Wondering what activities and attractions you can’t miss in the River City? Our guide to the best things to do in Richmond is just what you need!
A goldmine for history lovers, Richmond, Virginia, is overflowing with well-preserved history for its role in the Civil War.
Finding historical sites, museums, statues, and art tied to history is not difficult to do here. Many come here to learn more about Richmond natives that encouraged freedom and progress in society during a time of slavery that resulted in the Civil War.
And though Richmond is well-known for its American history, this city is known for other things too, including its culture, food, art, and nature.
The James-Beard nominated restaurants, top-tier museums, ethnic festivals, white water rafting, and art studios create an opportunity for every individual’s tastes and passions to be catered to.
There’s no need to search for what to do in Richmond. We’ve curated this list of the top things to do in Richmond, Virginia, so you don’t have to!
Table of Contents
- The Best Things to Do in Richmond
- 1) Learn About Virginia’s History at The Virginia Museum of History & Culture
- 2) Step Back To a Vital Part of History at the American Civil War Museum
- 3) Shop Until You Drop at Short Pump Town Center
- 4) Smell The Roses at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
- 5) Absorb The Sobering Stories at the Virginia Holocaust Museum
- 6) Spend a Day at Richmond National Battlefield Park
- 7) Explore the Most-Visited Richmond Attraction at the James River Park System
- 8) Bike Through Downtown Richmond
- 9) Discover New Worlds At The Science Museum Of Virginia
- 10) Get a Taste of History at Church Hill
- 11) Quench Your Thirst at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
- 12) See Baby Cheetahs at The Metro Richmond Zoo
- 13) Adventure The Outdoors At Belle Isle
- 14) Wander the Grounds of Hollywood Cemetery
- 15) Stroll Down Riverfront Canal Walk
- 16) Step Back in Time at The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
- 17) Step Into The Famous Writer’s Shoes At The Edgar Allan Poe Museum
- 18) Bask In Creativity & History At The Virginia Museum Of Fine Arts
- 19) Hang With The Locals at the Fan District
- 20) Hike The Richmond Slave Trail
- 21) Sink Into Skillful Works at the Valentine Sculpture Studio
- Where to Stay in Richmond, Virginia
The Best Things to Do in Richmond
Our article compiles the top Richmond attractions and activities into one must-visit list.
From smelling the roses at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden to stepping back in time at the Richmond History Center and Museum, there are loads of fun Richmond activities to take on during your vacation – continue reading to find out more!
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1) Learn About Virginia’s History at The Virginia Museum of History & Culture
Founded in 1831, the Virginia Museum Of History and Culture was initially named the Virginia Historical and Philosophical Society. Since its establishment, the museum has become a significant research, repository and teaching center of Virginia history.
Travelers can visit the oldest cultural organization in Virginia to explore one of the most distinguished history organizations in the nation.
In this renowned research library and state history museum, almost nine million artifacts and items that represent the history and culture of Virginia are cared for by the Virginia Historical Society.
Explore this reputable museum and library honing natural history specimens, manuscripts, priceless books, and other noteworthy artifacts.
- Address: 428 N Arthur Ashe Blvd, Richmond, VA 23220
- Hours: 10am – 5pm
- Cost: $10
2) Step Back To a Vital Part of History at the American Civil War Museum
Dedicated storytellers and educators on the Civil War, the American Civil War Museum explores the significance of the Civil War. It connects it to the complexities we face in the present day.
This multi-site museum houses two locations in Richmond, the American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar and the White House of the Confederacy, and one in Appomattox, Virginia, the Museum of the Confederacy-Appomattox.
The American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar has a permanent exhibit, “A People’s Contest: Struggles for Nation and Freedom in Civil War America.”
This exhibit chronologically lays out the Civil War through the eyes of civilians and military leaders. It uses different tools to present this step back to a significant part of the United States’ history.
If you have time, also head out to the White House Confederacy. History buffs will have a blast learning about the local history at the White House Confederacy and the other museums.
- Address: 480 Tredegar St, Richmond, VA 23219
- Hours: 10am – 5pm
- Cost: $18
3) Shop Until You Drop at Short Pump Town Center
Short Pump Town Center is an open-air shopping mall that offers some of the best dining and shopping options in all of Richmond, Virginia. This famous shopping and dining center boasts over 140 stores to explore!
