Richmond is the capital of Virginia and full of things to do. It's got something to offer everyone - from the river nearby to the art and music scene, here are some unique things to do in Richmond, VA.
As someone who lives in DC, I'm still shocked it's taken this long to write about Richmond! Richmond is just a few hours away from DC and perfect for a weekend trip. After several visits, here are my favorite things to do there that might surprise you!
1. James River Park Pipeline Walkway
Right next to Richmond is the James River. Many of the activities on this list are around that area since it's such a unique feature of the city!
The Pipeline Rapids walkway is first on the list because I have never seen a walking trail like this. The pipeline is an active working pipeline that takes stormwater and other runoff to a holding tank outside Richmond. It's a great spot to watch nature and feel like you're outside the city without leaving.
One entrance is on the riverside of the floodwall, just west of 14th Street. The other entrance takes a little bit of exploring on the eastern edge of the park on Brown's Island. From the parking lot west of 14th Street, you walk to a metal ladder then descend to the metal catwalk atop the pipeline, which offers views of the Pipeline Rapids.
There's also a path to a little beach and in the summer locals will be fishing, swimming, and kayaking down there as well.
When water levels are up, just watching the river rage is enough — sometimes its too loud to hear the person next to you speak. When the river is low, giant granite boulders are exposed. For this reason, you should be careful of water levels and pay attention to the weather before beginning this walk!
Also on view are Bailey’s Island and Devil’s Kitchen Island in the center of the river. These islands host nests of different species of birds.
2. Edgar Allan Poe Museum
Edgar Allen Poe lived in Richmond as a child and this museum commemorates the time he spent living in Richmond. It also holds the world's largest collection of Edgar Allen Poe's original writing, belongings, letters, and more. The museum immerses you in the time period with buildings and gardens that walk you through Edgar Allen Poe's life. There's also a very unique memorial, often covered in lipstick, to Edgar Allen Poe in the garden between buildings.
There are two black cats that live on the property as well that are very friendly! Make sure you say hi to them while there.
Opening Hours today: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
3. Circuit Arcade Bar
Circuit Arcade Bar has over 80 retro and new video games to play, serve yourself beer taps, and food to enjoy. Their collection of 80+ retro and vintage arcade games includes pinball machines, Skeeball lanes, and more, some manufactured as far back as the late 1970s. It really throws you back to being a kid, playing the original games is so much fun!
How does it work? You'll get a card (it can be prepaid or open tab) and you'll use it for pouring beers, they also have tokens for the games. You'll check in when you first arrive and they'll give you all the details on what to do while there.
4. Canal Walk and Murals
Downtown Richmond actually has over 150 murals that you can find throughout the city. My favorites are definitely on the Canal Walk (near the James River Pipeline Walk). This is a unique place for murals in an old industrial building, now part of the larger canal walk. You can see the murals there and continue on your walk along the Canal Walk after.
The entire walk is beautiful and has work from several different artists such as Ham Glass and Chris Milk Hulburt. I recommend starting at 201 Haxall Point and continuing to walk from there.
5. White Water Rafting on the James River
The rapids along the James River in Richmond are a perfect spot for white water rafting and there are two companies that offer these excursions - RVA Paddlesports and Riverside Outfitters. Both have beginner to expert level options.
The rapids right in downtown Richmond are class 3 which means they are mid-level (3/5) and can be challenging! This is not a good spot for those who aren't familiar with kayaking or rafting to go alone, but a fun adventure with a guide!
Rafting with the view of the city and mountains, doesn't get much better!
6. Urban Rock Climbing on the Manchester Bridge Wall
Another unique outdoor adventure is urban rock climbing on the Manchester Bridge Wall. The Manchester Bridge offers rock climbing routes from 30-60′ on granite blocks. The climbs are on stone bridge abutments than can be climbed on the top rope, sport, trad, or mixed. The bridge climbing area offers views of downtown and the James River which are awesome!
The Manchester Bridge Wall is great for individuals trying out climbing and rappelling for the first time, as well as for climbers looking to learn top rope anchors, sport climbing, or self-rescue skills.
This is truly one of the most unique things to do in Richmond, and anywhere in the state!
Check out Blue Ridge Mountain Guides for more info on booking.
7. Movie At The Byrd Theatre
The Byrd Theatre is a movie theater in the Carytown neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia. It was named after William Byrd II, the founder of the city. The theater opened on December 24, 1928, and is still open for movies and events to this day! The theatre is gorgeous and really takes you back in time for a unique movie experience.
