Project Description

Photo credit: [Tater at Chimborazo photo by Tamra Talmadge Anderson]

Fido’s Richmond is as diverse as the city itself, with a cornucopia of canine activities, including great dog walks through history dating back to the American Revolution. Stroll along the canals designed by George Washington on the Canal Walk or walk along the tree-lined streets of Church Hill, the oldest section of the city and home to historic St. John”s Church, where Patrick Henry gave his fiery “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. Most of the breweries and wineries in and around Richmond offer pet friendly patios and you’ll find a wide range of pet friendly accommodations, from the historic and elegant Jefferson Hotel, one of only 33 hotels in the US to hold both the five-star and five-diamond designations, to the hip Quirk Hotel  in the heart of the downtown Arts District.

The state capital of Virginia and former capital of the Confederacy is a study in contrasts, with an urban core studded with more than 80 historic attractions, many of them related to the Civil War, as well as an abundance of recreational parks and outdoor adventures. The city’s painful history as one of the main points of entry for the slave trade from Africa and its role in the war will never be forgotten. Putting those events in perspective and honoring Black history—from creating a walk-able Slave Trail to honoring Black entrepreneurs like Maggie Walker—have been a focus for both state and city leaders in an effort to present a comprehensive history that interprets the experiences and effects of this divisive struggle on the North, the South and the enslaved Black people who helped build the city and its surrounding plantations.

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No matter what your interests—history, art or nature—Richmond offers several unique dog-walking routes. Historic Richmond Tours  at the Valentine offers several “History Hounds” tours throughout the year, where locals and visitors can bring their four-legged friends to explore historic neighborhoods and attractions. 

The Richmond Slave Trail and Slave Reconciliation Statue tell the story of the abomination of the slave trade in the city, while museums like the Maggie L. Walker National Historical Site  celebrate African-American leaders and entrepreneurs. Richmond was the largest source of enslaved Africans on the East Coast from 1830 to 1860. Follow the markers on the Slave Trade Path along the James River, past the Shockoe Bottom sites of former slave auction houses, Lumpkin’s Slave Jail and the Negro Burial Ground. In 2007, the 15-foot bronze Slave Reconciliation Statue at 15th and Main Streets was unveiled, not far from the former slave markets. The sculpture was a gesture of apology from officials in Liverpool, England and Benin, West Africa for their roles in slave trading. Free booklets for the 1.3-mile walk are available from the city park system.

Originally known as Broad Rock Island and explored by Captain John Smith, Belle Isle is an island in the James River across from the Tredegar Iron Works at Richmond National Battlefield Park. During the Civil War, it was used as a prisoner of war camp for captured Union soldiers. Access the island by the suspension bridge beneath the Lee Bridge and you and Fido can explore the history of the island, observe the heron and other wildlife, picnic or just enjoy the views of Hollywood Cemetery and the Richmond Skyline. 

Canal Walk  stretches for over a mile along James River and the Kanawha and Haxall Canals. Inlaid medallions mark momentous events in the city’s history so you and your pooch can stroll and study at the same time. You’ll also see several of the city’s colorful murals along the way.

Hollywood Cemetery is a gorgeous garden-style cemetery along the banks of the James River. Two presidents are interred here: James Monroe and John Tyler along with many notable Richmond residents including Lewis Ginter. Dog lovers will enjoy one of Richmond’s favorite canine legends, the Black Iron Dog. Located near the Confederate memorial, the large cast-iron pooch stands sentinel over the graves of the Reese children. According to the story, the big, black dog used to be on display in front of a general store on Broad Street and Charles Reese’s children loved to stop and “pet it” or climb on its back. Reese finally purchased the dog for his children and it became a beloved family treasure, but when metals were being confiscated during the Civil War to melt down for ammunition, the statue was moved into hiding in the cemetery, where it still stands today once again reunited with its human family. 

At Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, on certain Thursdays of the month during the summer, the Garden welcomes well-behaved, leashed dogs for its Fidos After Five evenings. You and your pal can stroll through the gorgeous gardens (no butterfly chasing guys!) or just find a shady bench and enjoy the cool of the evening. There are also one or two Fido nights during the month-long holiday Garden Fest of Lights (Thanksgiving through New Year’s), a spectacular time of year for a sparkling tour.

Although only service dogs can tour the world-class Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, all four-legged guests are welcome to stroll through the VMFA Sculpture Garden. The exhibit changes throughout the year.

Stay

Although there are a wide range of pet friendly accommodations in and around Richmond—ranging from budget to five-star fabulous—we do have a few favorites that go above and beyond for their four-legged guests. Well worth a splurge is the historic Jefferson Hotel in the heart of downtown. This five-star, five-diamond Beaux Arts beauty hosts the annual Richmond SPCA Fur Ball, where guests in gowns and tuxedos bring their decked out dogs to wine and dine in style for the evening. 

In the same price range but with a definite hipster vibe is the boutique Quirk Hotel, popular with young professionals—both the out-of-town visitors and the locals—who love the modern décor and rooftop bar. Also downtown near Virginia Commonwealth University, the Graduate welcomes erudite pooches and features a sporty vibe, with a lobby that pays homage to Richmond’s own tennis great, Arthur Ashe. The hotel also has a rooftop pool and bar that are open seasonally.

If you’re planning a visit to Richmond, you can find a wealth of information, including maps, at the Visit Richmond website. And if you have any specific questions, feel free to email Lola and me at [email protected] !