Although it may get less shine from the national press than its Bayside neighbors Berkeley and Oakland, Richmond has the secret advantage of being the East Bay's best hidden gem, with 32 miles of waterfront (more than any other city in the Bay Area), 13-plus art centers and museums, easy access to nature, and that under-the-radar, underdog feel that makes it reminiscent of Oakland 20 years ago.
And while Richmond locals may tell you they don't want their city discovered—or gentrified—and some seedier areas are best explored during the day, the city is making strides in revitalizing its downtown by transforming Main Street into a gathering place—with a Wednesday farmers market, a community-run urban farm, and a growing chess scene. And with the San Francisco Ferry scheduled to directly connect Richmond with the city as of January 2019, it'll be even easier to access this lesser-explored slice of Contra Costa County.
A Morning in Richmond: SUP, Sip, and Shop
Coffee and cool interior design converge at Kaleidoscope Coffee.
(Courtesy of Kaleidoscope Coffee/Facebook)
Kick off the day exploring the East Bay's coastline on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) with 510 Waterline (1340 Marina Way S.). Newbies to the art of stand-up paddleboarding can sign up for a two-hour intro class on Monday, Saturday, and select Friday mornings, while experienced paddlers can join the "just paddle" classes on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, which include advanced instruction and equipment. Or take on a new challenge during Sunday SUP yoga classes. All SUP classes launch from the Marina Bay Yacht Harbor, and dock memberships are available and include use of the equipment.
Coffee and Donuts
To experience a true Richmond institution, plan an early a.m. visit to Andy's Donut Stop (971 23rd St.), a local mainstay for more than 75 years. Although the shop is open 24 hours, donuts are freshest first thing in the morning, so plan an early visit to nab a mixed dozen of the hulking apple fritters, glazed old-fashioneds, and other powdered, iced, baked, and fried classics for less than $10. // There's no better way to kick off the day than at Point Richmond's Kaleidoscope Coffee (109 Park Pl.), by far Richmond's hippest hang for a caffeine fix. From the structural wall art on exposed brick, to the library of new, used, and free books, to the cafe's focus on high-quality, local products, Kaleidoscope encapsulates that third-wave coffee shop feel minus the pretension. The friendly baristas are more than happy to help you navigate the menu.
Score a One-of-a-Kind Find
In-the-know collectors head to Point Richmond not just for coffee, but for its enviable selection of antique wares, quirky art, and locally owned shops and boutiques. Mom and Pop Art Shop (24 W. Richmond Ave.) definitely leads the way in upping Richmond's cool factor with its thoughtfully curated selection of cheeky greeting cards, mixed-media artwork, prints, kids games, and California-inspired (and made!) homewares including throw pillows and glassware. Stop by anytime to browse and check out the giant octopus sculpture emerging from the ceiling, and you just may be offered a glass of wine while you peruse. // Located next door to the historic Hotel Mac, Butch's Antiques and Collectibles (38 Washington Ave.) brings a more youthful sensibility to the art of antiquing with a frequently refreshed selection of covetable collectibles from a fourth-generation dealer. Recent on-display wares include hand-painted Nippon porcelain jars, vintage pearls, and 1970s glassware etched with pop-culture hallmarks such as the Flintstones and Looney Tunes characters. // For all your gift-giving and art needs, look no further than Station One Farmhouse (145 Park Pl.), which specializes in fragrant candles, bath bombs, and other luxurious self-care essentials, plus on-trend clutches, an impressive array of matte Chalk Paint colors, and rustic-chic furniture that varies from brand-new to lovingly restored.
An Afternoon in Richmond: Outdoor Adventure and Local Suds
The interior taproom and brewing space for East Brother Beer Co.
Richmond serves up plenty of strolling and hiking opportunities, so grab a quick bite beforehand or nab some grub to-go, then hit the trails. You'll spot the line for Maya Taqueria (130 Railroad Ave.) before you actually see the tiny storefront, but the tacos, burritos, and nacho plates are worth the wait, with plenty of vegetarian options such as butternut squash burritos. There's not a ton of room to sit, so grab-and-go is your best bet. But make sure you don't skimp on the signature hot sauce (if you can handle the heat). // Little Louie's (49 Washington Ave.) is Port Richmond's top spot for a sandwich, with Italian-inspired hoagies prepared on locally made bread from Semifreddis and deli salads perfect for a picnic. Carlo's is a meat-laden wonder with prosciutto, mortadella, and salami, while the Turbo Turkey brings the heat with jalapeños and hot pepper jack cheese.
Hikes with Perks
Once food has been sorted, select an outdoor excursion tailored to your skill level and companions. If you're looking for an easy stroll, the 23-acre Point Isabel Regional Shoreline (2701 Isabel St.) offers 2.5 miles of dog-friendly trails—plus a dog park—on the larger Bay Trail system, with sweeping views of the Golden Gate and Bay bridges. Crowds come for Sit and Stay cafe, the park's de facto gathering spot for sandwiches and coffee. // Miller Knox Regional Shoreline (900 Dornan Dr.) allows for more expansive adventure, with more than 300 acres where dogs (often allowed off leash) particularly love Keller Beach, near the tunnel entrance. Try the West Ridge Trail if you're seeking views of the SF skyline and Mount Tamalpais, and follow it down to Ferry Point, where the Santa Fe railroad used to terminate in the early 20th century. // And there's plenty to discover throughout the 2,315-acre Point Pinole Regional Shoreline (5551 Giant Hwy.), which connects Richmond to Pinole and San Pablo and also claims 4.5 miles of the Bay Trail hugging the shoreline. While there isn't much elevation change for true hiking fanatics, the winding trail does often afford plenty of opportunities to spot local wildlife and hear the hooting of resident owls. // One of the city's parks also serves as one of its top tourist destinations, and Rosie the Riveter Memorial/WWII Home Front National Historic Park (1414 Harbor Way S. #3000) includes a visitor center where thousands of people converge every August dressed like Rosie for the Home Front Festival and Rosie Rally. If you're visiting at other times of the year, tour the education center with a ranger, stroll the memorial park, and board the SS Red Oak Victory Ship. On most Fridays, you can meet real Home Front workers from WWII.
