5 Surprising Things to Do in Richmond Virginia

Richmond is one of those rare destinations that promises something for everyone.  It boasts a rich history, epic culture and arts scene, thrilling outdoor adventures, and fresh family fun.

But in a city that’s nearly 300 years old, there are bound to be a few hidden gems as well!  Here are 5 surprising things to do in Richmond.

1. ‘Unhappy Hours’ at the Edgar Allen Poe Museum

This is the only place that promises “the most miserable time from 6 -9!”  The Edgar Allen Poe Museum hosts sporadic ‘unhappy hours’ with spooky stories, live music, ciders, wine, and a bummer of a time.

If you are unlucky enough to miss it, be sure to plan a stop at the museum during regular hours.  The Old Stone House is the oldest residential building still standing in Richmond and home to the Poe Museum.

Edgar Allen Poe Richmond

Although Edgar Allan Poe never lived in this house, he was linked to the home itself and its surrounding neighborhood.

2. Ruins of Belle Isle

Grab your sneakers and make your way to one of the most interesting spots in Richmond.  This 54-acre island right in the middle of the James River in downtown Richmond has a unique history.

Belle Isle in Richmond

Originally a Native American fishing village, William Byrd acquired the island in 1676.  Here you’ll find the remains of an historic iron foundry, granite quarry, and even the remains of a turn-of-the-century hydroelectric plant.

However, Belle Isle is most noted for being the Confederacy’s largest military prison during the Civil War.  In 1863, nearly 10,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned in a place that should have only been able to accommodate 3,000.  More than a thousand died of starvation, cruelty, and other effects of the horrific conditions.

Richmond Belle Isle Walkway

When you’re ready to explore, you can access Belle Isle by pedestrian footbridge from Tredegar St. on the north shore.  You can also get there by crossing the wooden bridge near 22nd St. or by rock-hopping from the south shore.

3. Ancient Agecroft Hall

Right in the middle of Central Virginia is a great hall with 16th-century Tudor roots.  Agecroft Hall once stood in Lancashire, England for hundreds of years as home to the distinguished Langley and Dauntesy families.

By the 1920s, opulent Agecroft Hall had fallen into disrepair.  T.C. Williams, Jr., a successful Richmond businessman, saw an opportunity to salvage a piece of Stuart England and restore it to its Elizabethan splendor.  He dismantled the home and moved it piece by piece across the Atlantic.

Agecroft Hall Richmond

You can now step back in time when you visit Agecroft Hall and its magnificent English gardens.  Take a guided museum tour and garden tour, or pop by in June for the Richmond Shakespeare Festival.

4. The Mighty Wurlitzer at the Byrd Theatre

When the posh Byrd Theatre opened on Christmas Eve 1928, it was a sophisticated, film-only venue.  Each silent film was accompanied by the thunderous sounds of a Wurlitzer Organ.  The Wurlitzer was a “one-person orchestra containing many percussion instruments and silent film effects in addition to dramatic and unique pipe voices.”

Today you can still catch a flick at the Byrd – and you can still enjoy a live performance of the Mighty Wurlitzer each Saturday night before the 7:15 show!

5. Chimborazo Medical Museum

The Chimborazo Medical Museum is neatly housed in a lovely, 20th-century building atop a hill in Richmond National Battlefield Park.  It’s a far cry from the notorious Confederate hospital that existed here from 1861-1865.

Chimborazo Museum Richmond

Chimborazo was one of the most sophisticated of the Confederate hospitals during the Civil War.  The booming center, made up of a series of wooden structures, was run efficiently and methodically.  During its 3 ½ years, doctors and staff treated nearly 75,000 ill and sometimes wounded men.

When the war ended, the defunct government hospital buildings were used as a school for freed slaves and ultimately, as firewood for local residents.

Related Reading:  Freedmen’s Education in Virginia 1861-1870

Today you can learn about Chimborazo’s war history, the Freedmen’s Bureau School, and other bits of unique history when you visit.

More Surprising Things to Do in Richmond

In a recent episode of Destination Dispatch, Toni Bastian from Visit Richmond VA chatted with the DD team about all the exciting things you can do in Richmond!

Richmond is an eclectic city with historic charm, fresh air fun, and a vibrant culture to explore.  You just might be surprised by what you find!


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