The United States is a big country. It is often difficult to imagine possibly seeing every part of the country that is out there, but many people certainly try. Often time, you have to prioritize where you want to go and what you want to experience next. After all, there is only so much time to go around. This is why you will want to put Richmond, Virginia on your list of places to visit. This was the capital of the Confederacy, after all, so it is a location rich in history. It is a mix of the past and the future. You will find it to be a progressive that has a lot to offer, while still maintaining a sort of Southern charm that you just do not see that often today. When you are planning a trip to Richmond, it helps to know what there is to see and do in the city. That is part of the problem. There is so much to take in that you cannot possibly do it all in one trip. To help guide you, we have put together this list of the 20 best things that you can do on your first trip to Richmond, Virginia.
20. King's Dominion Amusement Park
If you are looking for something fun to do, King's Dominion Amusement Park is the place to go. In the midst of all the history that surrounds the Richmond area, this is an exercise in modernity. It is a park filled with rides that are appropriate for people of all ages. This means that you can feel comfortable taking the entire family. Keep in mind that it is only open during the summer months, so you will be out of luck if visiting in the spring, fall, or winter.
19. Virginia War Memorial
With so much history having occurred in the area, it should come as no surprise that a war memorial has been erected in this area. This is a place that you really must visit. It is dedicated to people who fought and died in all of the wars. You will find a Shrine of Memory here that discloses roughly 12,000 names dating back to World War II and continuing through to the recent war in the Persian Gulf. There is also a Torch of Liberty located here.
18. Virginia House
If you have never seen an English manor, here is your chance. When you visit the Virginia House, you will find a residence that has been in Richmond since 1925. It was actually relocated here and has been almost perfectly preserved to be just like the 16th century house that it was. You will find many antiques here from English and Spain, including loads of silver and a fair bit of china. This is also a great place to see more Oriental rugs than you probably even knew existed.
17. Wilton House Museum
This is a museum that will illustrate the way life in Richmond back in the 18th century. It is a perfect living history of the region. It also reflects Georgian architectural design, so you will be able to visualize what that looked for. This house was actually built back in 1753 and is located in the center of a 2,000 acre plantation. Geroge Washington and Thomas Jefferson are just a couple of the guests who have been here through the years.
16. Garnett's Cafe
Everyone has to eat, so shun the national franchise restaurants and go for something local. It does not get much more traditional in Richmond than with Garnett's Cafe. This is a Sandwich shop that is located right in the historic Fan District. They also serve a mix of fresh salads and desserts as well. It is open for lunch and for dinner. You will love the long counter that is still here. It will make you feel as if you are going back in time to eat.
15. The John Marshall House
In a city full of history, it was also home to really some really famous people. When it comes to John Marshall, he has been largely regarded as the most influential Chief Justice of the Supreme Court that we have ever had. His home is now a historic monument and has been restored so that you can see what it must have been like for him to live here. It is also full of traditional furniture and a variety of artifacts that are representative of the era.
Here is another fun place to eat that you really need to add to list of things to do when you are in Richmond for the first time. You will love the atmosphere in this place. It is fashioned after a retro '70s look, complete with a variety of artwork and a sort of eclectic ambiance that you simply cannot find anywhere else. There are a number of unique cocktails and other types of drinks waiting to be served up to you here, in addition to the menu of creative French food.
13. National Battlefield Park
You know that you are in Richmond when you visit the National Battlefield Park. This was, after all, the heart of the Civil War. You will find that the area is where many battlefields are located. This park has miles upon miles of fortifications. These are original, so you can really see what it was like back in the days of the Civil War. This is also where the largest hospital in the entire Confederacy was located, so you can see that as well. There are 13 different battle sites located within the park.
12. Church Hill
Richmond is also known for its natural beauty, and that is on full display in Church Hill. This is an area comprised of a number of different neighborhoods that have agreed to uphold the traditional architecture that dates back to the 1800s. You will also find cobblestone streets that are still illuminated at night by gas lighting. There are a number of beautiful parks here with trees that are older than you think. It is a great place to relax in the shade.
