Bucket List Richmond: Our Don't-Miss Essentials

Make sure you don't overlook a single one of these Travel Channel editor recommended things to see, do and eat in this happening Southern city.

Photo By: Quirk Hotel

Photo By: L'Opossum

Photo By: L'Opossum

Photo By: Quirk Hotel

Photo By: Quirk Hotel

Photo By: Virginia Tourism Corporation

Photo By: Virginia Tourism Corporation

Photo By: ADA Gallery

Photo By: Saison Market

Photo By: Sarah Hauser

Photo By: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts/Travis Fullerton

Photo By: Virginia Tourism Corporation

Photo By: Basket & Bike

Photo By: Christine Guest/Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Photo By: Quirk Hotel

Photo By: David Stover/Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Photo By: Sarah Hauser/Can Can Brasserie

Photo By: Sarah Hauser

The Quirk Hotel

Accessible, family-friendly, a little bit hip and a little bit traditional, Richmond offers something for everyone. While in town, we recommend a stay at the super stylish Quirk Hotel. Filled with whimsy and all of the millennial pink you can handle, Quirk is a design lover's dream. A transformed former department store in the heart of the city's booming West Broad Street art district, the hotel offers galleries, boutiques and restaurants in walking distance (or the very good in-house restaurant Maple and Pine, located smack-dab in the center of the hotel lobby).

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Behind Richmond's clean-cut appearance, the city knows how to bring the funk. Case in point: L'Opossum. If you make one dining stop during your time in Richmond, by all means make it L'Opossum, a place so clever it feels like dinner-and-a-show (and tell) all in one. You wouldn't know it from the outside, but inside this Oregon Hill restaurant is a David Lynch-meets-"Peewee's Playhouse"-fantasia filled with chef/owner David Shannon's collection of '60s lamps, Star Wars commemorative plates, clown paintings (clown-phobics are warned to stay away from the bathroom), oddball art (including a piece Shannon picked up as a wee child) and a winking, retro sense of fun. The James Beard-nominated chef's menu is a gorgeously decadent trip around the world with a throwback nod to the haute cuisine culinary adventures of vintage Vincent Price cookbooks and an era in '50s and '60s dining when food was exciting and special and going out to eat was always an occasion to remember. As delicious as it is imaginative, the menu includes Moroccan tangines, classic crab cakes and beef "Swellington" which share a menu with "Les Appetizers" like a "Vegan Orgy on Texas Beach" and a Russianesque odyssey, "Fabergé Egg Bedazzled with Caviar and Dill Cured Salmon," a salute to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' Fabergé egg collection. Shannon has a similarly sassy approach to naming his dishes. A cocktail special the night we visited was a Dark and Stormy Daniels and the bright and delicious Laura Palmer cocktail (a spin on the Martinez) comes wrapped in plastic (get it?). There are equally delicious vegetarian options and the clever bartender has been known to whip up a mocktail that grown-ups will covet.

Kitsch Explosion

Richmond's L'Opossum restaurant is a feast for the eyes as much as for the palate. Chef and owner David Shannon has transformed his restaurant into an over-the-top tribute to kitsch Americana that will delight anyone who likes a heaping helping of inspired design with their smart, imaginative vittles. There's so much creativity and wit on display you're going to need a second visit just to process all the stimuli. Just remember to make a reservation the second you decide to travel to Richmond, as this local favorite is pretty reliably packed.

Public Affection

With its open-plan, vibrantly decorated lobby and enormous glass windows Richmond's Quirk Hotel is a great place to stop for a drink or just linger.

Make Time for Kitties

Art is a big part of the Quick Hotel vibe, which includes three galleries on the premises as well as a gift shop where you can buy prints from some of the hotel's favorite artists like Elizabeth Graeber who designs many of the property's graphics. We fell in love with this combination of paper mache, paint and gold leaf by artist Sarah Hand from her "Family Portraits" series on view in the Quirk lobby.

Creative Crossroads

A restaurant concept made even more buzzy and dynamic by its setting, Maple & Pine in Richmond's Quirk Hotel is a series of curvaceous banquettes and small tables situated in the center of the hotel's lobby. Unlike so many hotel restaurants, which feel cut-off from the central action, this one is decidedly front-and-center. Great for a pre-event cocktail and appetizers or an after-meetings business dinner (a separate but still visible dining area screened by the main resto with glass display tables is perfect for groups), Maple & Pine brings an unexpected energy to the hotel restaurant paradigm. Mothers with babies in tow pass through the lobby, groups of girlfriends tuck into plates of oysters with bloody Mary sorbet and romantic dinners for two unfold in this all-things-to-all-people space. Service is on-point, with a staff well-versed in making smart wine recommendations and with a comprehensive knowledge of the menu. Chef David Dunlap's new American menu is especially notable for creative appetizers like a clever—and delicious—play on buffalo chicken: luscious chicken fried morels in a tangy buffalo sauce that you will want multiples of to share and sublime pasta dishes like a fettucine with pickled ramps full of herbaceous goodness. A seared duck breast (pictured) with a rustic, savory-sweet vibe thanks to duck jus and reductions of rhubarb and almond offers an innovative (and beautifully plated) approach to the typical protein.

Saison Market

Located close to the Quirk Hotel, Saison Market is a small but potent restaurant-meets-wine-and-beer-shop-meets-grocery and a great place to grab a bite and a glass of wine or pick from a well-curated selection of wines to take away. But if they haven't run out, by all means, get the chicken biscuit, a deceptively simple dish that will blow your taste buds out of the water.

