58 Best Sights in Richmond, Fredericksburg and the Northern Neck, Virginia

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

From 1904 to 1934, this restored 28-room brick building was the home of a pioneering African-American businesswoman and educator whose endeavors included banking, insurance, and establishing a newspaper called The St. Luke Herald. Visitors can take a 45-minute tour of the house and watch a movie about her accomplishments.

600 N. 2nd St., Richmond, VA, 23219, USA
804-771–2017
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Mon.–Sat. 9–5, Closed Sun. and Mon.

Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library

After leaving Reedville on Route 360, turn left on Route 200 and drive 13 miles to Kilmarnock. Turn right on Route 3 and drive to the little town of Lancaster, the birthplace of Mary Ball. Lancaster House, a four-building complex honoring George Washington's mother, was built about 1798, and contains Washington family memorabilia and historic items related to the county and the Northern Neck. The Steuart-Blakemore Building houses a genealogical library, and the Old Jail is a lending library and archives.

8346 Mary Ball Rd., Lancaster, VA, 22503, USA
804-462–7280
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $3 museum house and grounds; $5 library, Wed.–Fri. 10–4; library Tues.–Sat. 10–4, Closed Sun.–Tues.

Mary Washington Grave and Monument

A 40-foot granite obelisk, dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in 1894, marks the final resting place of George's mother. It was laid at "Meditation Rock" on her daughter's property, where Mrs. Washington liked to read.

1598 Washington Ave. at Pitt St., Fredericksburg, VA, 22401, USA

Recommended Fodor's Video

Mary Washington House

Historic District

George purchased a three-room cottage for his mother in 1772 for £225, renovated it, and more than doubled its size with additions. She spent the last 17 years of her life here, tending the garden where her original boxwoods still flourish today, and where many a bride and groom now exchange their vows. The home has been a museum since 1930. Inside, displays include Mrs. Washington's "best dressing glass," a silver-over-tin mirror in a Chippendale frame; her teapot; Washington family dinnerware; and period furniture. The kitchen, in a rather lopsided wooden house surrounded by the gardens, and its spit, are still the original structures. Tours begin on the back porch with a history of the house.

Maymont

On this 100-acre Victorian estate, one can explore the lavish Maymont House museum, a carriage collection, and elaborate Italian and Japanese gardens. A true family attraction, Maymont's complex includes the Nature Visitor Center, native wildlife exhibits, and a children's farm. Kids love the pair of playful otters in the aquarium and the waterfall above the Japanese garden. A Bald Eagle Habitat and Raptor Valley are popular additions to the wildlife areas of the park. Take the hop-on, hop-off tram for $3 to see this huge park and its exhibits. Guided mansion tours are on the hour and half hour until 4:30 pm. A café is open for lunch. Carriage rides are also available for $15.

2201 Shields Lake Dr., Richmond, VA, 23220, USA
804-358–7166
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Grounds Apr.–Oct., daily 10–7; Nov.–Mar., daily 10–5. Mansion, nature center, and barn Tues.–Sun. noon–5, Mansion and nature center closed Mon.

Meadow Farm

This living-history complex has programs, exhibits, and interpretive demonstrations of the life and culture on a working farm in 1860. On weekends, costumed interpreters work in the fields, the barns, the doctor's office, the blacksmith forge, and the farmhouse, offering a glimpse into the daily activities of original owner Dr. John Mosby Sheppard and his family. Special activities for children include storytelling days, Civil War lantern tours, and harvest-picking parties. To boot, these programs are free.

3400 Mountain Rd., Glen Allen, VA, 23060, USA
804-501–5520
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Tues.–Sun. noon–4; closed 1st 2 wks Jan., Closed 1st 2 wks Jan.

Museum and White House of the Confederacy

These two buildings provide a look at a crucial period in the nation's history. The museum (a good place to start) has elaborate permanent exhibitions on the Civil War era. The "world's largest collection of Confederate memorabilia" includes such artifacts as the sword Robert E. Lee wore to the surrender at Appomattox. Next door, the "White House" has in fact always been painted gray. Made of brick in 1818, the building was stuccoed to give the appearance of large stone blocks. Preservationists have painstakingly re-created the interior as it was during the Civil War, when Jefferson Davis lived in the house.

