Best Things To Do in Richmond
Just like its slogan reads: Virginia is for Lovers, of history, that is. And like other best places to visit in the commonwealth, Richmond boasts some impressive American Revolution sites (like St. John's Church) and an extensive chronicle of Civil War memorabilia (found in The American Civil War Museum or the Virginia Historical Society). There's also a good selection of activities for nature lovers, fine arts lovers, literature lovers and more. Get the picture? That's not all: One of the best aspects of traveling to Richmond is how well the city also appeals to lovers of a good deal – many top sites are free to the public or cost less than $10 to enter.
Updated July 29, 2020
- #1View all Photos#1 in Richmond1.9 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND1.9 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Most visitors are impressed with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, comparing its collections to what you would find in the art museums of much larger cities.
This Museum District standout is best known for its five gorgeous Fabergé eggs, but it also features works by Degas, Cézanne and Renoir, and large collections of African, Indian and Tibetan art. Recent visitors were especially impressed with the McGlothlin Collection of American Art. Reviewers said it's impossible to see everything in just one visit and recommend setting aside at least several hours to peruse. If you can, try visiting more than once during your Richmond trip. Aside from the amazing collections, travelers were also impressed with Amuse Restaurant, located on-site (often considered one of Richmond's best restaurants).
- #2View all Photos#2 in Richmond2.8 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND2.8 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This Capitol building's big claim to fame is that it was partially designed by Thomas Jefferson. He supposedly based the structure on the Maison Carrée temple (located in Nîmes, France), which he greatly admired. And in addition to learning about the building's design trivia, visitors also like to stroll the grounds and snap photos. The surrounding area, known as Capitol Square, has several monuments dedicated to the civil rights movement, as well as to prominent Virginians like Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and Edgar Allan Poe.
Recent visitors said they were pleasantly surprised by how interesting a visit to the Capitol building proved to be. Along with the unique architecture, reviewers also praised the knowledgeable guides and encouraged future visitors to join in on a free guided tour.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Richmond6.3 miles to city centerParks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND6.3 miles to city centerParks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Purchased by a prominent Richmond businessman in 1895, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden sits on property that was Powhatan Indian hunting ground. Now, the 50-acre garden attracts droves of Richmond visitors who come to marvel at its many blooms and domed conservatory – the only one of its kind in the mid-Atlantic. There are also several beloved family events throughout the year like Butterflies LIVE!, the Goblins and Gourds Halloween event and the GardenFest of Lights held in late November and early January.
Recent visitors called the garden a gem in Richmond and said it's beautiful year-round. When you're not enjoying the greenery, you can enjoy light snacks and tea in the on-site cafe and tea house. There's also a garden shop on-site in case you're inspired to plant some flowers of your own.
- #4View all PhotosfreeCarytown#4 in Richmond2.4 miles to city center2.4 miles to city centerEntertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Locals and frequent visitors agree that the city's hippest shops and restaurants converge in a Museum District-adjacent area known as Carytown. But take note: Boutiques reign here, so don't visit expecting a Toys "R" Us, Best Buy or Crate and Barrel; instead you'll find quirky alternatives like the World of Mirth, Plan 9 Music and Need Supply Co. There are also some familiar sights: Carytown hosts a Hair Cuttery, a 7-Eleven and a Starbucks.
If you like to shop, you owe yourself a visit to at least gaze at the window displays. And if you're budget conscious, keep in mind that Carytown eateries are known to be overpriced. To save some money, just visit for ambiance: Mark the popular (and free) August Watermelon Festival on your calendar or go see a movie or live performance at the Byrd Theatre. The Byrd is a preserved Richmond movie house that's very popular with locals (particularly for its $2 ticket prices).
- #5View all Photos#5 in Richmond21.6 miles to city centerAmusement ParksTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND21.6 miles to city centerAmusement ParksTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
When you and your kids need a break from all the history lessons Richmond has to offer, head about 25 miles north of the city to Kings Dominion. This 400-acre water and theme park wins praise from recent visitors for its manageable size and family-friendly attractions. Thrill-seekers particularly liked all the roller coasters here, especially the wooden Grizzly coaster, which takes riders through a dense forest. And another bonus: Entrance to the kid-friendly Soak City water park is included in your general admission fee.
The only complaint offered by recent visitors pertained to the high price of food. Though you can't bring outside food or drink into the park, there are several shaded picnic areas in the guest parking lot if you want to pack food or drinks to consume before entering the park. If you do plan to buy soft drinks or water inside the park, consider purchasing the souvenir bottle. Though the price may seem steep ($10.99), it'll get you free refills all day.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Richmond2 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Located in Richmond's Museum District, the Virginia Historical Society boasts an exhaustive collection of the commonwealth's Civil War memorabilia, including books, newspapers, photographs, business and genealogical records – even sheet music. In other words, for museumgoers curious about Civil War history – you just might have hit the jackpot.
