I'll be the first to admit that I didn’t spend significant time in Richmond until I was a reporter there during grad school. The city was a bit out of the way, and I didn’t think it had anything I couldn’t find in the other parts of the East Bay I frequented.
But Richmond is a place that grows on you quickly, and it certainly grew on me.
I sometimes get sideways glances when I talk to people about the city, as well as questions about whether it’s violent and if I feel safe there. Some of the questions are valid considering I spent time in Richmond as a crime reporter. But much of the reaction reminds me of the days when friends from other parts of California would ask me with wide eyes whether I “knew anyone who had been shot” because I lived in Oakland.
I don’t get those kinds of questions about Oakland anymore, and I think things are starting to change for Richmond too. Richmond is an incredibly unique and diverse place with a small-town vibe – and it’s certainly the only part of the Bay Area where people regularly remember my name after meeting me once. While I think the city would (perhaps rightfully) resist the kind of gentrification other communities have experienced, the rising price of housing elsewhere and the influx of workers to the upcoming Lawrence Berkeley Labs will certainly bring some new faces. Hopefully, as it changes all the best parts and people of Richmond will remain the same.
EAT HERE NOW
There are some seriously good eats in Richmond and options for any budget. From Thai and Vietnamese to German and Brazilian fare, there is a ton of tasty food to sample. The Latino-owned businesses on 23rd Street are known for the city’s annual Cinco de Mayo celebration and, of course, for some awesome Mexican restaurants. If you’re looking for a burrito that can rival anything you might find in the Mission,Pepito’s Deli is a good place to start.
The community prides itself on supporting the people and places that have been in the area for decades. One of the most popular local hangouts is Caspers Hot Dogs, a Bay Area chain that has several locations throughout the East Bay. The Richmond spot has been across the street from City Hall since 1947. Regulars love it for the vintage décor, steamed buns, and, of course, the hot dogs.
You can satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh donuts and coffee at Andy’s Donut Shop, another long-time community staple. Andy’s has a no-frills, old-school feel. Plus, it’s open 24/7, which is perfect for those with late-night shifts or late-night munchies.
If you’re looking for upscale fare or a charming bar, the Hotel Mac’s restaurant, housed in a historic Point Richmond building, is a great choice. It attracts an older crowd and some of the food is a bit pricier than eats in other parts of town. But you can’t go wrong with any one of its killer specials, such as the daily $10 Express Lunch or the ongoing Friday deal where any bottle of wine is 50 percent off.
EXPLORE THE WATERFRONT
If you’re a hiker, biker, or photographer, the Richmond Bay Trail has amazing panoramic views of the Bay Area. The trail makes up a chunk of what will eventually be a continuous 500-mile network around the San Pablo and San Francisco Bays.
During World War II, more ships were constructed in the Richmond Shipyards than anywhere else in the country, and Richmond is immensely proud of its naval history. So, while you’re on the waterfront, check out the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park. History buffs will also want to see the restoredSS Red Oak Victory, a World War II cargo ship that is now a museum. There are regular tour hours listed online and historic WWII films are slated to be screened on board the ship once a month until May.
THE MAGICK LANTERN
The Magick Lantern is a single-screen art cinema in Point Richmond shows classic, documentary, indie, and foreign films. There’s room for only about 40 people (seating includes a smattering of beanbag chairs in the front row) at the limited showings from Thursday through Sunday. The most popular night is Thursday, when Magick Lantern screens a free classic film at 7:30 p.m. Otherwise, shows cost $7 for general admission, or just $5 for Sunday matinees.
DERBY GIRLS AT THE CRANEWAY PAVILION
The Bay Area Derby Girls kick ass. Seriously – most of them could probably kick your ass. Though the B.A.D. Girls practice in West Oakland, the Craneway Pavilion is where all Richmond Wrecking Belles home games are held. You can cheer on the Belles, Berkeley Resistance, Oakland Outlaws, or San Francisco ShEvil Dead with a cold drink and usually a Señor Sisig burrito in hand. The games are sometimes rowdy and always a good time. I’ve watched B.A.D. Girl competitions at a few different venues around the Bay, but the Craneway, which has spectacular waterfront views, is my favorite. The site also hosts the Chocolate and Beer Festival, as well as other concerts and expos.
THE RICHMOND PLUNGE
If you’re looking to cool off or take some swimming classes, the Richmond Municipal Natatorium, known as The Richmond Plunge or just The Plunge, is home to a huge, public indoor pool. The recently renovated 1926 building has an observation deck on the second floor, solar panels to heat the water, and an open-truss ceiling in the style of San Francisco’s Sutro Baths. It costs just $3 for kids and $5 for Richmond residents to drop-in, with an extra buck tacked on for out-of-towners.
ART WITHOUT THE CROWDS
I’m from Oakland, I live in Oakland, and I love Oakland. But if I have to navigate the crowds at First Friday and pay an outlandish cover at a typically free downtown bar one more time, I might lose it. Point Richmond’s Third Thursday provides relief for those who want excellent art and good community vibes, but don’t want to spend their night navigating the swarms of people that mob other Bay Area art walks. Yes, it is smaller than First Fridays. However, the artists are usually available on-site to chat with you about their work, plus there’s always good live music, food, and drinks. If you want to check out some ongoing exhibits, the Richmond Art Center hosts wonderful work from around the East Bay. The RAC also holds workshops and classes in everything from silk-screening and making earth pigment paints to portraiture and jewelry making.