Richmond: America’s most underrated city?

As the former capitol of the Confederacy, Richmond has long been one of the premier destinations in the country for Civil War geeks. But as I discovered on two recent visits, it’s also a young, vibrant city with architecture treasures, stunning parks, walkable neighborhoods, great food and perhaps the most elegant vintage cinema in the country.

For Yanks looking for a quick taste of old Dixie, it’s also the northernmost Southern city, making it an easy weekend getaway for Northerners in search of some Southern hospitality. I live in Northern Virginia, which is technically part of the South, but in reality, Southern accents and good biscuits are a two hour drive south in Richmond, which is on my short list for most underrated historic cities in America. Below are my suggestions for how to spend a memorable weekend in Virginia’s capital.

MaymontThe hilly grounds of this 100 acre estate built by Confederate tycoon, Major James Dooley, offer panoramic views of the James River and feature lush gardens, a children’s farm, and a nature center. There is a small admission fee to visit the mansion and nature center but you can explore the beautiful grounds and visit the farm for free.

St. John’s Episcopal ChurchBuilt in 1741, this handsome wooden church, located in Richmond’s historic Church Hill neighborhood, is where Patrick Henry delivered his famous “Give me liberty, or give me death,” speech to George Washington.

The FanIf you like Victorian architecture, this alluring neighborhood just west of downtown is a must see. Easily one of my favorite walkable neighborhoods in the country.

The Byrd TheatreBuilt in 1928, this may be the most beautiful old time cinema in the country. Even if you don’t plan to take in a $1.99 movie, stop in to take a look at this masterpiece theater, which is located in Carytown, a neighborhood with great shops and restaurants.

Virginia Museum of Fine ArtsA free-to-enter, world-class museum with more than 20,000 works of art, including a very impressive collection of South Asian art.

The American Civil War Center at Tredegar If you’re only going to hit one Civil War related museum in Richmond, this is the place to go for a terrific overview of the conflict. Opened in 2006, the museum offers a visually attractive, interactive user friendly experience that depicts the war from the perspective of the Union, the Confederacy and African Americans.

The Virginia State CapitolTake the time to explore this Classical Revival gem, which Thomas Jefferson modeled on a Roman era temple in Nimes, France.

James River BridgesTake the Robert E. Lee footbridge over to Belle Island for a great walk and then check out the unnamed, interpretative footbridge just off the Canal Walk for insights into the fall of Richmond during the waning days of the Civil War.

The Museum of the ConfederacyWhile the American Civil War Center offers a nicer overview of the conflict, this is a great stop to see Confederate memorabilia, like Robert E. Lee’s hat and tent and Jeb Stuart’s knee high boots. The gift shop sells lots of kitsch, including nylon Confederate flags for $39.

Children’s Museum of RichmondIf you’re traveling with kids, this is their reward for tolerating all the Civil War history.


Alamo BBQCheap and delicious, this is one of my favorite BBQ places anywhere, but I also love the tilapia burritos. Excellent pecan pie for $2.93 a slice. The only downside is that you have to sit in a tent, but it’s not as cold as you might think, even in January.

Edo’s SquidItalian fine dining in a hidden location at very fair prices. Arrive early to beat the crowds.

ComfortSouthern comfort food at its finest in a relaxed setting.

821 Bakery Café- Tasty food and a terrific beer selection in a cool old building with exposed brick walls and a vintage tin ceiling. Also wins my award for the most colorful bathrooms I’ve ever seen.


The Summer Redneck Games: A Hootin’ Good Time!

Starting today, Gadling is taking a look at our favorite festivals around the world. From music festivals to cultural showcases to the just plain bizarre, we hope to inspire you to do some festival exploring of your own. Come back each week for our picks or find them all HERE.

Each July, nearly 100,000 visitors descend on East Dublin, Georgia to participate in a one-of-a-kind event known as the Summer Redneck Games. This unique festival is a celebration of “all things Redneck” including special feats of athleticism, a variety of culinary treats and plenty of fun.

The story of the Redneck Games begins in 1996 before the Atlanta Olympics. After outsiders began making fun of “Rednecks” who were hosting the games, a group of volunteers decided to do something about it. Enterprising locals took critics’ remarks as a challenge, organizing their very own “Redneck Games” and agreed to donate the proceeds from the event to charity. In its inaugural year, more than 5,000 visitors showed up. The organizers knew they were on to something. Over the last decade, the Redneck Games have continued to grow, with participation reaching 95,000 rednecks during the annual one-day July extravaganza.

Much like the Olympic games, the Redneck Games hosts a number of challenging athletic events, but with a uniquely Redneck twist. Favorite contests include the Hubcap Hurl, the Bobbin’ for Pigs Feet Fest, Mud Wrestling, and a special contest called Redneck Horseshoes, which uses toilet seats in place of the standard iron game pieces. There’s also plenty of authentic Redneck foods for hungry spectators, including Corn Dogs, Alligator Kebabs and Elephant Ears. You’re also sure hear authentic Redneck slang like “y’all,” “fixin’ to,” “do what?,” and the all-time favorite (as coined by Redneck favorite, Larry the Cable Guy), “Git R’ Done!”

Though the Redneck Games would seem to be a decidedly local affair, it has slowly attracted fans from across the U.S. and around the world. As the event has become more popular, a steady stream of participants from “above the Mason-Dixon line” has joined in the fun, with events taking place as far away as Canada and a range of international media coverage.

There’s many misconceptions about the Games – critics decry the Redneck Games as nothing more than horseplay and drinking beer. But much like the comments the led to the event’s creation, event organizers and supporters have taken the remarks in stride. To its fans, the Redneck Games remain nothing but a silly, great time. Despite the increase in attendance and popularity, it remains much the same pure fun that it has always been.

Want to join in the craziness? Head down to Georgia this July 10th to check it out. Everyone is welcome – even Yankees…