Portraits of Poe

For fans of literature, the macabre, local history and black cats (Poe mascots Edgar and Pluto roam the grounds, waiting for photo ops), the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom neighborhood is a must-visit. One of the city's most famous residents, the author of "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Pit and the Pendulum" spent his formative years in the city (though he never lived in any of the buildings that compose the museum). The museum contains one of the largest collections of Poe's personal memorabilia, manuscripts, private papers and an extra-hearty helping of melancholy: this man lived a productive literary life but a very tragic one too. Cheer yourself up after dipping into Poe's creativity and pathos by picking up a Poe bobblehead or T-shirt as you exit through the gift shop.

Major Murals

Richmond is a city rich with public art in the form of murals that seem to pop up around every corner. Partly one-offs and partly the outcome of several popular events, the RVA Street Art Festival every fall and the Richmond Mural Project, the designs definitely add to the city's growing reputation as a creative hub.

ADA Gallery

Founded in 2003 and located in the art-centric West Broad Street district, ADA Gallery features a well-curated group of emerging and mid-career artists from around the country. Owner John Pollard is an artist himself, and has a welcoming, friendly attitude that will make even art novices feel free to ask questions and learn more about the work on view. Shows change out monthly.

Foodie Paradise

Wine and craft beer lovers will flip over the selection at this small but well-curated restaurant and shop, Saison Market. The cheeky descriptions alone that grace the wine varieties ("Tastes Like Money," "For Hipsters") are worth stopping in for a laugh. A small selection of vintage barware, antique maps and specialty cocktail tinctures, shrubs and accessories offer some unique shopping opportunities.

Bibliophile Paradise

Located in the hip Carytown neighborhood, this cozy treasure trove with a resident kitty, Chop Suey Books is a book-lover's dream. Chop Suey features rare, out-of-print and affordable titles and an extremely well-curated collection of used books on topics ranging from Virginia history, film, art and any other genre you can imagine.

Girl Power

As notable for its exhibitions as it is for its lovely grounds, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a must-stop on a Richmond tour. The striking 24-foot tall sculpture "Chloe" (2016) by the renowned Spanish artist Jaume Plensa is one of the works that ornament VMFA's Robins Sculpture Garden, which will continue to see new commissions over time.

Historic Homes

Richmond is rich with lovely, historic neighborhoods like Church Hill. The oldest neighborhood in the city, Church Hill features an array of pre-Civil War homes on its tree-lined streets.

Basket & Bike

Experience Richmond in an intimate, healthy way by renting a charming 3-speed bike from the locavore company Basket & Bike run by the gracious and gregarious Anne Poarch. "Bicycling quietly through Richmond gives you the beautiful opportunity to see things you might miss from the car," says Poarch, who will deliver your bikes to hotels and locations throughout the city (check the website for drop-off and pick-up availability). Bikes come with a helmet and lock. Our bike adventure took us from West Broad Street to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum and through historic neighborhoods to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and Carytown. Handy baskets allow you to stow your purchases and Poarch supplies cold water in stylish bottles supplied with each bike. If you want to add a guided tour or a picnic, Poarch can pack up some treats for a stop and there are ample places throughout the city to unsaddle and shop, walk, eat or take in a museum. Truly the best way to see this lovely city, just be mindful that not all drivers will be happy to see you and you need to exercise caution when biking in congested areas of the city.

Catch Napoleon Fever

Through September 3, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts features a remarkable exhibition "Napoleon: Power and Splendor" focused on the man and the empire (1769-1821) that made French history. An array of portraits of Napoleon give a sense of how Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to be represented and the exhibition also catalogs daily life during his reign, including an elaborate pecking order, lavish dinners (and the accompanying cutlery, serving vessels and china), household objects and the kind of political propaganda we may, falsely, think of as a modern invention.

Hip Stay

A hotel that manages to nail both cozy and cool, Richmond's Quirk Hotel puts a premium on design, but not at the expense of service. Staff is attentive and friendly and requests are filled promptly. Ultra-comfortable rooms feature soaring ceilings, white-noise canceling machines and an adorbs pink mini-fridge, filled with local goodies. A scene-y rooftop bar affords a great view of the city.

Art Inside and Out

You could spend an entire day enjoying the many offerings at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts—one of the first museums in the South operated with state funds— from great traveling exhibitions to the largest collection of Fabergé eggs outside Russia. The lovely Robins Sculpture Garden is a great place to unwind and relax surrounded by a reflecting pool and works by Henry Moore, Dale Chihuly and Oronzio Maldarelli.

Can Can Brasserie

Filled with Gallic charm, the atmospheric Can Can Brasserie in Richmond's Carytown neighborhood is a great stop for French classics like a croque monsieur and madame, onion soup and steaks frites and a great wine list by the glass. White subway tile walls, tiny wood cafe tables and globe lights hit all the Francophile buttons. Attention to detail is key, with thoughtful service (our waitress offered to fill our bicycle water bottles for us) and the kind of decor that projects you straight to Saint-Germain. Lovely touches like frites served in white paper cones in silver cups with housemade mayo exemplify the memorable touches.

Charm City

Don't leave Richmond without a stop at the cute-as-heck Charm School Social Club ice cream shop where you can get non-GMO, grass-fed cow-sourced ice cream in an array of flavors (birthday cake, strawberry shortcake, lime cherry-ade, lavender ice, Thai iced tea), sundaes topped with Virginia peanuts and even vegan ice cream. The interior is a Wes Anderson-worthy rhapsody of old-school graphics, local art and more style than a human can bear. Just go.

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