The original Richmond (after riche-monte, French for “strong hill”) is in North Yorkshire, England, founded around 1071. The second, established east of London in 1485 on a bend of the River Thames, inspired the naming of the third, Richmond, Va.
Take a group tour to Libby Park in resurgent Church Hill, the city’s oldest neighborhood, where along with the towering Monument to the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors there’s the “View That Named the City.” In 1737, this is where William Byrd II, raised in London, saw a dogleg comparable to the Thames in the James River below, and gave the city its name.
There are more than two dozen Richmonds in the U.S., but none can claim the legacy of Virginia’s capital city. Discovered by English explorer Christopher Newport in 1607, Richmond’s place in American history alone makes it a singular place to meet. Add one of the nation’s hottest food scenes, dynamic art and culture, time-capsule neighborhoods and great outdoor options, plus Virginia’s largest convention center and 18,000 rooms across all price points, and you have the complete group package, wrapped up in welcoming Southern hospitality.
“Located within one day’s drive of half the U.S. population, the Richmond Region’s convenience, accessibility and affordability make it one of the mid-Atlantic’s most desirable meeting destinations,” says Kristin McGrath, vice president of sales and services for Richmond Region Tourism, adding that “the sheer size and central location of the Greater Richmond Convention Center make it a stand-out choice for convention and meeting planners.” According to McGrath, customer service is a top priority at the convention center.
“We recently added a convention services director position, a new function that allows us to offer not just more services, but also a higher quality of service,” McGrath says. “We want to demonstrate to clients our commitment to providing the absolute best experience possible for meetings and convention organizers and attendees.”
For anyone stuck on perceptions of staunch “Old Dominion” Richmond, think again. RVA (the city’s popular local brand) is eclectic, artsy and fun—and open for all groups.
In September 2014, the bureau launched “OutRVA,” its official tourism campaign welcoming LGBT visitors. The same month, Governor Terry McAuliffe, a major supporter of LGBT initiatives, became the state’s first standing governor to speak at Virginia Pridefest, held here on event-capable Brown’s Island. As Richmond gears up to host the preeminent World Road Cycling Championships in September 2015, all delegates will find a veritable gift bag of choices.
“Offering widespread off-agenda options for fun, food and adventure, Richmond is one of only three U.S. destinations to be named a Frommer’s Top Destination for 2014, while our vibrant outdoor, craft beer and culinary scenes have made national headlines,” McGrath says.
Recently named “The Next Great American Food City” by Departures magazine, foodie lures include smaller group choices such as Chez Foushee, L’Opposum, Max’s on Broad, Pasture and Can Can Brasserie.
Among hotel highlights, convention district anchor Hilton Garden Inn is converting to the full-service Hilton Richmond Downtown. Targeting completion by August 2015, the transformation will include approximately 20,000 square feet of space.
Scheduled to open this month, the new dual Marriott-branded Courtyard and Residence Inn Downtown Richmond provides a convenient base in historic Shockoe Slip, while another double-act, Hampton Inn & Suites and Homewood Suites, will open steps from the Virginia State Capitol this summer. The art-focused Quirk boutique hotel, meanwhile, is slated to open this fall.