I blinked and somehow it has been more than a decade of calling Richmond, Virginia (RVA) home. I have absolutely fallen head over heels for this unique, vibrant River City, and I want everyone who comes either for a trip or for good to love it just as much as I do. There is so much to adore about this city in the heart of Virginia-- from the food, the art, the coffee and beer and cider, the endless festivals, the outdoor options, the tattoos... it's a hipster heaven.
Scroll down to see my recommendations for restaurants, coffeeshops, desserts, cider, festivals, outdoor activities, books, art/theatre/movies, live music, shopping, and MORE.
Here are 77+ of my favorite things about RVA:
(I originally published this list with 77 things, but kept thinking of more to add, so now it's 77+ and we just won't bother with counting, ha!)
ps-- I wrote a whole blog post about the best vegan/gluten-free restaurants here! also-- i'm using the dollar sign rating here that yelp uses.
The Daily // $$ - great organic, local, sustainable food, lots of vegan/veg/gf/paleo options, great ambience. awesome for brunch, lunch, dinner, cocktails. two locations now -- Carytown + Short Pump. try the vegan calamari!
Sticky Rice // $$ - a hipster asian hangout, turns to a legit bar on the weekends, awesome sushi + noodle bars. great vgf options. try the lettuce wraps and the tofu bites!
Goatocado // $ - super fresh, local bowls, wraps, ramen, and salads. they're always at the South of the James Farmer's Market and it's the best. I've loved every bowl i've tried. try the mediterranean with tofu and no feta!
Mom's Siam 2 // $$ - my favorite thai food. two locations, but the Shockoe Bottom one is better. try the drunken noodles or pad thai!
Don't Look Back // $ - the very best tacos, ever. get 2 or 3 (or more if you're starving!) and always get the chips and salsa. best house margs, too. try the tofu taco, traditional style, on corn tortillas!
PBR // $$ - I have never had a more amazing vegan + gf pizza. this new spot is AMAZING. huge outdoor patio (perfect for dogs and kids) with bocce ball, lots of seating, great beer on tap (and cider too), super fun and unique pizzas. try the hipster pizza with vegan cheese and no bacon!
Mean Bird // $$ - fried chicken AND vegan fried chicken (I don't think it's gf, but i've always been okay!) and the very best cajun fries... such incredible flavors and I can't get enough. try the 2 piece veggie bird with fries!
Tulsi // $$ - my favorite indian spot in the heart of carytown, never crowded, huge menu, lots of vegan/gf choices. try the tadka dal, at your preferred spice level! ps- they bring a gf crispy bread with amazing dipping sauces while you wait for your food. it's amazing.
Fresca on Addison // $$ - an entirely veg restaurant with everything from tacos to burgers to pizzas and more. it's to die for. try the vegan chicken salad wrap (on a gf wrap!) with the potato salad. I get it every time.
Postbellum // $$ - unique new American food here, with a great rooftop patio that's perfect for drinks on the weekends, and a cool historic vibe. solid brunch, too, and always decent vgf options! try the mushroom hash with tofu at brunch!
Sabai // $$ - okay, maybe THIS is my favorite thai food... the vibe in this place is amazing (swings! plants!) and the food/cocktails are to die for. they can do anything gf too. try the pad king with tofu!
North End Juice Co. // $ - this walk-up juice bar spot is delish, perfect for smoothies and açaí bowls and poke bowls (even vegan options!) and more. try the incredi-bowl!
Beauvine // $$ - a new burger spot with the BEST vegan burger I have ever had. try the belle ringer (no goat cheese) on a gf bun or lettuce wrap!
Tio Pablo Taqueria // $$ - this entirely gluten-free taco spot is delish and such a hole in the wall gem. try the veggie tacos!
Coffee + Cafes:
Urban Farmhouse // there are a bazillion of these popping up all around town, but my favorite one is in Scott's Addition (it's huge and airy and great for camping out for an afternoon) or Shockoe Bottom (especially on beautiful days when all the windows are open). solid seasonal menu here (like panera, but more unique) and of course, coffee + tea drinks (or wine and beer!) among local goods for sale, too.
