Richmond residents and visitors are indeed fortunate to have a host of inspirational day trip destinations within a two-hour radius of the city. Cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Charlottesville beckon visitors to come and enjoy world-class museums, galleries, shopping and dining. If you prefer to escape the city you will find several wonderful outdoor recreational facilities like Great Dismal Swamp, Luray Caverns, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest and beautiful Lake Anne. Williamsburg and Red Hill are top of the list for history buffs while families have incredible attractions like the Virginia Living Museum, the Virginia Zoo and the stunning museums in Washington DC. Wine lovers owe it to themselves to spend a day exploring the Monticello Wine Trail. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
Picturesquely nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville offers both indoor and outdoor activities for day visitors. Charlottesville is your gateway to the well-known Monticello Artisan Trail, which is one of the major draw-cards to the area, enticing visitors from near and far to come and visit a long list of crafters and agricultural artisans. If you enjoy winery and brewery visits and tastings you can join a tour from Charlottesville and leave the driving to your guide. History lovers should definitely include a visit to Monticello, the historic Thomas Jefferson home and plantation, while families can take the children to have hours of hands-on fun at the Virginia Discovery Museum.
Charlottesville, VA 22901-22910
Annapolis is widely regarded as the sailing capital of the US and should feature prominently on any sailing enthusiasts list of day trips. Getting there from Richmond will require a two and a half hour drive across the border into Maryland, where you can anticipate hours of fun and entertainment both on and off the water. Experience Annapolis from a scenic Annapolis Harbor Cruise, experiment with yachting on the Schooner Windward or let the kids have fun on a Pirate Adventures excursion. Canoeing, paddle boarding and kayaking are other fun Chesapeake Bay adventures. Off the water you can enjoy the galleries located in the vibrant Annapolis Art District, go shopping on Maryland Avenue or feast on fresh Maryland Blue Crab and Rockfish.
Annapolis, MD 21401-1411
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Baltimore truly has something for everyone, whether you yearn to explore interesting museums and historic districts or prefer to spend your time browsing art galleries and shops. If you are visiting for the first or the twentieth time you will want to spend some time in Baltimore Inner Harbor where many attractions vie for your attention. Highlights include the Historic Ships in the Baltimore Maritime Museum and the very impressive National Aquarium. History enthusiasts can browse historic areas of the city like Auchentoroly Terrace and Baltimore East while art lovers should not miss visiting the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum. Baltimore has a reputation as a Foodie Mecca – spend some time exploring her many restaurants, breweries and distilleries.
Baltimore, MD 21201-1298
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4.Kerr Lake (aka Buggs Island Lake)
Kerr Lake (or Buggs Island Lake to the locals) is located just less than two hours south of Richmond where it offers day trippers an excellent location for getting back to nature. The lake is a favorite fishing location – you can bring along your boat to launch from one of several boat ramps. Other activities on the lake include sailing, boating, kayaking and canoeing – rentals are available from Buggs Island Boat Company and Clarksville Water Sports. If you don’t enjoy boating you can go hiking along the Panhandle trail at Occoneechee State Park, visit a butterfly garden at the Joseph S. J. Tanner Environmental Education Center or take the children to see the Model Train Museum in Clarksville.
Kerr Lake, VA
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Located about 90 minutes northwest of Richmond, Culpeper is a popular day trip destination offering a variety of activities. The town is home to many historic sites which history and architecture enthusiasts might like to visit – highlights include the Crooked Run Baptist Church, the Culpeper National Cemetery and the Culpeper Country Courthouse which dates back to 1870. There are several interesting shops and antiques stores to explore and recently the town has become known for its excellent selection of farm-to-fork eateries, farm stalls and artisan breweries. If you are looking for outdoor recreation you can go horse-back riding at Grovespring Farm or try canoeing, tubing or kayaking at Kelly’s Ford.
Culpeper, VA 22701
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6.Frontier Culture Museum
For a great family day trip you can load up all the children (and their friends) and take a drive to Staunton, where you can learn all about the life and times of Virginia’s earliest settlers at the Frontier Culture Museum. This amazing “living” museum will teach children all about the trials and tribulations of Virginia’s pioneers through a collection of eleven fun and educational exhibits which showcase farms from as early at the 1600’s when English settlers arrived in Virginia. You can explore the museum on a self-guided tour along walking paths and trails – shuttles are available when little legs get tired.
