The city of Richmond, VA is interconnected with the history of the United States of America. Here, Patrick Henry famously cried, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Richmond has survived the Civil War, given birth to scientific innovations, and hosted a diverse array of ethnic cultures that have created the vibrant city of today.
A visit to Richmond, Virginia promises adventure, history, and romance for travelers. Imagine yourself walking along the riverside, perusing unique museums, spending the night with a ghost or two, while surrounded by the gorgeous architecture and nature of Richmond.
Here are 17 things to do in Richmond VA that we know you’ll adore.
AMERICAN CIVIL WAR MUSEUM
The American Civil War Museum has three sites, two of which are in Richmond. Richmond’s ties to the Civil War run deep — the city once was the capital of the Confederacy. In fact, the White House of the Confederacy is part of Richmond’s American Civil War Museum buildings. The second part of the museum located in Richmond is the Historic Tredegar ironworks building, which produced most of the Confederate artillery during the war.
The American Civil War Museum seeks to teach the modern world about the causes, factors, and results of America’s Civil War. Its exhibits feature detailed accounts of soldiers, stories from formerly enslaved people, battlefield artifacts, political movements, and more.
Details: 480 Tredegar St, Richmond, VA 23219 | Website
VIRGINIA MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts prides itself on providing an educational, cultural experience for all people in the Virginia Commonwealth. The museum collects, preserves, and shares art pieces from around the world and throughout history to enrich their community.
The museum’s dedication to public learning and sharing the arts with Virginians echoes in its opening policy: the museum is free and open year-round! Within its walls, you’ll discover rotating exhibits featuring everything from pottery to oil paintings. You might even find an educational lecture or a children’s art class on the itinerary during your visit.
I highly recommend grabbing a bite to eat at the museum while there. The restaurant features upscale Americana foods, cocktails, and a pleasant atmosphere to top your cultural experience.
Details: 200 N Arthur Ashe Blvd, Richmond, VA 23220 | Website
LEWIS GINTER BOTANICAL GARDEN
Take a break from city life and enjoy a walk through some of Virginia’s best gardens. The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has something for everyone in your tour group, from children’s activities to outdoor art exhibits to exotic plant life.
The garden spans 50 acres, with a classical, one-of-a-kind domed conservatory, Asian Valley, and a cherry tree walk just a few of its offerings. If you happen to visit during late November through December, get tickets to the Gardenfest of Lights, where Christmas lights and flowers collide into a dazzling holiday display. It’s one of the best special events in Richmond.
Visitors to the gardens should plan on a day spent walking, so wear comfortable shoes. You can grab a bite to eat at the Garden Cafe year-round or The Robins Teahouse during the spring and summer. Don’t forget to grab a souvenir at the gift shop – they have everything from t-shirts to flower seeds to mark the occasion!
Details: 1800 Lakeside Ave, Henrico, VA 23228 | Website
THE POE MUSEUM
When you hear the name Edgar Allan Poe, you probably think The Raven, not Richmond. So, you might be surprised to hear that the famed author grew up in Richmond, VA. The city inspired some of his most productive writing years, according to the experts at the Poe Museum.
It stands to reason that some of the best Poe artifacts would come to reside in Richmond, especially since Poe considered himself a Richmonder at heart. So when you visit the Poe Museum, you’ll find more than just a raven and a tell-tale heart.
The museum resides in The Old Stone House, a building dating back to the 17th Century that once had visitors like the Marquis de Lafayette, who helped Washington win the Revolutionary War. Fun fact – Edgar Allen Poe actually met Lafayette and brought him to the Old Stone House on a visit to Richmond. In the museum, you’ll also see first editions of the famed works, hear some spooky ghost stories, and explore artifacts from Poe’s life.
After touring the Old Stone House that houses the museum, you’ll want to take time to explore its Enchanted Garden. Inspired by Poe’s “To One in Paradise,” the garden houses a shrine to the Master of the Macabre.