Lamplighter Coffee Roasters // this is the very best of coffee in RVA, if you ask me. it's your classic hipster vibe, which is quintessential Richmond. I love all three locations, but frequent the Addison one the most. the menu here is also AMAZING, with so many delicious vgf choices. you can't go wrong with anything here. I especially love their fun drinks (like lavender lattes, or golden milk lattes!). grab a bag of coffee to take home!
Sugar + Twine // this is the cutest of the shops listed here, with feminine and botanical vibes. It's in the heart of Carytown so can get crowded, but just pop in and grab a drink to go! awesome baked goods here.
Black Hand Coffee Co // Great local spot, perfect for grab-and-go (not a lot of seating), all roasted in house.
Whisk // the pastries and baked goods are the real star of the show here, with amazing croissants and pastries and cakes and more (that I sadly can't eat...) but great coffee too.
Shockoe Espresso and Roastery // ample seating here, awesome coffee options, great vibes.
Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream // aptly named, this is a great spot for awesome coffee and sweet treats, as well as catching live music or sitting on the patio to people watch! it's near Forest Hill, so grab a coffee on your way to the farmer's market or to explore!
Scoop // the newest ice cream spot in the Fan, with unique and delicious flavors, several vgf options, macaron sandwiches, ice cream flights with cookies... yum.
Sugar Shack Donuts // these donuts are some of the best (so I hear) but i'm still just bummed the vegan/gluten free truck is shut down currently... (pictured above! and so good!)
Charm School // great ice cream, 4 rotating vegan flavors, vegan magic shell (!!!)... this quirky spot is so good and so fun.
Shyndigz // if you're into MASSIVE slices of cake that can basically feed a small family, this is your spot. there's a to-go market next-door, if that's your speed, but this place is adorable and the cake always blows you away! (there are gf options, but not vegan)
ps-- i'm not a beer drinker so I can't speak to the craft beer culture here, but it's a BIG DEAL and there are many, many, many options all around town!
Buskey Cider // a super fun spot to get a flight of fun flavored ciders (always 10+ options!) and play any of their variety of board games (even life-size jenga!)
Blue Bee Cider // this was RVA's first urban cidery, and they know their stuff. great spot to do a tasting, grab a flight (there are a few options!), and just hang out.
RVA Veg Fest // of course this is one of my favorite festivals-- it's about all things veg! amazing food, great education booths, animal rescue orgs, shopping, live music, etc! i've discovered so much great veg food/restaurants because of this fest. it's usually in june!
Arts in the Park // This is my favorite artsy festival, with SO MANY vendors of incredible art-- everything from jewelry to photography to sculptures to fine art to clothes and more. it's incredible. it's usually in the spring!
Carytown Watermelon Festival // Carytown shuts down for this watermelon fest, and it's always a hot, sticky, sweet time. tons of food booths, live bands, shopping, and, of course, bowls of watermelon for purchase and all sorts of watermelon goodies! next one: august 2019
The Richmond Folk Festival // a celebration of folk music from all around the world (local, too!) with the best food + drink trucks, amazing performances on a variety of stages all around Brown's Island and the surrounding area -- it's a huge festival and a fantastic way to spend a weekend. Bring a blanket or a chair and camp out -- be sure to check the schedule and make a game plan so you can bounce around to see all kinds of bands! next one: october 12-14, 2018
Broad Appetit // a huge food festival with $3 plates from all the best local restaurants. bring cash and wander up and down Broad Street, eating all the most delicious things! next one: june 2, 2019
Maker Fest // this festival at the Science Museum is super cool, with lots of handmade goods, hands on experiences, food trucks, etc. i've screen printed my own shirt here, purchased amazing handmade goodies (like etsy in real life!) -- it's great. next one: october 6, 2018
Friday Cheers // a summer concert series on Friday nights in May and June on Brown's Island, tickets are either $5 or $10 and a bunch of food + drink trucks show up too. it's a blast! kids under 12 are free. next one: may 2019.
