15 Best Things to Do in Richmond (VA)

Written by Veronique Raes
Updated on
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The city of Richmond is a place of deep historical significance as it was heavily involved in the Civil War period.

As such, there are still many historical markers and sites that commemorate this period of time in Richmond, and a wealth of interesting museums.

As well as its role during the Civil War, Richmond is now known as an emerging tourist destination, and a huge number of exciting attractions have sprung up in recent years, including craft breweries and eateries that have put this city firmly on the culinary map.

Richmond sits on the impressive James River, and it has category III and IV rapids which mean that you can go out on the water and enjoy kayaking and canoeing, or even swimming in the calmer parts of this gorgeous waterway.

For those that prefer to keep their feet on dry land, Richmond is also studded with areas of great natural beauty including a wealth of parks where hiking and biking can be enjoyed, along with bird watching and horseback riding.

Lets explore the best things to do in Richmond:

1. Metro Richmond Zoo

Metro Richmond ZooSource: flickr
Metro Richmond Zoo

Metro Richmond Zoo is known for having over 2,000 animals and if you come here you will find over 190 different species of wildlife that hail from all over the world.

Many of the animals that are homed here are endangered species like orangutans from Borneo as well as rhinos and tigers, and there are giraffes, tapirs, and cheetahs at Metro Richmond Zoo.

You can even feed the giraffes if you visit the zoo at certain times of day, which is certainly an unforgettable experience.

As well as animals you will also find birds here including a budgie aviary and there are fun attractions like a Safari Train that will take you on a tour of the African Savannah.

2. American Civil War Museum, White House & Museum of the Confederacy

American Civil War Museum, White House & Museum of the ConfederacySource: acwm
American Civil War Museum, White House & Museum of the Confederacy

The White House of the Confederacy is better known as the official residence of President Jefferson Davis during the Civil War.

Nowadays your can join guided tours of the mansion and learn all about this historically and culturally significant place.

The museum is located next to the White House and spans three floors where you will find exhibits full of Civil War memorabilia that tell the stories of those who lived and fought during this amazing period of history.

3. The Science Museum of Virginia

The Science Museum of VirginiaSource: flickr
The Science Museum of Virginia

The Science Museum of Virginia is the place to come if you love science and want to know more.

If you are travelling with children and need a rainy day activity, then the museum is ideal, as you will find a huge range of interactive exhibits that will pique the interest of younger visitors.

There are permanent exhibits here that are divided up into themed sections such as space, electricity, health, and geology, as well as rotating galleries.

You will also find The Dome Theater which is home to a 76 foot screen that has the claim to fame of being the largest in all of Virginia.

4. Hollywood Cemetery

Hollywood CemeterySource: flickr
Hollywood Cemetery

Hollywood Cemetery was first founded in 1847 and is known for the number of famous figures who have been interred here over the years.

These include not one but two former presidents of the United States namely James Monroe and John Tyler, as well as many other prominent figures from Virginia.

The cemetery is also the final resting place of thousands of Confederate soldiers and there are guided tours offered here daily where you can learn all about the history of the cemetery.

5. Belle Isle

Belle IsleSource: flickr
Belle Isle

Belle Isle makes up a piece of the James River Park System and you can get there by crossing a scenic footbridge that leads to the island.

Belle Isle is a small area of land that is known for being surrounded by rocks that have been smoothed by the water so that they are flat in shape, and many locals come here to sunbathe on the rocks in the summer months.

As well as sunbathing, you will find walking trails all over the island that take you through romantic and wild woodlands, and mountain biking is also popular.

6. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

Hardywood Park Craft BrewerySource: flickr
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

In recent years Richmond has become known for its breweries, and one of the most famous of these is the Hardywood Craft Brewery.

Here you will find a brewery that features a delicious tasting room, and you can take a tour and learn how the beer is made before sampling some of the most iconic beverages on offer here.

There are also food trucks that work with the brewery as well as live music nights and special events and festivals, so make sure to check out what’s on when you are in town.

7. Maymont Children’s Barn & Nature Center

Maymont Children’s Barn & Nature CenterSource: maymont
Maymont Children’s Barn & Nature Center

Maymont Nature Center was actually a gift to the city by James Henry and Sallie Dooley who owned the property from 1893 until the 1920s.

Nowadays Maymont is known as one of the jewels in the crown of the city of Richmond, and is a great place to come with youngsters.

The center is an ode to art and architecture as well as the flora and fauna of the region and you can tour the mansion that sits on the grounds, or just go for a wander through the gorgeous flower gardens.

The river goes through Maymont and you can sometimes find otters swimming in the waters, or you can play with the animals on the farm that sits in the grounds.

8. Short Pump Town Center

Short Pump Town CenterSource: pinterest
Short Pump Town Center

For a taste of some shopping and dining in Richmond then head to Short Pump Town Center where you will find over 140 different shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.