1201 E. Clay St., Richmond, VA, 23219, USA
804-649–1861
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Combination ticket $15; museum only, $10; White House only, $10, Mon.–Sat. 10–5, Sun. noon–5

National Cemetery

Historic District

The National Cemetery is the final resting place of 15,000 Union dead, most of whom have not been identified.

Pamplin Historical Park

On April 2, 1865, Union troops successfully attacked General Robert E. Lee's formerly impenetrable defense line, forcing Lee to abandon Petersburg. Today you are greeted by the 300-foot-long facade of the Battlefield Center, a concrete representation of the Confederate battle lines. Besides the center, which focuses on the April 2 battle, there's a 2-mile battle trail with 2,100 feet of 8-foot-high earthen fortifications, reconstructed soldier huts, and original picket posts. Also on the grounds is Tudor Hall, an 1812 plantation home that served as the 1864 headquarters for Confederate general Samuel McGowan. The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier on the grounds has interactive displays and nearly 700 artifacts. You can select an audio guide that includes the actual letters and diaries of a soldier. Allow at least two hours to visit the park and museum. Pamplin is an easy day trip from Richmond, located 30 miles south off Interstate 95, I–85 or U.S. 1.

Paramount Kings Dominion

Located in Doswell, part of Hanover County, this 400-acre amusement park offers a full array of rides and attractions and hosts special theme days for Halloween and other holidays.

16000 Theme Park Way, Richmond, VA, 23047, USA
804-876–5000
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Single day ticket $55; season passes available

Potomac Point Winery

Just 15 miles north of town off Route 1, this winery has a gorgeous tasting room and beautiful restaurant in its French Mediterranean-style building. One of Potomac Point's most notable wines is the viognier. For romantics, it's also got a private "proposal tower" and a dedicated engagement and wedding coordinator.

275 Decatur Rd., Stafford, VA, 22554, USA
540-446–2266
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Sun.–Thurs. 11–6, Fri. and Sat. 11–9, Closed Tues.

Rappahannock River Cruises

A cruise 20 miles up the river to Ingleside Vineyards leaves from Tappahannock. Rappahannock River Cruises enlists its ship Capt. Thomas to take passengers on the narrated day cruise. A buffet lunch is served at the winery for $13. Snacks are served on board, or you can bring your own. To reach the dock, take Highway 17 south from Tappahannock to Hoskins Creek. The cruise departs daily at 10, returning at 4:30. They also offer a cruise from Reedville to Tangier Island.

468 Buzzard Point Rd., Warsaw, VA, 22560, USA
804-453–2628
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $30, May–Oct., daily at 10

Reedville Fishermen's Museum

Housed in a restored fisherman's home and a larger building is this educational and activity-oriented museum. Permanent and rotating exhibits document the area's fishing industry, and there are two fishing boats here, a skipjack, the Claud W., and a deck boat, the Elva C., which have been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

504 Main St., Reedville, VA, 22539, USA
804-453–6529
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $5, Early Mar.–Apr., weekends 10:30–4:30; May–Oct., daily 10:30–4:30; Nov–mid-Jan., Fri.–Mon. 10:30–4:30; mid-Jan.–early Mar., by appt. for groups, Closed Mon.

Richmond Canal Cruises

Richmond Canal Cruises explore the Kanawha Canal that runs along Canal Walk in the Shockoe Bottom area. George Washington was a major proponent of the canal system as a way to access trade routes. The 40-minute cruise in a covered boat departs from the Turning Basin near 14th and Virginia Streets.

Tours run from April through mid-November and depart on the hour, but hours and days vary by season.

Richmond Slave Trail

Walk in the footsteps of Richmond's slaves from the Manchester Docks, down the Slave Trade path along the James River, past former slave auction houses in cobblestoned Shockoe Bottom and Lumpkin's Jail. Free booklets for a 1.3-mi self-guided walk are available from the city park system, or join in the big Freedom Celebration annually on June 19.

Rising Sun Tavern

Historic District

In 1760 George Washington's brother Charles built as his home what later became the Rising Sun Tavern, a watering hole for such patriots as the Lee brothers (the only siblings to sign the Declaration of Independence); Patrick Henry, the five-term governor of Virginia who famously said, "Give me liberty or give me death"; and future presidents Washington and Jefferson. Two male indentured servants and a "wench" in period costume lead a tour without stepping out of character. Guests will learn how travelers slept and what they ate and drank at this busy institution.

