Unique Fun and Cool Things to Do in Richmond VA

Updated on March 25, 2024 by Julie McCool

Discover unique, fun, and cool things to do in Richmond VA, plus great places to eat, drink, and stay with our getaway guide to Virginia's cool capital city. Whether you're planning a family trip or a romantic weekend getaway, you'll find fun Richmond attractions and activities on our list.

Virginia's mid-sized capital city offers a beautiful combination of natural adventure and urban fun spread across unique neighborhoods. From urban hikes to food and brews to history, museums, art, and shopping, you'll find it in Richmond. In fact, Southern Living included Richmond on its list of The South's Best Cities 2023, and Food and Wine named the city a “Culinary Powerhouse.”

Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate links. We will make a small commission from these links if you order something, at no additional cost to you.

The only challenge you'll encounter on a Richmond VA getaway is fitting all the tempting sites, food, and fun into a few days. Fear not. Since Richmond is only two hours (or less) from the Northern Virginia, Washington DC area, you can happily return for a Virginia day trip or longer getaway.

Read on for top things to do in Richmond VA, Richmond restaurants, and Richmond hotels (or click the link to jump ahead).

Unique and Fun Things to Do In Richmond VA

Here are more than 25 of the best places to visit in Richmond Virginia that we have enjoyed during many visits to the city. Destinations and activities are grouped based on interest and include outdoor activities, historic sites, art museums, cool neighborhoods, places to eat and drink, and great places to stay in downtown Richmond.

Greetings from Richmond Virginia mural
Greetings from Richmond Virginia Mural

James River Park Trails in Richmond VA

The Jamer River Park System is a collection of riverfront trails, rapids, meadows, and forests along the James River. The system includes some very cool trails in downtown Richmond plus places to paddle, bike, climb, or just kick back at an outdoor event.

The beautiful James River, a historic canal, and an abundance of bridges provide a sweet, gritty backdrop to outdoor adventures. Riverfront walks are our favorite things to do with kids in Richmond because they keep everyone active and engaged.

Belle Isle and Suspension Bridge

The second-largest island in the James River, Belle Isle is a great spot to hike, mountain bike, and rock climb. In warmer months, Belle Isle is a fun place to watch kayaks and rafts shoot the Hollywood Rapids. You can wade near the rocks, but the current is not safe for swimming.

Walk the 1,040-foot-long Belle Isle Suspension Bridge under the Lee Bridge and getting there is part of the fun. The suspended footbridge is also a great place to watch the sunset in Richmond as the glow lights up the skyline (see our short Richmond sunset video).

Walking on the Belle Isle Suspension Bridge is one of the cool things to do in Richmond Virginia
Belle Isle Suspension Bridge

Once on Belle Isle, hike the 1-mile trail around the island to see the remains of a power plant and a Confederate gun emplacement and learn about the notorious Civil War prison camp here. The Belle Isle Trail passes flat rocks near the river that are a popular spot to hang out and watch the rapids.

T Tyler Potterfield Bridge

The .3-mile-long T Tyler Potterfield Bridge (aka T Pott) is fun during the day and evening. On a summer day, the bridge offers a great view of people swimming, kayaking, and rafting in the James River. On the south side of the river, you can watch rock climbers training on the Manchester Wall. You're sure to see joggers and cyclists as you make your way across the T Pott.

T Tyler Potterfield Bridge over the James River in Richmond Virginia
T Tyler Potterfield Bridge over the James River in Richmond Virginia

The bridge begins with a history lesson. The installation “Three Days in April” tells of the fall of Richmond during the Civil War. In the evening, clusters of light tubes add a slightly alien look to the scene. The bridge is always open, and it's one of the best things to do in Richmond VA at night. It's also a perfect spot to watch a beautiful sunrise or sunset over the river.

T Pott Bridge at night, Richmond VA
T Pott Bridge at Night

Brown's Island

On the north side of the river, cross the bridge over the Haxall Canal to Brown's Island. The island is a  popular spot for special events and concerts in Richmond. It is also the start of the T Pott Bridge and the Canal Walk.

Canal bridges to Brown's Island Richmond Virginia
Canal Bridges to Brown's Island

Emancipation and Freedom Monument

In 2021, Richmond unveiled a powerful new sculpture on Brown's Island. The Emancipation and Freedom Monument includes two 12-foot bronze statues of “a man, woman, and infant newly freed from slavery.”

