Washington DC

17 Reasons to Drive to Richmond, Virginia

Amazing restaurants, public art, and beautiful scenery abound.

Quirk Hotel Richmond
Quirk Hotel Richmond
Quirk Hotel Richmond

Need to get away and try a new city on for size? Richmond, Virginia, just 90 minutes south of DC-give or take the traffic situation on 95-is an easy and affordable option while still having some room to safely social distance. River City is home to gorgeous parks, some tasty restaurants, street art, as well as some comfortable digs where you can sleep-in and order up coffee from the lobby. For a quick escape, here are some of the best ways to eat, drink, explore  in Richmond.

Lay your head down in a creative, boutique hotel

First, you’ll need a place to rest your head for the night, and the boutiquey vibes of Quirk Hotel are the perfect place for a weekend away. Quirk is currently upping its game with safety protocols including remote check-in and check-out. Plus, it’s a central location location that delivers on value-room rates start as low as $189 per night, and there’s even a special geared toward Washingtonians. The DC Commuter package comes with a $25 food and beverage credit, free parking, and a room upgrade upon check-in. You can redeem that credit at the coffee bar in the lobby, or cocktails at the hotel bar. And there are plenty of creative touches in the design and art that adorn this property for a hotel stay that feels anything but cookie-cutter.

Photo Courtesy of Ruby Scoops
Photo Courtesy of Ruby Scoops
Photo Courtesy of Ruby Scoops

Support local restaurants from DC and Richmond

There is a special bond between chefs from our nation’s capital and Virginia’s capital. Several food entrepreneurs either maintain equal footing in both cities. Start at Ruby Scoops, owned and operated by Rabia Kamara, who recently brought her ice cream parlor from DC to Richmond. Her shop opened late last year in the North Side neighborhood, and you’ll find flavors like mango sorbet, cookie butter, and dulce de leche. 

Another chef with a dual presence in both DC and Richmond is Brittanny Anderson, who will soon appear on the next season of Top Chef. Her most recent addition to the Richmond food scene is Black Lodge-an all-day restaurant and cafe that serves one of the best burgers in town, plus thick slices of pie and expertly crafted coffees and cocktails. 

No trip to RVA would be complete without slurping down a few bivalves from Rappahannock, which maintains a strong oyster presence on menus around the Mid-Atlantic region but comes served freshest at this farm-to-table restaurant in Richmond’s City Center.

Photo Courtesy of Richmond Mural Project
Photo Courtesy of Richmond Mural Project
Photo Courtesy of Richmond Mural Project

Take street art tour by bike

It’s one of the easiest ways to get around town, and at $1.75 per ride, RVA Bikes, the city’s bikeshare program, is a safe and socially distanced way to get from point A to point B. You’ll find  20 stations and 220 bikes spread throughout Richmond’s 11 neighborhoods, and it’s a great way to enjoy a scenic tour through the city’s abundant street art. Let the Richmond Mural Project be your guide.

Many of the installations spread throughout the city are the result of the RVA Street Art Festival, which takes place each fall and attracts artists from around the country and world. For this tour, start with installations by renowned international artists, such as Australia’s Stormie Mills and Argentina’s Jaz. Find these murals in The Fan, a neighborhood adjacent to Virginia Commonwealth University and filled with Queen Anne-style homes and Tudor Revival mansions. 

Between here and Carytown, you’ll also discover murals on the sides of homes, shops, restaurants, and bars. Look for installations by David Flores, an American artist best known for mosaic-style images and popular figurines, including Woodstock from the Peanuts comic strip, flying around Richmond.

Photo Courtesy of Maymont
Photo Courtesy of Maymont
Photo Courtesy of Maymont

Get lost In a garden of wonder

Maymont is Richmond’s most popular outdoor park and garden. It receives more than 600,000 visitors a year and is a great place to take a socially distanced stroll or sit down for an outdoor picnic on “Picnic Hill” with plenty of year-round flora, fauna, and green space. But there’s one Instagram-worthy location that might make it feel as if you’ve been transported to Japan. The Japanese garden features a waterfall and bridge where you can selfie and trick a few friends into thinking you’ve flown halfway around the world. Also, among the newer attractions here is the renovated Robins Nature Center with a renewal of its river-themed exhibitions. It’s the perfect place to explore no matter the time of year.

Unsplash/Somi Jaiswal
Unsplash/Somi Jaiswal
Unsplash/Somi Jaiswal

Shop the South of the James Farmers Market

Looking for a year-round farmers market with plenty of fresh, organic produce, plus unique artisan crafts? The South of the James Market is one of the few year-round markets currently open during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, last year, it changed positions to Bryan Park, just north of the city. Check Facebook for weekend operating hours and specific vendor lists. Masks are required and social distancing is required as you shop. 

