Richmond: Virginia's Fair Capital

by Mary and Bill Burnham

Richmond skyline at night

Live music and scents of international cuisine spill from restored warehouses in Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom. On Richmond's west side, The Fan and Careytown's fashion district offer stylish diversions.

After a two-year renovation, state lawmakers are back in session in Thomas Jefferson's gorgeous capitol building, home of the oldest continually governing legislative body in the western hemisphere.

Virginia Capitol Building

The structure modeled on an ancient Roman temple in France has been restored to the 1906 paint schemes and is absolutely gorgeous: gold inlay, yellows and mauves, and polished limestone and marble. Sit in the galleries and watch the House and Senate at work (if they're not in session, you can sit in their chairs). There are interactive exhibits in the new underground education/visitor center.

Elsewhere in our capital city, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has numerous themed gardens and a spectacular conservatory. The new Children's Garden has an international village, water play area, weird and contrasting plant exhibits, and a handicapped-accessible tree house.

Lewis Ginter children's garden

Kids come face-to-face with more than 600 animals at Maymont, a 100-acre urban oasis in the middle of the city. All ages marvel at the Victorian country estate, elaborate gardens and horse-drawn carriages.

The James River passes right through downtown Richmond, the only urban Class IV rapids in the nation. Click here to read about paddling the James River.

For more about visiting Richmond, go to

Place to Eat

Nate Sams keeps his super-hot homemade sauce behind the counter so the un-initiated don't get burned! Louisiana Flair is a bit of casual, colorful New Orleans in downtown Richmond. Order your Catfish Po' Boy 'dressed' with lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and Cajun mayo. But be sure to ask for the special sauce on the side. Located at the corner of Grace Street and North 4th Street - across from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Place to Stay

The genteel spirit of a Virginia gentleman is in residence at Richmond's Jefferson Hotel where guests check in under the sculpted visage of Thomas Jefferson. Since 1895, this has been the hotel of choice for visiting presidents and one king - of rock n' roll, that is--Elvis slept here!

Giant faux marble columns call to mind the Greek Revival style our third president admired. Presidential portraits, intricate woodwork, high domed ceilings and stained glass evoke a museum-like aura, while modern upgrades include a new health facility and free wireless Internet.

Chivalrous staff give the impression a guest's every wish may be granted. All 264 rooms and suites are newly refurbished, have featherbeds, Egyptian cotton sheets, and marble bathrooms.

West Franklin Street's new brick sidewalk lead 10 blocks to Capitol Square, Museum Row and the Governor's Mansion. Or take advantage of the hotel's free car service.