Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia

Judd Grutman

Richmond, Virginia might not be the first gay-friendly city that comes to mind, but this unsung treasure is earning its status as a gay travel destination. Avid New York Times readers might recall that a few years back LGBT-owned businesses in Richmond set out to lure gay travellers to their city. Their endeavours paid off. Richmond is vibrant, hospitable, and brimming with good restaurants and places you might not expect. We recommend visiting during warmer seasons as it can be a walking city, but it also makes for an excellent winter weekend getaway being just an hour by plane from New York.

Where to stay

Even though my partner and I visited Richmond for a wedding, our stay ended up revolving around The Jefferson Hotel. A city and national landmark, The Jefferson has decked itself out to become one of 51 American hotels with AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Five-Star ratings. The hotel is opulent, historic, and regal, and the service is world-class. If The Jefferson is not an option, Quirk Hotel down the street provides an excellent boutique alternative. Fit with an art gallery and upbeat lobby that serves as a nice spot for an afternoon refreshment, Quirk Hotel is modern and up-tempo, and conveniently situated across the street from restaurants Graffiato and Comfort. While The Jefferson and The Quirk stand out when it comes to Richmond lodging, one of the perks of visiting Richmond is all the action is conveniently located no matter where you stay.

Quirk Hotel

Quirk Hotel

Where to eat

Locals pride themselves on Richmond’s food scene, and we found that the restaurants live up to the hype. We started at Metzger Bar and Butchery, known for its seafood plateaus and house made meats. Metzger’s is located on a quiet corner in the Churchill District, and its neighbourhood vibe is well-suited for a boozy dinner with friends and shared plates. Also check out Pasture, a casual downtown spot that generates a lot of buzz for its Southern farm-to-table fare. L’Opossum, a LGBT-owned restaurant in Oregon Hill, serves excellent French cuisine and has a fun atmosphere and eclectic decor. One of our favourite meals was Jewish-deli-inspired brunch at Perly’s. Big groups should try and grab one of the leather booths up front. For local coffee shop buffs or those looking for something lighter in the morning, we recommend Lamplighter, which has a few locations around the city, including a well-frequented cafe on Morris Street with ample outdoor seating.

What to do

Richmond is also a great destination for those of you that like to make a cherished purchase when you travel. Highly regarded Need Supply Co., located on a busy drag of the retail-focused Carytown, sells high-end clothing and lifestyle brands in a beautiful space. Richmond is the site of a Ledbury flagship store, which offers luxury shirts and classics. Also, Mongrel is a city staple and LGBT-owned gift shop that adds to Carytown’s flair. Beer buffs revel in Richmond, as well. Mekong Restaurant & Bar of Richmond is considered one of the best craft beer purveyors in America. The restaurant’s Vietnamese food also gets rave reviews, making it more than worth the short car ride from downtown Richmond proper. You can explore more off the beaten path via Richmond’s Beer Trail, which maps out the growing craft brewery scene in the region. For those who like theatre, check out Richmond Triangle Players, a favourite among locals that showcases creative works that celebrate diversity and the LGBT community. The most popular gay bar is Babe’s, which has a busy nightly calendar posted online.

Need Supply Co. | Photo: Need Supply Co.

Need Supply Co. | Photo: Need Supply Co.

What to see

To round out your trip, Richmond offers a pleasant art and museum scene. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, open daily and late on Thursday and Fridays, recently featured an exhibit on Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch. Further highlighting its commitment to the LGBT community, currently on exhibition at the Valentine Museum is One Love: LGBT Families, a photographic portrayal of LGBT families from the Richmond area. And for those that like to get outdoors while on holiday, Belle Isle is an easy day trip from the city offering scenic biking and walking trails, as well as higher intensity options like hiking and kayaking.

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