Richmond, Virginia might not top a lot of travel lists. It’s oft forgotten in lieu of big cities like New York and San Francisco. But take a second look before dismissing it as just another city. Richmond has a rich history as one of America’s oldest cities. It’s home to many historic events that predate the colonial era and extend past the Civil War. Richmond has also seen a recent cultural renaissance and is home to its own unique arts and social scenes. Here are 10 of the most essential tourist attractions to enjoy the old world and the new in Richmond.
Looking to sightsee? Look no further than Richmond’s Canal Walk. The 1.25-mile trail is the best way to take in Richmond’s 400-year history. The Canal Walk is set along the Haxall Canal and the James River and Kanawha Canals. It features history shown through statues, exhibits, and monuments. It’s also home to the first successful electric streetcar system in the world. The canal is open year-round and is frequently a hotspot for large activities and events.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts houses a collection of over 33,000 works of art from cultures around the world. The artworks spans the globe and history, with some pieces of art being nearly 5,000 years old. The museum also holds educational activities, studio classes, and traveling exhibitions throughout the year. Its mission is to encourage the study of the arts and does so by offering free admission year-round.
Address: 200 N Boulevard, Richmond, Virginia, VA 23220
A trip to Maymont is sure to entertain. Maymont was the 19th-century estate of wealthy couple James and Sallie Dooley. At their request, the 100-acre estate was given to the people of Richmond after their deaths. It has since turned into a historic museum, nature center, and garden and one of the top attractions in Richmond. Visitors can walk through the historic mansion, walk the Japanese and Italian gardens, or take a tour of the grounds. Maymont is also home to an extensive collection of wildlife exhibits. Hundreds of animals, including black bears, river otters, and goats, call Maymont home.
Nature lovers don’t need to head to the woods to enjoy the great outdoors. Instead, they can take a trip to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on the north side of Richmond. The botanical garden boasts 50 acres of themed gardens and plant collections. Visitors can also enjoy the domed Conservatory, which includes world-class botanical displays of its own. Lewis Ginter is open year-round and hosts workshops and rotating events.
The Virginia State Capitol has a storied history. Thomas Jefferson and French architect Charles-Louis Clérisseau designed it in the late 18th century. It became a focal point for historic moments following its completion in 1788. Notably, it served as the Capitol of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. It’s since gone on to become a natural historic landmark. The building has undergone numerous renovations since its completion, but its still a remarkable symbol of American ingenuity. Tourists can also explore the surrounding Capitol Square. It’s home to many statues of historical figures, including Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Edgar Allan Poe.
Stunning trees, historic statues, and beautiful architecture. Yes, Monument Avenue has it all. This National Historic Landmark’s history dates back to 1890. That’s when the 21-foot statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee was unveiled. The famous avenue has since erected other statues of famous civil war figures. The avenue also includes tree-lined streets and a series of unique, old-style homes. Monument Avenue Historic District is one of only two National Historic Landmark districts in the City of Richmond. It’s a modern avenue that echoes the look and feel of the late 19th century.
Don’t be fooled by its name. You won’t find any famous Hollywood stars at Hollywood Cemetery. You will, however, see the graves of some influential names in American history. It’s the site of President James Monroe’s Tomb, President John Tyler’s monument, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s memorial. It’s also home to the Monument of the Confederate War Dead, a 90-foot pyramid honoring 18,000 fallen confederate soldiers. This serene cemetery also has picturesque views of the James River.
Challenge your mind at the Science Museum of Virginia. Though it once served as Broad Street Station, this museum has been a hub for scientific ingenuity since 1970. You’ll find permanent exhibitions about health, electricity, space, speed, and the Earth at this popular attraction. The museum also houses the 76-foot Dome Theater. It’s the largest screen in Virginia and holds daily astronomy presentations and Earth themed movies in a state-of-the-art theater system.
Experience the history of the Civil War like you’ve never done before. Richmond’s storied history includes its four-year run as the capitol for the Confederate States of America. You can walk the grounds of some of the Civil War’s most costly battles at Richmond’s National Battlefield Park. The park includes the sites of the Seven Days Battles, Overland Campaign, and the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign. It also has hiking trails that combine an appreciation of nature with storied Civil War locales. Visitors can also explore the visitor center for more information on key battles and moments that took place in and around Richmond.
There’s more than one historic White House in the United States. The White House and Museum of the Confederacy was the home of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America. It also served as the Executive Mansion of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Davis famously fled this house right before the official surrender of the Confederate Army. Today, it houses a large collection of Civil War relics. There are over 100,000 Confederate artifacts located in the house’s museum. It also holds over 3,000 artifacts relating to African American history. Architecture fans, history buffs, and political junkies will all enjoy a tour of this National Historic Landmark.