Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Richmond, VA

By Lauren Ward · July 24, 2023 · 9 minute read

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Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Richmond, VA

Richmond is one of the most historically significant cities in the United States, but it is also home to a thriving food, music, and arts scene. Whether you’re visiting for work or pleasure, you’ll find plenty of things to do while you’re in Virginia’s capital. History buffs, artists, and foodies all agree Richmond (or RVA, as it’s commonly called) is a special place.

Find out when you should visit, how much you can expect to spend each day on food and lodging, and start planning fun things to do while you’re in RVA. The following list of top 10 fun things to do in Richmond, VA, will get your started planning your trip.

Best Times to Go to Richmond, VA

Richmond is at its most pleasant in spring and fall. Not only is the weather consistently warm during these months, but you’ll also be more likely to hear outdoor music and find food trucks parked throughout the city.

If you’re researching how to save money for a trip, the good news is that the best times to visit Richmond don’t coincide with peak tourist dates, which are typically during the summer months, when many festivals occur, such as the Iron Blossom Festival (music) and Smoke and Vine Festival (wine and cigars).

Bad Times to Go to Richmond, VA

In July and August, temperatures are routinely in the 90s, if not higher. With humidity on top of the heat, it can be a difficult place to enjoy in the height of summer.

Compared to other areas in the U.S., Richmond has pretty mild winters, but January and December can be both cold and damp. While it doesn’t snow too often in Virginia’s capital, early winter may not be the best time to visit, either.

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Average Cost of a Richmond, VA, Vacation

Budget Your Trip estimates that the average daily cost for a hotel in Richmond is $161 a night, though you might find ways to save money on hotels and get a lower rate. Visitors should expect to spend around $17 per person per meal.

In total, this means visitors should expect to spend the following amounts if visiting Richmond for a week:

•  $357 on food for one person

•  $714 on food for two people

•  $1,128 per person for one week

•  $2,256 for a couple for one week

However, these are just averages. You may be able to save even more by finding travel deals.

In addition, you will need to budget for your travel to and from Richmond. That might mean filling up your car’s gas tank, or it could mean finding cheap flights.

Lastly, you may want to budget for travel insurance. Credit card travel insurance may be available, or you might want to buy a separate policy as a bit of security if anything were to go awry.

10 Fun Things You Must Do in Richmond, VA

How, for the top 10 fun things to do in Richmond, VA: This list was culled from savvy travelers, RVA residents, and top-rated attractions on online review sites.

1. Take a Walk in the Park

Looking for free things to do in Richmond, VA? Put Maymont on your list. As New York has Central Park, Richmond has Maymont. This 100-acre park is part zoo, part garden, part meandering trails, but is 100% the heart of Richmond. It’s easy to spend a few hours or even all day there.

Traveling with pets? Sorry: With bears, foxes, goats, and other animal inhabitants in the park, you can’t take your dog.

Try visiting the Italian garden in the spring or the Japanese garden in the fall (you’ll take more than a few pictures of the Japanese maples). If you’re lucky, the waterfall will be flowing while you’re visiting. If so, bring a book and soak up the views. The grounds are open daily from 10 am to 7 pm, with a $5 suggested admission.

2. See an 18th-Century Church

In the heart of what is known as Church Hill is St. John’s Church. Built in 1741, it’s an established historic landmark and is famous for being the place Patrick Henry proclaimed, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Time your visit right, and you may get to see a reenactment of that very speech. Tickets (approximately $15 each) to sit and watch the reenactments are available online in advance.

Once done, we recommend walking around Church Hill. Many of the buildings were built in the early 19th century and are on Virginia’s historic register. There are several restaurants and cafes in the area, and walkable Libby Park gives an excellent view of the James River and the city below.

3. Shop and Sip at Carytown

One of the best things to do in Richmond, VA, is visit Carytown. This neighborhood is known for its eccentric shops and restaurants, and it has something for practically anyone along its mile-long stretch. Window-shop, get a coffee, maybe buy a new book. Then end your day with a classic movie at the Byrd Theater, where on select days throughout the week, an organ player starts the show with select tunes from the olden days.

Carytown is just up the street from Maymont if you want a little bit of culture and nature on the same day. It’s also very close to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which is up next on this list of cool things to do in Richmond, VA.

