Richmond Travel Guide, Virginia

From the 17th century to the 21st, history is around every corner in the Richmond Region. Add to that museums, breathtaking architecture, a vibrant arts community and a bustling nightlife, and the Region is sure to entertain and enlighten year round. Historic buildings and world-class museums nestle next to new structures designed to harmonize with the past even as they define the future. Fun, affordable and accessible, Richmond offers the benefits of a big city and the warmth of a small town. There are trendy areas and endless pockets of discovery-all in a historic setting that reminds us of who we are as Americans.

Visitors to the Richmond Region find the traditions of history and culture alive today. Historic homes and neighborhoods, Civil War, Revolutionary War and African-American heritage sites and museums, gardens and nature centers, science and art museums, sports teams and the James River offer a myriad of activities. Combined with excellent shopping and incredible dining, these attractions are enough to create several fun-filled weekends.

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Located on the James River fall line, Richmond was founded in 1607 by Captains Christopher Newport and John Smith. Patrick Henry lit the fires of revolution when he delivered his “give me liberty or give me death” speech at Historic St. John’s Church in 1775. You can still visit St. John’s and enjoy reenactments of Henry’s famous speech. Richmond replaced Williamsburg as capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1780. The Virginia Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson, is home to the oldest legislative body in the United States.

The Richmond Region is rich in historic homes and famous folk. Henricus Historical Park re-creates the New World’s second successful English settlement, the 1611 Citie of Henricus. The John Marshall House, Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, Meadow Farm Museum and Scotchtown all interpret the lives of distinguished people. The Virginia Historical Society covers Virginia’s history from Native America to the present day. The Valentine Richmond History Center presents 400 years of Richmond Region history. It houses one of the largest textile collections in the South including period clothing, bedding and other household materials and also offers walking tours. For a tour on wheels, see the Region on a Segway or a Trolley!

Through 2015 the Richmond Region is commemorating the 150th anniversaries of the American Civil War and Emancipation. Be sure to visit the Civil War Gateway Visitor Center for an introduction to Civil War and Emancipation sites in the Region. National Park Service Rangers can direct visitors to surrounding battlefields and familiarize them with the impact the war had on Richmond. They’ll also direct visitors to the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar where the war is explored through three interwoven perspectives: Union, Confederate and African-American. The Museum of the Confederacy houses the most comprehensive collection of Confederate artifacts in the world. Adjacent to the museum is the White House of the Confederacy, fully restored to its Victorian splendor. Chimborazo Medical Museum, run by the National Park Service and located in historic Church Hill, focuses on the medical aspect of the
Civil War.

Once known as the “Harlem of the South,” the Jackson Ward neighborhood is home to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, and a statue of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, a tap dancer famously popular in the 1930s. Every fall the neighborhood is hopping at the annual Second Street Festival with people, food, jazz, gospel music, a market and more. The hands of time are turned back to the 1920s-40s when the street was the heart of the Region’s African-American community. Jackson Ward’s recently-restored Hippodrome, once the stage to greats like Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole, features a theater that hosts Jazz and R&B musicians, a bar and adjacent restaurant.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts opened in Richmond in 1936, and today is among the top 10 comprehensive art museums in the United States thanks to a 165,000-square foot expansion. The VMFA offers a panoramic look at creative achievements, with the largest public collection of Fabergè Russian Imperial eggs outside of Russia. The Science Museum of Virginia presents hands-on exhibits on aerospace, electricity, biological timing and more – complete with an IMAX Theater. The Children’s Museum of Richmond offers activities for children of all ages at two Richmond Region locations.

Richmond’s largest natural resource, the James River, is the only urban setting for Class IV white water rafting, as well as fishing, canoeing and kayaking. It also serves as the backdrop to major events such as the Richmond Folk Festival and Dominion Riverrock, the East Coast’s premier outdoor lifestyle festival. For a more tranquil experience, try bird watching at Dutch Gap Conservatory or cycling on Belle Isle. You may choose to spend time strolling along the historic Canal Walk, stretching 1.25 miles along the James River and the Kanawha and Haxel Canals, which were conceived by George Washington. The Canal Walk presents four centuries of Richmond history interpreted through medallions, monuments and exhibits. The restored canal also offers narrated Canal Cruises.

Any time of year is a good time to visit Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, which features more than 40 acres of gardens, winding paths, wetland environment and a 63-foot-tall domed conservatory. Maymont, a 100-acre oasis, features Italian and Japanese gardens, the Maymont House Museum, a carriage collection, 700 animals in wildlife exhibits, the Children’s Farm and Nature Center. Sports fans have plenty to choose from year round. There’s the AA Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball team, an affiliate of the San Fransisco Giants, and the Richmond Kickers professional soccer team. NASCAR drivers heat up the track every May and September at the Richmond International Raceway.

Nightlife and performing arts are vibrant throughout the Region. Richmond CenterStage performing arts complex, in the heart of downtown, welcomes talent from around the corner and around the world that astounds and inspires audiences of all ages. The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is home to the Latin Ballet of Virginia. The Richmond Symphony, Richmond Ballet and Virginia Opera make their home in the Richmond Region, continuously captivating audiences. High-profile concerts, off-Broadway shows, comedians and other outstanding performances are always happening. The National; a restored historic theater turned cutting-edge music venue is located in the heart of downtown Richmond.

Around every corner of the Historic Richmond Region there is a new discovery and experience to be had. Take Hollywood Cemetery, where two U.S. presidents are buried (James Monroe and John Tyler), along with many Confederate notables. Or Carytown, one of the area’s earliest shopping areas, now home to a wide range of eclectic shops and eateries that have earned it a reputation as Richmond’s “Mile of Style.” Whatever your interests are, there is something for you to discover in the Historic Richmond Region.

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