Way back when, 14 alligators swam in the lobby of the Jefferson Hotel. Richmond socialites would bring them back from wintering in Florida & the hotel was nice enough to house them in their lobby fountain. The last living alligator may have died in 1948, but the stone gators placed through the lobby pay homage to the past. Alligators aside, stepping into the hotel actually feels like stepping into the past, as the entire hotel is immaculately restored back to its original 1895 glory.
The Palm Court, the main lobby where guests are greeted at reception (where they used to be greeted by alligators), has a giant statue of Thomas Jefferson, Virginia’s proud son & namesake for the hotel. Major Lewis Ginter, who built the hotel back in the late 1890s, idolized Jefferson & modeled the hotel after the great buildings he saw in Europe during his travels. Rather uniquely, the property has always operated as a hotel with only a brief hiatus in the 1980s for restoration.
Just off the Palm Court is the Rotunda Lobby, which feels plush & grand & like you should be sitting there sipping brandy in a gown, not shorts. The grand staircase is said to have inspired the staircase in Gone With the Wind – an old wives tale which has been debunked many times, but still lives on in local lore. It’s a magnificent public space that feels like a throw back to a more formal time & space. Make sure & stop by the mezzanine level – there are portraits of all the president’s who were from Virginia which line the walls.
The guest rooms come in all shapes & sizes – we stayed in a Studio Suite. The room was spacious, with plenty of room to relax in the seating area or on the giant king sized bed. The well appointed bathroom included a jetted tub & a beautiful rain shower walk-in shower. The coolest feature of this five-diamond property? The TV embedded in the bathroom mirror! The Jefferson is quietly renovating guests rooms – you’d never know if you didn’t see the little “pardon our dust” sign outside of a closed door – & at the end of renovation, all the rooms will have new bathrooms (complete with TV) & similarly sized.
In my mind, the measure of any hotel is its breakfast & the Jefferson Hotel does not disappoint. The Richmonder is a cheesy bacon potato hot sauce concoction which is worth every single calorie. The Low Country Bene is a spin on traditional eggs benedict with pulled pork taking the place of ham. And the chicken & waffles? Well, what’s there really to say other than: this is the south & they know what they’re doing. A highlight of brunch comes on Sunday when their traditional brunch is served under the soaring ceiling of the Rotunda Lobby.
One of the best things about staying at the Jefferson is something that is lost on many luxury, historic hotels: it doesn’t feel stuffy. It feels immaculate & comfortable & like a place you could call home. You’re not afraid to relax on a lobby chair for fear of breaking something & it’s equally romantic weekend friendly as it is family (& dog!) friendly. They serve formal high tea every Friday, Saturday & Sunday in the lobby, but also have an awesome indoor pool. How many hotels can really say that?
Need some local eats suggestions?
– Buz & Ned’s is REAL southern BBQ. It’s a total hole in the wall – which is exactly the way you want your local BBQ place to be. It’s right by the Richmond Flying Squirrels’ stadium & makes the perfect post-game meal.
– Legend Brewing Co. has a 200-seat deck overlooking the skyline of Richmond. Their in-house beer – including a smooth brown ale – goes perfectly with their pub food. Try the giant pretzel with cheese.
– The line at Millie’s Diner is always out the door, but it’s well worth the wait. Grab a coffee or bloody mary while you wait to dine on the best brunch in Richmond. The Devil’s Mess is what made them famous!
Note: Our stay at the Jefferson Hotel was provided compliments of the hotel. All opinions – including the awesomeness of breakfast – are my own.