Scour the hottest fashion and beauty brands. Then, get a taste of Richmond’s undeniably skilled local restaurants and cafes.
Finally, stroll along the beautifully landscaped walkways lit with hanging lanterns as you peruse the many options waiting to be explored at this top-notching shopping center.
Even if you’re not that into shopping, visiting Short Pump Town Center is one of the best things to do in Richmond.
- Address: 11800 W Broad St, Richmond, VA 23233
- Hours: 10am – 8pm (Closes at 6pm on Sundays)
4) Smell The Roses at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Spanning 82 acres, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden offers year-round beauty in more than a dozen themed gardens that include the Conservatory, Asian Valley, Children’s Garden, Cherry Tree Walk, and Rose Garden.
Holding numerous awards and recognition by big names such as USA Today, visitors can get a feel for the mission of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden to connect people through plants to improve communities.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Kroger Community Kitchen Garden grows fresh produce for area food banks and welcomes more than 450,000 visitors annually.
The Conservatory is known as the “Jewel of the Garden”. The 11,000-square-foot complex is crowned by a 63-foot tall dome and features unique plants from across the globe.
After exploring the Conservatory, step over to the Rose Garden. The 9,000-square-foot hillside rose garden is home to over 1,500 rose bushes and 125 varieties of blooming roses.
- Address: 1800 Lakeside Ave, Henrico, VA 23228
- Hours: 9am – 5pm
- Cost: $17
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5) Absorb The Sobering Stories at the Virginia Holocaust Museum
A public history museum, the Virginia Holocaust Museum is committed to the history of the Holocaust and the personal stories of its victims.
At the Virginia Holocaust Museum, the memories of the Holocaust victims are honored every day, and the survivors are celebrated. The museum has committed its establishment to withstand the promise of “never again.”
Walking through the museum’s front door, you will notice shattered glass. This is a nod to Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), which foreshadowed the fate of German Jews.
The granite cobblestones that line the walkway are initially from Poland’s infamous Warsaw Ghetto and the steel rails that led into the Treblinka extermination camp.
In the Virginia Holocaust Museum, guests will be able to meet the Ipson family, that lived through the horrors of the Holocaust and eventually relocated to Richmond, Virginia, to restart their lives.
- Address: 2000 E Cary St, Richmond, VA 23223
- Hours: 9am – 5pm (Opens at 11am on Saturdays and Sundays)
- Cost: Free
6) Spend a Day at Richmond National Battlefield Park
Honing historical importance, Richmond National Battlefield Park spreads across a large area of 12 sites that include historical battlefield sites, Chimborazo Medical Museum, and Tredegar Iron Works.
Richmond played a considerable role in the Civil War as the manufacturing, political, and supply center for the South, and because of that, Richmond, Virginia, was a highly valuable target. In total, there were seven offensives against Richmond, two of which caused the fall of Richmond and then the end of the Civil War.
Chimborazo Medical Museum was the prime location to treat Southern casualties, treating around 75,000 patients. The hospital was staffed by wounded soldiers, though a fleet of surgeons also staffed the hospital.
Tredegar Iron Works, a designated National Historic Landmark, is the main visitor center of Richmond National Battlefield Park. The mortar that fired the first Civil War shot at Fort Sumter was manufactured in this complex.
Richmond National Battlefield Park can take up to a day’s worth of time exploring all the sites, museums, and attractions it has to learn about the role Richmond, Virginia, played in the Civil War.
- Address: 470 Tredegar St, Mechanicsville, VA 23111
- Hours: 10am – 4pm (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)
- Cost: Free
7) Explore the Most-Visited Richmond Attraction at the James River Park System
The James River Park System is a 600-acre oasis in Richmond full of nature-filled features like forests, rapids, meadows, and outdoor recreational opportunities.
As America’s “founding river,” the James River is the home to Virginia’s first colonial capital, Williamsburg.
Full of history, the James was also the site of the first permanent English colony at Jamestown in 1607. This historic site can now be enjoyed for years because it is preserved, protected, and well-maintained.
The park is a wilderness gem settled in the heart of Richmond. It welcomes over two million visitors every year. Its 40+ miles of trails allow plenty of invigorating and refreshing opportunities to explore the vibrancy of Virginia’s great outdoors.
