A student sitting in the grass on a warm day while painting outside in Park Plaza.
Enjoying the weather while painting outside in Park Plaza. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

Fall has (finally) arrived. Here are a few great places to grab some fresh air.

We asked readers to share their favorite outdoor spots around the city. Here’s what they had to say.

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Ah, autumn. Welcome, and thank goodness you are here. It’s been so … hot. And humid. And sweaty. Did we mention hot? But now you are here, magnificent (early) fall, with your crisp morning air, your chrysanthemums, your apples, and with your flannel and brilliant foliage and pumpkin spice glory soon to come.

Yes, fall in Virginia is beautiful. And because it’s still a pandemic, and our air conditioners are in desperate need of a break, it’s also the perfect time in Richmond to be outside as often as possible, and to seek places to eat, study, grab a coffee, take a walk or just sit and enjoy a cool breeze. Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park and MCV campuses and nearby neighborhoods are full of outdoor gems, from the back patio at The Valentine (a calm oasis steps away from busy 11th Street outside VCU Medical Center), to the green roof atop the Pollak Building (a cozy spot above the trees and hubbub of the Monroe Park Campus), to the fifth-floor garden patio at the VCU College of Health Professions (a great place to read, study and — in a few weeks — enjoy the fall colors on trees for miles around).

A few weeks ago, we asked readers to prepare for this most wonderful (weather) time of year by sharing their favorite outdoor spots — on or off campus — around the city. Here’s what you had to say:

view at water level across a river with tall city buildings in the background
View of Richmond from the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge. (Sue Rosko)

Sue Rosko, enterprise resource planning reporting analyst, VCU Health

My park relaxation is to walk/hike. In my 15-plus years of treks throughout the Richmond area, my hands-down favorite are the trails in the James River Park system. I never tire of the views. This park is also the first place I take visitors; they always come away impressed. 

sunset on a pedestrian bridge over a river
On the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge. (Dominic Brown/TallTravelEats)

Dominic Brown, founder of TallTravelEats and 2011 VCU School of Business graduate

T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge is one of my favorite places to take breaks because you’re able to enjoy some of Richmond’s best scenic views and sunsets.

Crossing the pedestrian bridge to Belle Isle
Crossing the pedestrian bridge to Belle Isle. (Tom Kojcsich, University Marketing)

Erin Lee Henshaw, master of social work candidate, School of Social Work 

I moved to Richmond during the pandemic, so exploring parks and getting takeout is about all I’ve done! When friends visit Richmond, I take them on a walk that includes the rocks and a circle around Belle Isle. When I want to sit in nature by the water, I like going to Texas Beach. The Canal Walk is also one of the most unique things to do in the city — such a neat way to integrate industry into nature. The trees at Maymont are incredible. Oh, and I love winter walks around Byrd Park! 

(Ok, maybe this wasn’t the assignment but I got excited.) 

Child and mother walking on a trail
Caitlin Hanbury with family out on the Buttermilk Trail, spring 2021. (Caitlin Hanbury)

Caitlin Hanbury, assistant director of community affairs, College of Humanities and Sciences and 2012 School of the Arts graduate 

My favorite park is anywhere along the trails of the James River Park system. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I developed a special bond with a stretch along the eastern length of the Buttermilk Trail — three days a week, I do a run down Fifth [Street] on to Browns Island, across the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, down Railroad Avenue, along the Buttermilk and on to Belle Isle. This routine has fed me in two ways: a good workout and beautiful views. The fall flooding of the James, a quiet but heavy snow, springtime muddy trails, summer wildlife (snakes, deer, turtles, osprey) — I love it all.

Outside the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Outside the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. (Tom Kojcsich, University Marketing)

Elinor Frisa, homepage manager, University Relations

The grounds at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts are great for people — and dog — watching. It’s a park-like setting where friends relax and share a picnic on blankets or people sit reading books at the bistro tables and chairs scattered around. There’s plenty of space to spread out, trees that provide shade, and sculptures and water features that add to the beauty.

an empty park bench in a brick plaza
The Knoll (Park Plaza). (Marc Sterling)

Marc Sterling, senior auditor

I’m a scribbler, not a tapper, and love to study outside even after it gets cold, so I’m always looking for tables, picnic or otherwise. I like the round black metal four-seaters best — outside Shafer Court and The Commons, and by the new big yellow V-C-U letters on Franklin and Main streets. They’re swell. (Although the seat bolts have all been tightened so they don’t swivel anymore, and they appear to be cleaned annually. But that’s OK, I’m not complaining! I will happily wipe mine down.)    

If I had to pick a single fave, it’d be the lonely round table left at The Knoll (Park Plaza). The other two wandered off. But even just a few minutes [of walking] by Hibbs, Cabell, Singleton Center, Pollak and The Anderson, and I’m PUMPED because I'm where I wanna be — in the heart of MY VCU. 

In Scuffletown Park
Scuffletown Park in The Fan. (Tom Kojcsich, University Marketing)

Mary Kate Brogan, public relations specialist, University Relations, and local greenspace correspondent (the latter an aspirational title)

The tiny alleyway parks — pocket parks, if you will — that dot Richmond are some of the coolest features of any city I’ve lived in. While Paradise Park [between Floyd and Grove avenues] gets an honorable mention as one of Richmond’s best pocket parks (the homage to Daniel Johnston is especially cool), Scuffletown Park [on Strawberry Street] takes the cake. From experience, I can say it is the best surprise to come upon when you’re new to town and walking the alleys of The Fan, not expecting to find such a nifty little park behind people’s homes. Scuffletown has a quiet pulse to it – intimate but alive – with patrons catching up on the benches and lawns over coffee in the morning and ice cream – or even a birthday cake – in the evening. It’s the locals’ park. I almost didn’t submit it because it is such a nice little secret of Richmond, but treat it with respect and you can enjoy it too. 

Monroe Park in Richmond
Monroe Park. (Tom Kojcsich, University Marketing)

Olivia Libbey, senior, School of the Arts

My absolute favorite outdoor space to relax on campus has to be Monroe Park! I love how many students can be seen there spending time with friends! I also love the mix of pets I get to meet there. There are always so many dogs to pet, but I’ve also gotten to meet people’s cats and rabbits too! Sitting by the fountain might be the best part though, especially on a warm day, letting the cool fountain water mist me while I watch people walk by could be classified as a spiritual experience. It’s also a very short walk from where I live, and close to Franklin Terrace, where most of my classes are, so it’s always easy to get to.

Outside the State Capitol in Richmond Virginia
Outside the State Capitol: an oasis of green. (Allen Jones, University Marketing)

Adam Austin, enterprise communications specialist, VCU Health 

I love to get away to Capitol Square. It's a little oasis of green in the midst of downtown's urban churn. It's just a short walk from the MCV Campus so it's ideal for a refreshing break during a stressful workday. 

A cyclist pedals along Richmond's Canal Walk.
A cyclist pedals along the Canal Walk. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

Olivia Aleman, licensed practical nurse, VCU Health

I love the parks in Richmond. My favorites for working out are Great Shiplock Park, the Canal Walk and the Virginia Capital Trail. For meeting with friends, I like Belle Isle or Potter's Field. I also really like the James River Park system’s trails: My favorite is the North Bank Trail!