11. Historic Tredegar
If you are looking for something to do while you are on the Riverfront area of Richmond, the Historic Tredegar district is where you need to be. This is a museum that is privately owned. It is affiliated with the Civil War Museum. You will also find that this where Tredegar Iron Works was located. At one time, this was the third largest producer of iron in the entire United States.
10. Poe Museum
You might not know this, but Edgar Allen Poe was from this area of the country. That is why you will find the Poe Museum to be located here. When you visit here, you will be able to see many of his original works. Many of the artifacts contained here are first editions. You will also see original manuscripts and some of the letters that he wrote throughout his life. You will find that the Poe Museum is open every day of the week except for Mondays.
9. Real Richmond Food Tours
If you are looking to sample some great food that is traditional to the region, then going one of the several food tours that are offered is something that you must do on your first visit to Richmond. You will be able to several popular local hangouts. At each, you will sample some of the food and get a taste for some of their beverages as well. There are tours arranged in various districts of the city, so look online and see which ones interest you.
8. Agecroft Hall
The James River juts through the entire city of Richmond. In a way, it divides north from south. That is also where you find Agecroft Croft. This is a perfect replication of the Elizabethan Manor house that was once situated next to River Irwell. This was built to reflect the traditional architecture and to reflect the way that life used to be. You will also enjoy the gardens that have been recreated here as well. There is also a museum here that offers a number of educational type seminars and various types of workshops.
7. Science Museum of Virginia
Here is a chance for you to see where Richmond is headed. The Science Museum of Virginia is something that people of all ages can enjoy. You will find various aspects of science on display here. You will find areas devoted to space, earth, health related disciplines, and electricity. There is also a 76 foot amphitheater housed here that shows many films related to science.
6. Virginia Aviation Museum
Even if you do not enjoy flying, you will appreciate what you see at the Virginia Aviation Museum. You will see planes here that are not housed anywhere else in the world. An example is a complete replica of the 1903 Flyer that was made famous by the Wright Brothers. You will also see a number of military planes housed here, complete with a complete range of educational material to help visitors understand the role that each played in the development of the country.
5. Visit the Virginia State Capitol
Richmond is also the state capital of Virginia. No trip to be Richmond should be complete without a visit here. This is oldest legislature in all of the Western Hemisphere, so there is a great deal of history to be seen. The building itself was designed by none other than Thomas Jefferson himself. It was built in 1788 and is now considered to be a historic landmark.
4. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Given its great climate, it should come as no surprise that a number of plants and other species thrive in the Richmond area. The best place to see this is at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. This is comprised of about 50 acres and is open the entire year. You will find a number of unique plants and trees that you are unlikely to see anywhere else in the world.
3. Maymont in Richmond
The Maymont is another estate that has been almost perfectly preserved to represent its original state. This is always open to the public, so you can come by and enjoy it. You will be able to walk through the gardens that are always green and lush. There is also an arboretum here that you must see. If you have children in your group, they will enjoy a visit to the Children's Farm that is located directly on site as well. You will also see local wildlife at the Maymont.
2. Visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
This is not just another typical museum. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a place where you can see art through the years that is representative of the local community. It is made up of works from centuries of life. You will more than 33,000 different pieces to look at. This is a place where you might have to go back to a few times in order to really appreciate it to its fullest.
1. Visit Monument Avenue
The number one place that you should visit when you are in Richmond for the first time is Monument Avenue. This is a street that contains original houses, trees, walkways and much more. It is what Richmond is. Everyone who lives here will tell you that it is a must see. Just walk around the area and prepare to be amazed.
Take another look over this list of the 20 best things to do on your first visit to Richmond, Virginia. Which of them appeals to you most? While you can probably not do them all, decide what you really want to do and then schedule them in. Remember to leave plenty of time to just explore the city. That is part of the fun and adventure no matter where you so.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn