Richmond, Virginia is steeped in American history but today is blossoming as an adventure and foodie destination. Traditionally known as the capital of the US South (including the capital of the Confederate States during the 1860s), Richmond is also the hometown of Arthur Ashe, Shirley Maclaine, Warren Beatty, Fran Tarkenton, D’Angelo, and Bill Robinson (Bojangles).
Yes, you can say that there are at least two sides to Richmond—the traditional, historic Richmond and the Civil Rights, progressive, and cosmopolitan Richmond. Richmond is only a 90 minute drive from Washington, DC and well worth a multi-day visit so that you can experience all sides yourself.
Before your next Richmond VA visit, read 9 Divine Secret Places to Eat in Richmond Virginia
8 Great Things To Do in Richmond Virginia
1. St. John’s Church
One of the most important events in US history occurred at St. John’s Church in Richmond Virginia. In front of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and more than 100 other prominent leaders, Patrick Henry gave his “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. That saying became a rallying cry during the American Revolution, which began only one month later. Today you can tour the historic church and graveyard, and perhaps catch one of the reenactments of the events from March 1775.
Stroll around the graveyard on your own, especially if you have never seen table top cemetery stones.
2. Virginia State Capitol Building
The Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond was named the #1 building that changed America. Thomas Jefferson envisioned and help design the building, specifically as a statement of USA’s independence from Britain. The Virginia State Capitol is modeled after an ancient Roman temple in southern France and countless USA buildings (including the US Capitol) are modeled after it.
This plaque inside the Virginia State Capitol shows how far back Virginia history extends.
3. Edgar Allan Poe Museum
Edgar Allan Poe spent most of his early childhood in Richmond Virginia. The Poe Museum houses the most comprehensive collection of Poe’s writings in the world. The museum building is not one that Poe lived in but is the oldest building in Richmond.
The Poe Museum rooms have period furnishings and decorations and Poe’s Enchanted Garden is a highlight. Watch out for the Black Cat.
4. Hollywood Cemetery
Impress your friends with this trivia: Hollywood Cemetery is the only US cemetery where three Presidents are buried. Two US Presidents are buried here—James Monroe and John Tyler—along with Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. OK, you might groan, but I did not say “three US Presidents.” Other important Hollywood Cemetery burials include six Virginia governors, two Supreme Court justices, and over 18,000 Confederate soldiers (including 22 Generals).
No doubt, Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia is very historic, but it is also gorgeous. The cemetery encompasses the native nature and features beautiful walking paths and majestic trees. Its setting on a hill overlooking the James River makes visiting Hollywood Cemetery a popular great thing to do in Richmond Virginia.
5. Belle Isle
Belle Isle is an island in the middle of the James River with wonderful hiking and biking trails. During the Civil War, Belle Isle housed the largest Confederate prison and later Belle Isle was home to various industrial pursuits. A pedestrian bridge from Tredegar Street is perhaps the easiest way to access Belle Isle.
From Belle Isle, you can see the Hollywood Cemetery, downtown Richmond, and more.
6. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is open every day of the year and charges no admission fee. When I last visited, major displays included equestrian art, art deco furniture, and Tiffany glass lamps.
7. Richmond VA Street Art
Over 100 street art murals can be found throughout the neighborhoods of Richmond Virginia. Here is a listing of street art by neighborhood and years. RVA Street Art Fest, a 3 day festival in April, draws artists from around the world to create these amazing murals.
8. Richmond Virginia Food and Drink
The local food and craft beer scene in Richmond is crazy. So many creative chefs and brewers are opening places in Richmond and environs, and they strongly integrate with and appeal to the expanding adventure crowd.
I had these amazing pork cheek tacos for lunch at Vagabond.
The roast pork omelet at Kuba Kuba is phenomenal.
Capital Ale House is in the downtown area and serves many local brews.
On Thursday evenings from April through October, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery hosts a food truck court. During our visit there were over a dozen food trucks onsite. Oh, and Hardywood has incredible craft beer.
BONUS: Richmond’s Monument Avenue
Monument Avenue—a bonus to my 8 great things to do in Richmond Virginia list—recognizes Confederate heroes (like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson) but in 1996 the Arthur Ashe monument was dedicated. The monuments have been in the news lately (with protests) and the situation along Monument Avenue is fluid.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Richmond VA?
Note: We—Julie at FuninFairfaxVA.com and I—were hosted by Richmond Region Tourism (Visit Richmond VA) as an opportunity to explore and learn about Richmond, Virginia and share our favorite findings with our network.
Where to Stay in Richmond Virginia
The Jefferson Hotel is an ultra luxury hotel in downtown Richmond. It is a member of Historic Hotels of America and Preferred Hotels & Resorts. The Jefferson Hotel is one of only a few dozen USA properties to earn 5 diamonds from AAA and 5 stars from Forbes Travel Guide.