One of the oldest cities in Virginia, Petersburg sits right off Interstate 95 on the banks of the Appomattox River and features a growing downtown populated by locally-owned trendy restaurants and vintage stores. Time has turned the effects of a war-time siege into classic exposed brickwork, and as you drive through the downtown, you can't help but notice the old-time painted advertising signs on the sides of the buildings. An important city in African-American history, Petersburg still maintains an 80 percent black population.
The Civil War played an important part in the history of the city, and throughout the downtown area, historical markers, buildings and museums work to preserve the city's past. Southwest of the downtown area lies the large Blandford cemetery, which features elaborate gravestones, and Blandford Church, which includes a stained-glass window designed by Tiffany himself.
Restaurants & Nightlife
Hear the rumble under your wheels as you drive down the cobblestone Cockade Alley in downtown Petersburg. Located on this narrow lane in a nearly 200-year-old brick building, The Brickhouse Run serves British pub food. Designed for people to interact with each other as they eat, the pub has no TVs, and customers consistently rate this as a top restaurant in Petersburg. Stop in to enjoy tandoori shrimp or bangers and mash with your pint.
Petersburg sits firmly in the south, so of course there has to be a good BBQ joint around. Not only does Saucy's Walk-Up Bar B.Q. serve good BBQ, Southern Living Magazine named it as one of the 20 best barbeque joints in the south. Step up to the window in the orange shipping container to order ribs, chicken or pulled pork. When it rains, call from your car to enjoy the restaurant's curbside service.
Located in a nondescript building next to the highway, you might not give Croaker's Spot a second look, but you would miss out on the best southern seafood soul food in the city. Give the signature seafood chili a try, or order the customer favorite, fish and grits. Open late on weekends, Croaker's Spot has a full bar, and it often puts on live music.
For more late-night fun, come into Wabi Sabi. Despite the name, you can get more than Asian food here, making it a great place for friends with different culinary tastes to hang out. This 3-story restaurant has a nice selection of burgers, salads and appetizers as well as a large sushi menu. The place to be late at night, Wabi Sabi has live music Wednesday through Saturday nights, when it stays open late with special late-night menu. The highlight of this restaurant has to be the martini lounge on the 3rd floor, which is capped off with drag shows twice a month.
History & Culture
Known for being the site of the infamous Battle of the Crater during the Civil War, Petersburg is less well-known for its part in the Civil Rights Movement. In the 1700s, this area was the home of freed blacks, and that legacy contributed to the downfall of Jim Crow later on in the twentieth century. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Petersburg seven times, and after his death, it was the first city to designate King's birthday a holiday.
After the 1960s, the city fell into a period of decline but the city continues to grow thanks to expansion at nearby Fort Lee and a new interest in the buildings and history of the city.
In Old Town, the Petersburg Area Art League hosts a reception on the 2nd Friday of every month, when the league introduces its monthly exhibit. This "Friday for the Arts" includes more than 20 venues across town.
Located at the intersection of I-85, I-95 and U.S. Route 460, Petersburg drivers have convenient access to Richmond, the tidewater Virginia region and even North Carolina.
The Petersburg Area Transit serves the city with buses that run from 6:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. A one-way fare costs $1.75, but daily, weekly and monthly passes make consistent use of the public transit system more affordable. A Greyhound station sits just south of old downtown, and you can take the bus to Richmond for $11 or Washington, D.C., for $38.
Locals don't typically use taxicabs, but a couple companies serve the area's needs. The app-based company Uber does not serve the area.
Petersburg is a city where a car comes in handy. Most areas have sidewalks, but the hilly terrain leaves many pedestrians wanting a break before too long. The terrain may also be a factor in why the city does not have designated bike lines.
Because the downtown remains an old, historic area, street parking remains somewhat inconvenient. However, with free open lots scattered across the downtown area, finding a place to park doesn't make for a significant hassle.
Watch your money go farther living in Petersburg with an average cost of living that runs 11 percent lower than the state average and 4 percent lower than the national average. A one-bedroom apartment costs you around $750. Gas prices run 8 percent cheaper in the city than elsewhere in the state, and a beer down at The Brickhouse Run costs you about $4.
Since Petersburg is an old city with such a rich history, it should be no surprise that an array of antique shops await you. With no fewer than 17 stores to pick through, you should be guaranteed to find a treasure or two.
One of the best antique stores happens to be Secondhand Rose. Located in a three-story building, it sells vintage clothing and accessories, specializing in items from between 1920 and 1980.
Another great place to find vintage items has to be Penniston's Alley Antiques and Collectibles. Located in two buildings built before 1815, this store specializes in 19th-century American items and Asian antiques in addition to other antiques and collectibles.
If you find yourself interested in really hunting for your treasure, then a stop at Petersburg Pickers should be on your list. This 10,000 square-foot building houses finds collected from estate and tag sales, and if you need your own property looked at, the store's full-time staff happily comes out to review private collections.
When it comes to groceries, you can get your shopping done at Save-A-Lot, Food Lion, Martin's and Wal-Mart. For fresh produce, check out the Petersburg Farmer's Market, which operates on the banks of the Appomattox River throughout the year on Saturdays.
Situated on 330 acres, Lee Memorial Park distinguishes itself as the main park serving the city. The city has developed only 18 acres of the park, leaving the rest to be nature in the truest sense. Created by a dam, Wilcox Lake runs through the middle of the park. Closed for more than 50 years rather than allow integrated swimming, it has been restored by volunteers so that you can both fish and take your canoe or kayak out in it. The park also includes trails, picnic shelters, tennis courts, basketball courts, grills, bathrooms and a playground.
The other large park-like attraction straddles the city limits. Petersburg National Battlefield Park attracts people not just for the sunken crater and still-visible mine, which stand as important in Civil War history, but for its incredibly well-laid out and tended trails. Horseback riders love riding on the trails, and people often come here to jog, walk, bike and even fish at Grant's Headquarters. Park admission costs $5 per car. While no official dog park in the city exists, feel free to bring your leashed pooch with you.
Various annual events in Petersburg include The Festival of Grapes and Hops and the spring re-enactment of the Revolutionary War Battle of Blandford.