Planning a trip through the Northeast USA? Set aside some time to discover all the best things to do in Richmond, Virginia. In the state’s capital, you’ll explore parks and gardens laden with monuments, world-class museums, and stunning Victorian, Antebellum, and Italianate architecture. Richmond has a rich history and offers fun for the whole family.
While strolling around Virginia’s capital city, swing by top tourist attractions like The Church Hill District for a taste of a Civil War-era neighborhood. Then, prance through the flourishing rose garden at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, or tackle the daunting roller coasters at Kings Dominion.
Need some help creating your Richmond itinerary? Decide what to see & do with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Richmond, VA.
Best places to visit in Richmond, VA
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
If your idea of the perfect holiday includes browsing a world-class collection of art, stop by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Immerse yourself in over 5,000 years worth of masterpieces curated from around the globe. Set aside at least half a day for the impressive rotating exhibitions and permanent collections.
Once inside the geometric architecture of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, dive into African African, European, Pre-Columbian, and Audiovisual pieces. In the Ancient exhibit, admire sculptures, jewelry, and more from Roman and Hellenistic times. Look upon examples of 20th-century Art Nouveau like Pebble Beach, California by Paul Caponigro.
A remarkable permanent collection at the art museum is the Faberge and Russian Decorative Arts exhibit. Appreciate over 200 works of “Old Russian” art and works of silver such as Imperial Peter The Great Russian Egg, manufactured in 1842.
Grab a cappuccino from the museum’s Best Cafe to fuel your art browsing. For something more satiating, indulge in artfully prepared dishes at Amuse Restaurant.
Dabble in the history of the Gilded Age and wander through vibrant gardens at Richmond’s Maymont. One of the most interesting places to go in Richmond, VA, this Victorian estate was gifted to the community by James and Sallie Dooley. Today, the sprawling 100-acre historic site features a museum, a lush public park and gardens, a farm, and animal habitats.
Travel back in time as you enter the remarkably well-preserved 12,000-square-foot Maymont Mansion. Get a taste of the Dooleys’ cosmopolitan lifestyle through the costume collection of peak 1890s fashion and lavishly decorated rooms, including a bed shaped like a swan.
Amble the winding red maple tree-lined paths of the Japanese gardens. Take a seat to rest under the charming willow tree, and relax in the ambiance of the koi pond and cascading waterfall. Stroll along stonework paths to gazebos and blooming flowers in the Italian gardens.
At the Robins Nature Center, learn about species of fish and other animals that call the James River home, through interactive exhibits and aquariums.
The Poe Museum
For a vacation with a Gothic twist, visit The Poe Museum. Admire Edgar Allan Poe’s literary genius, visit memorials, and inspect memorabilia with a supernatural flair. The Old Stone House is dripping in history as Richmond’s oldest residential building. It provides the ideal spooky atmosphere for appreciating the life and works of Poe.
The Poe Museum boasts the world’s largest collection of Poe curios and writing. Peer with morbid fascination upon a small hair ornament cut from his hair at his funeral, still with a few strands in it. Read original copies of letters sent to colleagues and friends and rare manuscripts of his poems.
Stroll through the Enchanted Garden, and meet the museum’s cats, Edgar and Pluto. These friendly felines almost seem like a living tribute to Poe’s infamous short story, “The Black Cat.”
Science Museum of Virginia
Traveling with a family of scientists? Stop by the Science Museum of Virginia for educational fun for parents, teens, and children alike. This popular museum encourages excitement about science through interactive exhibits about rare animals, electricity, astronomy, and even chemical reactions.
Squeak, squeak! Don’t worry: That’s just the museum’s Rat Basketball team. Learn about operant conditioning as the rats get a treat each time they score.
In the Eco Lab, use a microscope to examine bacteria and animal skin samples. Sit back and relax in The IMAX Dome, and explore deep underwater alongside sharks and colorful fish, or blast into outer space to soar among cosmos and stars.
Hungry after a day of conducting experiments? Just along West Broad Street, you’ll find a number of tasty eateries. Chow down on savory pork chops, meatloaf, and traditional American fare at The Savory Grain, or visit Sally Bell’s Kitchen for their famous potato salad and upside-down cupcakes.
Virginia State Capitol
History buffs and architecture aficionados will enjoy a stop downtown at the Virginia State Capitol. Designed in 1785 by Thomas Jefferson to resemble a Roman temple, this National Historic Landmark stands as a memorial to Virginia’s rich history.
Follow the winding paths of Capitol Square before making your way inside. Be on the lookout for the majestic George Washington equestrian memorial and a statue of Edgar Allan Poe near the Bell Tower.
Roam the grand halls of the Capitol, and you’ll discover more than 130 paintings of American statesmen. Pose next to the only statue George Washington modeled for to find out if you’re taller than the first president.
