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Trip Report Richmond, VA - Detailed Trip Report

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BACKGROUND - My husband, B.J., and I, and our 5 year old wirehaired dachshund, IGY Pup,
took a mini-holiday to the Richmond, Virginia area from Wednesday, October 13 through Monday,
October 18. Our primary purpose of our trip was to visit our dear friend, Justin, who paid his way
through university working with my husband in his plumbing business. Justin has been bugging us to
come visit him in Richmond since he moved there six years ago, bought a house and started his own
plumbing business. We watched over Justin when he was in college, and he affectionately refers to
us as his "hippie parents", so it was a trip to spend time with our "son".

We also wanted to take in some of the historic sights in the area, so we spent several evenings
researching on the Fodor's US board. We would like to thank everyone who has taken the time in
the past to post and share all the valuable information we absorbed about Richmond and Virginia
before we embarked on our trip. THANK YOU!!!


WEDNESDAY - We left Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania around noon, much later than we had
planned...all those last minute errands took longer than anticipated. I knew this would put us smack
dab in the middle of rush-hour traffic along the MD-DC-VA corridor, but there wasn't much we
could do at this point. Our travel itinerary was Route 15 (south of Harrisburg), to Route 270 in
Frederick, MD, to 495 to 95.

We had a lovely ride through Pennsylvania, noticing the yellow, red and orange hues of the trees
gradually turning to green as we drove further south. We crossed over the Mason-Dixon Line and
did our obligatory pee-stop at the Visitor's Center just over the border in Maryland, where I raided
the brochure racks. There was major construction going on in the parking lot...perhaps a new
visitor's center....the current one is antiquated and barely ADA accessible.

Back on the road, we ran right into rush-hour traffic around Frederick, which we battled for the next
two hours until we were south of 495. We don't have traffic jams in Bloomsburg....in fact, we came
to the conclusion that there were more cars on the 495 beltway than there are in all of Columbia
County, where we live, which in comparison is about the size of Luxembourg!!! All I can say is,
God/Allah/Buddha bless everyone who has to deal with that kind of traffic on a daily basis.

We arrived in Richmond around 7:30. I'm glad we got directions from Justin to his house, because
the directions we downloaded from Mapquest would have led us right into a detour on Route
60...flood damage from Hurricane Frances (or was it Charlie?). Had a lovely visit with Justin, his
two roommates, three dogs and three cats (one which was pregnant), before retiring for the night. To be continued.........

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    In fact, we came to the conclusion that there were more cars on the 495 beltway than there are in all of Columbia County, where we live, which in comparison is about the size of Luxembourg!!! All I can say is,
    God/Allah/Buddha bless everyone who has to deal with that kind of traffic on a daily basis.

    That's pretty funny. I'm one of those that deals with this daily and my husband and I joked about the traffic report yesterday which basically was 'heavy traffic the entire circle of the Beltway'. (It's what - 40 some miles?)

    Can't wait to hear what else you did in Richmond.

    ~gnr~

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    THURSDAY - Justin had to work so we decided to spend the morning exploring downtown
    Richmond. Justin gave us an excellent map detailing every street, and which direction they ran, so
    we had no problem navigating. We were impressed with the amount of new construction and
    renovating of old warehouse space that was happening downtown. Richmond seems to be in the
    middle of an economic boom.


    First stop was the Tredegar Iron Works which serves as the main visitor center for Richmond
    National Battlefield Park
    . It was easily accessible off of 5th Street. The area and buildings have
    been nicely preserved, and the visitor's center, on the middle level of the Pattern Building, had a
    wealth of information (free brochures) on Richmond as well as the Civil War. On the lower level
    was a little museum where you can view a 20 minute history film. We decided to take the canal walk
    instead, so we walked towards the James River where we found a little path and made a right. We
    walked a short way to the end, down to the footbridge which crosses the river and takes you over to
    Belle Isle, but chose not to walk over the bridge because we had IGY with us. We discovered later
    that had we taken a left on the path we could have walked along the canal for 1 1/2 miles. Oh well,
    save that for next visit.