If you want some retail therapy then you can choose from high end and mid range shops, including flagship stores and all-American brands.

There are also smaller local boutiques that specialize in hand crafted products from the region.

There are walkways that join the different areas of the town center and in the winter months you will even find heated pavilions and outdoor fireplaces to help you to keep warm.

When it comes to entertainment, expect plenty of bars and breweries, many of which have live music events, and there is even a comedy club here.

9. RVA Trolley

RVA TrolleySource: rvatrolley
RVA Trolley

Richmond is actually known for being the first place in the world to introduce a trolley system in 1888, and with that in mind it would be a shame to come here and not check out the history of this amazing mode of transport.

The trolley that is now in operation is enclosed and can seat up to 26 people, and is decorated in the period style with iron framed seats and cushions.

Tours around the city on the trolley will let you experience Richmond in style, as well as filling you in on the cultural significance of this fascinating local heirloom.

10. Riverfront Canal Walk

Riverfront Canal WalkSource: flickr
Riverfront Canal Walk

The Canal Walk in Richmond is the place to come if you want to learn all about the history of this part of the United States.

The walk will take you through four centuries of history, and as you skirt along the banks of the waterway, you will find medallions, statues, sculptures, and other exhibits that will help to tell the story of this city.

The walk also passes by other amazing places of note such as the American Civil War Center and the Box Brown Plaza, so you can leave the trail and visit these venues at the same time.

11. Armour House and Gardens at Meadowview Park

Armour House and Gardens at Meadowview ParkSource: lauramatthewsblog
Armour House and Gardens at Meadowview Park

The Armour House dates from 1915 and was built by Edmund Christian.

It is also the spot where General Robert E. Lee watched the Seven Days Battle from the crest of the hill in Meadowview.

As well as the actual house, this site is known for its walking trail, flowers gardens, and picturesque fountains, and for younger guests you will also find playgrounds and dedicated gardens.

There are also educational programs and events run here throughout the year so make sure to check if these are on when you are in town if you want to learn more about this part of Virginia.

12. Chickahominy Bluff

Chickahominy BluffSource: flickr
Chickahominy Bluff

Chickahominy Bluff is a place of historical significance thanks to the events of the morning of June 26 1862, when over 20,000 Confederate infantrymen came here to cross the neighboring Chickahominy River.

The subsequent skirmish became known as the Seven Days Battle and you can learn more about this point in history at the bluff where you will find an audio exhibit as well as a viewing platform.

You will also find the remains of Confederate earthworks here which are significant in that they were built to protect this city during the time of the Civil War.

13. Deep Bottom Park

Deep Bottom ParkSource: kayakva
Deep Bottom Park

Deep Bottom Park sits at a fork of the James River and is the place to come if you want to get out on the water and experience all that this waterway has to offer.

There is a dock here which is famous as a great place to fish and you will find a huge array of local species in these waters.

You can also launch a boat from here, as well as rent kayaks and canoes and take to the river that way.

If you prefer to stay on dry land, then the park is covered in gorgeous ancient tress including oaks, sycamores, and pine trees, and these also make the perfect haven for local wildlife, so if you like bird watching then this an ideal choice.

Eagles, ospreys and herons are all common in the park as well as other local species, so if you are an animal lover you will find lots to enjoy here.

14. The Virginia State Capitol

The Virginia State CapitolSource: flickr
The Virginia State Capitol

The Virginia State Capitol dates from 1785 and was designed by Thomas Jefferson.

The building sits on the top of Shockoe Hill and spans six hectares of land, and has the claim to fame of being the place with the oldest legislative body in the United States.

The building is a sight to be seen if you are in the area and is said to have been designed based on an ancient Roman temple found in Nimes in France, which explains its extravagant decorative features.

15. The Fan District

The Fan DistrictSource: flickr
The Fan District

The Fan District in Richmond is so named because it consists of a group of streets that fan out across this neighborhood.

The district is popular with families and young couples as well as having a large student population and it is one of the most vibrant areas in the entire city.

With this in mind, you will find a huge number of bars, boutiques, eateries, and entertainment here, and this is a great place to come in search of live music in the evenings.

15 Best Things to Do in Richmond (VA):

  • Metro Richmond Zoo
  • American Civil War Museum, White House & Museum of the Confederacy
  • The Science Museum of Virginia
  • Hollywood Cemetery
  • Belle Isle
  • Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
  • Maymont Children’s Barn & Nature Center
  • Short Pump Town Center
  • RVA Trolley
  • Riverfront Canal Walk
  • Armour House and Gardens at Meadowview Park
  • Chickahominy Bluff
  • Deep Bottom Park
  • The Virginia State Capitol
  • The Fan District