Pre-Capitol visit, check out the Capitol Waffle Shop for brunch. Munch on fluffy waffles with your choice of toppings like sweet berries and powdered sugar or savory fried chicken.
History enthusiasts will enjoy the spooky yet beautiful grounds of the Hollywood Cemetary. The 135 acres are dotted with graves of statesmen, presidents, and over 18,000 confederate soldiers. Wander the hills and valleys on the banks of the James River to discover relics of the past dating back to 1847.
Winnie Davis was the daughter of Confederate States President Jefferson Davis. She was banned from marrying her Yankee lover and died at 34. Her grave was marked by the Crying Angel monument. Can you find the Newfoundland Dog statue? No one knows how this cast iron dog ended up here, but it loyally protects the grave of a child who passed in 1862.
The Hollywood Cemetary is the final resting place of two presidents: James Monroe and John Tyler. Monroe’s burial site is adorned by “The Birdcage,” an imposing cast-iron structure. Trek up to the Palmer Chapel Mosoluem and enjoy the best views of the James River.
Church Hill Historic District
To see a real Civil War neighborhood, swing by the Church Hill Historic District. Find antebellum houses, monuments, local shops, and restaurants. This area has a lot to offer, so consider signing up for a tour to suit your interests.
Start at the Historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Patrick Henry gave his famous, “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. Then, mosey over to the Church Hill Overlook for spectacular panoramic views of the city.
Foodies will love the Church Hill Food Tour to enjoy a delicious history lesson. Take your tastebuds on a uniquely Richmond, VA, culinary journey with stops at cafes and restaurants like Sub Rosa for flaky croissants and The Proper Pie‘s decadent sweet or savory goodies.
Are you brave enough to join the Hill Chillers Ghost Tour? Tour the shadows of Richmond’s ghoulish history. Discover legends of Civil War spies and haunted hospitals while you visit these eerie sites.
Belle Isle Historical Park
When planning a trip to Richmond, VA, you might not expect to find an island atmosphere. But if you cross the suspension bridge over the James River from Tredegar Street, that’s exactly what you’ll find at Belle Isle Historical Park. Enjoy both adventure and relaxation upon this unexpected island gem.
Belle Isle sits in the middle of the James River and is ideal for all types of outdoor activities. Find a spot on the flat rocks along the shore and sunbathe for a while. If adventure is more your thing, go rock climbing on the granite wall. If you’re eager to take a walk around the island, try out the wooded trails on foot or by bike.
The views from Belle Isle across the river offer a unique perspective. There are ruins of old bridges in the water, with the Richmond shoreline in the distance. This is a great spot for photography and sightseeing while visiting Virginia’s beautiful capital city.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Yes, Richmond’s downtown has great parks and green spaces scattered through it. But none compares to the fabulous Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Nature lovers can drive just about 15-minutes out of downtown to the sprawling 50 acres of gardens.
Roam the peaceful winding paths of the Lewis Ginter Gardens to uncover over 12 themed gardens. Stop and smell the roses (literally!) in the Cochrane Rose Garden, and sit for a while among the red and orange tulips and the bubbling fountain in the Central Garden. The Cherry Tree Walk is a must-see if you’re visiting in springtime.
Check out the expansive Garden Shop for all of your (you guessed it!) gardening needs. Not a gardener? No problem! They sell botanical-themed jewelry and other souvenirs, too.
When it’s time for a bite to eat, hit the Garden Cafe for fresh flatbreads, homemade soups, sandwiches, salads, and other light dishes.
White House of the Confederacy
Everyone knows the Civil War is a cornerstone of American history, but fewer people know the full story of the major players behind it. After a visit to the White House of the Confederacy, you’ll know all about the “whos” of the Civil War.
Approaching the White House of the Confederacy, you’ll be met with massive Italianate-style white pillars and a two-story balcony. Inside, learn about Jefferson Davis, his family, their role in the war, and their daily lives. Inspect the thousands of artifacts like children’s toys, kitchen utensils, and weapons.
To tour the home, you need to reserve your tickets online beforehand and book a tour. The docents leading the tours are known for giving factual retellings of events without a political slant.
During your tour, you’ll learn lesser-known facts that you can’t learn from simply visiting exhibits, like why Abraham Lincoln visited this house.
American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar
Can’t get enough of the Civil War history in Richmond? Take an afternoon to browse the American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar, one of the top points of interest in Richmond, VA.
What makes the American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar unique is that it recounts the events of the Civil War through the lens of those directly involved. Relive the stories of the soldiers, citizens, enslaved African Americans, and politicians during this era.
History buffs will be delighted to spend hours on Tredegar Street exploring all that the history museum has to offer. Inside the magnificent main building, examine over 10,000 artifacts from the Civil War Period, including furniture, clothing, guns, handkerchiefs, paintings, and more. Grab a seat in the Robins Theater to learn about the reasons and people behind the Civil War.