Frontier Culture Museum, 1290 Richmond Ave, Staunton, VA 24401, Phone: 540-332-7850
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7.George Washington and Jefferson National Forest
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forest is an enormous outdoor recreation area located along the Appalachian Mountains, approximately 170 miles from Richmond. The forests cover over 1.8 million acres of land and there are no less than fifty campgrounds where you can set up camp if you wish to stay overnight. Recreational activities include hiking, mountain biking and fishing, as well as bird watching and horse-back riding. In winter many of the hiking trails are suitable for cross-country skiing. There are several day-use areas which offer restrooms and picnic areas. There are almost 2,000 miles of hiking and biking trails and several areas where you can enjoy boating and fishing.
George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, VA
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8.Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
While Great Dismal Swamp does not exactly sound like an attractive place to visit, nature lovers, birders and wildlife enthusiasts flock here to enjoy hiking, biking and wildlife watching. The refuge protects the last remaining pocket of an outstanding natural habitat which once covered large tracts of Virginia and Carolina and can be reached in less than two hours from Richmond. You can spend your day in the refuge exploring along a network of hiking trails and boardwalks which lead you deep into the refuge and offer excellent birding and photographic opportunities. Other activities include boating and fishing on Lake Drummond, seasonal hunting (October and November) and guided interpretive nature walks.
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Suffolk, VA 23434, Phone: 757-986-3705
Greensboro is widely known for its International Civil Rights Museum (which should be the first stop on your visit), but the town offers much more than a history lesson for day trippers. Art lovers can spend an inspirational day admiring the town’s many art galleries, while families can spend hours at the Greensboro Science Center, which is part-zoo, part-aquarium and part interactive museum. The Greensboro Children’s Museum and outdoor learning garden is another must for families while historians will enjoy visiting the Guildford Courthouse National Military Park and the Greensboro History Museum. There are also several beautiful gardens to visit including the Bog Garden, the Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden and the Greensboro Arboretum.
Greensboro, NC 27406
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10.James River Rapids
For your next day trip excursion you need look no further than your own city center.
Richmond residents are uniquely lucky to have the James River Rapids right in the heart of their city. Here water-sport enthusiasts can have unlimited fun without having to travel long distances. The river offers several areas for entering and leaving the water including Belle Isle, one of the most popular gathering places for enthusiasts who can wade and paddle directly off the rocks. If paddling is not your thing you can ride or hike the James River Park System instead. When you have worked up a thirst you can simply stroll to your favorite river-side brewery or restaurant.
James River Rapids, Richmond, VA
Beautiful Lake Anna is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Virginia, covering over 13,000 acres surrounded by 250 miles of shoreline. You can reach Lake Anna in around 75 minutes from Richmond, making this outdoor recreational area ideal for day trippers. You will find just about any kind of water sport on offer somewhere along the lake shore including both motorized and non-motorized activities. You can bring along your own boat or jet-ski or rent one from one of several lake-side outfitters. In Lake Anna State Park you can go on ranger-led kayak tours, do some fishing or hit the hiking trails. Cabins and yurts are available if you would like to stay overnight.
Lake Anna, VA
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Luray Caverns is one of Virginia’s natural gems! This enormous cavern system is the largest in the eastern US and welcomes everyone to come and explore. The caverns are now step-less and accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. You can visit Luray Caverns any day of the week and guided tours lead visitors along lit and paved passages through enormous caverns which reach ten-storey heights in places. At every corner you will find dramatic stone towers, stalactites and stalagmites. Your entrance ticket to the caverns includes entry to other Luray attractions like the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum, Luray Valley Museum and Toy Town Junction, so visitors are in for a fun-filled day.
Luray Caverns, 101 Cave Hill Rd, Luray, VA 22835, Phone: 540-743-6551
13.Monticello Wine Trail
Spending a relaxing and satisfying day meandering along the Monticello Wine Trail is a delightful activity for your next day trip from Richmond. Against the backdrop of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains you will find no fewer than 35 wineries and acres of vineyards to admire. All the wineries welcome visitors to come for a tour or tasting and there are several wine-related events and festivals on the calendar, including the annual Taste of Monticello Festival which is held in Charlottesville at the end of April each year. If you would prefer to leave the driving to someone else you can join a wine tour in Charlottesville. You can plan your route by visiting the website.
