The White House of the Confederacy constituted the social, political, and military headquarters of Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. Later named a National Historic Landmark, the building still stands today. Daily guided tours lead guests through the grand 19th-century structure, which houses more than half its original wartime furnishings.
The White House is only steps away from The Museum of the Confederacy's Richmond location, where a core exhibit chronicles the Confederacy from its beginnings to General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Opened 25 years after that fateful event, the nonprofit museum displays artifacts from a collection of more than 15,000 items. They include Stonewall Jackson's sword, a letter from Pope Pius IX, and all the pennies Jefferson Davis etched his face onto in his spare time.
Meanwhile, another 400 artifacts adorn the permanent exhibit at the museum's Appomattox location. Here, a dozen audiovisual stations, parole lists, and the uniform coat worn by Lee illustrate the event that brought the Civil War to a close.
Peninsula Fine Arts Center isn't a passive art museum where guests stare silently at paintings and statues. Instead, the center uses rotating exhibitions of paintings, photographs, and pottery to inspire visitors to create their own artwork. To that end, the exhibiting artists often teach in the center's Studio Art School. Classes range from single-day workshops to 10-week sessions, during which instructors might teach small groups to paint with watercolors or change out a flat pottery wheel. The instructors keep their schedule balanced, leading classes that suit all ages and skill levels. Other classes, such as Little Helping Hands Adventure in Clay, let kids and adults create artwork together.
Kids don't need to sign up for classes to try out their art skills, however. In the Hands On for Kids interactive gallery, young patrons draw on a chalkboard wall, build with blocks, and complete various projects inspired by the exhibitions.
Before visitors to the AZA-accredited Virginia Zoo see any of its live animals, a life-size statue of an African elephant greets them. The zoo's 53 acres of landscaped grounds have welcomed new sculptures, enclosures, and eco-friendly innovations in recent decades that build on a 100-year legacy of conservation.
Mammals such as African lions and kangaroos, birds such as rhino hornbills and African crowned cranes, and a variety of snakes and amphibians roam themed habitats—some of which are interactive or equipped with viewing bubbles that protect visitors from any monkeys with paintball guns. Visitors can view these protected creatures by walking or by taking a narrated ride on the Zoo Train, a one-third scale working model of a C.P. Huntington steam engine. Zoo staffers work to preserve 16 of the resident species through cooperative breeding, field projects, and reintroduction initiatives as part of the AZA's Species Survival Programs.
Each year, Virginia Zoo staff and volunteers work together to design and plant 10 themed gardens filled with colorful exotic plants, many of which are given as treats to their 400 animals. In the garden, visitors can learn about composting, using rain barrels, and ticketing littering garden gnomes. Projects, such as recycling old tires into planters and industrial spools into stepping stones, teach children about reuse, too. The zoo also builds on its conservation efforts with an array of environmental conservation programs. Staffers use only natural rainfall and drip irrigation to water the gardens, establish rain gardens to absorb runoff, and educate visitors on environmentally friendly gardening practices in the eco-garden—earning the zoo a designation as a Virginia Green attraction.
The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in Portsmouth showcases 20 varieties of sport in a kid-friendly interactive environment. Spar with offspring in imbibing information about national pastimes such as basketball, baseball, football, soccer, auto racing, and auto racing-soccer. The exhibits focus on game-changing people, moments, and events in collegiate athletics, Olympic contenders, infamous moments, medicine and health, and the media. Admission for children aged 2 and younger is free.
One of the Science Museum of Virginia’s current exhibits includes a few basketball players—just don’t expect LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. These basketball players are two rats, playing a live one-on-one game to demonstrate operant and classical conditioning. Throughout the three-story museum, more hands-on examples of science await at five permanent exhibits. Inspect a rock from the moon, explore a life-size space capsule, and generate energy by pedaling a stationary bike. Kids can even build their own playground with materials such as mats and foam blocks.
Inside the IMAX Dome, a screen 10 times the size of a typical 35 mm screen shows a wide range of educational films. Outside the museum, plants in the BayScapes Garden thrive without pesticide, fertilizer, or the encouragement of a motivational speaker, and an onsite greenhouse offers free planting areas for visitors to contribute greenery and learn about sustainable farming.