Details: 1914 E Main St, Richmond, VA 23223 | Website
Richmond’s Maymont Estate is, bar none, one of the most romantic locations in the city. The mansion comes straight from a picture book, with unique Queen Anne architecture, splendid gardens, and the Robins Nature Center creating a lovely oasis for visitors to explore. Expect to spend an entire day at the Maymont Estate – there’s plenty of fun for everyone in your party on these gorgeous grounds.
The Maymont Estate spans 100 acres of the idyllic Virginian landscape. Inside the Gilded Age mansion await artifacts from the decadent era of American history. You’ll see rich silk damask walls, marble fireplaces, and intricately carved woodwork alongside an immaculate representation of the below stairs life of servitude.
The true beauty of the Maymont Estate lies outside the mansion walls. The grounds feature an immense stretch of resplendent gardens of varying themes and designs. The Japanese Garden, for example, features classical elements of Kyoto stroll gardens, with raked sand pools, stone lanterns, and water features. Nearby, the Italian Garden features statues, fountains, and ornate flower beds.
Of course, while you explore the grounds, you’ll also want to stop by the Arboretum. The Maymont Estate has one of the most diverse tree collections in the states, with species from Virginia to Japan populating the arboretum.
The Maymont Estate provides an up-close view of Virginia’s native animals for animal lovers. The Robins Nature Center has 30,000 gallons of aquariums full of otters, fish, and other animals of the James River and the Chesapeake Bay. There’s also the Maymont Farm, where friendly critters like goats and chickens await the curious young farmer in your family.
Details: 1700 Hampton St, Richmond, VA 23220 | Website
LIBBY HILL PARK
Tucked away in the charming Church Hill neighborhood, Libby Hill Park offers some of the most fabulous views in the city of Richmond. The park holds a fond place in every Richmonder’s heart. Rumor has it that the park’s location so greatly resembled Richmond-on-the-Thames in England, that the founders named the city after the English location.
Originally, Richmonders called this scenic area Marshall Square. Its lush green scenery is the backdrop to a majestic stone fountain, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, and plenty of picnicking space for the average park-goer. You’ll want to take a walk around the park at sunset. Trust me; there’s no better view of Richmond at sunset than from Libby Hill Park!
Details: 2801 E Franklin St, Richmond, VA 23223 | Website
Belle Isle State Park is an excellent location for families to explore the natural wonders of Virginia. Reaching Belle Isle is an adventure all its own; visitors have to cross a suspended footbridge to reach the isle.
The area of Belle Isle covers seven miles of shoreline along the Northern Neck’s Rappahannock River. The Powhatan Indian encampment (you may recognize the tribe’s name from Pocahontas’ story) once lived on the Isle. Eventually, the space evolved to house a prison, a racetrack, and steel plants. Now, the state park protects a diverse array of Virginia wildlife, from ducks in the wetlands to foxes on the isle.
Visitors to Belle Isle can stay overnight at the Bel Air Mansion or Guest House. You can also camp, fish, swim, and hike while visiting the park.
Details: 1632 Belle Isle Rd., Lancaster, VA 22503 | Website
The Hollywood Cemetery of Richmond is one of the oldest cemeteries in the city. Its sloping hills and valleys provide a quiet, beautiful place of reflection within the city. The Hollywood Cemetery is more than just a cemetery; it’s also a registered arboretum, thanks to its winding trails of beloved trees.
Walking through the cemetery is a walk through America’s history. Hidden away among the trees is President James Monroe’s tomb, called “The Bird Cage,” and that of President Tyler. At the Palmer Chapel, you can catch the shimmering waters of the James River. Other notable sites are Jefferson Davis’ memorial, a massive Confederate Soldier pyramid, and an Egyptian Lotus Column marking the tomb of women’s rights activist Kate P. Minor.
Different tours abound for the curious visitor. You can hop on a segway for an in-depth tour or follow the Girl Scout Guide or Virginia Mysteries Guide to explore other famous sites in the cemetery. Before leaving the cemetery, stop and say hello to the Iron Dog that protects the tomb of a little girl and her family; it’s a favorite stop for locals.
