Chock full of well-preserved history and newly inducted art, Richmond is a city that is equal parts preservation and creative innovation.
A walk along Floodwall Park provides not only a spectacular view of downtown Richmond, but also of its vast river wildlife. Rabbits, deer, and groundhogs are commonplace along the river, and as home to blue herons, mallards, geese, and osprey, the James River is a bird-watcher’s dream.
As the only place in the country in which Class III and IV rapids run through a city’s downtown, the James River attracts paddling enthusiasts from across the nation. For those that prefer to stay on dry land, the hiking and biking trails that wind along the river offer an escape from urban life without leaving the city limits.
It’s hard to experience Richmond without confronting its role in the Civil War. As such, Richmond’s National Battlefield Parks at Chimborazo Hospital and Tredegar Iron Works offer a glimpse into its place in history as the Capital of the Confederacy.
Few things are as ridiculous, immersive, and entertaining as historical reenactments, and the show inside St. John’s Church is no exception. To witness Patrick Henry giving his famous “Liberty or Death” speech, reserve tickets in advance. Seats fill quickly on show days (Sundays during the summer months) in this small church at the heart of the Church Hill neighborhood.
Best Day Trip
Visiting Williamsburg or Jamestown for shopping or a bit of Virginia’s colonial history is an easy drive from Richmond, but if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, the Virginia Capital Trail is a 55-mile scenic bike ride that connects Richmond to these historic towns. This paved trail includes several landmarks, two wineries, snack stops, bike repair, and restrooms.
Off the Beaten Path
Richmond is known for its dedication to historic preservation, so it’s not hard for history buffs to get their fill in its museums and monuments. For a lesser known and less structured experience, the Slave Trail is a three-mile trek with views of the river and a self-guided tour through the history of slavery in Richmond.
Most Iconic Place
A full day can be spent weaving through the various gardens on the 100-acre, Gilded Age estate known as Maymont. Featuring expansive Japanese and Italian gardens with koi and waterfalls, a wetland habitat, a farm, and a nature center, Maymont is a family-friendly public park best enjoyed on a warm spring day.
With more breweries per capita than any other East Coast city, Richmond’s beer scene has become an undeniable part of its culture. There are plenty of brewery tours to choose from, but visiting the warehouse district Scott’s Addition puts you in a prime location to walk to several of the taprooms. You’ll need a brewery map and a full stomach.
Carytown’s Byrd Theatre is an architectural wonder built in 1928, and, thanks to the community’s passion for preserving its unique beauty, the theater has survived several close calls with a shuttered ticket booth. The days of 25-cent flicks have long passed, but $1.99 buys you a ticket to a film in one of the country’s few remaining movie palaces.
Richmond is the boyhood home of Edgar Allan Poe, a city factoid that is now a point of pride. However, the establishment of the “Poe Shrine,” as it was first conceived by enthusiasts in the early 1900s, was not initially well-received. Later renamed the Poe Museum, it now hosts monthly “Unhappy Hours” in its garden, with live music and Poe-themed activities.