About This Place
If Virginia is for lovers, then Richmond is for lovers of history. Like a visit to Washington, D.C., which lies just a two-hour drive to the north, Richmond tourism centers on all things historical. The city got its name from local land holder William Byrd II, who founded the settlement in 1737. He thought the James River’s distinctive curve resembled the Thames, so he named the city after England’s Richmond. Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death,” imperative was proclaimed at St. John’s Church here in 1775. Richmond became Virginia’s capital in 1780.
Richmond was the birthplace of eight presidents, including the nation’s first, and served as capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. The city’s abundant historic sites are especially attractive to Civil War buffs—they should not miss a trip to Hollywood Cemetery, the final resting place of Rebel General Jeb Stuart, 20 of his counterparts and another 18,000 Southern soldiers. Once the locale of the South’s biggest hospital (now the Chimborazo Medical Museum), Richmond National Battlefield Park is an ideal jumping-off point for exploring fields like Cold Harbor and Fort Harrison on a tour that covers 97 miles.
No trip to Richmond is complete without taking in its historic homes and mansions. The Harrisons (of President William Henry Harrison) called Berkeley Plantation home. The John Marshall House provides a glimpse into the life of the influential former chief justice of the Supreme Court. Family-oriented Maymont estate includes a Japanese garden, an array of children’s activities and a museum bursting with the ornate. Jefferson and Washington were guests at Wilton House, which began its life south of Richmond but was moved (piece by piece) nearer to the James in the early 1930s.
Richmond tourism is not limited to battlefields and mansions, although the aura of the past remains a strong influence. Downtown Richmond is a vibrant place where the old and the new dance in unison to create a friendly and safe city center. Shopping reflects this contrast, from antique stores like the multi-stalled Antique Village to the more highbrow Shockoe Slip area and eclectic Carytown. Catch a Broadway show at Richmond CentreStage and admire works by Degas and Van Gogh at the nearby Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Among local restaurants, diner-style eats are the most popular fare, but the gourmet is not neglected. Millie’s Dinner is famous for Sunday brunch and robust omelets, and Bev’s on Cary Street is the place to cool the palate with a bowl of sweet ice cream. Foodies should call ahead to save a table at the popular Old Original Bookbinders, an urbanized warehouse space known for delectable crab cakes and steaks.
When the time comes to call it a day while visiting Richmond, lodging ranges from historic buildings like the Greek Revival Linden Row Inn to modern hotels. Wyndham Virginia Crossings Hotel and Conference Center, located 10 miles from downtown, is popular with solo travelers and large groups.