The park is a must-see as the most visited attraction in Richmond, Virginia. And on this guided hike, you can find hidden gems, discover 150-year-old ruins, revel in roaring rapids, and more!
8) Bike Through Downtown Richmond
Featuring its landmark state house and the Capital District, downtown Richmond is a hub spot for history, upscale hotels, indie boutiques, art galleries, and Southern-style restaurants.
Downtown Richmond hosts over 300 restaurants, 150 murals, and 70 historic attractions, all waiting to be explored! Richmond’s downtown holds an exquisite balance of history, culture, and other activities, like self-guided trails and tours, canal cruises, food tours, and more!
Join this downtown and waterfront bike tour to get a feel of downtown Richmond’s impressive landscapes and historic sites.
Perfect for any looking to be active on their vacation in Richmond, this guided tour is a leisurely tour through Richmond’s thriving arts community, lush landscapes downtown, and the historic James River.
9) Discover New Worlds At The Science Museum Of Virginia
Located in a building built in 1917, the Science Museum Of Virginia was established in 1970.
The Science Museum Of Virginia welcomes everyone of all ages, from full-on science geeks to tinkers and thinkers. Dedicated to guiding curious minds to discover the connections and the limitless discoveries around us.
The museum uses its 223,000 square foot space to present endless possibilities through interactive exhibits, thought-provoking touring exhibitions, and The Dome, a 76-foot screen that imagines experiences to new planets, the deep ocean, and more. But that’s not all!
The Science Museum Of Virginia steps outside its walls to use its 22-acre campus for further discoveries, including a 29-ton granite globe, a pollinator garden, an 80-ton aluminum submarine, and so much more.
- Address: 2500 W Broad St, Richmond, VA 23220
- Hours: 9:30am – 5pm (Closed Mondays)
- Cost: $16
10) Get a Taste of History at Church Hill
Commonly referred to as St. John’s Church Historic District, Church Hill is the precise location where Patrick Henry gave his “Give Me Liberty” speech in 1775.
Filled with some of Richmond’s oldest history, this historic district features classical architectural styles, gas street lamps, and red brick sidewalks.
As Richmond’s first historic district and the oldest intact neighborhood in the city, visitors can stroll through Church Hill to soak in all the district has to offer, from local food spots to quirky shops and iconic views of Richmond.
Join a food tour of Church Hill to get a taste of Richmond’s oldest neighborhood at five local establishments. They include a James Beard-nominated wood-fired bakery, a 1930s theater-turned-restaurant, international delights, and more.
11) Quench Your Thirst at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery is the place to go to quench your thirst and get a taste of freshly and locally brewed beer.
Situated in a 12,000-foot warehouse space, this brewery started in 2011 as one of two breweries in Richmond. With the brewery’s success, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery expanded to a 20-barrel brewhouse and taproom with the addition of a 60-barrel brewhouse and destination brewery.
Named one of the best breweries in the country by ESPN and USA Today, at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, you’re guaranteed to sip on great craft beer surrounded by awesome vibes and even better company!
- Address: 2410 Ownby Ln, Richmond, VA 23220
- Hours: 2pm – 9pm Tuesday – Thursday, 2pm – 10pm Fridays, 12pm – 10pm Saturdays, 11am – 7pm Sundays
READ NEXT: For more ideas in the area, check out our 7 Day West Virginia Road Trip Itinerary.
12) See Baby Cheetahs at The Metro Richmond Zoo
Home to over 2,000 animals, Metro Richmond Zoo, is one of the best zoos in the country and is well-known for its successful endangered animal breeding programs.
Committed to promoting conservation efforts of vulnerable species, the zoo serves as an educational yet fun, family-friendly experience to consider during your time in Richmond, Virginia. Metro Richmond Zoo has over 200 unique species, lions, pythons, monkeys, and more.
This year, 2022, 19 cheetah cubs have been born, with six available to be seen and adored in their native exhibit!
- Address: 8300 Beaver Bridge Rd, Moseley, VA 23120
- Hours: 9:30am – 5pm (Closed Sundays)
- Cost: $21.95
13) Adventure The Outdoors At Belle Isle
A 54-acre island within Richmond, Belle Isle is every outdoor and active goer’s dream!