Details: 412 S Cherry St, Richmond, VA 23220 | Website
VIRGINIA CAPITAL TRAIL
Biking and walking enthusiasts of Richmond love the 52-mile stretch of the Virginia Capital Trail, and you will love it too. The trail connects Virginia’s past capital city of Jamestown to the present-day capital, Richmond.
If you follow the trail for the entire 52 miles, you’ll walk (or bike) your way through four jurisdictions and 400 years of United States history, all surrounded by the serene beauty of Virginia’s wilderness.
You don’t have to walk the entire trail to enjoy it, either. Forty-five attractions dot the trail’s entirety, ranging from the historic Jamestown settlement to Richmond’s Rocketts Landing. The trail also has 50 restaurants within walking distance. Make sure to check out the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation’s itinerary suggestions to make the most of your visit to the trail.
Details: 2803 Dock St, Richmond, VA 23223 | Website
THE BYRD THEATRE
In 1928, Richmond saw the opening of the esteemed Byrd Theatre. Known as a “motion picture palace,” The Byrd Theatre drew inspiration from the vaudeville era, with classical architecture, a glittering, Czechoslovakian crystal chandelier, and velvet curtains creating a rich atmosphere for theatre-goers to enjoy.
The Byrd Theatre was one of the first in Virginia to show silent films. Adding to the experience was The Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, which began adding sound effects to films in 1928 and remains in use to this day.
Today, the Byrd Theatre shows modern color films, with the occasional classic thrown into the mix. But if you visit on a Saturday, you’ll get to experience the powerful music of the Wurlitzer Organ before your feature film begins!
Details: 2908 W Cary St, Richmond, VA 23221 | Website
SCIENCE MUSEUM OF VIRGINIA
Before it was a museum, the Science Museum of Virginia was a railroad station called Broad Street Station. Broad Street ran from 1913 to 1976 before the station closed. Its doors reopened as the Science Museum of Virginia in 1977.
Visitors to the museum won’t run out of things to do. The museum’s theater, The Dome, is the largest screen in the state and shows everything from animal documentaries to astronomy shows. Fans of nature can stop at the Animal Lab, or tour their Green Science exhibit to learn about Earth and its animals. Creative-minded visitors can stop by The Forge to build airplanes and other STEM-related crafts.
From dinosaurs to engineering, the Science Museum of Virginia has something for you to discover. Plan on spending a few hours there to really experience all it has to offer.
Details: 2500 W Broad St, Richmond, VA 23220 | Website
MULTIPLE CRAFT BREWERIES
You might say that Richmond, VA is a beer lover’s dream destination. The city has a Beer Trail sporting over 30 local breweries for adult visitors to enjoy.
If you don’t have time to tour all of the breweries in the city, save time by stopping by the Scott’s Addition neighborhood. Scott’s Addition is Richmond’s unofficial beer center. The historic neighborhood houses local favorites Ardent, Strangeways, Vasen, Hardywood, Isley, and The Veil Brewing, cideries, distilleries, and the occasional meadery.
Many of the breweries on the beer trail offer delicious food and their signature tasty libations. If you make your way through every brewery on the trail, you can walk away sporting free Richmond swag to commemorate your visit!
Richmond’s Fan District evokes the architecture and aesthetic of another era. Walking its tree-lined avenues, you’ll find Edwardian, Queen Anne, Victorian, and Colonial architecture preserved in all its glory.
This bustling district is home to small businesses, historical monuments, and the Virginia Commonwealth University. Travelers compare it to Bourbon Street in New Orleans because of its quaint, tourist-friendly vibe.
JAMES RIVER CANAL WALK
Your visit in Richmond should include a stop along the James River Canal Walk. This 1.25-mile loop is perfect for a stroll along the river. Interestingly enough, the James River Canal was the brainchild of none other than George Washington – you should visit the George Washington Vision Exhibit to learn more about the canal’s history while you visit.
