The state capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia takes the slogan from the state website seriously – Virginia is for Lovers – both for lovers of history and for lovers of unbelievably good deals. The city of Richmond is home to a lot of historic sites from the American Revolution, to the Civil War, even up to World War II. Even better, most of these tourist destinations are surprisingly cheap, if not free, for the public.
Before you get your traveling bags packed and your next flight to Virginia booked, first check these 10 things you should know about Richmond, Virginia.
- Free Guided Tours at the Virginia State Capitol
The heart of the state government also houses the oldest legislative body in North America, the Virginia General Assembly, which traces its origins as the House of Burgesses back in 1619. The Palladian and Early Republic architectural marvel’s biggest claim to fame is that it was designed by Thomas Jefferson – better known as one of the United States’ Founding Fathers as well as its third president.
Tourists can join any of the free guided tours and learn about its origins, design, and other interesting tidbits of trivia. Afterward, feel free to stroll and take photos of the grounds and gardens. Also, Capitol Square, which surrounds the Capitol Building, is home to monuments dedicated to notable children of the state of Virginia who have gone on and made history such as the aforementioned Thomas Jefferson, and writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe.
- Old-Timey Cinema Feels at the Byrd Theatre
This cinema in the Carytown neighborhood of Richmond first opened its doors to the public in 1928 and has retained the same old ambiance until today. The establishment follows a French Empire design with the orchestra and balcony seating areas and includes crystal chandeliers, imported Turkish and Italian marbles, and oil- on- canvas murals inspired by events in the Greek mythology.
Enjoy the feel of watching in an old cinema but with modern and recently released movies for only two dollars.
- Take the family for an eco- friendly afternoon at the James River Park System
The JRPS covers 550 hectares of area along the James River. Visitors can take go hiking, biking, or horseback riding along 15 miles of trails. Better yet, there is a wheelchair-accessible trail available along Green Hill Pond. For those interested in a quiet yet challenging experience, go fishing at either the fishing ponds or even along the length of James River itself. There are also six picnic shelters and seven more picnic areas in the open space in the park for the family to rest and recuperate. Should a single afternoon be insufficient, there are also cabins and lodges available for visitors.
During the month of May, the JRPS hosts the Dominion Riverrock, an annual outdoor lifestyle festival with a variety of activities, booths, live music, and activities for guests of all ages to enjoy.
- Visit the church witness to the birth of American Independence
While this entry in the list is a church, it draws tourists mostly for historical reasons. Recalling American History, St. John’s Episcopal Church is the very church is where Patrick Henry, considered as one of the Founding Fathers, declared the immortal words “Give me liberty, or give me death!” The church graveyard is also the eternal resting place of Edgar Allan Poe’s mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe. George Wythe, a noted scholar, Virginia judge, and a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, also rests here.
During the United States’ commemoration of Memorial Day to Labor Day, St. John’s Episcopal Church also hosts a re-enactment of the Second Virginia Convention which definitely features Patrick Henry’s historic words. Admission for children below seven years old is free, and about six to eight dollars to visitors above seven years old.
- Relive the life and times of Edgar Allan Poe in his own Museum
This museum dedicated to the famed American author is located in the Shockoe Bottom section of Richmond. The museum showcases one of the largest collections of Poe’s original, signed manuscripts, first editions of his works as they appeared in the newspapers of the day, as well as some of his personal belongings both from his childhood and later on in life.
Aside from the life and times of “The Raven” author, tourists are also given a glimpse of early 19th century Richmond with its dioramas and artworks, serving to better illustrate the environment where Poe lived, worked, and started his writings.
- Be the Black Sheep at the Black Sheep
One of the most famous restaurants in the United States, the Black Sheep made history with its tasty and seriously massive battleship sandwiches. Dive in and eat your fill in this hip, intimate Southern restaurant which offers authentic southern and Cajun-inspired dishes. Moreover, they have also updated their menus to include greener and friendlier options. A tip for the traveler, never order anything tagged “whole” in their menu, unless you have three or four friends to help you clean it up.
- Relive the notable events at the Virginia Historical Society
Found in Richmond’s aptly named Museum District, the Virginia Historical Society is home to a breathtakingly large collection of the state’s Civil War history – photographs, newspaper clippings, books, family records, business transactions, and even sheet music copies. For museum enthusiasts who are quite particular with the Civil War era, this site is definitely one of the must-see attractions in Richmond, Virginia.
Aside from the Civil War exhibit, tourists may also find a variety of displays on the state’s natural history, the native inhabitants of the area, as well as famous Virginians in different fields.
The Historical Society also hosts exclusive member-only events, lectures, and classes held by noted university professors, as well as family and youth activities for everyone to enjoy.
One of the main selling points of the Virginia Historical Society is that admission is free, allowing more and more visitors to come and appreciate the exhibits it offers. Take note, however, that special exhibits might require a small admission fee that, based on the reviews, is definitely worth it.