An Afternoon in Richmond VA's Carytown Neighborhood
Several weeks ago, Nick and I ventured down to Virginia for a mini weekend road trip. Our first stop was Fredericksburg to explore and visit my alma mater. Sunday we decided to venture an hour or so south of Fredericksburg to Virginia's capitol, Richmond and the particular area known as Carytown. I'd only been to Richmond a handful of times and Nick had never been. We love exploring new cities so, even though we knew we'd face hellish traffic heading back north (and boy did we ever!), we headed down I-95 to explore this Virginia city.
Richmond is not like the cities I'm used to; it's decidedly more Southern. It thrives on a slower pace and is more neighborhoods than a bustling central business district. With the capitol offices and several different universities, there's plenty going on but what impressed me the most about Richmond was how calm it was. Wandering around it seemed like everyone was spending time with their family and friends, grabbing good food at local restaurants, or strolling around neighborhoods and down by the river.
Richmond, like most major cities, is broken up into neighborhoods that each have their own unique flair. Richmond's neighborhoods are much more "suburban" than the northern towns I'm used to. I'm talking tree-lined streets and large parks and corner restaurants and coffee shops that gather crowds of neighbors. Richmond neighborhoods act like small cozy towns where everyone is friendly and welcoming.
Carytown is what I would consider "hipster" part of Richmond. It's got funky shops, funkier restaurants, and adorable rowhomes in the streets around it. I'm sure a real Richmond-ite might urge me to explore even more of their city (and I really want to!) but Carytown is the kind of fun and unique flavor you're hoping to find in a city.
Carytown's main artery is its namesake, Cary Street, and where almost all of the restaurants and shopping is located. This is not a college area of town with lots of bars and chain stores; its definitely family friendly. The Mellow Mushroom is one of the only chain restaurant on Cary Street (with other locations throughout the South and Midwest) that doesn't seem like a chain with good pizza and a wide selection of beers. A great place to bring family for brunch or lunch or any meal is Can Can Brasserie, a French eatery located in one of the country's first shopping plazas, Cary Court. It has a hint of French cafe flair and excellent food. In college I went to Galaxy Diner and the food was simple diner food but good and they had FRIED OREOS so really you must go. And of course, a visit to Carytown and Richmond in general would not be complete without a dozen donuts from local Dixie Donuts.
Carytown also has some of the best vintage shopping. There are a dozen or more shops stocked with all sorts of things to thrift. It is worth going for the clothing alone; I found beautiful wool coats with faux fur from the fifties and floral print sleeveless shifts along with throwback Thursday worthy vintage sweatshirts. You can also get great deals on furniture. I'll never forget loading up a tiny Toyota Corolla with the best gold and aqua telephone table for my friend's college rental. If vintage is not really your style, there are plenty of little boutiques from paper stores to shoe stores. Naturally it wouldn't be "hipster" if there weren't three or four or more record stores.
Whenever I visit an area I always like to wander into the more residential areas. What would it be like to live there? Wandering just a few blocks over from Cary Street gives you a variety of historic homes from row homes to Victorians to turn-of-the-century apartment homes. It's got such historic charm; I was in heaven!
Honestly if you're only in Richmond for the afternoon, Carytown is a must-visit neighborhood. You'll get to experience the funkier side of life in RVA and get a chance to shop, eat, and do a little exploring!