Monticello Wine Trail, VA
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Natural Bridge is located west of Richmond, close to the George Washington and Jefferson State Forest. The town is named for the natural stone arch you can visit in the Natural Bridge State Park. The 215-foot high archway spans the Cedar Creek Gorge and is surrounded by beautiful forests, mountains and streams. There are six miles of hiking trails including the accessible Cedar Creek Trail which leads through the forests to the Monacan Indian Village and the lovely Lace Falls. Other attractions near the town include the Virginia Safari Park (where you can view and feed many animals from your vehicle), the Natural Bridge Zoo and the weird and whacky Dinosaur Kingdom II.
Natural Bridge, VA 24578
The historic little town of Occoquan was established back in 1804 and offers history and art lovers a great day out. Here you can see rows of pretty old building along the river and have the opportunity to meet local Occoquan artists and visit their studios and galleries. You can find all the information you need at the Prince Williams County Information Center in Mill Street and then spend your day doing a self-guided walking tour of the town. For some outdoor recreation you can head to River Mill Park where you can go walking and hiking or you could spend some time enjoying a variety of water activities on the Occoquan River.
Occoquan, VA 22125
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You had better make an early start to your day trip to fabulous Philadelphia where a long list of activities awaits you. An essential part of any visit to Philly is taking a photo in front of the famous Liberty Bell. Across the way you will find Independence Hall, another must-see attraction for all visitors – guided tours are available. Art Lovers should not miss the chance to admire the collections in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum, while history enthusiasts can visit a few of the great museums on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. When hunger strikes you can make your way to the fabulous food stalls in the historic Reading Terminal Market. A single day is never enough in Philadelphia – rather pack an overnight bag and linger a little longer.
Philadelphia, VA 19019-9255
If you love American history or would simply like to brush up on your knowledge, a visit to Red Hill would be a great idea for your next day trip. Red Hill is the estate and last home of Patrick Henry, one of the Founding Fathers and a major figure of the American Revolution. On arrival at Red Hill you are encouraged to watch a short introductory video to introduce you to Patrick Henry and tell you a bit about his life at Red Hill. Afterwards, you can join a guided tour of seven historic buildings on the estate as well as the Patrick Henry gravesite. Try to visit Red Hill during one of the regular Living History days, when various craft demonstrations take place.
Red Hill, 1250 Red Hill Rd, Brookneal, VA 24528, Phone: 434-376-2044
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18.Shenandoah National Park
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Outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers flock to the beautiful Shenandoah National Park to enjoy a wide variety of outdoor pursuits. The park is located along the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains between Harrisonburg and Charlottesville, which makes it easy to access for day visitors. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy for several days including over 500 miles of hiking trails. If you are not into hiking you can still enjoy the wonderful landscape on a scenic drive along Skyline Drive. Other activities in the park include trout fishing in the streams, ranger-led programs, biking and wildlife viewing. Five campgrounds provide facilities for those who would like to stay overnight or longer.
Shenandoah National Park, 3655 U.S. Highway 211, East Luray, VA 22835, Phone: 540-999-3500
If you would like to visit a wonderful historic property without having to spend hours on the road, Shirley Plantation is an ideal destination for your day trip. This is the oldest plantation in Virginia, (established in 1613) and is located just half an hour from central Richmond along the scenic Route 5 East. The “Great House” contains the only remaining examples of various interesting architectural elements including the “Flying Staircase” and the Queen Anne Forecourt. Guided tours of the house are offered daily but you can also enjoy a self-guided tour of the house and grounds in your own time, with the assistance of an audio guide.
Shirley Plantation, 501 Shirley Plantation Rd, Charles City, VA 23030, Phone: 804-829-5121
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Historic Smithfield has been around since 1752, and beckons day visitors to come and enjoy history, arts, shopping, dining and much more, surrounded by a friendly small-town atmosphere. You can pick up a map for the self-guided historic walking tour from the Visitor Center, as well as loads of info about the many town attractions. A few town highlights include the Isle of Wight Courthouse (1750), the Isle of Wight County Museum, Historic Fort Huger and Fort Boykin Historic Park. Shoppers will have fun exploring the many quaint independent shops and galleries. Smithfield is surrounded by farms which welcome visitors to come and pick-your-own in season, meet some alpacas or buy supplies at the Farmer’s Market.
Smithfield, VA 23430-3431
The coastal city of Virginia Beach is a popular year-round day-trip destination that offers beautiful beaches as well as a host of other city attractions for visitors. Besides spending time on the beach or walking/running along the three-mile boardwalk, you can easily access many kinds of outdoor activities including cycling and kayak tours, boat tours or hiking in First Landing State Park or Stumpy Lake Natural Area. Virginia Beach also has several historic homes and museums to explore as well as the Military Aviation Museum, which is always a popular choice for families. You will find excellent dining and shopping in the Town Center and art lovers can spend some time admiring the murals in the ViBe Creative District.