    Had lunch at Sweetpea which is located on Main Street in the VCU (Virginia Commonwealth
    University) area, along a section of the street where the houses are painted vivid colors of yellow,
    purple, green, blue, etc. They had outside tables so we could eat with IGY by our side. After lunch,
    drove over to Hollywood Cemetery (412 S. Cherry Street), where we stopped at the visitors center
    and picked up a driving tour map ($1.00) and a set of their 4 postcards ($1.00). Highlights on the
    tour for us were the cast iron dog which guards the grave of 2 year old Florence Rees, the pyramid
    erected over the graves of 18,000 Confederate soldiers, and the graves of George Pickett, J.E.B.
    Stuart, Jefferson Davis, James Monroe and John Tyler. We noticed several headstones/monuments
    with a cloth draped over the top carved into the stone and inquired to the meaning, but no one had
    an answer. Can anyone in Fodorland explain the significance behind the draped cloth over a
    monument?

    Afterwards made our way over to Monument Road and drove it west, passing the monuments of
    J.E.B. Stuart, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Matthew Fontaine and Arthur
    Ashe, Jr., then turned around and drove east past the same monuments for a view of the other side.
    There were many beautiful old homes along Monument Road and in the neighborhood around VCU,
    known as The Fan.

    Went back to Justin's for a quick respite, then decided to head south of the city, to tour one of
    Richmond's battlefields. Headed south on Route 5 to Fort Harrison, turning right onto Battlefield
    Park Road, where we followed a beautiful two lane country/forested road, passing the remains of
    several forts and lots of mound embankments along the way. IGY loved this road as we only drove
    20-35 miles an hour and he got to hang his head out the window, sniffing for squirrels and
    chipmunks. After a leisurely 10-15 mile drive, we came to the end of the road and Fort Brady,
    where we got out and explored. There is a trail that leads around the back of the fort, through an
    entrance, then winds around inside the fort, around the magazine bunker in the middle. Keep in mind
    that what exists of the fort today is mounds of dirt, but thanks to the various signs posted along the
    trail, you can get a good idea of how the fort looked and operated during the Civil War.

    Using the excellent map that Justin gave us, we snaked our way back to his house, taking back roads
    and just enjoying the beautiful autumn day. Made spaghetti for dinner, enjoyed some wine/beer and
    conversation, then off to bed. To be continued......

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    FRIDAY - Decided to start the morning by heading back into the city and do some more exploring,
    starting with a drive-by of the Museum & White House of the Confederacy. We turned up 11th
    Street, heading north, then made a right onto Clay Street and immediately found ourselves being
    sucked into a parking garage for the nearby hospital, with a 6' 4" height restriction. We had no
    choice but to go into the garage, even though we didn't want to park - it was the only way to go
    around the block! In the confusion, we barely got a glimpse of the White House. All we could think
    of was all the poor Winnebago drivers who unknowingly had to navigate their beasts through the
    maze of the parking garage. There were turns that were impossible to make in a large vehicle. So
    much for the White House.....

    Off to find the Richmond Dairy Apartments, a large brick building that boasts three huge (possibly 4
    stories) milk bottles on the front facade, which sat vacant for years but has recently been renovated
    into apartments, with high-end lofts inside the actual milk bottles! It sounded interesting, so we had
    to see it for ourselves. Research indicated that the building was located "just off Broad Street at the
    corner of Adams & Marshall". We turned north onto Adams, drove one block and approached the
    intersection of Adams & Marshall, but didn't see any milk bottles. Unfortunately, Marshall is one
    way, travelling east, so we made a right, parked the car and got out to take a look around. Walking
    west on Marshall, past Adams and half way down the block towards Jefferson, we came upon the
    three largest milk bottles we have ever seen! What a great building!!! Directly across the street is
    another neat building, a former police precinct/fire house, which housed the Police and Fireman's
    Museum, which unfortunately was closed due to lack of funding. Our suggestion to anyone wanting
    to do a drive-by of the buildings is to drive north on Madison Street off of Broad, turn right on
    Marshall (one-way), drive 1 1/2 blocks and the apartments are visibly seen from the car on the right
    side of the road.

