Check out Richmond’s Riverfront, downtown, and Midtown – on Foot.
This 6 mile loop will give you a decent cardio workout and a dense little urban adventure. Starting and ending at Quirk Hotel (because well, that’s where I would stay if I were visiting Richmond), get your fill on some can’t-be-missed spots. Coming to Richmond without walking next to the James River or stepping foot on cobblestones would be sinful tourism. Grab your sneakers, apply a layer of sunscreen, and let’s go.
What to bring: Sunblock, at least 1 liter of water, snacks, knife (I use a SOG), journal and camera if you’re into that
What to wear: Active wear, running/hiking shoes (I opted for Brooks Pure Grit trail runners), hat
Time: 3-5 hours depending on how much you want to explore what you’re seeing.
Follow me on My Fitness Tracker to use the interactive version of this crazy map.
From Quirk head down to the river, passing on the way the Jefferson Hotel, the Virginia War Memorial, and Gamble’s Hill park. When you get to the intersection of 2nd St Connector and Tredegar, turn left, taking you past Historic Tredegar Iron Works and the American Civil War Museum, toward Brown’s Island. In town on a Friday during summer? You’ll definitely want to return for the weekly Friday Cheers music event.
The Pottersfield pedestrian bridge on your right will take you across the mighty James River (do it) to the newly revitalizing Manchester district and the Flood Wall trail, which is a worthy side-trip if you feel inclined. Otherwise cross the bridge and come right back to Brown’s Island to continue our itinerary.
From the bridge keep going along Brown’s Island, till you get to the Manchester bridge. Ditch the paved path and bear to the right (it’s a gravel field area) where you’ll see the vague impression of a dirt path leading to the river, beneath the train trestles. This is the way you want to go!
Stay on this path and you’ll end up on the Pipeline walkway, which is one of my favorite places in Richmond. There is a little bit of magic in the spaces where rust and river meet. On this trail you’re literally walking along a giant pipe (I have no idea what it transported – should probably look that up). There are no handrails for part of it so be VERY careful if the river is high. In other words, pay attention. Always.
Climb the little ladder at the end of the walkway and you’re in the historic Shockoe Bottom district. Go right on the path then left along the train tracks and you’ll find yourself on 14th street. Cross 14th to briefly check out the Canal Walk. Exiting you’ll find yourself under lots of bridges. It can feel sort of overwhelming but you’re pretty much on Dock Street. Walk East til you get to 17th Street, at which point you’ll go North again. At 17th and Main you’ll see the Farmer’s Market.
Go West again on Main, and have a look inside the Main Street station if you’re into trains (I am). The spot is going through major renovations to encourage business and events (I think?). It’s beautiful and feels like time traveling.
Find yourself at Virginia’s First Freedom Center by staying West on Main and turning left on 14th Street. The mini museum is right there on the corner of 14th and Cary Street. Go in! Operated by the larger Valentine Museum, it’s dedicated to religious freedom and the First Amendment. This is a great place to buy books about Thomas Jefferson (I picked one up called Jefferson’s Quran) or Richmond made souvenirs. Stay on Cary East bound.
If you’re hungry from your journey so far (I was!), grab some lunch at one of the restaurants nearby. Urban Farmhouse and Market is perfect for light fare and coffee. Keep going, you’ll see it (13th and Cary), but first you’ll pass Fountain Bookstore on your right(book love), which has been there since 1978. Richmond Segway will be on your left just before getting to the café.
Once you’re refreshed, continue West on Cary til you reach (10th) St. You’ll head north on this toward Virginia’s state capitol. Have a quick peek and walk through the grounds, which are beautifully landscaped and quite serene. After checking out the statues of Virginia’s founding fathers and our state virtues, leave the grounds through the exit on your left. Walk north on 9th st and turn left on Broad Street.
Cross Broad to look inside the Library of Virginia if you like books and government (this is where state documents get stored – I only know this because of my college internship). Another gift shop option is in here.
Carry on Westward on Broad Street to experience a few blocks of grit. You’ll pass the National, the Coalition Theater, pawn shops, and other places of business that have been there fore quite some time. Their future is uncertain; such is the price we pay for gentrification/revitalization.
At Foushee cross back to the South Side of Broad to get some thrift shopping in. Circle is awesome. You’ll notice my map is a little haywire here, and I have no idea why. I must have been taking a lot of pictures or just couldn’t make up my mind on what to do. Once you hit Jefferson Street you’re back at Quirk!
At this point I HIGHLY RECOMMEND walking past Quirk to Broad and Monroe for a scoop of the best ice cream in Richmond at Charm School Social Club. They’ve got dairy free options too, so everyone can go. It’s the cherry on top of your great little urban adventure.
Did you do it? Did it turn you on? Are you whooped? I hope so! Let me know what you thought by using #happenstancer on Instagram – I’d love to see your selfies and shoes and souvenirs.
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