Greetings, Internet Stranger, and welcome to one day in Richmond Virginia. I’ve been to Richmond a couple of times, and at first I didn’t like it as much as the parts of more coastal Virginia I had seen, like Williamsburg.
But after spending one day in Richmond Virginia, I realized what a lovely and historic city it is. No state was home to more presidents–and we’ll learn a ton of presidential trivia today, if that’s what you’re interested in. But Virginia also has great fine dining and a fab museum. If you’re looking for culture and fun in Virginia, you’ve come to the exact right spot!
One Day in Richmond Virginia
Where to Stay
When I was enjoying my one day in Richmond Virginia, I found the prices at Downtown Richmond hotels to be a little crazy. So I opted to stay slightly outside of town at the lovely Virginia Crossings property. It was easy to get an Uber here to and from the rest of Virginia, and I still saved money on my room.
Plus, the grounds were beautiful, quiet, and safe, and my room had a nearby ice machine and a coffee maker in the room, which is totally all I care about.
You can book a room in this lovely hotel yourself by clicking here. Or if you’d rather explore great deals on tons of other hotels in Richmond, just click here. I’m sure you’ll find something in your price range for your one day in Richmond Virginia
One Day in Richmond Virginia
What to Pack?
- An excellent small cell charger so you can keep taking pictures all during your one day in Richmond Virginia
- The best guidebook to Virginia, with DC even thrown in as a bonus.
- My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you exactly how solo travel can take your life from BLAH to amazing!
- Want to learn how I saved enough money to travel 16 weeks a year? Check out my top secret How to Afford Travel digital system.
- I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by Johnny Reb during your one day in Richmond Virginia
One Day in Richmond Virginia
Morning: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Some people don’t love museums, but I say that’s just because they haven’t learned how to appreciate them yet! The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a great visit for art museum newbies because it’s not too large or overwhelming. But it’s also a great museum for museum fanatics like myself because they have a solid regular collection and interesting special exhibits for us to enjoy.
Whether you’re a museum friend or foe, let me help you appreciate this lovely collection with…
Approximately Top 5: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
1) Roman Sculpture
The Virginia Museum of Fine Art has a fabulous ancient sculpture collection, with busts of many prominent Romans. But perhaps the most impressive piece is this giant statue of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus, whom you might know better as Caligula. (Caligula actually means Little Boots. Apparently he didn’t like this nickname much, but no one cares about his feelings because he was a mean man who killed a whole bunch of people.)
In fact, Caligula was so detested by the Romans that most statues of him were destroyed after he died. So you can see that people have been debating tearing down statues of terrible leaders for centuries. This is one of only two full-sized statues that were left. I think that’s about as many as there are statues of Stalin. So basically Caligula was the Stalin of Ancient Rome.
2) St Denis
It might look to you like this guy is having a bad day. This medieval gentleman is St. Denis, who is also the patron saint of La Belle France. He was martyred by being decapitated and then worked a miracle by carrying his own head to the place where he was buried. That is hardcore. If someone chopped my head off, I would just lie down and be dead. But that’s why I’m not a saint.
I absolutely adore medieval art because it’s so different from modern art. It’s all ghosts holding their own heads, mythical creatures, and slightly deformed ways of representing human beings. Please take a few moments in this collection if you have the time.
3) Catfish Row
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is home to works by two of my favorite 20th century American artists, and this is the first: Catfish Row by Jacob Lawrence. Lawrence was a Black American artist who was inspired to create this painting after spending time traveling around the American South.
Some of the things I enjoy about Lawrence’s paintings are his joyful use of color, his squares that are reminiscent of quilts and collages, and his subject matter, which is so vividly presented that it takes you right back into the time he is portraying, even though he doesn’t paint people in a “realistic” fashion. Actually, come to think of it, Lawrence has a lot in common with medieval artists that way.
4) House at Dusk
This eerie beauty is by my other favorite painter in the museum: Edward Hopper. (His most famous painting is called “Nighthawks”, and it’s in Chicago.) At first glance, this just looks like a peaceful scene with the sun setting in the background.