    We had heard several people mention "Careytown," which is on the west end of town, so we decided
    to find out what all the buzz was about. Careytown is located on Carey Street, which runs one-way
    (east) the length of Richmond. We drove Main Street (one-way) west, which parallels Carey Street,
    passed over Boulevard and continued to the end of Main, where we made a left and a left and found
    ourselves in Careytown, an eclectic blend of little shops, restaurants and businesses running along a
    10 block (approximately) stretch of interestingly painted and decorated buildings. We immediately
    found a parking spot and proceeded to walk down one side of the street and back up the other,
    popping into several of the interesting stores along the way. I bought a Christmas present for my
    friend in Jack B. Nimble, a store dedicated to candles - bought deserts for tonight's dinner at Jean
    Jacques Bakery - and my husband discovered a beer/wine store selling imported beer by the six-pack
    and single bottle, a treat for us since we come from Pennsylvania, where the government controls
    alcohol sales.

    Afterwards, we drove around William Byrd Park, and discovered Barker Park, a fenced in dog park,
    but it had rained earlier in the day and it looked a little too muddy for IGY to run around in.
    Heading back to Justin's we drove around St. John's Church (2401 East Broad Street), where
    Patrick Henry spoke the inspirational words, "Give me liberty...or give me death!" Continuing down
    Grace Street, we drove around the Chimborazo Medical Museum and Battlefield Park.

    We picked up Justin at his house and decided to head to Hopewell and Petersburg. It started raining
    pretty heavy on our ride south. We had been lucky with the weather so far, only having to deal with
    a misty rain earlier in the morning. We took Exit 9A off of Interstate 295 at Hopewell, and stopped
    at the Visitor's Center, located in the parking lot of the Colonial Corner Shopping Center. The
    woman behind the counter was eager to share her information of the area with me, while B.J. and
    Justin ate handfuls of shelled peanuts out of a barrel in the middle of the room. After raiding the
    brochure racks we were off to Petersburg, dodging raindrops.

    We headed south on Route 36 for about 5 minutes, then made a left onto Crater Road, and another
    left less than a mile down the road, and ended up at the Old Blandford Church, just as the rain
    stopped! Located in Blandford Cemetery and built in 1735, the church is an unassuming little brick
    building with 15 beautiful stained glass windows designed and executed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
    In 1901 the Ladies Memorial Association of Petersburg transformed the church into a Confederate
    shrine to the 30,000 soldiers buried in the cemetery. Blandford Cemetery is the second largest in the
    state of Virginia - second only to Arlington National. The Ladies got each Confederate state to pay
    for a window honoring their dead, then talked Tiffany into designing the windows! We stopped at
    the Visitor's Center and paid $5.00 each for a tour of the church and the adjacent cemetery. I
    bought a pack of 12 postcards for $3.00 since photographs are not allowed to be taken inside the
    church, and a book about the history of the church and cemetery for $3.00. The rain had stopped
    and the sun was just beginning to peak through the clouds. Our guide led us through the cemetery
    around the church, reciting the history of several of the souls buried there. We finally made our way
    around to the front door of the church....the sun was shining brightly in the sky. We walked into the
    church and had the most spectacular view as the sun lit up all the colors in the windows.
    God/Allah/Buddha and the souls of all who travel with us were certainly there in that little church,
    colors beaming in all directions. After an informative description about each window (total tour
    lasted 45-60 minutes), we piled back in the car and retraced our route back towards Hopewell.

    Our main reason for wanting to visit Hopewell was to take a self-driving tour of Crescent Hills, the
    Sears, Roebuck & Company Houses by Mail Neighborhood - Circa 1926-1937 (brochure available
    from the visitors center). Just off of West Broadway, there are 44 homes within a 3 block area that
    you can drive past. The brochure includes the address of each home, with the model name and a
    brief description. Some have the original price paid, varying in range from $1842 for the Oakdale to
    $4365 for the Lexington. It was a great nostalgic tour, making me yearn for the Christmas
    Wishbook.

