Virginia’s capital city invites tourists to celebrate its changing landscape.
Heritage, history, cuisine and culture—all find a veritable spot on the trajectory that Richmond, Virginia, is scaling. Counted among America’s oldest cities, Richmond was once known as the Black Wall Street of the South and gained the moniker the “Birthplace of Black Entrepreneurship” thanks to over 100 businesses and individuals that made their mark here in the 1920s and onward.
This includes Maggie L. Walker, the first African American woman to charter a bank and serve as its president. Another famed local is Arthur Ashe, the first African American male tennis player and one the world came to know and love as a legend on and off the courts.
Though the city was once the capital of the Confederacy, the last of the confederate statues on Monument Avenue was removed in 2022. Richmond is dedicated now to building a strong future, inspiring a sea change and welcoming everyone to partake in its success.
Venues Depicting the Rich History of Richmond, Virginia
Richmond offers several attractions, including the Valentine Museum and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Pocahontas State Park and more. The Maymont here is a 100-acre Victorian-style estate and park that provides a relaxed time in nature with an arboretum and gardens, native wildlife habitats and a nature center and mansion to tour.
There’s the James River Park System with all its activities and points of interest too. Almost all venues hold historical significance and warrant a spot on your itinerary, so be sure you factor in reasonable time to do them all justice.
For a more personal and customized introduction, the Walking the Ward Tour with Gary Flowers is a must. The 20-stop walking tour of historic Jackson Ward, the nation’s first historically registered Black urban neighborhood, is an in-depth primer on the historical moments, people and places that shaped the area.
Flowers is an eighth-generation Virginian and fourth-generation Jackson Ward resident, so you can rest assured all your questions about the area will be answered. The Black History Museum of Virginia is the start of the tour and a must-visit venue to understand the cultural center that is Richmond. The many untold and forgotten stories of the people who laid the foundation for the area’s future are shared via interactive exhibits and an impressive permanent collection.
Another unique experience here is the Mending Walls Street Art Tour with RVATukTuk. These electric, open-air three wheelers are a great way to enjoy sightseeing across different neighborhoods and landmarks. While several themed tours are available, the mural tour is particularly interesting, especially when their significance or symbolism is framed in context to past and current events.
Community Efforts Symbolizing the History of Richmond
To better impress the significance of the Black cultural experience in the area, Richmond Region Tourism established the Black RVA initiative, highlighting the community and businesses in its many neighborhoods.
Rooted and Rising is a campaign within this effort to shine a light on businesses rooted in the history of Richmond as well as the rising stars that are newly thriving in business today. Elegba Folklore Society is one of these businesses that call Richmond home.
“The best part of my work is the opportunity to create programs, artistically, that engage, immerse, and even transform people regarding culture and heritage. It is gratifying to watch joy and reconnection prevail,” says Janine Bell, president and artistic director at Elegba Folklore Society (EFS), where she serves as a Richmond Cultural Ambassador paving the way through the cultural center for others to explore the material culture of the African diaspora.
Here you can find statues, masks, paintings, textiles, books, and art and gifts. Bell hosts several events throughout the year, including the Juneteenth freedom celebration, Down Home Family Reunion, and Capital City Kwanzaa Festival in Richmond. At the venue, Bell and her team also perform African music and dance using traditional sound instruments.
- Brandon Byrd’s Frozen Custard & Vintage Charm Attracts Lines in Virginia
- Peanut Farmer Elisha Barnes Honors Family and Land with Pop Son Farm
Of the Black-owned businesses Bell frequents, she says, “I love to pop in at Sugar’s Crab Shack to celebrate three generations of family legacy and good food. The food is amazing, and I have to warn myself not to overdo it. Addis Ethiopian invites a connection with the continent that I’m always down for.”
Richmond’s Culinary Venues
If you’d like your taste buds to travel without paying for the air miles, then as Bell recommends, Addis Ethiopian Restaurant is just the place. Owner Bitew opened this addition to the Richmond culinary scene in 2008. It offers all the menu favorites, such as vegetarian and meat stews, and plenty of injera (sourdough flatbread made of teff flour) to scoop it up with your hands.
The former offers southern staples such as fried okra and meatloaf, while the latter specializes in other southern mains such as fried catfish and candied yams, proving the fact that there can never be one too many soul food venues in any one location when each is like being welcomed into a family’s kitchen.
ML Steak Modern Chophouse by Mike Lindsey, named after his mom Mildred, brings his two decades of experience in fine dining to the fore with a creative drinks and dine menu in an upscale steakhouse setting. The restaurant is only one of a handful of others and is adding to his ever-expanding empire.
Among signature dishes here are the filet medallion flight, double-cut lamb chops, and creative cocktail offerings. And for a boxed supper to take on your walks around the area, look no further than Soul ‘N Vinegar, where owner Michelle Parrish combines her southern and Asian roots to produce grab-n-go culinary delights.
You will possibly find that while Richmond might not be a spot you might have picked for a casual visit, there is enough and more to indulge in to want to extend your stay or even visit again.