But who is this lonely woman sitting in her apartment, not noticing the sunset? Is she representative of the modern condition? Aren’t we all, to a certain extent, trapped with our noses in our work, not seeing the beauty of nature all around us? Mightn’t we be better off if we were ghosts carrying our heads around? (OK, maybe not that last one.)
5) Egungun Mask
Yes, this massive and gorgeous creation is a mask from the Yoruba culture. (According to the museum notes, it’s from Nigeria, Republic of Benin, which I suppose means they’re not exactly sure which of the two it came from. But many African countries were carved up by imperialism, not by the people who actually lived there, so it makes more sense to call this a Yoruba mask.)
The reason this mask is worn totally over the head is to hide the person who is wearing it so that they reveal a hidden spirit. Watching the mask behind glass doesn’t really do justice to way its parts move in unison, so I suggest watching the movie of the Egungun mask at the museum to get the full effect.
One Day in Richmond Virginia
Afternoon: Exploring Historic Richmond
Richmond is not as beautiful as some other Southern cities–sorry Richmond, but girl, you know it’s true. However, it’s just as full of interesting history if you know where to look. On our last one day in Richmond Virginia itinerary, we explored the Civil War Museum, but today we’re going to get more Presidential and see the Virginia State Capitol and the Hollywood Cemetery.
And on the way we will absolutely learn…
Three Historic Facts: One Day in Richmond Virginia
1) Um, Where is Lunch?
Oh, so sorry! Of course you’re going to want something to eat. Let’s bop on over to the Secret Sandwich Society, which appears to be neither secret nor a society, as anyone can walk in off the street any time, and it’s very easy to find.
The sandwiches are the thing to get here, and they are all named after presidents, first ladies, and other major historical figures. The sandwiches are delicious but I don’t always get the reasoning behind the names. For example, you can get the Churchill sandwich made vegan, but I feel like being vegan would make Churchill really angry.
I loved my Adams sandwich, which was made with pork and pimento cheese. I dig spicy foods, so I liked that they didn’t skimp on the jalapeño but why such a Southern sandwich for hard-core Bostonian like Adams?? I feel like he’s literally the last person on earth who would want pimento cheese.
If you want a drink, I suggest the Rise and Shine which is bright and citrusy and perfect for day drinking. Just don’t have too much because we might be getting on a Segway soon.
2) Is Richmond the Capital of Virginia?
Yes, definitely! So if you’re looking to visit all state capitals like I am, you’ll definitely have to stop here. The Virginia State Capitol Building is just a short walk from the Sandwich Society. It’s completely free to visit; you just have to go through a short security check to get in. It’s easy to give a self-guided tour, or if you are lucky, one of the docents will be at the docent desk on the second floor to give you a free tour.
I arrived just after a tour had started, but fortunately I was able to jump right in and see the tour! Our local guide was a retired history teacher who learned us so much about the history of this often tragic building.
Don’t miss the room containing the statue of George Washington and the busts of the seven other men from Virginia who became presidents of the United States. (Virginia used to really dominate the presidency, but the last Virginian to be elected president was Woodrow Wilson in 1912. Work on that, Virginia!)
Our guide said that there were actually nine presidents from Virginia because the first president of the African country of Liberia, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, was also born in Virginia. This is the kind of cool trivia you can only find on a free docent tour…or this blog.
Our guide also talked to us about how many Black men were elected in Virginia after the Civil War, which lasted until Jim Crow laws making it almost impossible for Black people to vote were implemented. There were many heated elections between Union-sympathizing candidates and Confederate-sympathizing candidates around this time.
In 1870, during a court case about one of those elections, too many people crowded into this room and the balcony collapsed, tragically killing many of them. It’s horrible to think of those people being killed that way when all they were trying to do was exercise their civic duty.
3) How Can Hollywood Cemetery Be in Virginia?
You’re probably thinking that Hollywood Cemetery should be in Los Angeles, right? Well, I’m sure that exists, but the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond is mostly famous for being the final resting place for a couple of dead presidents.
I suggest taking a tour of this cemetery so you won’t get lost and you won’t get confused that the George Harrison you see in my photo above was one of the Beatles. (The famous George Harrison is British and not buried in Virginia.)
Here we have the beautiful grave of James Monroe, the fifth president.