Richmond not only houses three new breweries, each perfect for quenching your thirst after a leisurely stroll or long hike, but also a winery collective that frequently hosts live music events. Right by the USS Red Oak Victory, you'll find Riggers Loft (1325 Canal Blvd.), a working winery and cidery that also serves as the tasting room for three wineries and a cider company. The views of the sun setting over the bay from the tasting room or patio are some of the best in the city, and well-timed with happy hour or Oyster Sunday every third Sunday of the month, when oysters on the half shell are just $2 and grilled oysters are $2.50. Other special events include open mic trivia and paint nights. // If beer is your beverage of choice, you've got a trio of options in Richmond. Named for Richmond's lighthouse, East Brother Beer Co. (1001 Canal Blvd.) has become one of area's most entertaining gathering spaces since it opened almost two years ago. At the 12,000-square-foot warehouse and brewing space, find six of the brewery's core beers done in a traditional style (plus the odd limited release, such as the Festbier), as well as pool, bocce, pinball machines, a ping pong table, and board and arcade games. Serious gamers can join the Wednesday night rec room league, which includes a special glass for discounted beer and the chance to compete for various prizes in "parlor games for the non-athlete." // Downtown's Benoit Casper (1201 Pennsylvania Ave.), the city's first brewery, pours largely European-inspired, unfiltered pints, which you can now sample in a flight of four alongside brewery tours at its tasting room. // The homey, welcoming feel you get from sibling-run Armistice Brewing Company (845 Marina Bay Pkwy. #1) extends beyond the reclaimed wood barn door, into the tiny taproom, and outside to the fairy light–lit beer garden where you can sip genre-spanning beers from the ever-changing tap list by the fire pit. If you're hungry, grab a bite from the daily-changing food trucks.
An Evening in Richmond: Light(house), Camera, Action
Richmond's local derby team, the Richmond Wrecking Belles, in action.
Tasty Tunes and Hidden Superclubs
A handful of Point Richmond mainstays combine dining with weekly events, so plan a visit to coincide with live harp playing, trivia, or jazz music in a historic hotel. Brezo (135 Park Pl.) may look like your traditional sit-down restaurant from the outside, but the party really gets started on the bar side of the space, where you can often find live harp music on Saturdays in the fall. Highlights from the Latin American–inflected menu include the char-grilled octopus, 14-ounce rib-eye steak, and bourbon-poached apple cake, washed down with a glass of local wine. // Around the corner at the rugby-themed, two-story Up and Under Pub and Grill (2 W. Richmond Ave.), you'll not only find sandwiches and burgers named for rugby positions and plays, but Tuesday night trivia and Saturday karaoke. // At Hotel Mac Restaurant (50 Washington Ave.), vintage decor combines with old-school comfort food such as prime rib and chicken cordon bleu to create a destination worthy of your next date night. The best deals are to be had during weekday happy hour from 3 to 6pm, but it's worth timing a visit to coincide with the nightly live music later in the evening, when the tunes range from live piano to trumpet-led jazz. // To get truly off the beaten path during a day trip to Richmond, try and score a seat at the reservations-only Anaviv's Table (600 Hoffman Blvd.), a cozy 10-seat communal supper club experience tucked into a collection of industrial buildings. The dining experience begins with a chef meet-and-greet over cocktails in the kitchen, followed by a multi-course, farm-to-table meal served around a rustic wooden table, including California wine pairings. The menu changes weekly and the five courses encourage conversation, which helps breaks the ice as you dine with your small group.
It's easy to get a culture fix around Richmond at places like Richmond Art Center, Masquers Playhouse, and The Magick Lantern's monthly movie screenings, but for a deeper appreciation of a different kind of art, you've got two options. Gather a group of friends and attempt to solve the art of the escape at Omescape (5327 Jacuzzi St. Ste. 3H), which traps participants in one of three different escape rooms with an hour to get out. // Or head to Craneway Pavilion (1414 Harbour Way S.) to catch the Richmond Wrecking Belles perfecting the art of pain in a knock-down, drag-out roller derby match.
Sleep in a Lighthouse
Sure, you could head back home after a day in Richmond, but why not sleep in a lighthouse instead? Reserve a room at East Brother Light Station Bed and Breakfast (1900 Stenmark Dr.), a restored five-room Victorian B&B hidden on an island in the strait separating the San Francisco and San Pablo bays. Four of the rooms are former keepers quarters, with just one option available in the fog signal building, and stays include a gourmet multi-course dinner with wine pairings and a full breakfast, all shared by the guests so they can get to know one another. Accessing the light station is an adventure in itself, and involves climbing a vertical ladder down to a bobbing boat for a 10-minute ride to the island.