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Free Things To Do in Richmond
- #1View all Photos#1 in Richmond1.9 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND1.9 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full 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. In addition to its permanent collections, the VMFA regularly operates a series of temporary exhibits that explore everything from Black life in Virginia to jewelry to Asian religions.
- #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
In 1861, following Virginia's secession from the Union, Richmond became the capital of the Confederacy. The city's capitol building subsequently became the home of both the state's General Assembly as well as the Confederate Congress. Today, visitors stop by this imposing building not only to learn of Virginia's government history but to snap photos of its architecture, as it was partially designed by Thomas Jefferson (Charles-Louis Clerisseau, a French architect, also lent a hand). The surrounding area, known as Capitol Square, has several monuments dedicated to the civil rights movement, as well as to prominent Virginians like Edgar Allan Poe and George Washington.
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.
- #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 Barnes & Noble, Best Buy or Crate and Barrel; instead you'll find quirky alternatives like the World of Mirth, Chop Suey Books, Plan 9 Music and Mongrel. There are also some familiar sights: Carytown hosts a Hair Cuttery, a sweetFrog 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).
- #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.
- #9View all PhotosfreeMaymont#9 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, a nature center and an arboretum, not to mention a truly spectacular and well-maintained 12,000-square-foot, 33-room mansion.
Inside the mansion, visitors will get a glimpse at the lives of Richmond's well-to-do in the Gilded Age. The restored rooms boast original furnishings – including a bed shaped as a swan – and fixtures typical of the era like gas lighting and an elevator. In the Belowstairs space, you'll find "In Service and Beyond," which explores not only the Black employees who were instrumental in running the mansion, but also the experience of working Blacks in the South.
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