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Visitor information

The Richmond Visitors Center, 401 N. 3rd St. (btw. Clay and Marshall sts.), Richmond, VA 23219 (tel. 888/742-4666; www.visitrichmondva.com), provides information and operates a same-day discounted hotel reservation service. It also shows a 10-minute orientation video. The center is in the Greater Richmond Convention Center and is open daily from 9am to 5pm (to 6pm from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day). There is free 20-minute parking in spaces by the serpentine brick wall on 3rd Street between Clay and Marshall streets.

In addition, the Richmond International Airport Visitors Center (tel. 804/236-3260) is open Monday through Friday 9:30am to 4:30pm.

The state operates a visitor information center in the Bell Tower (tel. 804/786-4485) on the State Capitol grounds, off 9th Street between Grace and Marshall streets. It's open Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm. The small gift shop is a good place to stock up on "Virginia Is for Lovers" gear.

Another comprehensive source of information is www.discoverrichmond.com, a community site operated by the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper (www.timesdispatch.com).

As soon as you see one, grab a copy of Richmond's free alternative newspaper, Style Weekly (www.styleweekly.com), available in boxes throughout town. It is a very good source of what's going on while you're here.

Safety in Richmond -- As in any city, it's wise to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings, whatever the time of day. Ask at the visitor center or at your hotel desk if a neighborhood you intend to visit is safe. Most neighborhoods described in this chapter are generally safe during the day, and Shockoe Slip, Shockoe Bottom, The Fan, and Carytown are safe during the evening when their restaurants are open. Nevertheless, avoid all deserted streets after dark. Most hotels have free shuttles in the downtown area, so take them when going out in the evening.

Getting There

By Plane -- American, Continental, Delta, JetBlue, United, and US Airways fly to Richmond International Airport (RIC), Airport Drive off I-64, I-295, and Williamsburg Road (U.S. 60; tel. 804/226-3052; www.flyrichmond.com), about 15 minutes east of downtown. The major car-rental companies have desks at the airport, and taxis are available. Groome Transportation (tel. 800/552-7911 or 804/222-7222; www.groometransportation.com) offers 24-hour van service to Richmond, Petersburg, Fredericksburg, and Williamsburg. One-person fares range from $22 to downtown Richmond to $44 to Williamsburg. Public bus service is available during weekday morning and evening rush hours, but frankly, if I could afford to fly into Richmond, I would forget the local bus system.

By Car -- Richmond is at the junction of I-64, traveling east-west, and I-95, traveling north-south. I-295 bypasses both Richmond and Petersburg on their east sides. U.S. 60 (east-west) and U.S. 1 and U.S. 301 (north-south) cross here.

By Train & Bus -- Several daily Amtrak (tel. 800/872-7245; www.amtrak.com) trains pull into two stations here. The main terminal is at 7519 Staples Mill Rd. (U.S. 33), north of I-64. There is no shuttle service from the Staples Mill Road station into tourist areas, so a better choice is the Main Street Station at 1500 E. Main St. in Shockoe Bottom. This restored French Renaissance-style building served as the city's transportation hub from 1901 until 1959 and is itself worth a look.

The Greyhound/Trailways bus terminal is at 2910 N. Boulevard (tel. 800/231-2222; www.greyhound.com).

City Layout

Richmond is located at the fall line of the James River. Several bridges cross the river, and there's access to Brown's Island and Belle Isle from the Richmond Riverfront Canal Walk, a promenade extending along the downtown riverfront beside the James River & Kanawha Canal.

Instead of growing away from the river, the original city spread westward along the north shore. Thus, the main streets run east-west for several miles from the original settlement, in today's Shockoe Bottom. The two main drags I use all the time are Main Street, which is one-way going west, and the parallel Cary Street, one-way going east. Broad Street also is a major east-west thoroughfare, and it's one of the few downtown streets with two-way traffic -- and many intersections at which you cannot make a left turn.

Foushee Street divides street numbers east and west, while Main Street divides them north and south.

Getting Around

By Public Transportation -- The Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC; tel. 804/358-GRTC [4782]; www.ridegrtc.com) operates the public bus system throughout the metropolitan area. Base bus fare is $1.25 (exact change only). Service on most bus routes begins at 5am and ends at midnight. GRTC also has express bus service from Richmond to both Petersburg and Fredericksburg.

By Taxi -- Call Yellow Cab Service Inc. (tel. 804/222-7300) or Veterans Cab Association (tel. 804/329-1414). Fares are approximately $1.50 per mile.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.