A day in Richmond, Virginia

Sugar Shack Donuts, 1001 N Lombardy St, Richmond, VA 23220

The best way to start your day off is with a half dozen donuts for breakfast (I am not responsible for any medical mishaps due to sugar rush!!!). Though there was room in the parking lot, everyone else seemed to have the same idea because the little shop was packed! We patiently waited in line, craning our necks to see what was in the display case. There were so many different donuts available, but they weren’t labeled! Hello, panic. We got to the counter, pointed and asked pointed and asked. What are these beauties we chose, you’re wondering?

sugar_shack_richmond_vaSea salt caramel, tastes like a Samoa, watermelon basil, blueberry cake, chocolate peanut, and chocolate heath. Each was truly decadent and amazing. We could only stomach two each right away, but had a third as a midday snack (suffice to say, no lunch). All of the donuts are hand rolled and hand cut throughout the day – made with fresh fruit and toppings. You should really get a coffee too, their iced was strong and excellent – they roast it in small batches. There are other locally owned and operated locations throughout Virginia, D.C., and Florida.

Belle Island, 300 Tredegar St. Richmond VA 23219

A large island in the James River is one of Richmond’s most popular parks. Park in the lot dedicated to the island and cross over the water to get a place full of intriguing history and adventure.

belle_island_richmond_va_1Check out the trail map, though it would be pretty difficult to get lost in such a small place. The walk from the lot combined with a loop around the island is approximately 2 miles.

belle_island_richmond_vaBelle Island has always been a hotspot for human activity. There are so many interesting historical plaques, one telling of a Native American seasonal fishing village on the island. At the base of the rapids, native boys of 15 and 16 years old could prove their manhood by riding 8-foot long pregnant sturgeon fish, gaining approval from elders and local girls. Fast forward to the 1800s, and see the remains of a Civil War POW camp, where thousands of Union soldiers were held in terrible conditions (over 1,000 perished).

belle_island_richmond_va_4Further down the timeline, from 1904 to 1967 the Virginia Electric Power Company operated the power plant – powered the nearby trolley system and the steel company. Read about its history, how it worked, how it failed, and most interestingly – explore the ruins.

belle_island_hydroelectric_plantI love urban exploration, especially when it is legal and encouraged! Just be careful, there was broken glass and steep drop offs when I visited. Among the abandoned plant I spotted two five-lined skinks, it’s the perfect environment for these lizards. Actually, there is an amazing amount of wildlife in the park. I spotted my first velvet ant in the wild (beware of their sting, it is so painful these guys are also known as ‘cow killers’), numerous butterflies, great birding (osprey pictured below), and excellent flora.

belle_island_richmond_va_3Some of the trees are labeled, in an arboretum fashion. The river is situated next to the ‘Hollywood Rapids,’ named for the cemetery across the way. I visited during a heat wave so we were positively dripping sweat walking around the city – cooling off in the James River was a must to refresh our existence. We noticed everyone hang out in little kettles and we found our own quiet little space.

belle_island_rapidsThe current sure was strong (be very cautious), so I wedged myself right in a little jet – pure bliss. There were some other really great assets of the park including a rock climbing wall, and a quarry which granite was once extracted from, but now holds a great fishing pond. If you head towards the dry rocks area you can check out the tide pools, and spy the tall building where my brother used to live.

belle_island_dry_rocksDon’t forget to catch a magnificent view of the downtown skyline.

belle_island_richmond_va_2It is unbelievable how much this park has to offer! Back over the bridge, consider taking the canal walk to extend your visit in the area. It traces old Native American trade routes and visits the Tredegar Iron Works buildings, among other historical sights.

Edgar Allen Poe Museum, 1914 E Main St, Richmond, VA 23223

edgar_allan_poe_museum_richmondEnter through the oldest house in Richmond to find a world dedicated to the mysterious Edgar Allen Poe. The poet, novelist, and genius lived in Richmond throughout his life, but not in the exact structures of the museum. Learn about his early family life, love life, time period he lived in, contemporaries, view artifacts, and original works of the author.

edgar_allan_poe_museum_richmond_4Be sure to spend some time in the magical garden where you might discover two sweet black cats lurking about.

edgar_allan_poe_museum_richmond_1Lucky Strike Factory, 2723 E. Cary St., Richmond, VA

I love street art, and Richmond didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of colorful murals painted on buildings splashing color onto the scene.

lucky_strike_indian_richmondSomething different on the art scene was a sculpture of giant (25 feet tall!) Native American peering out from the top of the tobacco factory. His name is Connecticut which means beside the long tidal river, suiting resting spot for the piece which overlooks the James River.

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