    After the tour we drove over to Appomattox Manor on City Point, where the Appomattox and
    James Rivers meet. The manor itself was closed up for the season, so we just walked around the
    building. On the grounds of the manor stands a small wooden hut, the only one remaining of 22 that
    originally stood there during the Civil War. The one that remains was used by General Robert E.
    Lee during the war, and had stood in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia for 116 years after the war, but
    was eventually returned to it's original location at the Manor. We lucked out, and just happened to
    be at the right place at the right time....a park ranger had just unlocked the door to the hut to retrieve
    several authentic uniforms and blankets for laundering, and allowed us to walk around inside. From
    the amount of dust and the arrangements of some of the displays, it was clear that the hut was not
    open to the general public. What a treat, and the ranger was more than willing to share his
    knowledge. You could just smell the history inside General Lee's hut (ah..choo).

    Back to Justin's for dinner and more wine/beer and conversation then off to bed. To be continued....

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    SATURDAY - Today is Justin's day. We travelled to Richmond this particular weekend because
    Justin is singing back-up vocals with "Black Cash and the Bad Trips," a Johnny Cash tribute band,
    and he wanted B.J. to help with the equipment and sound-check before the show this evening.

    B.J., Justin and I started with a late breakfast at 821 Cafe, located at 821 West Cary Street, in the
    VCU section of town. It was a busy little restaurant, and the good food and the Mimosa with
    breakfast would indicate why.

    Next stop was to pick up the lead singer of the band, Matt, then off to Mojo's Philadeli, located at
    733 West Cary Street, for the obligatory morning-of-the-gig shots. After spending an hour or so
    discussing the equipment, we dropped off Matt, and Justin took us on his own personal tour of
    Richmond.

    We headed to the West End where we drove past many beautiful, grotesquely large mansions. There
    is certainly a lot of old wealth in Richmond. Then we drove to the Shockoe Bottom section of
    Richmond, where Justin pointed out a lot of the flood damage that occurred during Frances(?). He
    took us to 31st Street, where the entire road washed out underneath and just collapsed. Luckily, no
    homes were lost, but there are several that are right on the edge and I can't imagine they are safe to
    live in. Justin was downtown when the flooding occurred and witnessed the power and swiftness of
    water firsthand.

    At 7:00 B.J. & I headed over to the bar/club where the band would be playing tonight, Out of Bounds,
    voted Richmond's favorite sports bar, located along the block of 2600 West Broad Street, directly
    across the street from the Children's Museum of Richmond. Had sandwiches and fries for dinner,
    did the sound check, then headed back to Justin's to kill time.

    We went back to the bar around 10:00 and arrived early into the first set. The band sounded GREAT! The drummer was excellent, one of the finest we've seen and heard in a long time, and the
    lead singer really captured the essence of Johnny Cash. They had the crowd really rocking by the
    time us old folks left around midnight to head home for bed.


    SUNDAY - Awoke in the morning to discover the pregnant cat had 4 little kitties overnight. Justin
    and three of his friends wanted to go "disc golfing," so we decided to tag along....not to play....but to
    take a walk on a gorgeous autumn afternoon. We headed south on Darbytown Road for several
    miles and came to Dorey Park, a lovely county park which had a great 18 hole disc golf course laid
    out in the woods. We've never heard of disc golfing, or Frisbee golfing, and were actually surprised
    at how many people were taking advantage of the course (and the great weather). IGY, and Justin's
    dog, Rupus, enjoyed romping in the woods, and by the 12th hole we were all getting tired. It's been
    a long 5 days and we leave tomorrow morning.


    MONDAY - Left at noon and decided to take a different route home. We followed Route 250 west
    out of Richmond towards Charlottesville, which was a straight, rolling-hill road that we could
    leisurely drive on and see the sights. We picked up Route 15 north and travelled that straight home
    to Pennsylvania, arriving home around 7:30.


