15 Best Day Trips from Richmond (Nature, Cities, & History)

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Are you looking for the best day trips from Richmond, VA? This guide details the best Richmond day trips that are in close proximity to Virginia’s capital city.  It also tells the distance from Richmond and things to do in each place.

Richmond Day Trips

While there are plenty of things to do in Richmond that will keep you entertained for days on end, it is often lovely to escape the city and experience something new. Given the city’s location, there are plenty of places that can easily be reached within an hour or two of driving that make for stellar day trips.

I have curated a list of 15 unique day trips from Richmond that I think highlights the best of Virginia, from beyond beautiful nature spots to fascinating cities. Distances and driving times are based on departing from downtown Richmond.

Cape Henry Lighthouse Richmond day trips guide
Day trips from Richmond, VA

Pocahontas State Park

Distance: 25 Miles

Driving time: 30 Minutes

Just outside of Richmond is beautiful Pochahontas State Park, one of the best places to escape Richmond’s hustle and bustle. Covering over 8,000 acres, the park offers an incredible array of things to do, from epic mountain bike trails to more chilled out water activities.

The park was created in the 1940s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Within the park, there is a fascinating museum dedicated to the Conservation Corp and all the work they did within Virginia during the Great Depression.

Pocahontas State Park in Richmond VA
Pocahontas State Park near Richmond VA

You will find an expensive network of mountain biking trails throughout the state park for all abilities; the courses are a unique and challenging way to explore the area’s natural beauty.

Alternatively, you can simply enjoy gentle strolls through the forests or hang out by one of the lakes where you swim or rent boats for the day.  It is one of the best hiking spots near Richmond and definitely a place to go for some peace and quiet.

Kings Dominion

Distance: 24 Miles

Driving Time: 25 Minutes

One of the best day trips from Richmond is Kings Dominion amusement park. The theme park is home to over 60 attractions, although it is mostly known for its impressive collection of twelve rollercoasters.

While the park may not have the most rollercoasters globally, falling just of the top 10, the Dominator is the world’s longest floorless roller coaster and the Intimidator 305 is close to being one of the world’s tallest.

There is also a 20-acre water park in Kings Dominion where you can relax and cool off from the hot Virginia sun.

The water park has a fantastic array of over 20 water slides and several pools where you can swim or simply chill out next to a perfect contrast to the adrenaline-inducing roller coasters. 

Petersburg

Distance: 24 Miles

Driving Time: 25 Minutes

South of Richmond is the fascinating city of Petersburg, a city rising out of the ashes. Petersburg has a long history of playing a supporting role in defining American history.

Petersburg was home to one of the oldest free black communities in Virginia, with many freed slaves migrating to the city due to the abundance of jobs and a more forward-thinking society.

As the community thrived, two Baptist churches were set up for the people and they are known to be the two of the oldest African-American Baptist churches in the country. These churches would later play a significant role in the American Civil Rights movement.

Petersburg National Battlefield - Richmond day trip
Petersburg National Battlefield

The Pocahontas Island Black History Museum is one of the most important places in the city to visit in order to gain a full understanding of Petersburg’s role in African-American history.

For many years, Petersburg was an important commercial town, with vast transport links bringing prosperity to the region. Surrounding Petersburg are several Civil War-era battlefields, where key battles took place, eventually leading to the fall of Richmond.

There are plenty of independent eateries and coffee shops within the city that have recently opened, rejuvenating the once economically deprived downtown. 

Colonial Williamsburg

Distance: 51 Miles

Driving Time: 55 Minutes

Colonial Williamsburg is an impressive living history museum contained within the city of Williamsburg. Based on 18th-century America, the museum is a beautiful maze of beautiful period houses, buildings, and people dressed in historical clothing.

The district is free to enter and you can walk along the streets admiring the fantastic buildings throughout the day and night. Many of the buildings have been beautifully reconstructed to fit the theme and the interiors of buildings have been similarly decorated to give an authentic feel of the times.

Colonial Williamsburg Virginia
Colonial Williamsburg

There are also craft shops dotted throughout Colonial Williamsburg where artisans make various goods utilizing the methods and tools of the 18th-century. The museums and live demonstrations often cost money but are well worth it as it gives you a far more profound understanding of the times.

The district is decorated with beautiful festive lights that add an extra layer of charm to the area during December.  

Jamestown

Distance: 57 Miles

Driving Time: 1 Hour and 5 Minutes

Close to Williamsburg is the site of Jamestown, the first English colony in North America. The colony struggled for many years, as the settlers arrived ill-prepared, without knowledge of the land and during a drought.

The town was almost abandoned early on before new settlers breathed life into the area and bought a new form of tobacco seeds with them.

The site has not lasted the test of time, and much of it was destroyed and eventually submerged underwater. After extensive archeological work, parts of the buildings have been uncovered along with many exciting artifacts left behind by the first colonists.

Native American huts in Jamestown, VA
Native American homes at Jamestown

Today, you can spend time visiting the original Jamestown and seeing the ruins left behind, and have the chance to explore the on-site museum that houses many of the items found by the ongoing digs.

Just outside of the archeological site is a recreation of Jamestown, which acts as a living history museum and allows visitors to experience what it was like to live in the first British colony. 