Mosey into the nearby Oregon Hill district for fine French and American fusion dining at L’Opossum, one of the top-rated restaurants in all of Richmond, Virginia. Just don’t forget to make a reservation in advance!
Libby Hill Park
Nestled between the historic Church Hill neighborhood and the mighty James River is Libby Hill Park. When you’re in the area sightseeing, you won’t want to miss this charming park. It’s the perfect place for a peaceful picnic and stunning views of the city and the river.
Libby Hill Park has ample green spaces to stretch out your picnic blanket, play frisbee, or let the kids run off some energy. Walk through the paths and admire the manicured flower gardens around the stately Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Eventually, you’ll see a magnificent fountain. If you’ve got a penny on you, toss it in and make a wish for your wildest Richmond holiday dreams to come true.
Come just before the evening for a picturesque view of the golden sunset behind the city skyline of Richmond. Then, when you’re ready for dinner, take a leisurely walk for about 10 minutes to Bookbinder’s Seafood and Steakhouse for fresh lobster and juicy steaks.
Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia
Dive into Virginia’s abundant African American history at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. Richmond has played a crucial role in the development of Black culture, business, and political movements to strive for racial equality. The Black History Museum preserves the stories of locals who shaped African American culture and The United States as a whole.
The Black History Museum is fittingly located in Jackson Ward. This area is also known as the Black Wall Street, and it was a hot spot for locally-owned African American businesses and economic prosperity from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s.
Inside the museum, gain an understanding of important events from the touchscreen Black History Timeline. Children will love the interactive exhibits where they can learn about African American artists, musicians, astronauts, scientists, and more.
Stop for a coffee downstairs in the museum at Woolworth’s Cafe, a recreation of the original Greensboro location that was the site of sit-ins during the Civil Rights movement.
Thrill-seekers looking for an adrenaline fix on their Richmond vacation will want to head right for Kings Dominion. This amusement park will get your heart pounding on corkscrew coasters with devastating drops. Or, opt for a relaxed theme park experience with classic rides like the merry-go-rounds and Ferris wheels. Kings Dominion has an attraction for everyone.
Smell fried dough and popcorn wafting toward you and hear giggles and shrieks of joy from little ones on the Great Pumpkin Coaster. If you’re ready to kick the intensity up a few notches, strap into Delirium and be cartwheeled through the air as you swing back and forth. Or tackle the twists of the Dominator.
To beat the Richmond heat, head over to Soak City. Hop in a tube and drift down the lazy river, let the kiddies play on the splash pad, or bob up and down with your family in the wave pool.
If you’re looking for a way to connect with nature in bustling downtown Richmond, look no further than Brown’s Island. Being adjacent to the downtown area makes it an excellent stop after a meal or museum. As it’s connected to the mainland by a couple of bridges and walkways, you can walk or bike your way around this island for some scenic Richmond views.
Explore the banks of this urban waterway along the James River. Brown’s Island is lush with gardens and shady patches of trees. The trails on this island will lead you to interesting sights like the decrepit Richmond and Petersburg Railroad Bridge. Since Richmond’s popular Canal Walk runs through Brown’s Island, you can follow this route to extend your downtown sightseeing adventure.
Brown’s Island features live music and performances throughout the year. Bring some lawn chairs or a blanket and stake out your spot before the show starts!
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
After all that sightseeing and Richmond history lessons, you’ve earned yourself a fresh and tasty craft beer from Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. Arm yourself with a frosty tall one and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the garage-style 20-barrel brewery.
The craft beer menu is second to none at Hardywood Park Brewery. Choose between mouthwatering flavors like Farmhouse Pumpkin Saison, Virginia Blackberry White Ale, or Chocolate Raspberry Stout.
If you’re in the mood for something hoppier, grab a Tropication IPA or the Hopkeeper Double IPA. Can’t decide which sounds best? Order a flight to sample a few.
Head outside to the beer garden and get cozy with your beer next to one of the fire pits. If you’re feeling peckish, order an artisanal woodfired pizza.
The brewery also hosts a variety of events like live music, Geeks Who Drink trivia nights, and Drag-themed Bingo.
Richmond National Battlefield Park
A day in nature with a historical twist is what you can expect from Richmond National Battlefield Park. Hop in your car and follow the driving tour of this park. With 13 separate parks, and four visitor centers covering over 80 miles, you can plan to spend an entire day traversing the Civil War monuments and battlefield sites.
Follow the Totopotomoy Creek Battlefield route and appreciate local wildlife along the trails, and find the Shelton House and family cemetery. This trail also includes preserved entrenchments built by the Union side.
Wander the Gaines’ Mill trails through oak tree forests and grassy fields bordered by babbling Boatswain Creek. Every now and again, you’ll come across informational plaques about Civil War barricades that once stood here.
If you’re up for it, take the extended loop up to a dazzling overlook of the Chickahominy River below.