Recent visitors raved about this free museum, which they described as a fun and educational rainy day activity. Though you have to pay to access special exhibits, reviewers were happy to fork over the extra cash to peruse.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Richmond3.1 miles to city centerMuseums, Free, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND3.1 miles to city centerMuseums, Free, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Richmond has its fair share of Civil War history, but it's also home to a moving and impressive Holocaust museum. Founded in 1997 by one of Richmond's youngest Holocaust survivors, Jay Ipson, the Virginia Holocaust Museum focuses on two narratives: a broad detailing of the Holocaust's role in global history and the Ipson family's experience and survival. Visitors will hear stories of survivors who started over in Richmond, as well as the journey of the Ipson family.
Many recent visitors called this institution one of the nation's best Holocaust museums, crediting the moving and artistic exhibits as a source of their high praise. Reviewers were particularly affected by the poignant stories from survivors, which can be heard via audio.
- #8View all PhotosfreeMaymont#8 in Richmond0.5 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, Historic Homes/MansionsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND0.5 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, Historic Homes/MansionsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Maymont used to be the sprawling home of wealthy Richmond residents James Henry and Sallie May Dooley (the estate name comes from combining Mrs. Dooley’s maiden name and the French word for hill). Upon their deaths, they left their home and its grounds to the city. Now, this 100-acre property is one of the top activities for Richmond travelers. The Japanese gardens are a particular highlight, but Maymont also boasts a carriage collection, a petting zoo and an arboretum, not to mention a truly spectacular and well-maintained 12,000 square foot, 33-room mansion. And it's all about a 10- to 15-minute walk from the downtown area.
Recent visitors called Maymont a Richmond treasure and said it's the perfect place to spend an afternoon. Other travelers urge you to pack a picnic to enjoy on the mansion lawn. Maymont's only sincere problem is that there's too much to see and do for just one day. Many of Maymont's reviewers said they planned on making a return trip.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Richmond3.5 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND3.5 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Most tourists don't visit St. John's for liturgical reasons, but rather historical ones. This was the Richmond church where in 1775 Patrick Henry famously pleaded to "Give me liberty, or give me death!" And in the graveyard you'll find the final resting place of Elizabeth Arnold Poe (mother of Edgar Allan) and George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
And speaking of Sunday, you can also still attend church services at St. John's; they're usually held that day at 8:30 and 11 a.m. Afterward, the church is open for tours from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, tours are run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you'd really like to get a feel for the history this church witnessed, consider attending one of its public re-enactments, held annually from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Costumed actors re-enact the Second Virginia Convention and Henry’s famous speech. Recent visitors highly recommended attending a re-enactment, or at least paying to tour the church to learn more about the site's significance in American history. Though reviewers said there's not much to see inside the church, they said the guides provide a wealth of historical context and interesting information.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Richmond3 miles to city centerMuseums, Historic Homes/MansionsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND3 miles to city centerMuseums, Historic Homes/MansionsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The American Civil War Museum actually comprises three sites: The Museum and White House of the Confederacy and Historic Tredegar can both be found in Richmond, while the Museum of the Confederacy-Appomattox sits in Appomattox, Virginia. Thanks to its comprehensive collection of Confederate artifacts, weapons and art, this museum is a required stop for Civil War buffs. There are also several war flags on display, like the flag of the 11th Alabama Infantry, the Headquarters Flag of General Robert E. Lee and the flag that was draped on Jefferson Davis' casket in 1893. The museum's location, on East Clay Street, is also significant – the mansion next door was once Davis' home. You can visit both the museum and the Confederate president's abode, which is also known as the Confederate White House. Guided tours through the house leave from the museum lobby regularly throughout the day.
You can visit the Museum of the Confederacy by itself or just tour the White House. But several recent travelers opted for the combo ticket instead, which costs $18 for adults and $9 for youths between the ages of 6 and 17. Parking is free. The White House and Museum of the Confederacy are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Historic Tredegar is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit The American Civil War Museum website for more information.
- #11View all Photos#11 in Richmond3.1 miles to city centerMuseums, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND3.1 miles to city centerMuseums, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This museum on Main Street (located just outside the town's aptly named "Museum District") is perfect for people with a passing interest in Edgar Allan Poe. More ardent fans of the writer's work might find themselves disappointed at the limited exhibits, however.
This site does earn kudos for its ambiance. You can view some of Poe's childhood items, an illustrated chronicle of "The Raven" poem and first editions of some of his short stories as they appeared in era newspapers. The museum's setting, in Richmond's Old Stone House, is close to Poe's home and his place of employment, the Southern Literary Messenger.
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