And here we have the less beautiful tombstone of John Tyler, our tenth president. You can really tell that Monroe was a Founding Father and Tyler wasn’t from the way they are treated in death. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re a guy who only became president because William Henry Harrison caught pneumonia at his inauguration.
One Day in Richmond Virginia
Evening: Dinner at Longoven
We’ve already experienced fine art on this one day in Richmond Virginia, so next we’ll be trying its fine dining at Longoven. This restaurant has a tasting menu, which means you don’t get choices; you just eat the yummy little plates they put down in front on your face. The menu changes often, so you won’t get what I received, but I’m sure the idea will be the same.
Our meal started with a savory-delectable one-bite chickpea and shiitake snack. I always like when the waiter tells me something is one bite because otherwise I try to eat it in two bites and I make a mess on my face.
Next we have a scallop with zucchini blossom and tomato water. You can really tell I ate here in the summer, huh? Nothing says summer like zucchini blossom and tomato unless it’s a cartoon sun with a face and top hat tapdancing.
Next we have an equally summery shrimp with avocado, daikon, tomato, and bell pepper. A tasting menu is supposed to get richer as it goes, and indeed, though this was also a light seafood dish, it was slightly richer than the scallop.
Richer still is the eggplant with tomato, quinoa, and buffalo mozzarella. I liked the idea of using eggplant instead of actual meat as a first meat course. This was kind of like a deconstructed eggplant parmesan with the use of the mozzarella in a foam on top of the eggplant. Molecular gastronomy makes it all the way from Spain to Richmond, Virginia!
More vegetables as meat! This is a maitake mushroom with egg, miso, and furikake, which is a salty Japanese spice. This was the most umami dish on the menu, and look at those colors! It was almost painful to cut into that mushroom and spoil the beauty, but I managed to fork all that deliciousness into my mouth anyway.
The final savory course was the halibut poached in dashi butter and served with shitake and koji rice. Once again, the courses keep getting richer and richer, and this was definitely the most decadent course on the menu. Could it be the lashings of butter sauce that account for that? Hmmm, possibly. I have yet to meet a food that wasn’t improved by lashings of butter sauce.
And given how seasonal the rest of the meal was, we shouldn’t be surprised that the dessert positively oozes with summer. It was all peach, lemongrass ice cream, and almond praline swirled together in one harmonious bowl.
Much like many of the other dishes on the menu, it looks kind of like an egg, but tastes like lemon-scented heaven instead. (Seriously, just scroll back through my photos and see how many of the dishes look like eggs. Girl, you know it’s true.)
After that, all that was left was to eat our parting gifts of a yuzu pate de fruits, a pistachio milk chocolate, a cherry macaron, and something resembling a fancy Kitkat and call it the end of a perfect one day in Richmond Virginia.
One Day in Richmond Virginia
How to Get There?
By Car: This is an easy way to get to your one day in Richmond Virginia, if you are coming from somewhere else on the East Coast in the United States. You can drive here easily from Washington DC, Baltimore, or even North Carolina.
However, I don’t know how to drive, so this wasn’t an option for me. Fortunately Uber is widely available in Richmond. If you need to rent a car, you can use the search engine Expedia to find the best price from the available car rental companies.
By Plane: Fortunately, there is an airport in Richmond! I have never needed to use it because I live close enough to Richmond to get there by bus and train. But if you’re coming from far away, you can fly directly into the city. (Again, I recommend using a search engine like Expedia to search for the best prices on flights.)
By Train or Bus: I used the Amtrak train to get from Baltimore to my one day in Richmond Virginia, and it was easier than riding George Washington’s horse. If you live on the East Coast, I definitely think taking the train to Richmond is the way to go.
I have also taken the Wanda Coach bus from NYC to Richmond, but I didn’t find it to be as reliable as Amtrak. Oh, you’ll get to your destination! But when will you get there? Hard to say! Still, if you’re on a really tight budget, this might be your only option.
That’s a Perfect One Day in Richmond Virginia!
What would you do in one day in Richmond Virginia? Is Edward Hopper right and are we all just sad lonely girls in our apartments forgetting to look at the sunset. Girl, do you know it’s true? Email me at [email protected] and let me know!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should only spend one day in Richmond Virginia.