Science Museum of Virginia

Aerospace, crystals, and the Foucault pendulum are just a few of the things you can learn about here. Housed in a former train station, the museum features live demonstrations and "Giant Screen Movies" in the Dome, a planetarium, and an interactive lifestyle exhibit called Boost!, which tests your strength and memory. You can visit the café or gift shop without paying admission fees.

2500 W. Broad St., Richmond, VA, 23220, USA
804-864–1400
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Museum $14; dome and exhibits $18, Mon.–Sat. 9:30–5, Sun. 11:30–5; closed Mon, Closed on most Mon. from Labor Day to Memorial Day; see website for specific open Mon. dates

Shirley Plantation

Just 10 miles east of Richmond, Shirley Plantation, on the James River, is the oldest plantation in Virginia, and the oldest family-owned business in North America. Founded in 1613 by a grant from the Crown, Shirley is still a working farm today. The current mansion was built in 1723 and is known as one of the most architecturally intact examples of 18th-century homes in the country, with one of the only surviving "flying staircases." But what brings this plantation to life, the main reason for its physical preservation, is the story of the women of Shirley, who tended the wounded Union soldiers encamped on their shores after the Battle of Malvern Hill. They took such good care of the enemy that General McClellan ordered Shirley to be left untouched, and thus it still thrives today under the management of the 11th generation of the family.

St. John's Episcopal Church

For security reasons, the rebellious Second Virginia Convention met in Richmond instead of Williamsburg; it was in this 1741 church on March 23, 1775, that Patrick Henry delivered the speech in which he declared, "Give me liberty or give me death!" His argument persuaded the Second Virginia Convention to arm a Virginia militia. The speech is reenacted Memorial Day to Labor Day on Sundays at 2 pm. The cemetery includes the graves of Edgar Allan Poe's mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe, and many famous early Virginians, notably George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The visitor center, in a restored redbrick schoolhouse, has Colonial crafts and other items for sale. Guided tours are led on the half-hour.

2401 E. Broad St., Richmond, VA, 23223, USA
804-648–5015
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $8, Mon.–Sat. 10–3:30, Sun. 1–3:30, Free reenactments on Sun. from Memorial Day to Labor Day

Stratford Hall Plantation

Robert E. Lee, who became the commander of the Confederate Army, was born in the Great House of Stratford Hall Plantation, one of the country's finest examples of Colonial architecture. Eight chimneys in two squares top the H-shape brick home, built in the 1730s by one of Lee's grandfathers, Colonial governor Thomas Lee. The house contains Robert E. Lee's crib, original family pieces, and period furnishings. The working Colonial plantation covers 1,600 acres and has gardens, a kitchen, smokehouse, laundry, orangery, springhouses, coach house, stables, slave quarters, and a gristmill that grinds from 11 am to 2 pm on the first whole weekend of each month from April through September. The Plantation Dining Room, a log cabin restaurant, serves meals and sandwiches daily from 11 to 3. Its outdoor screened deck overlooks the woodlands.

483 Great House Rd., Stratford, VA, 22558, USA
804-493–8038
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $12, Visitor center daily 9:30–4, house tours daily 10–4

Tangier Island & Chesapeake Cruises

Tangier is a Virginia island in the Chesapeake Bay named by Captain John Smith. This largely unspoiled fishing village with quaint narrow streets also happens to be the soft-shell crab capital of the nation. There's a small airport here for private planes, and it also can be reached by the Chesapeake Breeze ship of Tangier Island. The ship departs at 10 am and returns at 3:30 pm daily, cruising 1½ hours each way. There are Chesapeake Bay cruises that stop here as well, and ships that leave from Onacock, Virginia, and Crisfield, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore. The island has several restaurants serving lunch. From the intersection of highways 360 and 646, drive 1 mile, then turn left on Highway 656 (Buzzard's Point Road), which leads to the dock. Reservations are required.

