Hit the quirky-cool boutiques of Carytown, a neighborhood that was largely neglected until small businesses began moving in five years ago. Start with coffee and croissants at the Can Can Brasserie (pastries from $1.95), then pick up unique gifts at Mongrel (hand-painted cards from $4.95), home goods at Ruth & Ollie (graphic serving trays from $86), and vintage Nanette Lepore at Clementine (tops and blouses from $68). Wander among gently worn paperbacks and the local literati at used-book store Chop Suey (books from $5), which hosts readings by Richmond-area authors and poets.
See Klees, Kandinskys, and Picassos at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (free admission), whose recent $150 million renovation breathed new life into the staid Museum District and nearly doubled its exhibition space. The 23,000-item permanent collection spans classical and contemporary periods, and the museum also hosts traveling exhibitions such as "Hollywood Costume," arriving from London this November. Head to the museum on Friday afternoons for half-price cocktails at the café, and get free half-hour tours of the museum galleries (5 to 7:30 p.m. weekly).
Get cultured in Jackson Ward, the historic African-American neighborhood once dubbed the “Harlem of the South” for its swinging music and literary scenes. Pick up vintage Duke Ellington and James Brown records at Steady Sounds (vinyl from $6), tour the soon-to-expand Black History Museum (admission $5), and recharge with catfish and cobbler at soul-food institution Mama J’s Kitchen (dinner from $15). In the evening, catch a concert at the 1914-era Hippodrome Theatre (tickets from $20), which in 2012 debuted an Art Decoinspired, $12 million face-lift after decades of dormancy.
See urban renewal in action on once-woebegone Grace Street, a newly renovated, pedestrian-friendly district filled with locally owned shops and restaurants. Gaze at the Thomas Jeffersondesigned capitol building, renovated to the tune of $100 million last year, while shopping for biodynamic wines at Urban Farmhouse Market (bottles from $18) and sleek menswear in a restored tobacco warehouse at Ledbury (shirts from $125). Refuel with Jason Alley’s nouveau Southern fare at Pasture (dinner from $30), then get classical with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra at Richmond CenterStage, a sparkling new performing-arts center located in what used to be a rundown Loew’s movie house. The best of its five venues is the 1,800-seat Carpenter Theatre, which has impeccably restored, 1928-era mosaic murals and twinkling overhead lighting.