The Emancipation and Freedom Monument in Richmond Virginia shows a man, woman, and infant newly freed from slavery.
Emancipation and Freedom Monument

Richmond was the largest source of enslaved Africans on the east coast of America from 1830 to 1860. Learn more on the Richmond Slave Trail, which connects former port and slave markets

Riverfront Canal Walk

The 1.25-mile Riverfront Canal Walk is marked with interesting medallions, statues, and exhibits that highlight the area's role through four centuries of Richmond's history. The Canal Walk is one of the best outdoor family things to do in Richmond VA with lots to see.

Riverfront Canal Walk in Richmond VA
Canal Walk Richmond

When you reach the old Power Plant near 11th Street, you'll see fantastic murals created during the RVA Street Art Fest.

Colorful Canal Walk Murals at the Power Plant in Richmond Virginia
Canal Walk Murals Richmond

The Canal Walk follows the James River and Kanawha Canal through the Shockoe Slip neighborhood. You'll pass below the railroad lines at Triple Crossing. Richmond is the only city in the world with a triple main-line railroad crossing still in operation.

Be sure to stop at the monument to Henry “Box” Brown. When Henry's wife and three children were sold away, he made a desperate journey to freedom in a tiny box.

Want to see the canal from a different perspective? Take a narrated, 40-minute Riverfront Canal Cruise for many of the Canal Walk highlights. Or book a highly-rated guided Richmond Walking Tour with Viator.

Pipeline Walkway

After many attempts, we finally found our way to the Richmond Pipeline Walkway and it's amazing. If you're looking for unique things to do in Richmond VA, the Pipeline should be top of your list. It's short and a little gritty, but so cool!

The Pipeline Walkway is a metal catwalk above the James River and is one of the best things to do in Ricmond Virginia.
Pipeline Walkway Richmond VA

The Pipeline Walkway is a catwalk on top of a huge stormwater pipe over the James River. From the catwalk, you'll see the Pipeline Rapids and James River below your feet. You may also hear (and feel) a train on the railroad tracks above you as we did.

To reach the Pipeline Walkway, walk through the door cutouts in the Flood Wall from the E. Bird Street parking lot. Turn left and look for the steps down to a steel ladder on your right. You can also reach the Pipeline from Brown's Island but the area looked sketchy to us.

Virginia Capital Trail

The Canal Walk ends at the floodwall, but if you continue through the door you'll reach the Virginia Capital Trail. This 52-mile dedicated, paved bike trail runs from Richmond to Jamestown along the Route 5 corridor.

Richmond is Virginia’s current capital, and Jamestown was its first, so the trail is well named. Rent a bike from Richmond Bike Share, which has 20 stations around town.

Virginia Capital Trail Richmond Virginia
Virginia Capital Trail Richmond Virginia

Boating and Swimming in Downtown Richmond

Riverside Outfitters runs an outpost near Brown’s Island that rents kayaks and SUPs in the summer. You can also swim in the river from Tredegar Beach, at the edge of Brown's Island.

James River fun on and in the water Richmond VA
James River Richmond VA

This is a nice calm area for kids to splash around as long as you don't venture out into the main flow. Also note that swimming is prohibited if the water level reaches 9 feet, and life jackets are required at 5 feet and up. Also, avoid swimming after heavy rains as run-off can mean unsafe bacteria levels.

Explore a Richmond Neighborhood

Richmond is full of unique neighborhoods, many of them connected by driving and walking trails that highlight history.

  • Shockoe Slip is one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, where restaurants, bars, and shops line the cobblestone streets. Much of the Canal Walk is in Shockoe Slip.
  • Shockoe Bottom is another historic neighborhood (just east of the slip) with shops, dining, and historic sites like the Poe Museum.
  • Visit the Church Hill neighborhood for Historic St. John's Church (info below) and great views from Libbie Hill Park (a nice sunset spot).
  • Drive or walk through the Fan District to see beautiful 19th and 20th-century architecture on quiet residential streets. At the eastern end, Monroe Park is a popular hangout for VCU students.
  • At the western edge of the Fan, Carytown, aka “The Mile with Style,” is a fun street lined with quirky shops and tasty food.
  • Jackson Ward, a National Landmark Historic District, was one of the most important black neighborhoods in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Stop at Broad and Brook Streets to learn about Maggie L. Walker, a leader in the African-American community and the first female bank president (of any race) in the US.
  • If you're looking for great breweries in Richmond VA, the Scotts Addition neighborhood has you covered. It's just west of the Children's Museum of Virginia and the Science Museum of Virginia, two of the best places to go in Richmond with kids.
Maggie Lena Ward statue Jackson Ward Richmond VA
Maggie Lena Ward Statue, Jackson Ward

Richmond neighborhoods host special weekend events throughout the year. For example, enjoy carriage rides and performances in the Court End neighborhood each December.