Virginia Beach, VA 23450-3521
22.Virginia Living Museum
If you are looking for a fun and educational family day out you need look no further than the wonderful Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. Here the whole family can get really close to over 250 varieties of Virginian animals including birds, fish, reptiles and mammals. The focus of the museum is to educate adults and children about natural habitats, ecology and conservation. You will be able to attend feeding at various times during the day so please check the website to plan your visit. The indoor galleries include an enormous aquarium, the Underground Gallery, a cypress swamp exhibit and fascinating hands-on discovery centers. In addition there is an outdoor Boardwalk Trail (where you can see otters, bobcats, fox and even red wolves) and a Dinosaur Discovery Trail.
Virginia Living Museum, 524 J. Clyde Morris Blvd, Newport News, VA 23601, Phone: 757-595-1900
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For a wonderful family day out you need look no further than the Virginia Zoo which is located in Norfolk, less than two hours from Richmond. The zoo is divided into many different exhibits which showcase animals from all over the world including Africa and the Okavango Delta (for lions, giraffe, rhino, cheetah and more), the Asia habitat (majestic tigers, moon bears and orangutan) and the fabulous Australia Walkabout, to name but a few. You can book in-depth Behind the Scenes Tours of many of the exhibits and download the Virginia Zoo App to help plan your visit. Children will love the chance to take a ride on the Zoo Train and let off some steam in the Run Wild Nature Discovery Zone.
Virginia Zoo, 3500 Granby Street, Norfolk, VA 23504, Phone: 757-441-2374
Richmond locals and visitors are indeed fortunate to be able to access all the wonderful attractions and activities of Washington DC in less than two hours by road or rail. What makes Washington DC even more attractive is that so many of the city’s world class museums and attractions are free of charge. Nobody could fail to be impressed with a visit to a few of the seventeen Smithsonian Museums (including the stunning Air and Space Museum), all of which offer their treasures free of charge. A walk along the beautiful National Mall to visit one of the world’s most recognized buildings, the U.S. Capitol, is a must-do part of your day.
Conveniently located less than an hour from Richmond, Williamsburg is a wonderful addition to your list of day-trip destinations. You can start your day by visiting the world’s largest “living museum” at Colonial Williamsburg, where you can see how the early colonists lived their lives before the Revolutionary War. To brush up on your historic knowledge you can go on to visit the Jamestown Settlement and historic Jamestown. For a complete chance of pace you can enjoy the thrilling roller coasters at Busch Gardens, go hiking along Colonial Parkway or visit some art galleries. When you have worked up a thirst you can explore the Williamsburg Tasting Trail to discover microbreweries, wineries and distilleries.
Williamsburg, VA 23185-3187
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Richmond, VA
- Charlottesville, Photo: nathanallen/stock.adobe.com
- Annapolis, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Baltimore, Photo: Sergey Novikov/stock.adobe.com
- Kerr Lake (aka Buggs Island Lake), Photo: martina87/stock.adobe.com
- Culpeper, Photo: shymar27/stock.adobe.com
- Frontier Culture Museum, Photo: benschonewille/stock.adobe.com
- George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, Photo: GVS/stock.adobe.com
- Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Parduelay/stock.adobe.com
- Greensboro, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- James River Rapids, Photo: Noel/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Anna, Photo: Robert/stock.adobe.com
- Luray Caverns, Photo: muratani/stock.adobe.com
- Monticello Wine Trail, Photo: guerrieroale/stock.adobe.com
- Natural Bridge, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Occoquan, Photo: Noel/stock.adobe.com
- Philadelphia, Photo: Mike/stock.adobe.com
- Red Hill, Photo: Alex/stock.adobe.com
- Shenandoah National Park, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Shirley Plantation, Photo: spiritofamerica/stock.adobe.com
- Smithfield, Photo: Caleb/stock.adobe.com
- Virginia Beach, Photo: sherryvsmith/stock.adobe.com
- Virginia Living Museum, Photo: leekris/stock.adobe.com
- Virginia Zoo, Photo: Sander Meertins/stock.adobe.com
- Washington DC, Photo: BRIAN_KINNEY/stock.adobe.com
- Williamsburg, Photo: Deatonphotos/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Photocreo Bednarek/stock.adobe.com
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