Newcomers to Richmond will soon learn that the city has a wealth of activities and attractions, and boredom here is barely an option. The city is situated on the James River, and outdoors enthusiasts will love immersing themselves in nature and participating in fun adventures on and astride the river.
The city has an incredible history, having served as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War and having been the site of countless battles but, while many attractions are dedicated to this violent and fascinating era of American history, these aren't the only sights worth seeing in Richmond.
Attractions in Richmond
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Newly arrived art lovers in Richmond will want to put this right at the top of their to-do list. A surprisingly impressive collection that rivals galleries in much larger cities, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts boasts works by such masters as Matisse, Picasso, Braque and many prominent examples of German Expressionism and French Impressionism. Visitors will also be treated to marvellous works of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Modern and Contemporary American, as well as Asian and African collections.
Perfect for a family day out, the estate of Maymont has something for everyone to enjoy. Left to the city of Richmond by the Dooley family who lived here in the late 19th century, the estate sports a 100-acre park, several gardens, a kids’ petting farm, a carriage collection, and the mansion itself which has been converted into a museum furnished in the overly lavish style so typical of the late 1800s. Visitors are welcome to spread a blanket in the gardens and have a picnic, or visit the Nature Center, which explores the natural history of the James River.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Not your typical botanical garden, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has plenty for both kids and adults to see and do. Kids love playing in the children’s garden where they can explore, climb, cool off in the water-play area, and check out the CWDKids Tree House. Mum and Dad, meanwhile, can marvel at the views from the 63ft (19m) tall domed conservatory, which houses plenty of spectacular floral exhibits, a model-train display, a butterfly experience, and hosts seasonal events such as the holiday light festival.
Another must-do in Richmond, the James River-Kanawha Canal, which was built on the advice of George Washington to connect the East Coast harbours to western markets, can today be explored along its 1.25 miles (2km) of promenade. The promenade is dotted with significant historic sights, markers and monuments that tell of Richmond’s storied history. Also along the walk is Brown’s Island and the American Civil War Center. Guided historical river cruises are also available.
American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar
Along the James River are the five original buildings of the former Tredegar Iron Works, now a National Historic Landmark. As mentioned, the American Civil War Center can also be found here, where visitors can browse the fascinating exhibits that tell the story of the Civil War from multiple perspectives, including the Confederates, the Union and African Americans.
Virginia State Capitol
Another landmark that is not to be missed is the imposing State Capitol, built in 1785 and designed by Thomas Jefferson himself. The impressive structure was modelled on the Maison Carree, a Roman temple in Nimes, France. An important structure in Virginia’s history, the Capitol saw plenty of history being made, including the appointment of Robert E. Lee as commander of the Southern forces, and the ratification of Virginia’s secession. Also on the spacious and green premises known as Capitol Square are the 1813 Governor's Mansion, a bell tower built in 1824 and two statues of George Washington.