted chef Matthew Tlusty prepares topnotch steak and seafood dishes, which you can enjoy with one of the restaurants many wines.
When youre ready for some shopping, put on your most comfortable walking shoes and head to Carytown (carytownrva.org), which has hundreds of locally owned shops and boutiques situated along a pedestrian-friendly mile-long stretch. Here you can find everything from vintage clothing, rare toys, antiques, housewares, jewelry, and vinyl records, along with an eclectic mix of bars and restaurants.
Theres also plenty to see and do in Richmond for history buffs. One of the citys most popular attractions is the Virginia State Capitol (www.virginiacapitol.gov), a stately, columned building that dates back to 1788.
Director Stephen Spielberg filmed many key scenes from his award-winning film Lincoln here. Free, one-hour guided tours of the Capitol are offered daily, during which you can see the Capitols iconic domed Rotunda with its century-old marble and limestone floor, as well as the buildings east (House) wing, which was built in 1904 and where the General Assembly still meets
The White House of the Confederacy (www.moc.org) is another of the citys fascinating historic attractions. The Greek Revival-style mansion is the former residence of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
The house has been meticulously restored and contains over half the furnishings that belonged to the Davis family, with detailed touches like enormous triple-hung windows that also served as doors and expansive mirrors which helped increase the illumination from the candlelight chandeliers.
For those interested in military history, a must-see destination is the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar (www.tredegar.org). Located at the former site of an industrial complex that made Confederate cannons and munitions, this multifaceted visitors center and interactive museum provides a national overview of the Civil War through the perspectives of Union, Confederate and black participants.
Cultural attractions also abound in Richmond, such as the sleek and modern Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (vmfa.state.va.us). The museum features an eclectic lineup, including the work of masters such as Rembrandt, Native American art, abstract photography and American pop art. The museum opened in 1936 and over the years has undergone numerous upgrades, including a $150 million expansion in 2010, which doubled the size of the gallery space, including a three-story atrium with a 40-foot glass wall.
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