17 Best Things to Do in Richmond, VA

Richmond, VA
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Richmond is a historic and vibrant city, serving as the capital of Virginia.

The city traces its origins to English explorations in the early 1600s.

In 1733, the settlement at the site was named Richmond, after the English borough of Richmond upon Thames.

The city was incorporated in 1782, making it one of the oldest in the country.

It is now home to many arts, history, and culture institutions, lively dining and shopping scenes, and a bustling downtown.

Situated along the James River, it also offers plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities, which complements the city’s modern urban vibe.

Here are some of the best things to do in Richmond, Virginia, to help you get started on planning your visit to this exciting city:

Explore Art Collections at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Exterior view of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
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Spend a day admiring remarkable works at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Opened in 1936 as Virginia’s flagship art museum, it features an extensive permanent collection of 50,000 exceptional paintings, sculptures, and other works of art from all over the world.

See Monet’s Field of Poppies, one of the French impressionist’s first works acquired by an American collector.

Lawn infront of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
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Wander around the collection of ancient Mediterranean art and get a glimpse of 5,000 years of history.

Outside, you can leisurely explore the sculpture garden, which features works of modern and contemporary artists.

The museum also actively mounts special exhibitions and features artworks on loan.

Interior view of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
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After exploring the galleries, head to their cafe or restaurant for a sumptuous meal.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is located along North Arthur Ashe Boulevard.

See the Lovely Flora at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Stunning yellow bed of flowers at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
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Spend a lovely day among the flowers at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Recognized as one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the country, this beautiful destination features over 50 acres of themed gardens, restaurants, and shops.

See over a thousand mesmerizing roses in the expansive rose garden.

Take a leisurely walk around the central garden and enjoy the dancing fountain.

Lily pad floating on a pond at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
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If you’re visiting with kids, take them to explore the children’s garden, where they can learn and play at the same time.

The gardens are worth visiting even in the winter when you can admire the colorful berries amid the backdrop of leafless trees.

You can find the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden along Lakeside Avenue.

Paved path at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
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Tour the Historic Maymont Estate

Exterior stone architecture of Maymont Estate
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Get transported to the past when you explore the historic Maymont estate along Westover Road.

This 100-acre estate of the Dooley family is a complete example of an estate from the Gilded Age.

Tour the well-preserved 1893 mansion residence, where you’ll see the luxurious lifestyle of the period’s millionaires.

Scenic view of the garden at Maymont Estate
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See the estate’s carriage collection, which features horse-drawn transport typically used in the estates of Richmond.

Explore Maymont’s grounds and admire the grand gardens.

In 1971, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its art and architectural significance.

Entrance to Maymont Estate
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Check Out the Urban Scene at Brown’s Island

Skyline from Brown’s Island
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See and feel the city’s urban vibe when you explore Brown’s Island at the heart of downtown.

This six-acre park along the James River is a popular recreation spot in the city, which serves as a venue for various outdoor city events and activities.

Scenic view of Brown’s Island
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Catch a Friday night concert and enjoy live music from some of the best local bands, or stroll around and see the public art displays and other outdoor exhibits.

You can also enjoy the surrounding nature views along this urban waterway.

Access Brown’s Island via 7th Street and Tredegar Street.

Riverrock festival at Brown’s Island
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Catch a Show at the November Theatre

Spend an evening of entertainment at the November Theatre.

Opened in 1911, this 553-seater historic theater is Virginia’s oldest major stage house.

It now serves as the home of the Virginia Repertory Theatre, one of central Virginia’s major performing arts organizations.

Catch the season’s signature production.

From comedies and holiday productions to musicals, there’s a show that will entertain everyone at this theater.

You can find the November Theatre along West Broad Street.

Enjoy Summer at Byrd Park

Byrd Park during autumn
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If you visit the city in the summer, go for lakeside recreation and soak up some sun at Byrd Park.

The 287-acre park is home to three lakes, sports fields, trails, picnic areas, and an amphitheater.

Byrd Park Pump House
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Go on a pedal boat ride at Fountain Lake and indulge in summer treats after at the full-service concession area.

You can also enjoy various activities at the amphitheater all summer long, such as festivals and outdoor entertainment.

Byrd Park is located along South Boulevard.

Byrd Park during sunset
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Explore the Shops at the Richmond Night Market

Experience more of the city’s creative vibe and culture at the Richmond Night Market.

This fun and lively market features local shops, food, activities, and entertainment.

Explore the artisan shops for interesting handmade crafts or artworks to take home.

Enjoy live music entertainment while exploring around.

Watch a mural come to life at the maker space as artists join in live painting throughout the night.

Grab a bite and sample some of the city’s local treats.

The Richmond Night Market is held at the 17th Street Market, one of the oldest public markets in the country.

Take a Glimpse into Richmond’s Past at The Valentine

Exhibits at The Valentine
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Get to know the city’s rich history and heritage when you visit The Valentine on East Clay Street.

This history museum opened in 1898, collecting, preserving, and interpreting stories about the city for over a hundred years.

Explore the photographs, paintings, maps, and exhibits at the galleries.

See the collection of artifacts from various businesses in the city and learn about Richmond’s industrial history.

You can also visit the Wickham House, a National Historic Landmark that gives a glimpse of life in the early 19th century.

The Valentine also hosts guided tours that will take you around the city.

