Who went to the Richmond Street Art Festival? Wasn't that so cool?
On the days that the Street Art Festival was going on, I couldn't look at social media without seeing a flood of pictures of UR students standing in front of those murals, smiling proudly at discovering this fun, alternative part of the city. The gist of most of the accompanying text on these pictures was that all of us were so excited to momentarily venture off campus, and that we were determined to make sure all of our friends knew about it. Seeing this outburst reminded me of one of Richmond's many, many 5K and 10K races that occurred last year. I can't remember the specific one that attracted so much UR attention; what I remember is the same ultra-visible pride at getting off campus. Specifically, I was reminded of one friend's Facebook status that called Monument Avenue the "hidden treasure" of Richmond. Wait... what? Monument is a HUGE street. It's long and wide and a massive tourist attraction because it's filled with historical monuments, for goodness' sake. What kind of rock are we living under that we escape for a moment and think that what we've found is a big, exciting secret?
Everyone has heard of "the Richmond bubble." Like most social constructs, our student body's intense unwillingness to venture far off campus (unless, of course, we are shuttled there) must have begun as a vague idea -- a trend noticed by a few brave souls who eventually put a name to it. Now, the term has picked up enough, meaning that it often goes without definition in conversation; three words that, when strung together, serve as both an explanation and an excuse for the fact that there are students attending other schools in the city who have never even heard of the University of Richmond (I speak from the experience of actually having to prove the existence of our school to more than one acquaintance over the summer). If we keep up this pattern for many more years, I'm quite concerned that the bubble will continue to solidify as an idea until it physically materializes, encircling our campus. How will your Jimmy John's deliveries get to your dorm then?
In an effort to head off this looming disaster, I have compiled a nonexhaustive list of four reasons to call a taxi, ride the bus, take a bike or just hop in your car and get off campus.
If you can move past the overpriced drinks and large crowds, Richmond's festivals are one of the best parts of the city. And there are more than just the Street Art and Folk festivals! In fact, I would bet that you could probably find at least one taking place every weekend. A few that you might have missed this past weekend were: PrideFest 2013, RVA Peace Festival, Richmond's Original Italian Street Festival, Off The Rails Craft Beer Festival and the VCU Broad Street Mile. Travel a little outside of the city, and you could have found the Festival of Grapes and Hops, or the 62nd Chickahominy Tribe Fall Festival and Powwow. Wouldn't those have been so much fun?
In case you're getting bummed out by all of the awesome, cultural deliciousness that we missed, here are a few of next weekend's events that you still have a chance to attend: Arts on the Grove (located on Grove Avenue with concerts, food, featured artisans and free admittance), International Food Festival (everything you would imagine, plus dancing), OystoberFest (endless local oysters and more live music) and, the one that looks the most temptingly delicious to me, Hogtober. This Church Hill festival (sponsored by Style Weekly) has local barbecue, beer, great bands and free admittance, and is calling itself "the season's first party." I believe you, Hogtober, and I'll see you on Saturday.
2 The River
Pony Pasture is nice, but it doesn't really count in this context, because you could basically walk there from campus. To get the best of the RVA riverside culture, go to Belle Isle or the Pipeline. You can hike, sunbathe (quick, before it gets too cold!), work on your homework and meet people who don't know what a Triceragoose is. Bring a bathing suit, inner tubes, friends, music and a picnic lunch. It's really the recipe for a perfect day. Pipeline is a personal favorite because you can climb down old iron ladders and walk along these huge, rusty pipes right above the rapids--perfect picture opportunity!
Club and lodge DJs are often good. They really are. But you live in Richmond, which has a truly fantastic music scene. Try something new. I would love to make you a list of the best places to see a live show, but it would be way too long, and I probably don't even know half of them. For a starter, go online and look at the schedules for Strange Matter and The Camel. Pick a show with no cover charge and go. You might love it, you might not, but no matter what, you will have gotten just a taste of the real music and nightlife the city has to offer.
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The great thing about Richmond's ever-growing hipster culture is that we have access to seemingly endless vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, paleo, etc. dining options. Whether or not you follow any of these diets, it's exciting to see the scrumptious dishes that can be made sans dairy, meat, etc. I recently tried a vegan breakfast burrito at 821 Cafe that put its eggy, cheesy counterparts to shame.
You can also get dishes such as a grilled PB-and-bacon sandwich and Nutella-stuffed French toast at 821, so those of you who don't see the charm in dietary restrictions can take heart.
Ipanema is another fantastic restaurant with vegan and vegetarian options, tucked underneath a tattoo studio in the middle of VCU's campus. It's cozy with low ceilings and the coconut milk creme brulee is to die for. At night, it morphs into a casual bar within walking distance of many of the aforementioned great music venues--entirely worth checking out.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the food trucks of RVA. You can follow many of them on Twitter to find out where they're parked on any given day. From cupcakes and tacos to popsicles and espresso, and everything in between, these might actually be the most exciting reason to get off campus. Luckily, you can usually find them parked beside any of the previous three activities, so there's never the need to choose.
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