The island was first obtained in 1676 and remained in the Byrd family for a whole century. It was also once home to the Confederacy’s largest military prison.
There are bounds of wildlife and outdoor recreational opportunities to explore on Belle Isle.
Settled along the James River outside downtown Richmond, Belle Isle features wheelchair-accessible fishing, a granite rock-climbing wall, walking and biking trails, kayaking, paddle boarding, and much more. Take your pick!
Important Note: Though Belle Isle is great for families, it’s important to be cautious as the waters are rough for swimming as they are near the rapids. Children should be supervised for safety precautions.
14) Wander the Grounds of Hollywood Cemetery
Established in 1847, Hollywood Cemetery was designed by renowned architect John Notman. This design and the grounds maintenance have gone on to have the cemetery famous as a landscape-style garden cemetery with a natural and architectural beauty that expands across 135 acres.
Thanks to its establishment as a renowned natural beauty, Hollywood Cemetery achieved recognition as a registered arboretum. And that’s not all.
In the cemetery, visitors can tour President’s Circle. This final resting place entombs the 5th President of the United States, James Monroe, and the 10th President of the United States, John Tyler.
In 1968, James Monroe’s Gothic Revival cast iron canopy, known as “the Birdcage,” obtained recognition as a National Historic Landmark. More notable names have since joined.
On this guided tour, hear little-known tales behind Richmond’s most notable gravesites and travel back in time to the Civil War through tragic and heartwarming stories.
- Address: 412 S Cherry St, Richmond, VA 23220
- Hours: 8am – 6pm
- Cost: Free
15) Stroll Down Riverfront Canal Walk
Meandering 1.25 miles, the Riverfront Canal Walk travels through downtown Richmond and along the banks of the James River, Haxall Canal, and Kanawha Canal.
With over four centuries of history, visitors can explore Richmond’s history through decorative exhibits, medallions and monuments.
Whether walking, biking, or taking a drip down the canal, Richmond’s Canal Walk is a stunning attraction that deserves to be experienced. Along with enriching historical buildings, the walk also hosts public art, exhibits, and statues.
And if you find you’ve worked up an appetite on the Canal Walk, step inside locally favored restaurants like Casa del Barco, Southern Railway Taphouse, and Bottom’s Up Pizza!
16) Step Back in Time at The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975, then a National Historic Site, the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site is the home of Maggie Lena Walker.
A fraternal leader, bank president, and newspaper editor, Walker was devoted to economic empowerment, civil rights advancement, and education opportunities for women and Jim Crow-era African Americans.
Maggie L. Walker was the first African American woman to found a bank in the United States. She continued her commitment to her community by serving her home as a social hub and family sanctuary for generations.
The National Historic Site is a tribute to her legacy and the endurance of her vision.
- Address: 600 N 2nd St, Richmond, VA 23219
- Hours: 9:30am – 4:30pm (Closed Sundays and Mondays)
- Cost: Free
17) Step Into The Famous Writer’s Shoes At The Edgar Allan Poe Museum
The Poe Museum commemorates Edgar Allan Poe, the famous American writer, and his time living in Richmond, Virginia. And though he never lived in the building, the museum’s mission to illuminate Poe for everyone evermore continues through its exhibits.
Having begun its establishment more than a century ago, The Poe Museum became Virginia’s first monument to a writer when a group of literary enthusiasts and one Edgar Allen Poe collector collided with mutual passions.
The museum is at The Old Stone House, the oldest residential building in Richmond. Inside is an exhibit that discusses and personifies Poe’s childhood. Though Poe did not live in the building, he was connected to the home and surrounding neighborhood.
- Address: 1914 E Main St, Richmond, VA 23223
- Hours: 10am – 5pm (Opens at 11am on Sundays, Closed Mondays)
- Cost: $10
18) Bask In Creativity & History At The Virginia Museum Of Fine Arts
First opened in 1936, amid the Great Depression, the Virginia Museum Of Fine Arts settled within an English Renaissance-style building to enhance its vision of combining art in all forms, including architecture.
As the state’s flagship art museum and one of the largest comprehensive art museums in the United States, the Virginia Museum Of Fine Arts collects, preserves, exhibits, interprets, and encourages the study of the arts.
