The problem with tourism in Richmond is us — specifically, our self-image. That's the conclusion of Maureen Egan, who published a 300-page Richmond tour guide through Globe Pequot Press. When she explained her book to Richmonders, she says, their responses suggested that they didn't view their city as tourism-worthy. "We're not thinking big enough," she says. "The people [Richmonders] are friendly, but our infrastructure is not." She notes a lack of signage and no bathrooms along the Canal Walk.
The Insiders' Guide to Richmond , now in bookstores nationwide, includes the usual fare but also chapters on the James River and the city's architecture. Egan, a columnist for Richmond magazine's sister publication R•Home, says travel stories about Richmond in out-of-town newspapers often mention the city's status as the Capital of the Confederacy, a label she feels is limiting.
Regardless of the looming 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Richmond can go "beyond Monument Avenue and Tredegar" and tell lesser-known stories, such as the one about Prosser's Gabriel, a slave who attempted to lead a revolt, Egan says. She remarks that the city could self-promote by framing photos of "people doing cool things in Richmond" and hanging them around town.
The city is doing some things right, Egan acknowledges. Farmers' markets make Richmond more inviting, and Sally Bell's Kitchen at Fountain Lake is a great ambassador. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' reopening and the scope of the Richmond Folk Festival prove "we can do things up right," Egan says.