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Richmond, Virginia had been on our travel list for awhile thanks to its burgeoning beer scene, but it wasn’t until we purchased the Graduate hotel’s “Hall Pass” package (read about it here) last summer that we decided fly to the historic city. In truth, we hesitated because we weren’t sure that we’d find enough to do to make a trip worthwhile. However, we were happily proven wrong with plenty to keep us busy during our three-night stay. Below, you’ll find some snapshots from our trip along with a list of our recommendations and “insider” suggestions.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Below, I’ve compiled a list of the things we’ve enjoyed in Richmond. I’ve also included additional recommendations as a sort of “insider’s list” with places to visit from Dave’s sister’s friend, Meghan, who works at Visit Richmond and from my Instagram friend Laura who used to live there.
SEE & DO
- Virginia Museum of Fine Arts – We could have spent so much more time at the art museum. It has an impressive collection — the Fabergé collection being one of the highlights — with well-executed special exhibits. (We were there for “The Dirty South” exhibit.)
- Quirk – Stop in to browse the gallery or get a cocktail, even if you’re not staying at the hotel.
- Edgar Allen Poe Museum – Poe spent the better part of his life in Richmond. This museum celebrates his life and legacy. It’s dorky and I absolutely loved it.
- Riverfront Canal Walk – Located along downtown’s riverfront, the Canal Walk stretches 1.25 miles along the James River and Kanawha and Haxall Canals. You can walk, bike, or take a boat tour along the canal. Read more about its history here.
- Virginia State Capitol – Even if you don’t want to tour the capitol, the grounds around the building are pretty with statues and government buildings.
- Richmond Mural Project – Back in 2012, Richmond embarked on its goal of creating over 100 murals in just five years.
- Explore Shockoe Slip – This area of the city was founded as a trade post in the early 1600s and is now the location of shops, restaurants, and businesses. It’s fun to poke around and walk the cobblestone streets.
- Explore Shockoe Bottom – This area of the city has a somber past as the location where slaves were brought into town. Now, it’s a charming, industrial neighborhood with cobblestone streets, murals, restaurants, and shops. I stopped in at Shockoe Bottom Clay where I purchased a wood-fired ceramic vase by local artist Jocelyn Sandberg, which I think is actually the piece in the upper right of this image.
EAT & DRINK
- Lucky AF – This was a fun Asian fusion restaurant with [apparently] the best sushi in Richmond. One of the rolls we selected was made with wild rice and was deliciously unexpected!
- Lift Coffee Shop & Café – We went here for breakfast and iced coffee every day.
- Charm School – A sweet little ice cream shop that also has dairy-free options. Plus, they have a cute “Greetings from Richmond” mural on the side of their building.
- Triple Crossing – A brewery with solid beer options and pizza (we loved the pepperoni and hot honey one).
- Breweries in Scott’s Addition – This area of town is exploding with breweries, restaurants, and apartments/condos. It feels like there’s a brewery on every block. The Veil and Vasen were two of our favorites; check out Starr Hill’s rooftop patio. (You could also work your way through Richmond’s Beer Trail to receive a hat at the end.)
- Additional food recommendations we received: Urban Farmhouse Market & Café, Whisk (bakery), Carmela’s (pizzeria), and The Roosevelt (new southern fare), Lillie Pearl (southern), Soul Taco (Latin-southern fusion), Saison, Urban Hang Suite (coffee), Perly’s (Jewish deli), ZZQ (barbecue), Brenner Pass (alpine cuisine), Peter Chang (Chinese), Perch (Virginia-Filipino fusion), Alewife (Chesapeake Bay seafood), Sub Rosa (bakery), The Jasper (cocktails), Cask Café (beer bar), Zorch (NY-style pizza).
If that last bullet of food recommendations is any indication, we need to make another trip to the city just to dine!
OUR STAY & TRANSPORTATION
I wanted to add a few notes about transportation and accommodations. We stayed at the Graduate hotel, which you can read more about here. As far as transportation is concerned, you can absolutely get by without renting a car if you’re planning to stay in the city. Ubers were plentiful and the city has an incredibly easy bus rapid transit (BRT) system to get you to the different neighborhoods quickly and efficiently.
For more travel guides, click here!
There have been plenty of times on vacation that I’ve left my DSLR in the hotel room and have relied solely on my iPhone to snap photos — or, in the case of a quick weekend jaunt, left it at home entirely. I used to have pangs of regret, but now that iPhone camera technology has improved so dramatically in past years, it really can be a great substitute for the times that a traditional camera is too big and bulky to bring along.
I’m not the only one who sees the merit in using the iPhone in place of the “real” camera. I attended a virtual event recently with Pete Souza, former President Obama’s official White House photographer, who admitted to using his iPhone camera in place of the DSLR on occasion. If he can do it, I think that gives us all permission to opt for the camera that’s always in our pockets and purses!
It’s a big part of why I was intrigued to see a press release come across my email promoting photographer and author Scott Kelby’s new book, The iPhone Photography Book, a comprehensive guide to iPhone photography that goes through techniques to improve your snapshots with hints that include editing, composition, organization, and more. I had a chance to connect with Scott to share six tips for iPhone photography success with you, and the one mistake to avoid.
1. How to Stop “Missing the Shot!”
If you’ve ever missed a great moment because by the time you unlocked your iPhone, found the Camera app, and then launched it, it was too late, try this trick: When you pick up your iPhone to take a shot, don’t unlock it. Just pick it up, immediately swipe left, and your Camera app appears ready to go!
