Curving around a bend in the James River, Richmond, Virginia's state capital, is a many-faceted city. Burned and rebuilt twice (Revolutionary and Civil Wars respectively) and once the headquarters of the Confederacy, this historic urban center is now home to major universities and Fortune 500 companies, as well as expansive parks. While there is plenty of suburban sprawl at its edges (as well as the Richmond International Raceway and an international airport) and a good bit of the city fringe that ranges towards the ramshackle, the aged heart of Richmond is ostensibly atmospheric, dotted with cultural sights and framed for blocks by historic buildings (there are over 20 national and state historic districts in the downtown area alone).
Capitol Square features the Virginia State Capitol, designed in part by Thomas Jefferson, and the Executive Mansion, the oldest continuously inhabited governor's residence in the country. Court End is home to the Medical College of Virginia and historic homes including the White House and Museum of the Confederacy. Jackson Ward is a center of African American culture and the place where William "Bojangles" Robinson got his start.
Other neighborhoods include the Fan, home to Virginia Commonwealth University and one of the largest Victorian neighborhoods in the U.S. Within a stone's throw of the Fan District find Byrd Park with lakes, trails and the Carillon, a 240-foot, 56-bell tower. Carytown features the state Museum of Fine Arts, which is in the process of expansion but when the construction work is finished and dust brushed off facility merits note as one of the best art collections in the southeast . Shockoe Slip has shops and art galleries along cobblestone streets while Shockoe Bottom is home to the Edgar Allan Poe museum. Catch if you can the color and chaos of the 17th Street Farmers' Market (by the quaint old Maint Street Station beside a still-busy stretch of tracks) and take a more-sobering look at human nature on a self-guided tour of the Virginia Holocaust Museum, also in this eastern stretch of downtown.
Each neighborhood has its own character reflected in unique shops, dining and entertainment. Dining choices range from soul food to sushi and everything in between. One example: The Tobacco Company, housed in a former leaf warehouse, offers "Contemporary American" cuisine, a dessert buffet and live music. Nightlife runs the gamut from small jazz clubs to the Virginia Opera and Richmond Symphony. Shockoe Bottom and Shockoe Slip are the city's centers for nightlife.
Popular outdoor activities include canal tours of the James River and Kanawha Canal, kayaking and disc golf. James River Park is 550 acres of wilderness set aside in the middle of Richmond, offering boundless opportunities for weekend strolls. Follow the Canal Walk along the James River to Tredegar Iron Works, now the American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar, to see where Confederate ammunition was produced and explore through educational exhibits the different perspectives on this bloody conflict (Civil War buffs will want to note that Richmond National Battlefield Park is also nearby). Continue up a few blocks from the Iron Works and over to the east for access to a flourishing stretch of sidewalk cafes, bars and restaurants.
Finally, for those with young ones in tow looking for something a little more exciting than sight-seeing wanders, file this away for future reference - there is both a pleasant and oft overlooked zoo in the general area (Richmond Metro Zoo) and a major amusement park, Kings Dominion, either of which is within easy reach of downtown Richmond.
Richmond is located in Southeastern Virginia, just over 100 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. Interstates 64, 95, and 85 all lead to Richmond.