Have you heard? Richmond is cool. Cool meaning it’s got murals, art, culture, and a crap ton of delicious food.
My last few years, post-Navy, I’ve been quite content to travel as little as possible. Coincidentally, most of my disposable income has gone to fixing up my little house. However, this year my old yen to see the world has reared its head. I want to go to places, especially now that I’ve got Jaymes in my life. Even seeing places I’ve been to lots of times seems new.
In addition to not having a huge travel fund at the moment, I just started a new job so I don’t have vacation either. But I don’t let little things like being broke and having no time get in the way of having a good time. My mission now is to visit lots of cool places in Virginia.
So our first trip a few weekends ago was to Richmond. Cash didn’t get to go, but he got a really thorough soccer ball play time.
I used Priceline to get the cheapest price on a 4-star hotel. Priceline’s express deals claim to save you up to 60%, and mask the hotel giving you a deal. However, if you compare the amenities offered by the mystery hotels on Priceline vs. their regular listings, it’s fairly easy to figure out what you’re paying for.
I ended up paying about $25 less than the hotel listing price for a standard room with a king-sized bed at the Omni in downtown Richmond. I ended up paying $130 for the room.
We left out of Alexandria around 9:00 am, with empty bellies. Fredericksburg is the best halfway point, so we pulled off to route one around old town. Rather than venture all the way into old town, we stopped along route 1 to check out Renee’s Crepes & Cakes.
From the outside the little strip mall looked a little sketchy, but the inside of Renee’s is very cute and clean. Silver and chrome tables and chairs adorned each with their own bloom greet you when you enter the restaurant.
The waitress, who I suspect was Renee but never confirmed, greeted us right away. The coffee was lovely, and the food even lovelier. I always enjoy those skinny tiny pancakes, but Renee’s had a great crepe-to-topping/stuffing ratio. Altogether, it was more than I planned on spending for our coffee stop, but totally worth it. I had the classic Nutella Berry Bonanza, and Jaymes got a breakfast special. With tax and tip the meal was ~$30.
Back on the road, we reached our hotel within the hour. Omni’s parking was $17 for the night, plus a charge for each time you left; but valet was $25 so we just did that.
The Omni isn’t the trendiest or even the fanciest hotel in Richmond, those titles go to Quirk and the Jefferson. Not the coolest or richest kid in class did not stop our hotel from being impressive. The crystal chandelier, the wide expanse of marble floors, and a friendly concierge impressed us. We felt fancy AF.
Our room was clean and nice, if a only a little boring. A large comfy bed is always a nice sight to see though.
I had a few ideas for non-hotel sights to see. Yelp recommended the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, so I knew we’d definitely go there. During our drive into town, we spotted a billboard advertising the VMFA’s special exhibition: Terracotta Army, Legacy of the First Emperor of China.
VMFA was far from our hotel in the Shockoe neighborhood. Our hotel offered a shuttle, but I really wanted to drive so we could enjoy the many murals that decorate Richmond’s low houses and buildings.
The Richmond Mural Project is a yearly event that has created over 100 murals by well know artists in the last five years. The goal of the project is to increase tourism to the area (mission complete y’all!). On a ten minute drive we saw no less than 20 pieces of art. The scary, bright, surreal, and everything in between painted on older historic looking buildings creates an interesting juxtaposition between old and new, that makes Richmond feel distinctly creative and hip.
VMFA parking was $5 and there was a bit of a line going in. We did take the opportunity to mess around with the Google Arts and Culture app. Forgive me, but I’m only going to share the attractive results.
The VMFA is free, but they charge for the special exhibitions. The Terracotta Army exhibition had timed entries, but on a busy Saturday we were able to get an entry time within an hour. The tickets are $20, but were free for military and their guests. Cost: $0.
The VMFA is AMAZING. Seriously the best museum I’ve ever been to. I think what really impressed me was the wide range of art on display in one location. It was almost like travelling all over the world, through every period of time in the span of two hours. Eastern art, African, Indian, Native American, Russian, Egyptian, Renaissance, Colonial… it was all the arts y’all. All of em. I’m going to wrap this part of the Richmond blog with lots of gratuitous art shots.