Belle Isle is becoming increasingly more trafficked with the rise of hiking groups, college kids wanting to drink by the river, and people feeling cooped up in the Richmond area. For me, it will always be a special place to get away. While the swaying bridge at the front entrance (with the walk to the main part of the rocks) is something you should definitely do if you have never done it before, I always like to go the back way to Bell Isle- via Riverside Drive. There’s a parking lot and back entrance there where, after just a short walk through some trees and over a bridge, you find yourself at the rocks- just on the other side of the James River from Belle Isle. As long as the water level is manageable, this is the perfect spot to cross the rocks to pick your ideal destination. Belle Isle consists of rocks peppered all across the James River for you to picnic on, sunbath on, and even to use for a home base as you go for a swim. There’s the old abandoned building off to one side, as well, that provides for deeper swimming if you so desire- though most of the water is shallow here. There are even little fish in the water that come up and nip on your toes occasionally- like in those Thai parlors. All in all, this is a must-visit in my opinion. And on a nice, early fall morning, when no one is around, it can be one of the most peaceful places in the world.
This location is a little less mainstream than the rest, but I love walking through old cemeteries. You know the ones- the cemeteries with the big, impressive mausoleums. Hollywood cemetery offers a beautiful stroll by the James River with a nice breeze. And you can find graves of presidents, famous figures, and legends alike. The cemetery offers many haunted stories, including the tale of its own vampire. So, if you’re in the mood for a quite stroll through history and lore, this is the place for you.
The Poe Museum
The Poe Museum, obviously dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe, is a great place to visit every so often. Since he spent a lot of time in Richmond, there are many artifacts and stories to the late poet offered in this museum. It’s beautiful, timeless, and eerie- just like Poe’s work.
Maymont Park is becoming more and more of a hot location, but for me it will always be the place I loved to visit as a kid. There are breathtaking Italian Gardens, gorgeous Japanese Gardens, an old manor house (the Dooley Mansion- which offers some really cool tours), a barn, and many wild animals. I love to start at the back of Maymont- the end where the Dooley Mansion is. We enter through the gates, walk up to the Italian Gardens and follow the trails down from there. Having a picnic on the rocks by the waterfall in the Japanese Garden is one of the greatest experiences I can recommend to you!
Lastly, everyone knows and loves Cary Town because of its cute little boutiques and old-fashioned streets. Plus, the Byrd Theatre offering midnight movies was the coolest things to teenagers when I was growing up. But It’s absolutely worth the visit all the same. If nothing else, this should be your stopping point to have lunch at!
I hope I have inspired you to visit some of my favorite places if you ever step foot in Richmond, Virginia. With more and more film and television productions making their way to Richmond, it’s becoming a much cooler place to visit. Be sure to let me know when you visit and which place was your favorite!