Once the capital of the south, Richmond, Virginia is a city that combines modern urban flavor with the historic charm of another time. It’s a bubbling stew of history, music, breweries, restaurants, outdoor adventures and a raging nightlife. With only 24 hours in the city, I rolled from one experience to another, soaking up and shaking down everything I could.
Rollin’ On The River
The James River flows through the heart of Richmond. Its waters glide quietly along some parts and then turn fiercely to class 3 and 4 rapids at others as it makes its way south. Riverside Outfitters specializes in leading white water rafting trips down the James. After a short bus ride from their home base we unloaded the rafts upstream of the city, strapped on our helmets and life jackets, then launched onto to river.
On a splendid August day, with the temperature climbing, the splash of water thrown over the bows felt energizing. The skilled guides navigated us downstream, hitting the rapids as adrenaline flowed through the blood and the city grew closer, rising off the banks of the river. Paddling through the white water, we stopped for a few swim breaks along the way and went surfing on the backside of some rapids.
Raft surfing is different; we piled the group into the front of the raft putting all our weight forward facing the back of the rapids. Then we paddled like a lost kayaker about to fall over the edge of a waterfall and stuck the boat’s nose in the depression caused by the water, raising the back high in the air and of course, completely drenching us. We eventually pulled up and got out in the city itself, soaked to the bone and grinning like jack-o-lanterns.
Home in the Heart of Richmond
Checking into the beautiful historic Linden Row Inn was a dedication to ease. Welcomed at the door and directed to my room for the night, I was taken by the balcony as I got off the elevator on the fourth floor. Chairs lent a perfect viewing platform to look out across the rooftops of the neighborhood and delight in the view. I was astonished at the grandeur laid before me when the key turned and the door swung open.
Spread before me was a king’s chamber, an abode for the night straight out of the pages of history with the compliments of modern technology. With a king size bed, a decorative fireplace, TV on the wall and a luxurious bathroom I had found an oasis of amenities to relax in for the night. The central location is walking distance to an endless stream of bars, restaurants and nightlife, I decided to put it to good use!
Night Falls in the City
The exploits of a night out in Richmond include everything I could hope for. Cold Brewed Nitro at the Triple Crossing Brewery was a hit – also the gooey delight of melted cheese and bacon sandwiched between crisp bread. In other words, one delectable grilled cheese. My traveling companions sipped on the many house-brewed beers they had to offer and gave the phrase “bottoms up” a new meaning!
What is a night on the town without music though? I had been directed to a bar fit for the likes of my laid-back company and I. The Cary St. Cafe can only be described as a Grateful Dead bar. Memorabilia adorns almost every section of the walls, from the wall of Dead license plates from across the country to the signature Steal Your Face skull lit up with led lighting. We listened to live music from outside in the night air, enjoyed the company of fellow music lovers and the expectation of the musical adventures before us. The night wound to an end like many worthwhile nocturnal undertakings, by helping a friend who just couldn’t quite find his footing back to the hotel!
Breakfast at the Linden Row Inn was a testament to Southern Hospitality. Biscuits and gravy a dish us northerners don’t see enough of filled a hefty portion of my plate. Along with pastries, eggs and all the fixings. Outside on the terrace, under the shade from the warm summer sun, a coffee in hand and delectable breakfast before me, I drifted into nirvana. Days were meant to start this way.
Mana for the Tastebuds
I was lucky enough to have lunch with the owners of Vagabond restaurant, David Peterson and Peter Womack. This gem connected to the National Theater bathes in its history and offers up exquisite cuisine from the celebrated chef Owen Lane. The tastefully decorated streetside main dining room welcomes the hungry and delivers a exquisite selection of food. Downstairs the basement bar not only looks like it’s history, a speakeasy but you feel as if you’ve walked straight into a time almost a century past. Dim lighting, authentic furnishings and period pianos all capture the imagination of the days of the 18th amendment.
Next door the National Theater carries the grace of almost a hundred years of performing arts on its back. Character is built into its structure with the architecture and ambiance radiating the thrill of a spectacular performance. The owners have not only kept this place hosting many fabulous artists, they have maintained the wonder of a night in the theater. The backstage artist areas have been converted to a homestead like recreation area, complete with pool tables and a enormous jacuzzi. It must not only be a rush to grace the stage but also an honor to relax in what can only be described as an artists retreat afterwards. They have uncovered layers upon layers of wallpaper in a room that used to be a nursery, revealing paintings of to delight the minds of children long grown old. I will be back to hear the sweet notes of music echo across these walls.
The Road Never Ends
With music on my mind, I said my goodbyes to Richmond with the hope of exploring more of this amazing city in the future. Revving the engine I headed west for the fields of Nelson County and the days of music to come at Lockn’ Music Festival.
For more information on the great city of Richmond, visit their official website!