Along the canal walk, you’ll pass statues depicting key figures and moments in Richmond and Virginian history. Among the statues of famous figures are President Lincoln and his son, Tad, located behind the American Civil War Museum. There’s also the Christopher Newport Cross Statue, which commemorates where the Newport explorers claimed Richmond for King James I in 1607.
The James River Canal Walk is nearby Richmond’s Downtown District. Plan on grabbing a bite to eat at a local diner after your walk, and maybe do some shopping too.
ST. JOHN’S CHURCH
On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry gave a speech that history would never forget. You know at least part of it, “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!” Henry spoke those words at St. John’s Church to the Second Virginia Convention.
When you visit St. John’s Church, you literally walk where titans of the Revolutionary War walked. The story of St. John’s is intricate and critical to American History, which is why I recommend taking one of the church’s guided tours. On tour, guides reveal facts about Patrick Henry, the American Revolutionary War, and the church itself.
St. John’s also houses the first public cemetery of Richmond. Heroes from the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 rest beside immigrants from Scotland, England, and France. These centuries-old gravestones mark history as much as the church itself does.
For a full Revolutionary War experience, check out one of the historical reenactments. During the reenactments, you’ll experience firsthand the power of Patrick Henry’s speech and the political workings of the Second Virginia Convention in the very walls where the events took place in history.
Details: 2401 E Broad St, Richmond, VA 23223 | Website
When you ride the RVA trolley, you get to explore Richmond while riding a piece of history! The RVA trolley is the first electric trolley system in the world. It’s been operating in some capacity or another since 1888, and yes, you can ride it.
The vintage trolley offers fantastic tours of Richmond. The RVA Historic Trolley Tour takes you through 400 years of Richmond history, including its landmarks, architecture, and riverfront. If you want some humor in your tour, consider taking the Stand Up Comedy Brewery Tour, where adult libations and comedians come for the ride. Or, for a serene tour of Richmond history, take the trolley through Hollywood cemetery and learn about the Civil War history, city heroes, and celebrities, as well as a ghost story or two.
Details: 1301 E. Cary Street Richmond, VA 23219 | Website
Richmond is home to many manor houses and mansions, but one of the most popular is Agecroft Hall. Here, 16th Century Virginia comes to life for visitors. The Tudor-style manor house originally resided in Lancashire, London, until Mr. Thomas C. Williams, Jr. moved the property to Richmond in 1928.
Mr. Williams restored the house while adding modern conveniences like plumbing to the interior. Despite the upgrades, the house remains a magnificent rendition of Tudor architecture – one of the best found in North America.
Visitors can explore a Tudor kitchen, the sunroom, and historical artifacts year-round. In Spring, Agecroft hosts a Time Travelers Weekend featuring English and Richmond history. Every summer, Agecroft Hall hosts Richmond’s Shakespeare Festival. The Great Bard’s plays come to life in their native scenery among the roses of Agecroft’s gardens.
You won’t want to miss this historic treasure during your trip!
Details: 4305 Sulgrave Rd, Richmond, VA 23221 | Website
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO VIRGINIA
- YOUR VIRGINIA VACATION
- VIRGINIA BEACH: 21 Amazing Things To Do In Virginia Beach, VA
- HARRISONBURG: 17 Most Amazing Things To Do In Harrisonburg VA
WHERE TO STAY IN RICHMOND VA
Historical Vibe. Virginia Crossings Hotel is an AAA Four Diamond-Rated resort rests on 20 acres of open green space, with a campus featuring English gardens and Colonial architecture.
Best Downtown. The Commonwealth has been a landmark hotel in Richmond for over 100 years and offers a uniquely Richmond experience. Within walking distance of the Virginia State Capitol, financial district, the federal courts buildings, Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom with live entertainment.
Best Family Rental Option. Richmond 3-Bedroom in the Heart of RVA sleeps 6 comfortably and is in a great location. If here for a college visit, this property is a little over 2 miles from the University of Richmond.
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