Whether you’re in the mood for outdoor adventures, eclectic art or creative cuisine, Virginia’s capital city of Richmond offers something for every style of explorer. This historic town has thoroughly modern sensibilities that first-time visitors are sure to appreciate.
If you’re just visiting for the day or planning a longer stay, here are some of the best things to do in Richmond, Virginia.
Libby Hill Park
To get a comprehensive view of the city, including its history, head to Libby Hill Park in Richmond’s historic Church Hill neighborhood. Legend has it that William Byrd II stood on this hill in 1737 and was so reminded of his home in Richmond-upon-Thames in England that the name stuck. Now Libby Hill Park is a popular destination for sunset yoga, picnics and the occasional pop-up wedding. Grab a coffee and pastry from nearby critics’ darling Sub Rosa Bakery to savor while soaking in the views of the river and downtown Richmond.
It’s hard to believe that the pastoral 100-acre Maymont Estate is right in the heart of Richmond. Built by a wealthy railroad tycoon at the turn of the century, the estate is now a free public park and museum. With its sprawling grounds, manicured gardens, historical manor house, nature center and children’s farm, Maymont is widely considered one of the best places for families to visit in Richmond any time of the year.
Known as one of America’s premier garden cemeteries, Hollywood Cemetery offers some of the most dramatic scenic overlooks in the city. Perched on a hill above the James River rapids with views of the city skyline, this expansive cemetery has served as the final resting place for Richmond notables since the late 1800s, including presidents James Monroe and John Tyler. It’s especially popular in the fall, when visitors marvel at the intense foliage and whisper about the legend of the Richmond Vampire who’s been rumored to haunt the grounds since the 1920s.
Delve beyond Richmond’s most obvious attractions by taking a walk through the charming historical Fan District. Named for the fan shape created by its streets, this residential neighborhood is populated by stately mansions and rowhouses built at the turn of the century. Stroll the tree-lined streets, marvel at the perfectly maintained gardens and pop into one of the corner cafes (like Kuba Kuba), coffee shops (Ever Better) or fine-dining restaurants (Heritage) that seem to be strategically placed every few blocks.
Best neighborhoods in Richmond, Virginia
There’s a good reason Richmond’s nickname is the River City: the James River snakes right through the center of town, offering an easily accessible retreat for nature lovers. Locals especially like to boast about having access to the only Class IV white water rapids in an urban setting in the country. The James River Park System covers a wide swath of the city with multiple parks and trails, and one of the most popular is Belle Isle. This remote island in the middle of the river is accessible via a pedestrian bridge. Used as a Union prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War, Belle Isle is now a popular spot for hiking, biking, sunbathing on the rocks and (cautiously) swimming in the river.
Shopping in Carytown
To get a taste of the city's distinctively quirky side, make a beeline for Carytown, Richmond's top neighborhood for shopping. This nine-block-long dining, retail and entertainment district is made up almost entirely of locally owned businesses, from bookshops and vintage boutiques to sushi restaurants, ice cream shops and a stellar cocktail bar at The Jasper. The historic Byrd Theatre anchors the district, offering $4 showings in a palatial setting.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Open 365 days a year with free admission for all, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts boasts a world-class collection containing nearly 50,000 works of art. The permanent collection includes everything from ancient and pre-Columbian art to Faberge, photography and modern art. There is an entrance fee for special exhibits, which have drawn national acclaim.
Top 7 day trips from Richmond, Virginia
Drinking in Richmond’s breweries
Richmond is a haven for beer lovers, with more than 30 craft breweries in the city. For the highest density of spots, head to the Scott’s Addition neighborhood, home to local favorites Ardent Craft Ales, The Veil, Vasen, Bingo Beer Co and Starr Hill Beer Hall and Rooftop. Prefer to sip cider? Places like Buskey Cider and Blue Bee Cider have you covered. Scott’s Addition is pretty walkable, but you can book a tuk tuk tour if you’d rather be pedaled around in style.
This majestic Tudor mansion is impressive in its own right, but even more so when you consider that it was completely dismantled and shipped across the Atlantic from England to Virginia in the 1920s. Today, visitors can tour Agecroft Hall and its gardens to get a taste of life in 16th-century England. Every summer, the annual Richmond Shakespeare Festival brings the Bard to the estate’s grounds.
Science Museum of Virginia
Curious minds will find plenty to explore at the family-friendly Science Museum of Virginia, housed in a grand former train station. The museum features permanent and rotating interactive exhibits like Speed, which invites visitors to feel hurricane-force winds and challenge a robot as they learn about motion and time. Downstairs, the kid-favorite Boost exhibit encourages patrons to test their creativity, memory and strength through hands-on activities. In addition to the exhibits, the Science Museum has an IMAX dome, labs, makerspaces and special events year-round.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Just a couple of miles from the center of Richmond, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden encompasses more than 50 acres of spectacular gardens. This includes more than a dozen themed gardens like the Rose Garden, Asian Valley and the Children’s Garden, and you’ll find a cafe, tea house and shop on site. Flowers After Five is a regular event that features live music plus wine and beer, and the garden opens up to furry friends at Fidos After Five. Around the holidays, the Gardenfest of Lights is a beloved local tradition with thousands of lights and festive attractions.
You might also like:
7 scenic hikes in Virginia
The top 8 beaches in Virginia
Under the radar USA: Fredericksburg's culinary revolution