Brewery crawl through Scott’s Addition

Richmond is home to a wide array of craft breweries. If you’re finding it difficult to know where to begin amongst all the options, consider a brewery crawl in the neighborhood of Scott’s Addition. That’s where you’ll find several beer producers, including some critically acclaimed IPAs from The Veil Brewing Co. Next up, visit an original and local hangout, Isley Brewing, which has been in the neighborhood for almost an entire decade. Finally, round out your brewery crawl at Three Notch’d Brewing Company-this brewery is currently open for to-go and curbside pickup-and it’s best known for doing frequent collaborations. Most recently the brewery did a collaboration beer, aging beer in whiskey barrels, with the Virginia Distillery Co.

Photo Courtesy of RVA Riverfront
Photo Courtesy of RVA Riverfront
Photo Courtesy of RVA Riverfront

Cross the footbridge to Belle Isle

Richmond is a city defined by its river. The James River is a hub of activities, whether kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, or river tubing in the warmer summer months. In the winter, it’s also a great place to explore for some hidden ruins, as well as a footbridge that delivers stunning views of the river. Belle Island was formerly a prison for Union soldiers during the Civil War. Now, it’s a prime place to relax, run wild, or let your dog run around. If you’re into cycling or running, consider exploring the Capital Trail while you’re here.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat!

Tim Ebner is a food and travel writer based in Washington, D.C. and writes for Eater, Edible, Washington City Paper, and Forbes Travel, among others. He’s from Maryland and has a weakness for Old Bay seasoning. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Washington DC

The Eight Most Exciting Suburbs Outside DC

You could use a little space.

Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock

When people say Washington, DC, it’s hard to tell if they’re talking about The District proper, or the sprawling metro area that is sometimes nicknamed the DMV: The District, Maryland, and Virginia. The fact is that DC is made whole by its vibrant suburbs, whether you’re looking for a shopping center dedicated almost entirely to Vietnamese cuisine, a rock climbing wall in-you guessed it-Rockville, or a wetland preserve that’s wide open for hiking and fresh air.

The DC suburbs practically have it all, and you can reach many of these neighborhoods by bike, public transit, or a set of four wheels. Here are eight great suburban destinations that you may find yourself visiting soon. We won’t judge you if you want to stay.

Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville

Rockville

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Many people will inevitably cruise Rockville Pike, aka 355, for all of its big-box delights, since this retail corridor has always been a sprawly place to shop for decades. But more recently, Rockville has become something entirely different. It’s walkable and bikeable, thanks to the Pike & Rose development. And it remains a destination for some of the best Chinese soup dumplings in the DMV at A&J Restaurant and Bob’s Shanghai 66. Rockville is also, fittingly, home to the best rock climbing wall attracting serious spelunkers and climbing newbies alike. And it remains a place for family-run restaurants, many of which are run by immigrants. For a small taste of the magic of this Montgomery County suburb, visit Bombay Bistro for Chef K.N.Vinod and Surfy Rahman’s take on Indian fare from the country’s southern region. Like many of the best eateries in Rockville, this restaurant is tucked away in a shopping strip. When you find it, you’ll be rewarded with mouth-watering dosas, biryani, and vindaloo.

Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette

Bethesda

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
Anyone who grew up near Bethesda has probably spent their early teenage years loitering at the Bethesda’s Regal Cinema or by The Barnes & Noble water fountain. Now, both of those legendary spots of yesteryear have been transformed into a suburban-style city with sidewalk cafes, trendy shopping, and an upgraded Capital Crescent Trail-a longtime favorite with joggers and bikers. Bethesda is also home to a world of flavors: Fresh Baguette for Parisian-style pastries, Pesca Deli for Portuguese, Taqueria El Jalapeño for tasty tacos, and Passage to India just to name a few. To reach all of these places, you can hop aboard the Bethesda Circulator, a free shuttle service that picks you up at the Bethesda Metro station and takes you in a loop around town.

Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks

Wheaton

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
There is absolutely no beating Wheaton when a food craving hits, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This Maryland suburb, just north of DC on Metro’s red line, has one of the best diners in the region, Nick’s Diner, owned and operated by Nick Markopoulos and his Greek family. For lunch, Wheaton is home to a handful of pupuserias that are indicative of this neighborhood’s Salvadoran community. Pupuseria La Familiar, Los Chorros, and Irene’s Pupusas are three great options. Finally, for dinner, Peruvian chicken at El Pollo Rico or Bolivian fare, and specifically the beef silpancho, at Kantuta’s are hearty and tasty offerings. Finish your day of dining on a high note with a cannoli or rainbow cookie from Filippo’s Deli. After a day of eating, you’ll need to walk off all those carbs. Go for a leisurely stroll around the pond at Wheaton Regional Park’s Brookside Gardens. The park is a five-minute drive north of Wheaton’s retail corridor, and it’s free and open to the public year-round.

Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.

Hyattsville

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
A brewery tour is a safe bet when visiting Hyattsville, Maryland-a community with a small-town vibe, located in Prince George’s County, just across The District line. A primary reason why beer nerds flock here is Franklins, a brewpub that last year opened a tiki-themed bar in its parking lot to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are more than a dozen beers on tap, plus Franklins makes its own root beer if you prefer some nonalcoholic suds. That’s in addition to a historic hardware shop that’s been converted into a bottle shop, with a wide collection of craft beer and local wine. Nearby on Route 1, find a local brewery that specializes in outdoor drinking. Streetcar 82 Brewing Co. opened two years ago and is named in homage to the 82 Streetcar line which ran by the brewery’s site from 1888 to 1957. This converted auto garage now serves hop-forward beers and has bike rack parking and picnic tables, perfect for a Sunday Funday. For more craft beers from around the country paired with wood-fired pizza, Pizzeria Paradiso is a top-notch eater across the street, and cap off your crawl by swinging by Maryland Meadworks, which serves a range of meads from sweet to semi-sweet to dry.

Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary

Upper Marlboro

Distance from DC: 45 minutes
Fulfill your childhood wonder and delight at the greatest playground in the DMV. Watkins Regional Park is great for kids (or the kid at heart) looking to romp around themed playgrounds. The first is a horse-racing-themed playground, part of Maryland’s legacy as a horse racing capital. Meanwhile, the second option is the stuff of fairy tales-a Wizard of Oz-inspired playground, complete with a yellow brick road, a ruby slippers slide, and an Emerald City climbing wall. Grownups and kids alike will also enjoy the hiking options at nearby Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, an expansive preserve that’s part of the tidal reaches of the Patuxent River. There are more than 1,700 acres of unique freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, creeks, meadows, pines and sand barrens, plus fields and park areas for an afternoon picnic. If you’d rather fuel up than bring-your-own food, Upper Marlboro’s Main Street Coffee & Treats is where the community gathers for coffee, pastries, fresh-pressed juices, and vegan cupcakes at all hours of the day.

Photo Courtesy of Ada's on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River

Old Town Alexandria

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
With waterfront views, historic homes along cobblestone streets, and a trolley that goes up and down King Street for free, it’s hard not to imagine why Old Town Alexandria wouldn’t be on our suburban list. You might come for the charm, but there’s a lot more to this city than just Instagram-worthy streetscapes. The Torpedo Factory is a burgeoning artist enclave for purchasing one-of-a-kind sculptures and artwork. Those who prefer a pleasure cruise down the Potomac can take the Potomac River Water Taxi to or from the city. And outdoor eating by the water offers plenty of space and social distance. The food and outdoor surroundings at Ada’s on the River and King & Rye, two of Alexandria’s latest eatery additions, are great places to book a weekend brunch.

Eden Center
Eden Center
Eden Center

Falls Church

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Most people know Falls Church as the home of Eden Center-a shopping center with dozens of Vietnamese businesses and restaurants. This might be the biggest draw for Falls Church food lovers. However, there are several more reasons to make this Northern Virginia suburb a part of your food bucket list. Start at Takumi, a popular Japanese sushi spot, serving quality grade sashimi, sake, and sushi tastings. Got a craving for cavatelli? Then book it to Thomspon Italian. Chef Gabe Thompson and Pastry Chef Katherine Thompson are a husband and wife team who make this spot feel more like home. While the dining room remains closed, Thompson is offering several of its top dishes, including housemade pasta and gelatos, for pickup.

Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap

Tysons Corner

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
When you visit Tysons Corner, you’re probably here to do one thing-shop until you drop. Tysons is home to two malls, sometimes nicknamed Tysons I (Tysons Corner Center) and Tysons II (Tysons Galleria). The former is pretty typical while the latter leans more upscale. Not surprisingly, Tysons II also has good taste in food. Find the Urbanspace Food Hall, home to Donburi DC and Andy’s Pizza, plus an upscale pastry shop called Lady M. Aside from the shopping and dining, another good reason to visit Tysons this summer might be for a concert. The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts recently announced its outdoor summer concert lineup, which could start as soon as the end of May. We’ll keep our fingers crossed!

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Tim Ebner is a contributor for Thrillist. 

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