15 Best Day Trips from Richmond VA

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

Often off the raider for travellers, Richmond is slowly awakening from its post-Civil War nap.

Staying true to its historic self, Richmond is proudly preserving its old-fashioned feel while embracing the modern era.

The city has a number of wonderful museums dotted about the place, such as The Valentine; bringing the story of Richmond together.

Once you have visited the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, and the American Civil War Museum too, you should think about venturing further than the city streets.

Here are 15 day trips from Richmond to ignite your curiosity.

1. Washington DC

Washington DCSource: Orhan Cam / shutterstock
Washington DC

From the state capital to the nation’s capital, a visit to Washington DC is totally manageable from Richmond.

A visit to such a culturally significant spot is always a treat and you can tick off all the major sights and landmarks in the space of a day.

Of course, the first port of call should be the White House for a photo or two.

If you are particularly keen you can book onto a self-guided tour of the complex, but you must request this from your Member of Congress well in advance.

Other must-visit landmarks in Washington DC include the Lincoln Memorial, the United States Capitol and the Smithsonian Museums.

2. George Washington and Jefferson National Forest

George Washington National ForestSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock
George Washington National Forest

Spanning from West Virginia all the way through to Kentucky, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest is one of the largest protected forest areas in the Eastern United States.

The most popular pastime in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest is hiking, as well as bird watching and photography too.

There are a great number of hiking trails throughout the national forest and each offers a different range of breathtaking views.

The trails total an incredible 1,925 miles in distance but in the course of a day you can set out on of the looped trails to get a taste of this amazing landscape.

The Browns Hollow Loop is a great day hike that runs on an 11-mile circle.

3. Luray Caverns

Luray CavernsSource: Joe Ravi / shutterstock
Luray Caverns

The Luray Caverns are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Virginia and it is not hard to see why.

This immense cavern complex was discovered by Andrew Campbell one summer morning in 1878. There are dozens of chambers to explore and Giant’s Hall is the most awe-inspiring of them all.

It honestly looks like something from a film set but look closer and you will see that this is in fact one of Mother Nature’s greatest achievements.

Once you have gotten over the magnificence of Giant’s Hall move on to Titania’s Veil where the rocks are blanketed by a thick layer of calcite making them appear a pure, glistening white.

4. James River Rapids

James River RapidsSource: Heath Oldham / shutterstock
James River Rapids

Adrenaline filled and superb fun for all, there is nothing more exciting than inflating the raft and heading out on the James River Rapids.

This stretch of the James Rover features III and IV class rapids that are not for the faint hearted.

If you have the strength push yourself and tackle the James River Rapids in a kayak, rather than a raft.

However you choose to enjoy the James River Rapids it is a great day out from Richmond.

Once you are back on solid land and dried off you can take a stroll to one of the city’s downtown breweries to refresh with a craft beer or two.

5. Lake Anna

Lake Anna, VirginiaSource: davideme80 / shutterstock
Lake Anna

Lake Anna is a great day out for all the family.

If you do not want to travel far but wish to soak up some seaside vibes then Lake Anna is the place to head.

Although very much inland and very much a freshwater reservoir Lake Anna has sandy shores and a laid back feel that makes you feel like you are kicking back on the coast.

Feel free to bring along your kayak or stand up paddle board, both are great ways to explore the water reserve.

Fishing is permitted on Lake Anna and you have the opportunity to angle Bluegill, Striped Bass and Walleye too.

6. Williamsburg

WilliamsburgSource: Raymond B. Summers / shutterstock

The city of Williamsburg is one of the most historically significant in all of Virginia.

Between 1699 and 1780 Williamsburg was the capital of the Virginia Colony.

Williamsburg played a tremendous role in the American Revolution along with Jamestown and Yorktown.

Many visitors choose to skip modern Williamsburg and instead head to the true-heart of the city, Colonial Williamsburg.

Here you will find the living history museum which transports you back in time.

You can learn all about daily life during the colonial era and take part in all manner of educational workshops.

7. Virginia Beach

Virginia BeachSource: Joanna Will / shutterstock
Virginia Beach

If you are seeking sun, sand and sea the heading to Virginia Beach is a great idea.

This is a much loved family vacation destination and is well set up for travellers.

You will find Virginia Beach on the Atlantic coast, where Chesapeake Bay meets the ocean.

There is a wonderful 3-mile long boardwalk that spans the length of the beachfront and features dozens of bars, restaurants and beach shacks.

Should rain begin to fall then you can take shelter at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and observe the sharks, sea turtles and more who live there.

There’s even a few Komodo dragons.

8. Greensboro

Greensboro, North CarolinaSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

Should you be looking to tick off as many US states as possible then think about straying over state lines into North Carolina, and visiting the wonderful city of Greensboro for the day.

The Greensboro Science Center has an excellent reputation for being one of the best aquariums around and the Greensboro Children’s Museum is amazing for youngsters.

