Top Things To Do And See In Richmond, Virginia

| Photo by Stephanie Rhee on Unsplash
Jonathan Stern

Virginia’s capital city boasts a plethora of fantastic bars and brunch spots, as well as top-notch hotels. The River City is a great destination – learn more about this historically rich capital in our list of the top 10 things to see and do in Richmond.

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Visit Maymont

A tour of Richmond is not complete without a visit to Maymont, an impressive area covering 100 acres of land. The grounds feature an elaborate mansion built during the Gilded Age toward the end of the 19th century, Japanese and Italian gardens, and a nature center and children’s farm that together are home to hundreds of animals. James and Sallie Dooley, who lived here between 1893 and 1925, gave the estate to the city as a gift so future generations could enjoy it.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts – simply referred to as the VMFA – opened in the midst of the Great Depression in 1936 as a testament to the importance of art. The museum has been building an extensive collection ever since, with contributions coming from notable patrons such as Paul Mellon and Peter Carl Fabergé. The museum houses all sorts of artwork, from Art Deco furniture to African art to masterful paintings by Francisco Goya and Winslow Homer to name just a few. The newest expansion to the VMFA was completed in May 2010 – the beautifully designed addition increased gallery space by nearly 50%.

Hollywood Cemetery tour

Hollywood Cemetery is a Richmond treasure that is open to the public all year round. The cemetery was designed in 1847 by John Notman, a famous architect from Philadelphia. Organized tours are offered for those interested in learning more about this historical American landmark – in fact, it is the final resting place of two presidents, six Virginia governors, two Supreme Court justices, 22 Confederate generals and thousands of Confederate soldiers.

The American Civil War Museum

For history buffs, it doesn’t get much better than The American Civil War Museum. The preeminent place to learn about the Civil War and its legacies, the museum strives to show the impact of the war from multiple perspectives: Union and Confederate; enslaved and free African Americans; soldiers and civilians. The museum actually has three separate locations – the main one located at the historic Tredegar Iron Works building, which employed skilled domestic and foreign workers as well as slaves and free folk.

Afternoon Tea at The Jefferson

You haven’t experienced the South without having afternoon tea, and there’s no fancier place in Richmond to do so than The Jefferson. There are pastries, scones and finger sandwiches to go along with a brimming cup of tea. The food and drink are only half the allure, though, as tea time takes place in the marvelously decorated lobby, complete with a marble statue of the eponymous Thomas Jefferson himself.

Stroll through Carytown

Each of Richmond’s neighborhoods has its own unique feel. Carytown is one of the most interesting of all, with an eclectic mix of antique shops, fashion stores and fantastic restaurants. Known for having an artsy flair, there are a number of events held here throughout the year, such as Fashion First, Reggae and Ska music events, and the Carytown Watermelon Festival – the largest watermelon festival in the United States.

Watch a movie at The Byrd

After checking out all that Carytown has to offer, it’s time to hit up one of its most famous residents, The Byrd Theatre. Open 365 days a year, The Byrd is a veritable Richmond institution, having opened on Christmas Eve of 1928. Affectionately referred to as “Richmond’s Movie Palace”, it was named after William Byrd II, founder of the River City. Catching a film here is light on the wallet – tickets go for just $1.99 each.

Visit the State Capitol

Not to be missed is a trip to the Virginia State Capitol, home to the oldest legislature in continuous operation in the western hemisphere. The Virginia General Assembly has been meeting in this building designed by Thomas Jefferson since 1788. It was the very first structure in the New World, built in the Monumental Classical style and has been the inspiration for many other capitols, courthouses, government structures, and all sorts of other buildings. It’s truly a gem in the heart of downtown Richmond.

Head to Belle Isle

A small island that lies within the James River, Belle Isle is a city park that gives visitors an exceptional view of the Richmond skyline, including Hollywood Cemetery and the historic Tredegar Iron Works building. The tiny plot of land has an interesting history that dates back to 1607, when it was first explored by Captain John Smith. During the American Civil War, the island served as a prison for Union soldiers. Nowadays, Belle Island is great spot for a picnic, cycling on one of the bike paths, or even rock climbing.

The Museum of Edgar Allen Poe

The Museum of Edgar Allen Poe opened in 1922 in The Old Stone House (cited as the oldest original building in Richmond), located just a few blocks away from the author’s first Richmond home and first place of employment. Here, visitors can find the world’s finest collection of Edgar Allen Poe‘s manuscripts, letters, first editions, memorabilia and personal belongings. It’s a place to celebrate the legacy of one of the most important fiction writers in American history and his very strong ties to the city of Richmond.

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