South of the James Market // Not quite a festival, but might as well be, with its impressive size and scale. this is my favorite farmers' market by far, because of its incredible variety of produce, other food goodies, homemade goods, food trucks, donuts, coffee, juice, kombucha, etc!
Richmond Bluegrass Festival // hosted at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, this all day festival full of bluegrass jams, food trucks, and craft beer is such a blast. next one: september 16, 2018
Libby Hill Park // my favorite sunset watching spot, with great views of the city skyline. (5th picture above!)
Brown's Island + Pedestrian Bridge // this is the home of great festivals, but also a great island spot if you just want to catch some rays near the river, and have easy access to the new pedestrian bridge that boasts great views of the James River and the Richmond skyline!
Pipeline // this is a great place to explore and get some great river shots while getting close to it. you can access it easily from the Canal Walk (south 12th and Byrd streets). (2nd picture above!)
Belle Isle + Pony Pasture // if you want to actually go TO the river, these are your spots. bring towels and/or blankets and be prepared to come early to stake out your spot on the massive boulders by the river! be careful getting in the water, as the rapids are strong, especially after rain. great people watching and such a classic RVA river experience. bring a picnic and stay all day!
Forest Hill Park // this is right near the South of the James market, so once you've grabbed all your goodies, go hit the trails and wander around the lakes! it's beautiful.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens // this garden is a wonderland, and the butterfly garden in the big greenhouse is my favorite part. I love wandering the trails here, taking pictures of all the beauty, admiring the special exhibits (like lego sculptures, or origami sculptures, etc!) and just celebrating nature. $13 for admission for an adult, $8 for kids.(last picture above!)
Maymont // this is not your normal park. there are huge gardens (the japanese and/or rose gardens are my favorite) and animals (like a mini-zoo! there are buffalo!) and a nature center and a waterfall and a historic mansion you can pay for tours of (especially cool at christmas time) and lots of trails... it's a great place to spend a day in the sun. bring a blanket and a picnic! it's free, but you can donate at the entrances if you'd like. (4th picture above!)
Sunflower fields at Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery // endless fields of sunflowers... the dream. bring a few bucks and your own scissors/shears, and a bucket with water for your flowers on the drive home, and enjoy a day out at this great brewery! (3rd picture above!)
Chop Suey Books // I have never loved a bookstore as much as I love this one. it's jam packed of amazing books, used and new alike, organized by genre, and well-priced. I can't leave without an armful of new goodies. be sure to look for the shop cat, Wonton! (1st picture above!)
Bookpeople // this little gem (in an old house!) has been around richmond for 30+ years, and it's amazing. the owner is the sweetest, elderly german woman who KNOWS her books and somehow knows everything tucked into the nooks and crannies of her shop. it's a little unorganized, in all the best ways. (2nd picture above!)
Fountain Bookstore // this shop is quaint and well-stocked, right in the heart of the cobblestone streets of Shockoe Bottom. love the knowledge of the workers here, and all their events, autographed copies, locally focused featured books, etc! (3rd picture above!)
Black Swan Books // this spot is a treasure trove for fine, unusual, and rare books, especially for history buffs. they are only open on the weekends noon-5, or by appointment. (4th picture above!)
Little Free Libraries // I absolutely adore finding these little gems all around town -- it's like the best kind of scavenger hunt. be on the lookout! (last picture above!)
Art + Theatre + Movies:
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts // This (free! unless you want to see the rotating special exhibit) museum is incredible. you can easily spend a whole day here, or pop in just for a few hours to see your favorite kind of art. I personally love it all, but always gravitate to the more modern/abstract rooms. it's amazing. great cafe + restaurant here too, and beautiful gardens/grounds, and the very best happy hour on friday nights if you want a hoppin' spot to drink great wine and be around all the millennials in RVA!
Street art // Richmond has a thriving street art scene, thanks in part to the Richmond Mural Project -- keep your eyes open as you're going around town, and stop to take pics of your faves!
Dogwood Dell // this outdoor amphitheater has great events in the summers (especially on the 4th of July) and I've seen some of my favorite Broadway musicals come across this stage! local theatre at its finest, with the bonus of being outdoors and having a picnic at the same time!
