As one of the United States’ earliest settlements, Richmond could be called a foundry of modern America: throughout its history, it has harbored the American Revolution, the capital of the Confederacy, and Edgar Allen Poe, to name a few. The modern-day roster of things to do in Richmond reflects the city’s storied past. Visitors can sit where George Washington and Thomas Jefferson sat when Patrick Henry delivered the speech that exploded into a revolution at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Back when it was his personal estate, Thomas Jefferson also frequented the halls of the White House of the Confederacy, which now bears reminders of its time as the government’s headquarters. Nearby, the Museum of the Confederacy pays tribute to the Civil War with exhibits displaying uniforms, flags, and soldiers’ personal effects.
The Maymont Victorian Mansion evokes a different aspect of Richmond’s past—the splendor of the Gilded Age. The former home of millionaires James and Sallie Dooley, it wows visitors with opulent flourishes, such as the colossal Tiffany Studios stained glass window that overlooks the grand staircase. But the real story lies beneath the stairs. This is where a large staff of servants lived and worked to keep the mansion pristine. By examining the period kitchen, expansive wine cellar, and modest servants’ quarters, today’s visitors can get a glimpse of the workers’ lives.
To steep in Richmond’s rich culture, visitors can stop by the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, which pays homage to one of the nation’s most ubiquitous authors. Since 1922, the Old Stone House has guarded Poe’s manuscripts, letters, and belongings in a structure located just a stone’s throw from his first Richmond home. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was unveiled 14 years later—at the height of the Great Depression—as a vote of confidence for the arts in a no-frills era. Explore its bounty of paintings by Poussin and Monet, the works of American masters, or natural splendor visible from the Atrium. The shopping district of Carytown, on the other hand, delivers distinctly contemporary artistry in the form of locally owned boutiques, specialty stores, and restaurants.
Carytown’s restaurants give just a snapshot of what modern-day Richmond cuisine has to offer. The city’s chefs tout southern comfort food, often infused with fresh-caught crab and halibut, as the basis of the menus at Julep’s and Millie’s Diner, which garnishes its gourmet plates with 1940s décor. Alternatively, 3rd Street Diner’s 1926 coffeehouse honors the American diner tradition with steak ‘n’ eggs, bacon cheeseburgers, and club sandwiches.
After hours of leisurely walks, visitors can feel the wind in their hair at Kings Dominion. The amusement park boasts heart-pumping thrill rides such as the Intimidator 305 rollercoaster, as well as Dinosaur’s Alive!, an animatronic dinosaur park inhabited by 36 prehistoric creatures. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden grants a taste of the outdoors year-round, since its most exotic plants reside in the domed conservatory. But in nicer weather, garden goers roam the rest of its 50 acres, which include more than 12 themed gardens.
The city’s first theater opened in 1786, and the stage has been important to Richmond ever since.