    OVERVIEW - We really enjoyed our visit in Richmond, and although we saw a lot of sights, we barely skimmed the surface of what's available to do and see. We look forward to our next visit, and hope we can make it back to hear Black Cash and the Bad Trips perform again. Peace. :)>-

    Robyn

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    You have done more in a few days than I have done in the 7 years I have lived here. As a matter of fact, I am jotting down your restaurants and sights that I have yet to explore! I live in Midlothian-southside of the river. Great report.. You make me glad I live here...ha ha...

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    And if I promise not to use the word "fantastic" again....please tell me where you found out about the Sears homes in Hopewell! I had no idea they were there and I can't wait to check them out.

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    When you return to Richmond, you should be sure to see the Museum of the Civil War Soldier in Petersburg. That museum is just fantastic and will teach you a lot of things you did not know about the way the War was fought and how the soldiers lived. It is privately run--and not cheap--but worth every penny.

    After visiting the museum, you can take the free car ferry over the James and go to Williamsburg. Taking the ferry is a fun way to approach Williamsburg.

    Thanks for the trip report--and especially for the information about the Sears homes in Hopewell. I had no idea about those homes.

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    Thank you, everyone, for the positive feedback on my trip report.

    obxgirl & FauxSteMarie - You can pick up the brochure for the Sears Houses Driving Tour (Crescent Hills) from the Visitor's Center in Hopewell (Exit 9A off of 295) or write or call them:

    Hopewell Visitor Center West
    Colonial Corner Shopping Center
    4100 Oaklawn Boulevard
    Hopewell, VA 23860
    (804) 541-2461
    (800) 863-TOUR (8687)

    And by the way, SteMarie, we will be sure to add the FREE car ferry over the James River to Williamsburg - it's our kind of price tag (ha ha).

    We hope to make another trip to Richmond after the Christmas holidays, to see Justin, hear the band and cross more things off our "sights to see" list. I will be sure to post another report when we return. Peace. Robyn

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    I can't wait to play "tourist" with your great trip report. Living 45 min. away I ususally go up to Richmond just for shopping or dining. I have a friend who loves the Hollywood Cemetary and has been trying to get me to go. Thanks.

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    Birdie - Hollywood Cemetery is definately worth taking an hour from your schedule and touring next time you are in Richmond. The setting, on the side of the hill overlooking the James River, allows some beautiful views. And the artwork involved in some of the monuments and wrought iron fencing is simply exquisite. Then there is the historical significance behind many of the souls interned in the cemetery. There was a woman eating lunch on a bench overlooking the River and I thought it was a perfect place to take a break during a hectic day. Hope you have a chance to visit and enjoy it as we did.

    FauxSteMarie - Can you tell me more about the ferry into Williamsburg? I checked on the map - is it Route 31, leaving south, from Scotland? My map indicates this ferry is a toll. Is there another ferry? Any info would be appreciated. Thanks. Robyn

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    If you drive to Scotland, you will see the signs. It is not like Scotland is a large place.

    The ferry runs continuously and there is no need for car reservations. There have been suggestions to build a bridge, but it is opposed by the locals and the ferry is a lot more fun. Lovely on a nice spring or summer day. Kids love it.

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    Artstuff, Regarding the Jamestown-Scotland ferry: If you are coming from Richmond, take Route 10 (which goes through Hopewell I think) all the way into Surry. Pick up Rt 31 there and that will lead you directly to Scotland and the ferry pier. There used to be a toll but it was discontinued a few years ago when (surprise!) the ferry was considered paid up.

    I'm not sure what FSMarie is referring to about locals opposing the construction of a bridge. I guess I qualify as a local and there's been no real discussion of discontinuing the ferry in recent history, if ever. She is very correct tho that the ride is pretty and pleasant one across the James. Jamestown Island will be on your right as you travel.

    If your arteries can handle it, stop for a traditional southern meal at the Surry House Restaurant.

    An alternative trip from Richmond to Williamsburg is on Route 5, a VA scenic byway, which takes you past numerous farms and a half dozen or so plantation homes, all of which are worth a look. Rt 5 is also know as John Tyler Highway. Tyler's home, Sherwood Forest, is one of those homes.

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