Offering a variety of exhibitions, visitors can explore arts-related audiovisual programs, workshops, lectures, symposia, and more than 40,000 artworks.
That includes the most extensive public collection of Fabergé (outside of Russia) and more reputable collections.
- Address: 200 N Arthur Ashe Blvd, Richmond, VA 23220
- Hours: 10am – 5pm (Closes at 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays)
- Cost: Free
READ NEXT: Heading further south? Check out our list of the best things to do in Asheville, North Carolina.
19) Hang With The Locals at the Fan District
Often called “The Fan,” the Fan District is an 85-block Victorian neighborhood named after the “fan” shape of the streets. As one of Richmond’s most popular neighborhoods, visiting the Fan District is a must-do!
Set on the outskirts of the urban and artistic VCU, or Virginia Commonwealth University, the Fan District is full of fun activities and attractions to explore.
Bountiful with history in the many houses ranging over a hundred years, the neighborhood district has an appeal that sets you slightly back in history with its historic architecture styled in elegant homes that date back to the 19th century.
The social vibe in the Fan District is also hopping with basement bars, live music, mom-and-pop restaurants, coffee shops, and old-school barbershops. Get a taste of this enigmatic neighborhood’s vibes and hang with locals at the Fan District!
20) Hike The Richmond Slave Trail
The Richmond Slave Trail is a self-guided tour of significant historical sites connected to Virginia’s slave trade.
The trail chronicles the history of the slave trade from Africa to Virginia and vice versa, which lasted until 1775, and then to other locations in the Americas until 1865.
Richmond played a lead role in the slave trade. Richmond was the largest source of enslaved Africans on America’s east coast, dating from 1830-1860.
The Richmond Slave Trail self-guided walking tour begins at Manchester Docks, one of the major ports once used for the slave trade.
Then, the walking trails continue on the route through what once were slave markets, past the Reconciliation Statue, Lumpkin’s Slave Jail, and the Negro Burial Ground to First African Baptist Church, what once was the center of African-American life in pre-Civil War Richmond.
- Address: 1200 Brander St, Richmond, VA 23224
- Hours: 7am – 6pm
- Cost: Free
21) Sink Into Skillful Works at the Valentine Sculpture Studio
The first museum in Richmond, Virginia, The Valentine Sculpture Studio and museum depicts, preserves, collects, and interprets Richmond’s history through the works of Edward Virginius Valentine (1838-1930).
Valentine is famous for works such as the sculpted work of the Robert E. Lee memorial, often referred to as the “Recumbent Lee,” and the statue of Thomas Jefferson in the Jefferson Hotel.
His artistic career extended for half a century, during which he produced many works of ideal figures, public sculptures, and portrait busts.
The Valentine Sculpture Studio building is one of only four remaining 19th-century sculptors’ studios left in the United States open to the public.
As a result, visitors can take the rare opportunity to witness the mastered skills of Valentine’s artistic works and other historical memorabilia.
- Address: 1015 E. Clay Street, Richmond, VA
- Hours: 10am – 5pm
- Cost: $10
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Where to Stay in Richmond, Virginia
Now that we know the best things to do in Richmond, let’s explore the best places to stay during your vacation!
Best Hostel in Richmond
In the historic Otis Elevator Building, HI Richmond offers a prime downtown near all of Richmond’s top attractions. The hostel has been completely renovated to retain the charming detail of the original building while providing modern features and amenities.
Guests have a selection of private rooms, four-bed dorms, and six-bed dorms, and all guests get free Wi-Fi, coffee, tea, and breakfast to start the day!
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Richmond
Home2 Suites By Hilton Richmond Short Pump is a new hotel only minutes from dozens of popular restaurants and Richmond’s top shopping center filled with quirky local cafes and shops.
The hotel’s indoor pool makes it easy to go for a quick evening dip to relax and provides free parking, Wi-Fi, and a hot breakfast for a comfortable stay.
Best Luxury Hotel in Richmond
At Courtyard by Marriott Richmond Downtown, guests embark on a historic getaway in the core of Richmond, Virginia.
Centered among the hustle and bustle of Richmond’s top attractions, guests have easy access to loads of activities and adventures before returning to this luxury hotel to relax and recharge.
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