Outdoor highlights in Richmond include paddling the James River, mountain biking the historic Belle Isle, and road biking Riverside Drive. The area also provides access to public lands like Pocahontas State Park, the Dutch Gap Conservation Area, and the Appomattox River Conservation Area. Use this guide to ’48 Hours in Richmond’ when planning your next trip to this adventurous southern city.
Run, hike, or mountain bike in Forest Hill Park
With origins as a quarry, an estate, and then an amusement park, Forest Hill Park is now home to over 100-acres of green fields and wooded areas. It’s the ideal place to go for a picnic, a walk, or to put your mountain biking skills to the test. The technically challenging and narrow single track at Forest Hill features a few steep climbs and downhill sections as well as zig zagging switchbacks. Though not as difficult as the highly strenuous and challenging Buttermilk trail in Richmond, Forest Hill trails will leave you sweaty and smiling.
On Saturdays be sure to check out the enormous farmer’s market which features nearly 100 different farmers and artisans selling locally grown produce and other handmade crafts. For those with a sweet tooth, satisfy your sugar craving with home made donuts.
Paddle the James River
Not far from Forest Hill Avenue you will see Riverside Outfitter’s welcoming old building decorated from head to toe with retired adventurer’s gear that is sure to have stories of past times on the river. Besides the usual kayak and canoe rentals found at most river outfitters, they offer the unique opportunities of not only urban whitewater rafting, but guided paddleboarding down the upper section of the James River. As the largest whitewater paddleboarding program in the world, these experienced and knowledgeable instructors teach people of all skill level the safety and technique they need before heading out on the water to tackle a rare and thrilling adventure.
Reach the top at Peak Experiences
One of the largest indoor rock climbing centers in the United States, Peak Experiences is just a few miles west of downtown Richmond. From beginner to avid climber, you’ll be sure to find a climbing route that suits your taste. A friendly and professional staff, not lacking in climbing experience, is ready to belay you to one of more than 120 top-rope routes that reach heights up to 50 feet. If your arms and legs aren’t too shaky after top-rope or lead climbing, head to the bouldering wall to work on your skills and technique.
Explore the scenic and historical Belle Isle
With a city skyline as your backdrop, you might find yourself in shock once you walk across a hanging footbridge onto the beautiful island filled with nature’s bounty. Belle Isle was a prison during the Civil War, but now it’s one of the most popular locations for locals looking to hang out on the rocks and watch paddlers take on the dangerous rapids engulfing the island. Walk or bike the short loop around the island to explore the surrounding river, small cliffs, and old buildings of the once running hydraulic power plant.
Something for everyone at Maymont Park
Pet the goats, frolic through the Japanese and Italian gardens, tour the historic mansion, and walk amongst the many animals living indoors in the nature center or outdoors at the farm. Maymont’s 100 acres offers something for everyone and every age. When the weather is warm, you can usually catch a concert on the grounds from rising jazz musicians to big names like Old Crow Medicine Show.
The Daily– Located in the Carytown District, this kitchen and bar offers a wide selection of unique vegetarian and vegan foods, many that include organic and local produce.
Millie’s Diner– Where one local told me he would eat his last meal, Millie’s has some of the tastiest and tantalizing foods you have ever heard of. Head there for brunch and check out the mouthwatering lump crab and scrambled egg enchilada.
Galley– After a guided paddling trip with Riverside Outfitters, head across the street and grab one of five sizzling burgers named after rapids on the James River. One example is the Lulu burger piled with brie cheese and juicy apple slices.
Legend Brewing Co. – With a scenic deck that sits alongside the river and plenty of tasty lagers and ales to quench the beer savvy tongue, Legend is a popular location to locals and tourists alike.
Ginger Juice– Mainly found at farmer’s markets and other local events, this refreshing juice bar offers cold pressed, all natural juice. Cool down with a refreshing green apple, pear, and mint juice.
The National: A renovated old theater has transformed into the best location in Richmond to see big name bands all while being so close and personal that you might feel the sweat dropping off of their faces.
The Camel: Open all week long, The Camel hosts a variety of live music and smaller bands that will play their hearts’ out while you enjoy a full menu of delicious foods for brunch or dinner.
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery: Catch them on a Thursday evening to chow down from one of sixteen different local food trucks while enjoying a delicious beer or three. If you can’t make it on a Thursday, check out their calendar to see what other fun events are going on!
Pocahontas State Park offers camping as well as cabins for those who enjoy more shelter, and beautiful lakes to fish, boat, or just gaze across.
The Jefferson Hotel is just a short mile from the James River and was built in 1895. It’s grand and historic look is one of the most beautiful structures in Richmond.
RVA Fireworks on the James: Virginia’s largest fireworks display will be held July 3rd on Brown’s Island overlooking the James River and is free to the public.
UCI Road World Championships is to be held in Richmond this year. This event will bring together the best road bikers from across the world to compete in Championship races to claim the gold. September 19th-27th, 2015
“If you’re the disc golfing type, Richmond is a great place to live. I like to head to Gillie’s Creek, Bryan Park, and University of Richmond to play but my favorite course is at Dorey Park. It’s all in the woods and just an overall beautiful place.” –Ryan Crenshaw, Whitewater rafting guide and owner of guitar repair shop
“Richmond is awesome because you can eat at just about any place you can imagine, explore amplitudes of breweries, be on the water all day hitting class IV rapids, work as a river guide and not be in some secluded small town living in a camp, and be in the city one minute and completely immersed in nature the next.” –Ben Moore, Paddleboard Instructor at Riverside Outfitters, ACA Instructor, and Professional paddle board racer