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Richmond, Fredericksburg and the Northern Neck Travel Guide

  • Photo: Alfred Wekelo / Shutterstock
  • Photo: Peter Guttman/

Plan Your Richmond, Fredericksburg and the Northern Neck Vacation

A host of patriots and presidents have lived and worked in the heart of the Old Dominion, an area that takes in Richmond, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, and the Northern Neck.

Virginia is often called "The Mother of Presidents," since eight of America's leaders, including George Washington, were born here. The birthplaces, boyhood homes, or graves of notable figures

such as George Washington, James Monroe, John Tyler, William Henry Harrison, and Robert E. Lee can be found here, and the area has many associations with other leaders, including Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. William Byrd II named the city Richmond in 1737 because the bend in the James River reminded him of the Thames in Richmond, England. George Washington designed the nation's first canal system here, the Kanawha, and Richmond has been home to many other "firsts," including the first African-American governor in the country, the first hospital, and the South's first television station.

Between Fredericksburg and the Chesapeake Bay is the "Northern Neck," an area attractive to nature lovers, anglers, and boaters. This 90-mi-long peninsula has a 1,200 mi total shoreline and is bathed on three sides by the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers, and the mighty Chesapeake Bay. Settled by Europeans more than 300 years ago, the Northern Neck is the birthplace of presidents George Washington, James Monroe, and James Madison, as well as General Robert E. Lee and Washington's mother, Mary Ball.

The Northern Neck peninsula is as unspoiled today as when Captain John Smith first visited in 1608. Even at the peninsula's start, the area is forested and tranquil. You can find charming B&Bs; fresh-off-the-boat seafood; excursion boats to islands in the Chesapeake Bay; historic homes and museums; and places to commune with nature.

The sites below are listed in geographical order beginning at the intersection of routes 3 and 301. Though it's unusual that three presidents' birthplaces are in such proximity, those of James Madison and James Monroe are just markers off the highway, whereas Washington's is a national monument. A marker on Highway 301 in Port Conway, King George County, memorializes the onetime plantation where James Madison was born in 1751; an outline of the house and a marker in neighboring Westmoreland County identifies the birthplace of James Monroe, born in 1758, on Highway 205 between Oak Grove and Colonial Beach.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Soak Up Art from around the World After a massive expansion that doubled its exhibition space, Richmond's Virginia Museum of Fine Arts welcomes visitors to the new James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Wing. Spectacular expanses of glass allow natural light to pour in, and also give visitors stunning views of the new E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden and Mary Morton Parsons Plaza.
  2. Experience the Civil War Sesquicentennial Richmond, with more Civil War battlefields than any other state, will see a host of special events and educational programs running through 2015, emphasizing the experiences and effects of the war on the nation.
  3. Contemplate Colonial Design and Revolutionary History Patrick Henry delivered his fiery "give me liberty or give me death" speech at historic St. John's Church in Richmond, and several gems of Colonial art and architecture survive at the working river plantations of Stratford Hall, Shirley, and Berkeley.
  4. Visit Presidents of the Past Tour the boyhood homes, birthplaces, and final resting places of several U.S. presidents. George Washington grew up on Ferry Farm on the Northern Neck, home to the George Washington Birthplace National Monument, and Thomas Jefferson spent some of his boyhood years at Tuckahoe Plantation in Richmond. William Henry Harrison was born at Berkeley Plantation, and James Madison, James Monroe, and John Tyler are buried in Hollywood Cemetery.
  5. Explore the Virginia Wine Trail With more than 160 wineries throughout the state, Virginia is on the oenophile radar and is considered a top wine region for travelers. The Heart of Virginia Wine Trail is a group of four Virginia Wineries located near Richmond, including Cooper Vineyards, Grayhaven Winery, James River Cellars Winery, and Lake Anna Winery.

When To Go

When to Go to Richmond, Fredericksburg, and the Northern Neck

Richmond's mild climate welcomes visitors year-round. Since Virginia Commonwealth University is spread throughout the downtown area, traffic is m...

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Travel Tips

Richmond, Fredericksburg and the Northern Neck Travel Tips

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