Destination on the Rise: Richmond, Virginia

Kip Dawkins Photography

In the city on the James River, an elevated food scene pairs nicely with art, fashion, and unique hotels.

Since we investigated Richmond’s booming culinary scene in 2014, a lot has happened in Virginia’s capital. While the city has long-been a vibrant arts and culture hub (it’s home to renowned institutions like the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the highly-ranked Virginia Commonwealth University arts program), the creative, entrepreneurial atmosphere that helped nurture the gourmet boom has spilled over into other lifestyle sectors. Now, independent fashion and design boutiques abound, the cocktail scene is expanding, and recent changes in food and beverage laws has allowed the craft brewery scene to explode.

As of last year, there’s also a buzzed-about boutique hotel that encapsulates the current creative spirit. One of the most frequently cited symbols of Richmond’s “new cool,” the Quirk Hotel (from $250; 201 W. Broad St.; 804-340-6040; destinationhotels.com) is set in a 1916 Italian Renaissance-style former department store in west downtown’s Arts and Culture / West Broad Street area. The hotel was founded by the owners of the adjacent Quirk Gallery (207 W. Broad St.; 804-340-6036; quirkgallery.com), one of the city’s top art spaces, and that connection to aesthetics can be felt throughout—from the colorful design, handcrafted touches, and rotating art displays to guest activities like Bioride Mural Tours highlighting the city’s renowned street art. This spring, Quirk also opened the city’s first rooftop bar, which quickly drew crowds with its cocktails, tapas menus, and panoramic views.

Explore the James River and Virginia Capital up close with new activities like The Valentine Museum’s Along the James walking or bike tours, which detail the city’s history—and showcase the public art—as you make your way along the Canal Walk and recently-completed Virginia Capital Trail. River City Food Tours’ new Food + Fashion experience gives you a taste of the restaurants and boutiques of eclectic Carytown (aka The Mile of Style), under the direction of a local fashion blogger, while the year-round monthly First Fridays art walks feature the galleries, shops, and non-profits of downtown. (While on West Broad Street, don’t miss the Science Museum of Virginia’s new “Speed” permanent exhibit, which examines the relationship between motion and time with interactive experiences.) And this year, The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia (122 W. Leigh St.; 804-780-9093; blackhistorymuseum.org) reopened in the former Leigh Street Armory, in the National Historic Landmark-designated Jackson Ward neighborhood—a historically African American quarter near downtown that’s lined with stately Greek Revival and Queen Anne homes, and peppered with restaurants, cafes, and galleries (many of the latter are also part of the monthly art walks).  Soak up the area’s past at the Maggie L. Walker Historic Site, featuring the original home of the noted civil- and women’s-rights activist, along with exhibits showcasing her life and accomplishments. Then get a taste for the present with drinks and dinner at the award-winning The Rogue Gentlemen (618 N. First St.; 804-477-3456; theroguegentlemen.com), with a rotating list of 16 original cocktails and farm-to-table fare from rising culinary star, Will Longoria.