The Bog Garden is a great free activity in Greensboro and is a wetland area featuring an easily walkable trail.

There is plenty of bird life to observe and a picturesque waterfall too.

Art lovers should hit up GreenHill and the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

9. Charlottesville

CharlottesvilleSource: Melinda Fawver / shutterstock

The university city of Charlottesville is a great laid back place to visit for a day.

Despite the recent troubles, Charlottesville is a safe and welcoming place for visitors.

Within the city you can visit the university grounds, specifically The Rotunda, and check out some of the trendy student orientated bars and cafes.

Lying just out from the city centre you will discover Monticello, the mountain-top plantation that belonged to Thomas Jefferson.

During a visit to Monticello you can tour the magnificent mansion home and much of the plantation grounds too.

If you are travelling with children then the Virginia Discovery Museum is a wonderful place to visit.

10. Baltimore

BaltimoreSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

Sitting due north of Washington D.C is the bustling city of Baltimore.

Home to 600,000 people Baltimore has a small town feel with big city ambition.

Most famed for being the home of Fort McHenry, the birthplace of the US national anthem, Baltimore has a lot to explore.

Naturally Fort McHenry is one of the first places to visit when you arrive in Baltimore, as is Port Discovery and the American Visionary Art Museums.

This gallery features an incredible collection of quirky sculptures and a blooming garden too.

Foodies should make a beeline for Woodberry Kitchen, an uber-trendy all-American diner not to be missed.

11. Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National ParkSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock
Shenandoah National Park

If nature is calling you then make haste and head to Shenandoah National Park.

This marvellous national park spans the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers breathtaking scenery come rain or shine.

Don your hiking boots and get exploring some of the many well signposted trails within the Shenandoah National Park.

Family favourites include Old Rag and Little Stony Man Loop.

Should hiking not take your fancy then you can explore the Shenandoah National Park just as well from the comfort of your car.

Take a drive along the Skyline Drive stopping to take photos as you go.

12. Philadelphia

PhiladelphiaSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

Philadelphia is one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in all of the United States of America.

Best known for landmarks like Independence Hall and Liberty Bell, Philadelphia has a thriving food and drink scene.

You could easily spend a day hopping from one hipster coffee shop to another, perhaps stopping by a craft brewhouse before you head back to Richmond.

Local favourites include One Shot Cafe and Elixr Coffee Roasters.

Craft beer lovers should hit up Yard Brewing Co and Manayunk Brewing Co.

If you enjoy strolling around markets ensure to find time to visit Reading Terminal Market, particularly great for its selection cheese vendors.

13. Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens, VirginiaSource: Gamma Man / Flickr
Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens Virginia is not to be confused with Busch Gardens Tampa, Florida.

Busch Gardens VA can be found in Williamsburg and features just as many fun-filled rides and attractions as its Floridian cousin.

This wonderful amusement park spans over 383-acres and has something for everyone.

Busch Gardens’ latest action-packed attraction is of a whole new kind and takes you on a 360-degree virtual reality adventure through the Battle for Erie.

There are plenty of traditional fairground rides to enjoy like the Der Wirbelwind and the Verbolten roller coaster is a firm favourite for all.

If you don’t mind getting a little wet then make sure to take a ride on ‘Escape from Pompeii’ it’s tonnes of fun.

14. Monticello Wine Trail

Monticello Wine TrailSource: katedubya / Flickr
Monticello Wine Trail

The United States of America has a thriving wine industry that spans throughout the country, not merely in Napa Valley.

The wineries of the Monticello Wine Trail were created as a result of forward thinking Thomas Jefferson, who could understand the potential that this land held.

The Monticello Wine Trail features 33 incredible wineries each with a distinct style and product range.

These are all small scale wineries and they are open for visitors to come and sample, and too to chat to the winemakers themselves.

Throughout the course of the day you could visit half a dozen or so wineries and learn about everything there is to know about wine and vineyard management.

15. Annapolis

Annapolis, MarylandSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

Annapolis is the capital city of Maryland and sits on the Atlantic Coast.

Home to a historic docklands, Annapolis has a thriving sailing scene.

While in town you can book a boat trip out on Chesapeake Bay, where you can fish too.

Striped bass, colossal crabs and tasty trout can call be found within the bay.

If you don’t fancy heading out on the water yourself you can spend a relaxed afternoon in one of the waterfront restaurants.

During July and August Annapolis welcomes the Annapolis Yacht Club’s Wednesday Night Races which are great fun to watch and cheer on.

15 Best Day Trips from Richmond VA:

  • Washington DC
  • George Washington and Jefferson National Forest
  • Luray Caverns
  • James River Rapids
  • Lake Anna
  • Williamsburg
  • Virginia Beach
  • Greensboro
  • Charlottesville
  • Baltimore
  • Shenandoah National Park
  • Philadelphia
  • Busch Gardens
  • Monticello Wine Trail
  • Annapolis