Movies are shown almost daily, but check their website for the latest details.
Switch is Richmond's first interactive pop-up cocktail bar. Located in the Arts District, they have a rotation of two different themes - one on the main floor, the other downstairs. They switch them out three to four times a year giving people plenty of time to explore each one as the theme is going.
We went while the theme was Mario Brothers and had a great time trying the themed drinks, games, and food they had to offer! Warning: the drinks here are strong and sweet.
9. Drink Local in Scott's Addition Historic District
Once a bustling industrial area, Scott’s Addition is now the City of Richmond’s fastest-growing neighborhood. Walk around the neighborhood and check out different spots around the neighborhood. With 13 breweries, cideries, meaderies, and distilleries, a bowling alley, barcades, restaurants, shops, and more, there’s always something happening in Scott’s Addition.
It's a great spot for a Saturday afternoon or evening. My favorite spots are The Veil Brewing Company for a drink and ZZQ Texas Barbecue for some incredible Texas-style briscuit.
10. Hang out in the Arts District
Richmond is recognized as the #1 most artistic mid-sized city in America, making the Arts District one of the most unique things to do in Richmond. There are places to shop, eat, view art, hang out, and stay.
All of my favorite hotels are in the Arts District. Graduate Hotel Richmond is a boutique hotel collaboration with hotels in different college towns across the US. Its Ashe-themed hotel is not only stunning but has a rooftop pool and bar perfect for hanging out in the summer. The Quirk Hotel is a well-known spot for its pink and colorful decor nearby as well. They've got a great coffee shop and rooftop bar.
It stretches from the Institute for Contemporary Art on West Broad to the Virginia State Capitol and spans the Monroe Ward and Jackson Ward neighborhoods. The main street to check out is East Broad Street.
Make sure to stop into the many art galleries, stop in a vintage shop or local boutique, and then grab dinner along the way. Saison is a beautiful spot to grab happy hour or eat dinner. Nu Vegan and Nama also offer great vegan options!
11. Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens
Voted as the #4 garden in the US by USA Today, this garden is absolutely stunning. It's one of the most visited places in Richmond, and for good reason! They are the perfect spot for an afternoon stroll on a sunny day.
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens are located just outside Richmond and contain 50 acres of gardens. Some highlights of your visit should include the domed conservatory, Rose garden, and Asian garden. They have a cafe where you can grab a drink and then walk through the gardens.
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Extended evening hours Wednesday & Thursday (May to mid-September) Closed Thanksgiving, Dec. 24-25.
1800 Lakeside Avenue Richmond, Virginia 23228
$18 for adult entry
12. Drinks on the Roof of the Graduate Hotel
The Graduate is located right by VCU, Virginia Commonwealth University, and offers great views on their rooftop. We also enjoyed our Pina Coladas and nachos with pulled chicken - so good! Hotel guests also have access to the rooftop pool located on the other side of the rooftop.
13. Champagne Sunday Brunch at the Jefferson Hotel
Every Sunday, the historic Jefferson Hotel hosts a champagne brunch in their Rotunda, Lounge, and Mezzanine. It's served buffet style, all you can eat and drink for 90 minutes. Not only is the hotel itself beautiful, but the food is delicious! They skimp on nothing here, with food like oysters, crab legs, prime rib, charcuterie, full dessert tables, and more.
We enjoyed our time at the Jefferson, and if you're there on a Sunday, this spot is a must! Make sure you visit if you can and enjoy this amazing food at the Jefferson.
$60 a person
Reservations do sell out, call ahead to reserve! Reservation times are 10:30am, 11:00am, 1:00pm and 1:30pm. Each reservation has a two-hour seating limit.
14. Maymont Gardens and Home
Maymont is a 100-acre historic estate and park located in Richmond with many unique experiences for all to enjoy. The estate and park was originally the home from the Gilded Age showplace of millionaire couple James and Sallie Dooley and has been transformed into a public wonderland that offers unique experiences for all ages.
The gardens are beautiful and have been around for over 100 years, and offer spectacular views. I loved the Italian gardens where I felt transported back to Florence, Italy! The Japanese gardens included a huge, stunning waterfall as well. These gardens are free to visit, but they ask for donations when entering. A tour of the mansion is $8 and is self-guided.
Gardens open Daily 10 am - 7 pm
Home Tours Fri, Sat & Sun; 10 am - 4 pm $8 ages 13-64, $6 ages 3-12 and 65+
You'll love spending time in this Virginia city with so many unique things to do in Richmond.