468 Buzzard's Point Rd., Reedville, VA, 22539, USA
804-453–2628
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $27, May–Oct., daily

The Valentine

For more than 100 years, the Valentine, established in 1898, has celebrated one of America's most historic cities. It has collected more than a million objects—one of the nation's largest collections focusing on a single city—including preserved photographs, textiles, and artifacts, and interprets 400 years of Richmond's history through items of everyday life. Wickham House (1812), a part of the Valentine, is more rightly a mansion; it was designed by architect Alexander Parris, the creator of Boston's Faneuil Hall. John Wickham was Richmond's wealthiest citizen of the time, and Daniel Webster and Zachary Taylor were frequent guests. The last owner of the house, Mann Valentine Jr., left a bequest in his will to turn the home into a museum. Mann's brother, sculptor Edward Valentine, worked from his carriage house studio to create the Robert E. Lee memorial at Washington and Lee University, and the famous statue of Thomas Jefferson in Richmond's grand Jefferson Hotel. His studio is one of only four surviving 19th-century sculptors' studios in the United States open to the public.

1015 E. Clay St., Richmond, VA, 23219, USA
804-649–0711
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $10, includes John Marshall House, Black History Museum and Cultural Center, and Wickham House, Tues.–Sat. 10–5, Sun. noon–5; guided Wickham House tours Tues.–Sat. 11–4 and Sun. 1–4, Closed most Mon.

Tuckahoe Plantation

Originally owned by the Randolph family, Tuckahoe is 7 miles west of Richmond, on the James River. Thomas Jefferson spent his boyhood years here, from 1745 until 1752. In fact, he began his studies in the one-room schoolhouse that still stands on the beautifully landscaped grounds, which are open daily for self-guided tours. Guided tours of the house are by appointment only, except during the special Christmas tour in December.

University of Mary Washington Galleries

Historic District

On campus are two art galleries: the Ridderhof Martin Gallery, which hosts art exhibitions from various cultures and historical periods, and the duPont Gallery in Melchers Hall, which houses paintings, drawing, sculpture, photography, ceramics, and textiles, by art faculty, students, and contemporary artists. Free parking is available for visitors in the lot at the corner of College Avenue at Thornton Street.

1301 College Ave., Fredericksburg, VA, 22401, USA
540-654–1013
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, When college is in session, Mon., Wed., and Fri. 10–4, weekends 1–4, Closed during university holidays and breaks

Virginia Historical Society

This visitor-friendly museum mounts regularly changing exhibits, as well as permanent exhibitions, like an 800-piece collection of Confederate weapons and equipment, and, "The Story of Virginia, an American Experience," which covers 16,000 years of history. The Society also operates the Virginia House, a 16th-century manor house transported to Richmond from England.

428 North Blvd., Richmond, VA, 23220, USA
804-358–4901
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Tues.–Sat. 10–5, Sun., galleries only, 1–5. Virginia House $6 by appt. only.

Virginia Holocaust Museum

The city's most poignant museum is housed in the former Climax Warehouse, which stored tobacco in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom. In keeping with the museum's aim to further "tolerance through education," the museum details the experiences of Holocaust survivors from across Virginia who have recorded their stories and shared their memories. After an introductory film in which six Richmond-based survivors tell their stories, visitors receive a book for a self-guided tour; a free audio tour (in English, Spanish, German, French, or Polish) is also available. The museum's auditorium, the Chore Shul, is a replica of the beautiful 18th-century interior of the only surviving synagogue in Lithuania. Because of the nature of the exhibits, the museum is not recommended for young children.

2000 E. Cary St., Richmond, VA, 23223, USA
804-257–5400
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Donations accepted, Weekdays 9–5, weekends 11–5, Free parking

Virginia State Capitol

Thomas Jefferson designed this grand edifice in 1785, modeling it on a Roman temple—the Maison Carrée—in Nîmes, France. After an extensive renovation, the Capitol has a handicapped-accessible entrance on Bank Street. A visitor center is in the adjacent Bell Tower, and the expanded Capitol features an exhibit gallery, gift shop, and Meriwether's Capitol Café. Indoor guided tours last one hour and include the Old House and Senate chambers, the Rotunda, and two restored rooms. A map for self-guided tours is also available.

Virginia War Memorial

A statue called Memory overlooks a wall with thousands of names of Virginians who sacrificed their lives in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf. A series of educational programs based on the real-life experiences of Virginians is shown in the Hall of Honor Auditorium, and touch-screen computers in the Visitors Center provide information on Virginia veterans. Displays of artifacts and memorabilia tell the story of the impact of these conflicts on Virginians and their families.

621 S. Belvidere St., Richmond, VA, 23220, USA
804-786–2060
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Shrine daily, visitor center Mon.–Fri. 9–4, Sun. 12–4