Virginia State Capitol

The Virginia State Capitol was designed by Thomas Jefferson in the Monumental Classical style. A 2007 renovation added an underground Visitors Center on the south side of the square where you enter the building.

Virginia State Capitol, Richmond VA
Virginia State Capitol, Richmond VA

Visitors can explore the Virginia Capitol on their own or join a scheduled tour. Don't miss the life-size marble statue of George Washington surrounded by busts of 7 other Virginia-born presidents and Lafayette under the beautiful rotunda.

Be sure to visit the Virginia Women's Monument on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol. 12 statues depict women from throughout Virginia's history.

12 Statues at the Virginia Women's Monument in Richmond VA depict women from famous and lesser-known women from throughout the state.
Virginia Women's Monument Richmond

Poe Museum

One of the more unique places to visit in historic Richmond VA is the Poe Museum. The museum honors the life of Richmond native and beloved author Edgar Allan Poe. Displays include the largest collection of Poe manuscripts, personal belongings, artifacts, and memorabilia in the world.

Poe Museum bust Richmond Virginia
Poe Museum Bust Richmond Virginia

Upstairs in the Exhibit House, you can take a selfie “under the floorboards” of The Tell-Tale Heart or behind the bricks of The Black Cat. The Poe Museum hosts monthly “Unhappy Hours” and other special events, and the shop has some great Poe-inspired gifts. Poe fans on a Richmond getaway can book a room at the Linden Row Inn where Poe played as a child.

St. John's Church

One of the most important historical sites in Richmond VA, St. John's Church, is located in the Church Hill neighborhood. This is the site of Patrick Henry's famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech to delegates at the Second Virginia Convention including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

St John's Church Richmond Virginia
St John's Church Richmond Virginia

Guided tours of St John's Church, led by costumed interpreters, explain the ideas and Virginia events that led to the American Revolution. You can also tour the graveyard on a self-guided tour or with a guide. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, re-enactors bring the famous speech to life every Sunday afternoon.

Re-enactors at St Johns Church Richmond Virginia
Re-enactors at St Johns Church

Visit St. James and other historic Richmond sites on the 6.2-mile Richmond Liberty Trail, marked on the sidewalk with a blue logo.

American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar

Two historic Richmond sites are located near Brown's Island and the start of the Canal Walk. The American Civil War Museum presents the events and ideas that drove the Civil War before, during, and after the conflict. The site also preserves the Tredegar Iron Works, one of the largest and best-equipped foundries in the nation.

American Civil War Museum Richmond VA
American Civil War Museum

Visitors can also tour the nearby White House of the Confederacy. This National Historic Landmark was the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, his family, and 12 to 15 of their enslaved workers.

Hollywood Cemetery

Two US presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler, are buried at historic Hollywood Cemetery. This is also the resting place of Jefferson Davis and 18,000 Confederate soldiers, many of them reinterred here after a hasty burial at Gettysburg. There's a wonderful view of the James River and Richmond skyline from the western side of the cemetery.

Virginia Museum of History and Culture

The Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond Virginia
Virginia History and Culture Museum

The Virginia Museum of History and Culture packs a lot of interesting artifacts and stories into its galleries. We particularly enjoyed the Story of Virginia exhibit, which highlights the history of different regions of the state. Temporary exhibits encourage return visits. For example, there was an excellent Apollo exhibit with interactive elements during our visit

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Richmond
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts opened in 1936, defying the difficult times of the Depression with a commitment to the value of public art. Years of careful acquisition and expansion have created a 13.5-acre campus with impressive collections of Art Deco and Art Nouveau, American, European, Asian, and African-American art.

Tip: The glass-walled Best Cafe has a great view of the Sculpture Garden and a nice patio for warm days.

Institute of Contemporary Art

You'll find an edgier collection at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Richmond. Rotating exhibitions occupy two floors and encourage contemplation and discussion. During our visit, a giant mural in the lobby displayed quotes collected from barbershops around the city. Exhibits change so follow the link for details on what you'll see during your visit.