Visit Belle Isle

Water from James River gushing through the Belle Isle
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Go on an island retreat and enjoy the outdoors at Belle Isle on Tredegar Street.

This beautiful, preserved park island along the James River is home to woods, trails, and many other natural attractions, packed with various outdoor adventures that you can enjoy.

Ruins of a building at Belle Isle
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Take your bike and explore the trails around the 54-acre island.

Spot some wildlife in Belle Isle’s rich habitats, from songbirds and ospreys in the summer to waterfowl in the winter.

People relaxing on the park at Belle Isle
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Go on a Riverfront Canal Cruise

If you prefer getting your dose of history while enjoying the outdoors, book a Riverfront Canal Cruise.

This 40-minute boat tour takes you cruising along the James River and Kanawha Canal.

It’s a narrated tour, so you’ll get to know the city’s rich history while taking in the lovely sights and sounds.

Along the tour, you’ll see various sites that tell stories about the city, such as the tobacco warehouses and the Triple Crossing railroad.

You can also spot some wildlife along the river.

If you’re visiting with a group of friends or family, you can also charter a private boat tour.

Riverfront Canal Cruise tours start at Virginia Street.

See Racing Action at Richmond Raceway

Car race at Richmond Raceway
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Experience an exciting NASCAR weekend action at Richmond Raceway along East Laburnum Avenue.

This 0.75-mile raceway is the country’s premier short track, hosting two weekends of NASCAR action.

Top view of Richmond Raceway
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Enjoy the pre-race ceremonies and watch the racing action at the fangrounds.

If you’d like to experience more of the raceway atmosphere, Richmond Raceway also has campgrounds for tents and RVs during the race weekend.

Hike along the Buttermilk Trail

If you’re looking for a challenging adventure while visiting the city, go for a hike along the Buttermilk Trail.

This 2.5-mile trail runs along the south side of the James River and will take you climbing through rock gardens and crossing creeks and bridges.

Enjoy the scenic views and spot some birds.

Extending from Westover Hills Boulevard to Riverview Parkway, this trail is popular among mountain bikers and trail runners.

This rocky trail is called the Buttermilk Trail because it was used as buttermilk storage back when milkmen delivered it to homes.

Spend a Day at Forest Hill Park

Picturesque view of a lake at Forest Hill Park
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Take the family for a day of recreation and relaxation at Forest Hill Park along Forest Hill Avenue.

This 105-acre park features lush green spaces, woods, streams, and a lake, providing plenty of outdoor exploring or leisurely strolling.

Have a picnic and enjoy the fresh air and the beautiful scenery.

Nature trail at Forest Hill Park
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Part of the park is a wetland, offering an opportunity to see some wildlife, such as eastern bluebirds.

Come winter, the park is also great for fun in the snow, such as sledding.

It is home to the Stone House, a historic home that can be rented for small events.

In 2002, Forest Hill Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its recreation and architectural significance.

View of Forest Hill Park
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See the Miniature Statue of Liberty at Chimborazo Park

Richmond is home to many historical monuments, but one of its most popular is the unique miniature Statue of Liberty, which you can see at Chimborazo Park.

Located along East Broad Street, this 30-acre park features a picturesque landscape ideal for a leisurely stroll.

In the 1950s, the Boy Scouts put up the 8.5-foot tall Statue of Liberty replica in the park.

Chimborazo Park is also a good site for enjoying the scenery, offering a 180-degree view of the city and the James River.

As part of the Oakwood Chimborazo Historic District, this park is a National Historic Landmark.

Dine and Unwind at The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing

Rowing at Rocketts Landing
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After a full day of touring the city, head to The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing for some sumptuous evening dining.

Unwind with a cocktail and some oysters.

Enjoy lovely waterfront views as you dine on their special seafood dishes, including their staple crab cake.

Save room for dessert so you can try some of their sweet treats.

You can find The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing along Old Main Street.

Go on a Richmond Brewery Tour

Join a Richmond brewery tour with your friends and check out the local craft beer scene.

Richmond is home to over 20 breweries, and a visit to the city won’t be complete without discovering new flavors.

Hop on the tour bus and learn about the city’s brewing history on your way to some of the best breweries around town.

Check out the local brewing scene and taste some amazing and unique brews.

Alternatively, you can customize your itinerary to include other breweries or wineries in the city you want to visit.

Several tour providers in the city offer various Richmond brewery tours.

Shop at Short Pump Town Center

Bird's eye view of Short Pump Town Center
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A visit to the city won’t be complete without some retail shopping on the side.

If you’re looking for a convenient and family-friendly shopping experience, head to Short Pump Town Center along West Broad Street.

You can explore over 140 shops, restaurants, and entertainment spots at this premier outdoor center.

Whether you’re shopping for clothes, accessories, or home stuff, there are plenty of stores you can visit.

Take a break and take the little ones for a quick ride at the Short Pump Express train designed to entertain kids.

The open-air Short Pump Towne Center is beautiful in the summer, and shopping in the cooler months is still a great experience as they have heated pavilions and outdoor fireplaces.

Final Thoughts

Richmond is an exciting destination worth visiting for its vibrant arts and culture, rich history, and variety of both urban and natural attractions.

With expansive parks and green open spaces, art museums and galleries with wonderful collections, historic sites, and a lively downtown, Virginia’s capital offers plenty of play, rest, and leisure opportunities.

Start planning your trip now and experience some of the best things to do in Richmond, Virginia.

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