Virginia Repertory Theatre // This is my favorite place to catch my favorite plays and musicals, especially because they have an awesome Rep 35 program with discounted tickets for adults under 35! I've seen so many amazing shows here.
Byrd Theatre // a historic theatre (with new seats! finally!) with cheap movies, right in Carytown.
Goochland Drive-In Theater // a classic experience, about a 30ish minute drive from the city, but super worth it. try to catch a double feature to make it even more fun! great snack bar options with a great gf variety too.
The National // a ton of my favorite bands have come through this awesome (perfectly sized) historic concert venue -- it's mostly standing room (although there is a balcony with seats for some shows!) and it's a great experience.
The Broadberry // a smaller venue, but even more intimate which is awesome. i've seen quite a few shows here and loved every one.
Carpenter Theatre // I recently saw Johnnyswim and Drew Holcomb here, and it was amazing to see them in a larger venue! this space is incredible. all seated, so you purchase your specific spot.
The Tin Pan // this intimate restaurant has surprisingly great music acts come through, and it's an awesome way to spend an evening.
Mongrel // I always describe this as a hipster Hallmark, and it's the coolest. it's all arranged by interest (thing dog lovers, alcohol, books, bathroom things, baby gifts, etc) -- you'll want to spend all the money here.
Strawberry Fields Flowers and Finds // perfect for plants, cute home goods, fun cards, the best candles, bouquets, and great housewarming gifts!
Orange // a homegoods + art store with the best variety of locally made goods and gifts.
Creme de la Creme // a more upscale homegoods store, but great to wander for inspiration and maybe pick up a few goodies for gifts or your own home!
Ellwood Thompson's // this is the BEST local grocery market, complete with a great cafe with beer/wine happy hours and live music on the weekends, the most delicious hot bar, great grab and go options, etc. it's heaven.
Other things of note:
Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball game // these minor league baseball games are fun for the whole family, for pretty cheap! it's a great summer activity, complete with all the classic ballpark foods, cheesy games on the field, and often, fireworks after the game!
Agecroft Hall and Gardens // this mansion was brought over piece by piece from England back in the day, and it's such a gem in Richmond. check out their upcoming events, especially around Christmas! the tour is worth doing.
Quirk Hotel // this spot is DREAMY. the design is phenomenal, and the rooftop bar is my very favorite place to go in this whole city. it's super fancy, so dress up a bit to visit (whether for food in the restaurant, to browse the gallery/shop, or grab drinks) or plan a stay! it's so worth stopping by, even if just to walk around for a few.
Yoga at Humble Haven Yoga Studio // I had to tell you about my favorite yoga studio-- it's heavenly here. there's a great variety of hot classes, restorative classes, vin/yin, prenatal, and more. I can't rave about it enough.
River City Tattoo // i've gotten all of my ink and recent piercings here, and I love it. Ashly is my girl, if you want a rec!
Holy Chic + Co // super trendy and chic organic, nontoxic nail salon right in the Fan -- book Cady for some killer nail art!
Science Museum of Virginia // this museum is super impressive and i've loved every visit (with kids or on my own!)
Children's Museum of Richmond // a great spot to spend a day with kiddos -- the ones i've taken haven't wanted to leave after hours!
Visual Arts Center of Richmond // I took a pottery class here and LOVED it -- such a fun way to try new artistic things, especially during their First Friday classes or sampler classes that aren't as much of a time/money investment!
Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10k // This race is a BIG DEAL in RVA -- it feels like basically everyone comes out to run 6 miles up and down Monument Ave (where all the historic statues are!) -- it's a blast, whether you're running, walking, or doing it in costume just for fun.
Jefferson Hotel // that picture above doesn't do it justice -- that tree is INSANE. they deck this place out like no other at Christmastime, and it's stunning. they always do HUGE gingerbread displays (like, life-size...) that are worth seeing. grab dinner or drinks here, or pop in during lunch time during December and see a local choral or orchestral group perform carols!
Tacky Lights tour // rent a limo or just pile in a car together, map out a route, grab your cocoa, and go see the craziest light displays in the city. several have interactive things that you'll want to park and go experience!