Richmond Murals: a Street Art Lovers Dream

A painting of a woman stretches across a block-long building in the Float Mural on Broad St in Richmond Virginia
Float Mural Broad St Richmond

You could spend days exploring the vibrant murals that decorate buildings throughout the city of Richmond. From the huge to the hidden, in every mood and style, murals seem to pop up on every block. The Richmond Mural Project is your best guide to finding particular murals, or you can just wander the neighborhoods and streets and see what you discover.

Shopping in Richmond VA

Walk and shop the trendy stores on Broad Street in downtown Richmond. Stop in at Charm School for a tasty ice cream treat when you need a break. Or head to neighborhoods like Carytown for more eclectic local shops. We loved hunting for hidden treasure at Class and Trash in the Scotts Addition neighborhood.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

USA Today readers voted the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden one of the top four gardens in North America, and it's definitely one of the best gardens in Virginia. 50 acres of gardens house an array of themed areas that offer beauty and fun to visitors of every age.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden tulips and Conservatory, Richmond Virginia
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Conservatory, Richmond VA

Lewis Ginter is also home to one of the best holiday light shows in Virginia when the Gardenfest of Lights sparkles with more than one million lights.


The Victorian country estate at Maymont is a beautifully preserved example of Gilded Age luxury. Visitors can explore the estate's beautiful parkland and gardens and tour the opulent Mansion. Before your tour, learn about the life of the servants and their work “belowstairs”.

Elaborately decorated swan bedroom at Maymont
Swan Bedroom at Maymont

During the holiday season, Maymont is decorated for a Victorian Christmas, reflecting the lavish sparkle and gifts of the 1890s.

Agecroft Hall

Agecroft Hall is a 15th-century manor house that was moved to Richmond from Lancashire, England, by businessman T.C. Williams Jr.  Join a house tour, then visit the lovely Elizabethan gardens that surround the house. Agecroft also decorates for the holidays each December.

Great Local Restaurants in Richmond VA

Richmond has a thriving restaurant scene, with tasty options for every budget and palette. National Geographic named the city one of the top six places for food travelers in 2016. Here is a selection of casual and fine dining Richmond restaurants we have enjoyed.

Kuba Kuba interior Richmond Virginia
Kuba Kuba, Richmond Virginia

Casual Restaurants in Richmond

  • Kuba Kuba in the Fan District serves delicious Cuban flavors in a funky, casual space. Our favorite pick is the Pork Roast Omelet packed with slow-roasted pork.
  • Perly's Deli, in the Broad Street Arts District, is an award-winning Jewish deli with a cool retro vibe.
  • Parterre, on the main floor of the Linden Row Inn, made the New York Times list of places to go in 2020. Order the roasted brussel sprouts—the best we have ever eaten.
  • Lillie Pearl is one of a string of restaurants by Chef Michael Lindsey. Excellent American fare and great service make this a popular lunch or dinner spot. We loved the crabcake and fries!
  • Lunch. or Supper! is a fun and funky diner on Summit Ave. Try the tasty shrimp and grits or the fried catfish.
  • TJs is the place to start your day when you're staying at The Jefferson Hotel.
  • Capital Ale House offers a big line-up of Virginia brews and a good pub menu.
Lunch or Supper! Richmond Virginia
Lunch or Supper! Richmond Virginia

Finer Dining in Richmond VA

  • Lemaire is one of the best fine dining restaurants in Richmond. The restaurant is located in The Jefferson, a historic hotel you must visit (scroll down for details). The dishes have a modern flair, and we highly recommend the Scallops with red corn grits and black garlic cream.
  • Vagabond serves Southern comfort food near the State Capital and The National theater. Their downstairs speakeasy features live entertainment, including jazz on Wednesdays.
Scallops at Lemaire in Richmond VA
Scallops at Lemaire in Richmond VA

Take-Out and Counter Restaurants in Richmond

  • Sub Rosa Bakery on Church Hill is a great stop for fresh baked goods.
  • Stella's Grocery is a casual spot to pick up a meal in the Scott's Addition neighborhood. They offer seating inside and on the porch if you want to eat on site.
  • The Cubano sandwich at Urban Farmhouse Market & Cafe is great and they have multiple locations in Richmond.

Richmond Rooftop Bars

If you're looking for fun things to do in Richmond VA for couples, head to one of the rooftop bars. You can relax with a cocktail and enjoy the city lights sparkling at night.