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4. Immerse Yourself in Art

One of the top travel hacks is to find free places to visit when you’re traveling. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is one of the coolest free things you can do while you’re in Richmond.

Which has another benefit: It can be a way that families can afford to travel and soak up some culture.

The VMFA is a world class museum, and has around 50,000 art pieces from around the world. It’s open 365 days a year from 10 am to 5 pm, and has both a cafe and fine dining on premises. Recently the VMFA acquired a sculpture from world-renowned artist Kehinde Wiley titled “Rumors of War.” Be sure to check it out if you visit!

5. Explore Some Science

Looking for family-oriented things to do in Richmond, VA? Include a visit to the Science Museum of Virginia. This destination is fun for both kids and adults as each of its exhibits manages to make the natural world seem utterly magical and surreal.

If you have the time, we suggest seeing a movie in The Dome at the museum, which is the largest theater in VA. Also noteworthy is the building itself. Built in 1919 as Richmond’s premier train station, it is a prime example of neoclassical architecture. The films shown explore the natural world, making your visit more immersive.

Admission to the museum, which is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm daily, is $17 for ages 13-59; a ticket to a feature at the Dome adds $5.

6. Stroll Through a Great Garden

Searching for fun things to do in Richmond VA for couples? Put the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden at the top of your list. While technically in Henrico County, Lewis Ginter is just a stone’s throw away from the city line.

Established on 50 acres, Lewis Ginter is home to over a dozen unique gardens you can easily spend all day appreciating. If you have children, there is a large, multi-level treehouse on the grounds with a tower that overlooks the park’s central lake. There’s also a conservatory, cafe (where you can earn credit card rewards when charging a snack or meal), garden shop, and library on the property. Admission is $17 for adults; the garden is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, with some extended evening hours in the summer and fall.

7. Discover Hollywood Cemetery

One of the most unique things to do in Richmond, VA, is visit Hollywood Cemetery. You may not think a cemetery would be worth visiting, but in this case you’d be mistaken. It’s located on over 135 beautifully landscaped acres, with stunning views of the James River and surrounding rolling hills.

This nationally recognized cemetery is the final resting place of many historic figures, such as two U.S. presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler. Even if you’re not a history buff, the architecture of the mausoleums alone is worth a couple hours of your time.

8. Raft or Kayak the James River

Any list of top things to do in Richmond, VA, should include the James River. To be more specific — kayaking or rafting the James.

Throughout the entire United States, Richmond is the only city where you can kayak through a class IV rapids and still be downtown. However, if boating isn’t your thing, you can contact companies like H20 Adventures or James River Reeling and Rafting to help guide you through an amazing afternoon you won’t soon forget.

9. Tour the Capitol Building

The Virginia State Capitol was designed by Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. While Jefferson is famous for other architectural achievements, the Virginia State Capitol is considered one of his best designs. Check the website about opportunities to visit this amazing building.

10. Eat Well

Richmond has a vibrant food and drink scene, with many excellent restaurants. L’Opossum has some of the best reviews you’ll ever read. It’s been ranked #1 out of Richmond’s 877 restaurants on many review sites. To eat at this French-American fusion, you’ll need to make a reservation well in advance. Other options: Rappahannock Restaurant for oysters, and Perly’s for updated deli delights in a vintage setting.

The Takeaway

Richmond, VA, has a little bit of everything for everyone. Historically, there are many places throughout the city that have been pivotal to major events and national dialogues. Artistically, there’s just as much to admire and appreciate. Whether it’s the food, nature, art, or shopping, Richmond can be an exciting destination to explore.

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Is Richmond a walkable city?

Yes, Richmond is very much a walkable city. Not only are there sidewalks throughout the entire city, but you can easily go from city sidewalks to nature trails along the James River. Both drivers and cyclists know to be on the lookout for pedestrians, no matter what time of day it is.

Is Richmond a friendly city?

Overall, visitors from anywhere in the country should be able to find a common ground with Richmonders. It’s an eclectic city and also home to Virginia Commonwealth University, meaning it has a good mix of people.

What part of Richmond should I stay in?

Visitors should consider staying in the downtown area. Downtown Richmond not only has some of the best views of the city and the James River, but it also has a bustling nightlife. With restaurants, bars, and theaters, you may not even need an Uber to get to where you want to go. The Jefferson and the Quirk Hotel both have top-notch restaurants and bars.

Photo credit: iStock/Sean Pavone

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