2. The Best Times to Shoot Travel
The best time to make beautiful travel photos is when the light outdoors is soft and beautiful, and that happens twice a day: about 30 minutes before sunrise, up until about 15 minutes after sunrise, and in the hour before and after sunset. A bonus for shooting around dawn: the tourists will not be awake yet, so you’ll get great shots with no crowds—just beautiful light and tourist-free monuments, streets, and scenes.
3. A Better Way to Take Photos without Tapping the Screen
On a traditional camera, you press a physical button to take a shot, which is one of the big advantages of a traditional camera. But, believe it or not, you can do the same thing with your iPhone: just press the volume up or volume down button to take a shot. Try it once and you’ll use this trick again and again.
4. Capturing the Moment vs. Composition
When you see something charming, or fascinating, or wonderful happening, forget the composition and just capture the moment. We can always go back and crop the photo later in the Photos app to create the composition we were hoping for, but if you miss the “moment,” that moment is gone forever.
5. How to Stop from Having Photos That Are Too Dark or Too Bright
If you’re looking at a scene in front of you, and it seems too dark or too bright, or if your subject is backlit with the sun behind them, right after you tap on the screen to focus on your subject, tap-and-hold your finger on the screen and drag up to make the whole image brighter or down to make it darker.
6. The Secret to (and Two Methods for) Shooting Food
One big reason people love to travel is that they love trying the food, so you want to come back with shots of the amazing dishes you had on your trip. The secret to great food shots is simply great light, and you get that by shooting during the daytime and asking to be seated either outside (under an umbrella or roof of some sort) or right by a window. The two methods for getting great food shots: Turn on Portrait mode and zoom in tight (you don’t have to show the whole plate—just parts of it), and the classic “iPhone from overhead shot straight down on your food” shot.
One Mistake to Avoid: Showing Too Much of the Scene
When you try to capture an entire building (like a cathedral or an opera house or a classic, old building), you usually wind up with things that ruin the romance and timelessness of the shot because there are billboards, signs, power lines, etc. You don’t have to show the whole scene. Compose the shot to where you avoid all those distractions, just showing part of the building. Think of it as a “detail” shot. The viewer’s mind will fill in the rest of the image, but you’ll have an interesting and captivating image without all the distractions.
For more iPhone photography tips, you can pick up Scott’s book here!
This post contains affiliate links. I received a review copy of Scott’s book, but was under no obligation to write about it.
Behold, the latest addition to my little Paravel family: the Cabana Tote in the “shandy” colorway. I’ve been smitten with the brand since their crossbody capsule dominated social media a few years ago. I bought one and still love it, and have since expanded my collection to include a small backpack much like this one (mine has been discontinued) that has made the trek to the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Belgium with me. Both pieces are still going strong and have virtually no signs of wear and tear. I hesitated to purchase the Cabana Tote, not because I didn’t love it — I fell for its vintage charm at first sight — but because I wasn’t sure this tote would be any better than the rest of my tote bags. I mean, how many carry-all totes do we really need? Turns out, it’s one. This one.
First things first, the tote is generously sized at 17.75″ x 14.5″ x 7.5″. It’s a true carry-all tote that can corral all of your necessary belongs for a beach day, a road trip, or a social-distanced backyard soiree. There’s a zippered interior pocket and a couple of open pockets to keep your smaller items in reach, and the clasp closure and sturdy base keeps those things from spilling out. One of the best features of this tote and the other Paravel pieces I have is the protective coating made of silicone that makes clean up a breeze.
The tote’s best features, however, are the ones you don’t see. I’ve really come to appreciate Paravel for its commitment to sustainability. You’d never guess that 14 recycled plastic water bottles were used to create the tote’s canvas exterior, the lining, and the straps. And those leather accents? They’re eco-certified by the Leather Working Group.
I know the tote isn’t the cheapest, coming in at $165 (or $175 if you want to add-on the shoe cubes), but it’s a true have-it-forever piece that eclipses any other tote I’ve had to date. Plus, it’s awfully charming!
And, nope, this isn’t sponsored, although I’d happily sign on for a sponsorship! I’ve purchased all of my Paravel pieces and will likely add more to my collection down the road.
As someone who loves Christmas, it’s no surprise that kicking off the holiday season in Europe has been something I dreamed of for years. While Germany would have been the obvious choice, a relatively inexpensive flight and hotel package out of Madison made Belgium an attractive option for our getaway. Plus, it gave us a chance to restock our dwindling supply of Cantillon. Priorities.
This was our third trip to Brussels, which made the nine-day trip as low-stress as possible during the busiest time of year because we didn’t need to spend the first couple of days orienting ourselves in the country. We knew how to use public transportation, we knew where to go without getting lost, we knew what favorites we wanted to revisit, and which day trips to go on (Amsterdam, Bruges, and Antwerp). We stopped at our favorite bars and restaurants, ate our weight in frites, drank world-class beer, and reveled in the holiday spirit by way of twinkling lights and Christmas markets. Not surprisingly, a day in Bruges was the most magical. Bruges is one of Europe’s most well-preserved medieval cities, escaping destruction during World War I and II. We’ve been to the city twice before and each time I’m struck by how fairy tale-like it is. Adding in strings of lights and a Christmas market in the city center took it to another level.
Here are a few photos of the most Christmassy moments of our trip. I’m working on a full Brussels travel guide to post in the new year, along with a Google map for your own trip planning. I’m also going to post day trip recommendations for Amsterdam and Bruges now that we’ve been a few times. I hope your holiday week is the merriest!