Q rooftop bar at Quirk Hotel in Richmond VA'
Q Rooftop Bar, Quirk Hotel Richmond VA

Craft Breweries in Richmond VA

The Richmond Beer Trail includes more than 30 Virginia craft breweries in the Richmond area. You'll find a great collection of Richmond breweries in the Scott’s Addition neighborhood including Ardent, Vasen, The Veilhyt, Blue Bee Cider, and Hardywood Park. We're a little obsessed with Ardent's Sweet Potato and Sage seasonal beer!

Delicious Sweet Potato and Sage Beer at Ardent Craft Brewing in Richmond VA
Ardent Craft Brewing

In downtown Richmond, Triple Crossing Beer on Foushee Street has a small deck that's a nice spot on a warm evening. Their newer location in Fulton has a much larger tasting room and a huge patio.

Where to Stay in Downtown Richmond VA

Like any city, there are many hotels in Richmond VA to choose from. We recommend the downtown Richmond hotels if you plan to explore the riverfront. The area between Broad Street and the river is very walkable, though you will be walking uphill from the river. Here are three great places to stay in downtown Richmond.

The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, Virginia

The Jefferson is a great choice for a romantic weekend getaway in Richmond VA. The beautifully renovated Gilded Age masterpiece offers sumptuous rooms in an excellent location. On-site dining and bars, an indoor pool, and beautiful areas like the Palm Court and Rotunda Lobby are perfect places to escape from cold or rainy weather.

Palm Courty of the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond Virginia
Palm Court of the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond Virginia

Read our full review of The Jefferson Hotel and find more luxury lodging in our guide to Historic Hotels in Virginia and the mid-Atlantic.

The holidays are a special time to visit The Jefferson when a huge Christmas tree and elaborate decorations fill the public areas. Stop in for tea, enjoy free concerts, and take a photo of the ribbon-draped alligators. The festivities continue throughout downtown making Richmond one of the best Christmas towns in Virginia to celebrate the holidays.

Christmas Tree and Holiday Decorations at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond Virginia
Holiday at The Jefferson Hotel

Book an elegant Grand Premier Guest Room and you'll have room to relax with a comfortable king bed, separate sitting area, and spacious marble bath. The Jefferson is one of the most beautiful historic hotels in Virginia and a fabulous base for a Richmond VA getaway.

Check reviews and availability at The Jefferson now.

Linden Row Inn

Another of our favorite romantic hotels in Virginia is the historic Linden Row Inn. If you're planning a Richmond getaway for adults and you want maximum comfort, Linden Row Inn is an excellent choice.

Parlor Room 222 at Linden Row Inn, one of the most romantic places to stay in Richmond VA
Linden Row Inn Parlor Rm 222

Choose from 70 elegant rooms and suites that feature plush beds and period details. For maximum romance, book one of the huge Parlor Suites with soaring 12-foot ceilings and spacious living rooms. We have stayed in two of the Parlor Suites and they were both gorgeous!

Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Richmond

The Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown is a more casual, and still centrally-located base for a Richmond stay. The hotel opened in 2016 in a former office tower that also houses a new Homewood Suites. Our corner room was spacious, bright, and very comfortable with a king-size bed, large desk, couch, and expansive windows offering excellent views of the city.

Spacious Room at Hampton Inn & Suites Richmond Virginia
Spacious Room at Hampton Inn & Suites Richmond Virginia

The lobby area includes plenty of seating and a breakfast area. Be sure to enjoy a cocktail and impressive city and river views at the rooftop bar. The Hampton Inn & Suites location was perfect for all of our exploring, and the comfy quiet room let us recharge for the next day's wanderings.

Find more Richmond VA attractions and activities at the Visit Richmond website and follow them on Facebook for the latest Richmond events and news.

We first stayed in Richmond in the mid-1990s, and the city was dramatically different when we returned in 2017, and for many visits since then. There are so many fun and unique things to do in Richmond VA with new venues opening all the time. If you love food, beer, history, art, shopping, and urban outdoor adventures, plan a Richmond getaway to Virginia's hip capital city.

Follow Fun in Fairfax VA on FacebookPinterestInstagram | Threads | Twitter 

Visit Richmond hosted portions of our visits to Richmond, Virginia. As always, all opinions, text, and photos are our own.

Discover unique and fun things to do in Richmond VA plus cool places to eat, drink, and stay with our getaway guide to Virginia's capital city. 
Best Things to Do in Richmond VA
Fun things to do in Richmond VA include urban hikes; food and brews; history, museums, and street art.