Richmond, VA with Kids: 50 Things to Do on a Family Vacation

family vacation in richmond va

Richmond’s place in U.S. history is distinct. One of the oldest cities in the nation, Richmond was made the capitol of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia in 1780. It was the site of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty, or give me death” speech in 1775. During the American Civil War, Richmond was the capitol of the Confederacy.

Today, Richmond is known as the River City, and more colloquially as RVA. While the deep history is evident in monuments, battlefield sites, and the architecture, Richmond is also home to an expansive parks system, 550 aces of river shoreline, and a growing small business economy–creating plenty of exciting things for families to do whether you are planning a trip for a long weekend or an entire week.

To help you navigate this incredible city, we’ve put together a list of the 50 best things to do in Richmond with kids.

Explore

Exploring Belle Isle and catching frogs in this urban nature oasis

  1. Look for the heron nests downtown, at the Pipeline and Trestle Trail.
  2. Follow one of the many trails along the James River.
  3. Cross the pedestrian footbridge to explore Belle Isle along one of the wooded trails on the island.
  4. Pedal boat rides on Fountain Lake in Byrd Park are a popular summertime activity.
  5. Spend Saturday morning at the South of James Farmers’ Market, with its locally grown products and hand-made items.
  6. Richmond Canal Cruises leads a 40-minute narrated tour along the historic Canal Walk.
  7. Get mesmerized by the sea otters and other aquarium inhabitants at the Maymont Nature and Visitor Center.
  8. Take the Adventure Pathway at the Children’s Garden at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
  9. Three Lakes Park & Nature Center offers an underwater view of bass, sunfish and other creatures.

Learn

Photo courtesy of RVA on Wheels

  1. Home to the very first trolley system in the world, you can still ride a classic Richmond trolley as you visit landmarks from Richmond's history.
  2. Learn about the original settlers at Henricus Historical Park.
  3. See what history the archeologists are digging up in Jamestown (day trip).
  4. Visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for one of its family programs (or any time; general admission is always free).
  5. Inquisitive kids can satiate their curiosity at the Science Museum of Virginia.
  6. Learn about the man who inspired many horror films, love poems and murder mysteries at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum.
  7. Virginia Holocaust Museum offers moving exhibits and programs highlighting the historical and personal realities of the Holocaust.
  8. Learn about the war from the Union, Confederate, and African American perspective at the Tredegar Civil War Center.
  9. The Virginia Historical Society (free admission!) has interactive displays and activities that teach kids about the history of the state.
  10. Black History Museum and Cultural Center tells both the famous and forgotten stories of African Americans in Virginia.

See

The George Washington Equestrian Monument was to be the President's final resting place, but he remains buried at his Mount Vernon home.

  1. See a movie for under $5 and have the best popcorn in town at the Byrd Theatre. Go on a weekend night to see the Mighty Wurlitzer organ rise up from the pit and play the start of the show.
  2. IMAX Dome at the Science Museum of Virginia is the largest film screen in Virginia.
  3. See a great children’s production by The Children’s Theatre of Virginia.
  4. Discover what it was like in colonial times by visiting Colonial Williamsburg, just an hour’s drive from Richmond (day trip).
  5. Watch cars burn around the track at furious speeds at the Richmond Raceway.
  6. Meet the lions, tigers, and bears at the Metro Richmond Zoo
  7. Join a tour to spot Bald Eagles in their natural habitat on the James River.
  8. Visit Capitol Square, a 12-acre park designed by Thomas Jefferson, and home to the oldest purpose-built U.S. executive mansion still serving as a governor's residence, and many monuments and memorials.
  9. Watch history unfold with a re-enactment of the 2nd VA Convention at St John's Church.

Play

Enjoying a game of shuffleboard at Tang and Biscuit

  1. Join the locals to cheer on the Flying Squirrels baseball team.
  2. Take a Rafting Trip on the James River.
  3. Kids can explore an enchanted forest, play in water, participate in an inventors lab and more at one of the 4 locations of the Children’s Museum of Richmond.
  4. Have a wild adventure at Kings Dominion, a theme park only 25 minutes outside the city.
  5. Enjoy a game of shuffleboard, play a game of giant UNO, ping pong, and more at Tang and Biscuit.
  6. Play arcade games with the family while you and your adult companions enjoy craft beers at the Circuit.
  7. Enjoy a fun family bowling match at Rivercity Roll.
  8. Get thrills on the tracks at G-Force Karts (if your kids are at least 10 years old).

Eat

The best pastries ever, from Sub Rosa's. Our little one could hardly wait to gobble them up!

  1. Don’t miss the amazing chocolate and candy store, For the Love of Chocolate.
  2. Enjoy big plates of pasta at Joe’s Inn, a family neighborhood place in the Fan.
  3. Buz and Ned's has great BBQ – eat indoors or on the outdoor covered patio.
  4. Enjoy an ice cream cone from Bev’s as you stroll around the lively Carytown.
  5. Head to the Dairy Bar for grilled cheese, fries, and a shake
  6. Indulge in pastries from Sub Rosa bakery.
  7. Richmond has a strong brewery scene, and one of the best is Triple-Crossing where the whole family can enjoy the artisinal pizzas

Events

Slackline competition photo courtesy of the official Dominion Riverrock

  1. The Monument Avenue Easter Parade is a rite of spring (March/April).
  2. Guided tours of historic Richmond sites, cannon firings, children's games, song and dance performances, and canal boat rides are part of the Civil War & Emancipation Day (April)
  3. For adventure seekers and spectators, check out Dominion Riverrock which is part outdoor music festival, part sport even with slackline competitions, rock climbing, flying dogs, and more (May)
  4. Find over 3,000 watermelons at the Carytown Watermelon Festival (August).
  5. Enjoy the festivities at the Richmond Folk Festival (October).
  6. More than a half million-holiday lights are the cornerstone of the annual Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights (November/December).
  7. Experience a Victorian Christmas at the Maymont

Uncredited photos by the author