Well worth taking is a 2-hour walking tour of downtown given by Historic Richmond Tours (tel. 804/649-0711, option 4; www.richmondhistorycenter.com), a service of the Valentine Richmond History Center. They depart from the Richmond Visitors Center during the summer daily at 10:30am and cost $10 per person, including admission to The Valentine Richmond History Center.
The Valentine Center helps Segway of Richmond (tel. 804/343-1850; www.segwayofrichmond.biz) to develop its 2-hour guided historical tours of downtown via those two-wheel motorized segway contraptions (which I haven't yet mastered). There are tours daily at 9:30am and 12:30, 3:30, and 6:30pm, departing from the Richmond visitor center or the company's offices at 1301 E. Cary St. in Shockoe Slip. Reservations are a must. Cost is $65 per person.
Saving with a Court End Passport -- You can save with a Court End Passport, which includes admission to the John Marshall House, the Valentine Richmond History Center, and the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. The passports are available at the three attractions and cost $10 for adults, $7 seniors and children 4 to 18, free for children 3 and under.
Keep Going -- It's convenient to combine a tour of the Civil War battlefields east of Richmond with the James River plantations, as the Fort Harrison and Glendale/Malvern Hill visitor centers are near Va. 5, the Plantation Route.
Richmond Riverfront Canal Walk
George Washington envisioned a system of canals that would link America's eastern seaboard with the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in the west. In Richmond, construction began in 1789 on the James River & Kanawha Canal, which was to run alongside the James River and connect it to the Kanawha River. It reached as far as Buchanan, Virginia, before the railroads made canal transportation obsolete in the early 19th century (its towpath was later sold to the Richmond and Allegheny Railroad, which laid tracks along it).
The city has restored more than 1 mile of the canal between Tobacco Row and the Tredegar Iron Works, at the foot of 5th Street, and turned it into the Richmond Riverfront Canal Walk (tel. 804/648-6549; www.venturerichmond.com).
The ends of the walk are the most interesting parts. Near the eastern end, at the foot of Virginia Street in Shockoe Slip, you can take a 35-minute ride on the canal in a bateau operated by River District Historic Canal Cruises (tel. 804/649-2800). Weather permitting, the motorized passenger boats run from mid-June to mid-August Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 7pm, Sunday from noon to 5pm. Spring and fall schedules are usually Thursday through Saturday from noon to 7pm, Sunday from noon to 5pm, but call to confirm. Rides are $5 for adults, $4 seniors and children 5 to 12, free for kids 4 and younger. Buy tickets at the booth at the foot of Virginia Street.
At the western end of the walk, at the foot of 5th Street, the Tredegar Iron Works on Brown's Island was the South's largest industrial complex during the Civil War, producing about half of the Confederacy's armaments. The restored brick building now houses the National Park Services' Richmond Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works. Opposite the visitor center, Brown's Island is the scene of festivals and free outdoor concerts and movies sponsored by Venture Richmond.
The "Boulevard Museums"
The museums located either on or near Boulevard (a major north-south avenue), can be interesting and informative, but they are not on a par with major museums in such cities as New York, Washington, and Chicago.
Cool Richmond Stuff for Kids
There are few DO NOT TOUCH signs in the Science Museum of Virginia, 2500 W. Broad St. (tel. 800/659-1727 or 804/864-1400; www.smv.org), with tons of hands-on educational exhibits aimed at children. Even adults will enjoy seeing a movie in the 250-seat Ethyl Corporation IMAX Dome & Planetarium, which shows IMAX films as well as sophisticated special-effects multimedia planetarium shows. The building itself merits attention: It's the Beaux Arts former Broad Street Station, designed in 1919 by John Russell Pope (architect of the Jefferson Memorial, the National Archives, and the National Gallery of Art) as the city's train station. Admission is $10 adults, $9 seniors and children 4 to 12. Tickets to films cost $8.50 to $10 depending on the movie. The exhibits are open Tuesday to Saturday 9:30am to 5pm, Sunday 11:30am to 5pm, and Monday 9:30am to 5pm on Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day. Call or check the website for IMAX showtimes.
Nearby, the Children's Museum of Richmond, 2626 W. Broad St. (tel. 877/295-2667 or 804/424-2667; www.c-mor.org), has more innovative hands-on exhibits for kids age 6 months to 12 years. Admission is $8 per person, $4 after 4pm. It's open Tuesday through Saturday (Mon-Sat in summer) from 9:30am to 5pm, Sunday from noon to 5pm.
Built by Richmond's Jewish community, one of the oldest in the United States, the Virginia Holocaust Museum, 2000 E. Cary St. (tel. 804/257-5400; www.va-holocaust.com), in Tobacco Row between 20th and 21st streets, honors those who died in or lived through the Holocaust. Local survivors tell their stories in the moving Survivors' Room. There's also a mock ghetto surrounded by barbed wire and a model of an underground hiding place. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. The museum is open Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5pm.
In Jackson Ward, the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia, 00 Clay St. (yes, that's the address), at Foushee Street (tel. 804/780-9093; www.blackhistorymuseum.org), houses documents, limited editions, prints, art, and photos emphasizing the history of the state's African-American community. It's in a Federal-Greek Revival-style house built in 1832 and purchased a century later by the Council of Colored Women under the leadership of Maggie L. Walker. Admission is $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 for children 11 and under. It's open Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 5pm.
The lobby of the Library of Virginia, 800 Broad St., between 8th and 9th streets (tel. 804/692-3919; www.lva.lib.va.us), has changing exhibits of state documents and published works, some of them more than 400 years old. Containing papers going back to the 1600s, the library's records are a treasure trove for genealogists. It's open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm; admission is free.
Although it is minuscule when compared to the National Air and Space Museum's monstrous Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in the Hunt Country or the fine Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton, the Virginia Aviation Museum, 5701 Huntsman Rd. (tel. 804/236-3622; www.vam.smv.org), on the grounds of Richmond International Airport, does have some beautifully restored craft dating from 1916 to 1946 plus a SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. The museum is a division of the Science Museum of Virginia. Admission is $6 adults, $5 seniors and kids 4 to 12. It's open Tuesday through Saturday 9:30am to 5pm, Sunday noon to 5pm (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas).
About 14 miles north of Richmond via I-95, the neighboring communities of Ashland (on U.S. 1) and Hanover (on U.S. 301) have deep historical roots. Patrick Henry once tended bar at Hanover Tavern, built in 1723, and argued cases in the Hanover County Courthouse, dating from 1735. For more information contact the Ashland/Hanover Visitor Center, 112 N. Railroad Ave. in Hanover (tel. 800/897-1479 or 804/752-6766; www.town.ashland.va.us). Hours are daily 9am to 5pm except major holidays.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.