National Battlefield Park in Richmond, Virginia is a National State Park that preserves over 2,200 acres across 13 units related to the Civil War. While there are some historic structures and visitor centers, the historic battlefields are the main draw of the park. Battle sites within the national Park include The Beaver Dam Creek Battlefield where Robert E Lee fought his first battle as commander of the Confederacy in 1862.

At Totopotomoy Creek Battlefield visitors may see the centuries old Shelton House and a small cemetery with headstones for two children, reminding guests how the war impacted civilians in the area. Visitors to the Malvern Hill Battlefield who hike through the two 1.5 mile trails will notice how the geography at this site shaped the battles that occurred there. Hikers through the wetland, meadow and forest habitats can explore the Union cannon line, walk to the edge of “Malvern Cliff” or hike the Confederate attack route. Drewry's Bluff (Fort Darling) is a famous location where naval history was made when five Union Navy ships were forced to turn back as they proceeded up the James River and came under attack by Confederate armies. The trails at the Gaines' Mill Battlefield take visitors through a hardwood forest, overlooking Boatswain creek. Hiking trails follow the history of the battles that occurred there in 1862. The Cold Harbor Battlefield is where Ulysses S. Grant's army sustained a two-week battle which would prove to be Lee’s last major field victory and would change the course of the war. Trails at Cold Harbor offer three connected loops through native forest and past the Bloody Run creek. One highlight along the trails is a stop at the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery monument that details the history of the battles that occurred there in 1864. Chickahominy Bluff Battlefield and the Fort Harrison Battlefield are also included in the park.

Visitors’ Centers within the park host a variety of exhibits. The Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works is the main visitor center for the park. Exhibits there include three floors of Civil War artifacts, as well as a film offering an orientation to the park. At the Chimborazo Medical Museum, which functions as the administrative headquarters of the park, the exhibits focus on the medical care of soldiers during the war, and the lives of those who worked at the hospital and served the medical needs of the Confederate army. At the Cold Harbor Battlefield Visitors Center artifacts are on display as well as interactive electronic maps that outline the history of the 1862 Battle of Gaines Mill and the 1864 Battle of Cold Harbor. The Fort Harrison Visitor Center offers several exhibits of Civil War artifacts, a relief map of the fort and a short film on the September 1864 assault that occurred there. Exhibits at the Glendale and Malvern Hill Battlefields Visitor Center include interactive battle maps that tell the story of the final two battles of the Seven Days Campaign in 1862.

History: Richmond was both the political and industrial capital of the Confederacy during the US Civil War, and was geographically at the heart of several historic battles. By the time the war was over in 1865, more than one million Americans were dead or injured, and the physical devastation to the countryside was vast, much of it in Virginia. Although there are many centuries old structures within the park, it is the Civil War action that warrants the sites’ preservation.

Ongoing Programs and Education: Trails within the 13 units of the park and through many of the battlefield areas may be walked or hiked at any time the park is open. Dogs are allowed on leashes, biking is allowed on the Totopotomoy Creek trails only. Many of the visitors’ centers in the park offer ranger-guided tours. Special tours pair anniversary battles with ranger-led talks. June is the anniversary of the Battle of Cold Harbor and the Cold Harbor Visitor Center offers special programs to honor the date. “History at Sunset” is an ongoing series of guided walks through the park that tell the history of many of the lesser-known stories from the war. The sunset walks begin at the Maggie L Walker National Historic Site within the park. The Fort Harrison Visitors’ Center offers a year-round self-guided walking tour. The trail takes approximately 20 minutes to complete. Along the trail, visitors learn about the history of the 1864 assault on the Fort by over 3,000 Union troops. Paved trails at Fort Harrison and Brady are wheelchair accessible.

470 Tredegar Street, Richmond 23219, Phone: 804-771-2145

More Things to Do in Richmond

More vacation ideas: Jacuzzi, Arlington, Omaha, Cape Cod, Park City, Kirkland

More last minute travel: Charleston WV, Things to Do in Pensacola, Things to Do in Baton Rouge, Encinitas, Colorado Springs