Yorktown

Distance: 62 Miles

Driving Time: 1 hour

Yorktown is the third site in Virginia’s historical triangle and historically one of the most important places in the US.  It is a fantastic Richmond day trip.

Despite being a relatively small town with few inhabitants, it was a significant hub for tobacco exportation. During the Revolutionary War, the town was strategically important and the defeat of the British in Yorktown effectively won the Revolutionary War.

Yorktown Virginia
Yorktown

Today, you can visit the battlefield where the siege took place, where much of the land still bears the marks of the war. Within Yorktown itself, you can see the historic district and gain a feel for how life was when America was founded.

Take a break from the historical district and experience the more modern side of Yorktown, where stylish eateries line the waterfront and fabulous small boutiques sell a wide range of items. 

Lake Anna State Park

Distance: 63.3 Miles

Driving Time: 1 hour and 10 Minutes

To the north of Richmond is Lake Anna State Park, a beautiful forested area surrounding a large man-made lake. The site started as a large gold mining area but once the gold reserves ran out, the valley was damned and a large reservoir was created to store water to cool the nearby powerplant.

Due to the area’s outstanding beauty, it was decided to create a state park on the lake’s shores. The park is the perfect place to spend a day hiking through nature, with 13 miles of designated trails that wind throughout the area.

Lake Anna State Park Virginia
Lake Anna State Park

There are guarded swimming points and boats can be rented to explore portions of the lake. In addition, there are various educational events in the summer months where you can learn more about the area’s ecology.

Hampton University (African-American Museum)

Distance: 78 Miles

Driving Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Hampton University’s Museum is a great place to spend a day learning about African-American history and indigenous American cultures. The museum is the oldest museum dedicated to African-American history and the oldest museum in Virginia.

Hampton University Virginia chapel
Hampton University’s Chapel

The museum includes a fantastic array of artifacts and artworks documenting the complete history of African-Americans in the US. On the university campus, you’ll find the Emancipation Oak, one of the world’s ten ‘greatest trees’ and the place where the first reading of the Emancipation Declaration happened in the south.

The university historic district includes several historically significant buildings from the 19th-century. 

Cumberland State Forest

Distance: 58.2 Miles

Driving Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Cumberland State Forest is one of the best places to lose yourself for the day as you explore the wooded wonderland. With miles of hiking trails, you can enjoy the peace and tranquility the forest has to offer.

As you explore the woods, keep an eye out for various animals such as grey squirrels, colorful birds, and deer hiding in the undergrowth.

Cumberland State Forest Virginia

The land used to be farmland, and throughout the forest, you will find various homesteads. Hidden away in the woods is a grave, where the epitaph was written by Charles Dickens- one of only two in the world.

The grave is relatively tricky to find, but park rangers will be happy to help you find it. The reason Charles Dickens wrote the epitaph for the child’s grave is unknown, although historians continue to try and make a link. 

Charlottesville

Distance: 71 Miles

Driving Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Charlottesville is one of Virginia’s most vibrant cities, steeped in history that mixes perfectly with a vibrant modern feel.

The city is home to the University of Virginia, one of the country’s most historic universities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded by Thomas Jefferson, the university campus has some stunning examples of Jefferson’s architectural style.

Monticello in Charlottesville VA
Monticello in Charlottesville VA

There are also plenty of more modern establishments throughout the city, with an impressive array of local wine bars highlighting Virginia’s exceptional wines and plenty of independent craft breweries showcasing Charlottesville’s creative talent.

Surrounding C’ville, as it is known locally, is some of the state’s best nature with Shenandoah National Park close by. There are plenty of places to go hiking around Charlottesville, for the active traveler. 

Shenandoah National Park

Distance: 93 Miles

Driving Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Shenandoah National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Virginia. The long and thin Virginia national park stretches across a stretch of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley.

The park’s highlight is the 105-mile long Skyline Drive that meanders along the park’s top, offering fantastic views out over Shenandoah and beyond.

Elkwallow Wayside Shenandoah National Park Virginia
Elkwallow Wayside at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

Take time to stop along the route and enjoy the sights and breathe in the pristine nature or visit some of Virginia’s caverns. Alternatively, stop for a few hours and enjoy some of the 500 miles of hiking trails that take you deep into the forests.

Keep an eye out for wildlife within the park, which is home to deer, a number of bird species, and the secretive black bear. Shenandoah is open throughout the year, with each season offering a different kind of beauty.  Shenandoah is also the launchpad for some of the best waterfall hikes in VA.

From snowy winters in Shenandoah to the browns and reds of fall, the national park is the best day trip from Richmond.

Norfolk

Distance: 93 Miles

Driving Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

To the east of Richmond is the coastal city of Norfolk, home to the world’s largest naval base. The city suffered terribly during the American Revolution.

When the British were pushed out of the area, they bombarded Norfolk witch cannonballs for 8 hours, destroying much of what was there.

A cannonball can still be found lodged in the walls of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church. Today, the city is known for its culture with some fantastic museums and galleries dotted around the city.

Norfolk Virginia (Day trips from Richmond)

The Chrysler Museum of Art is known for being one of the best art museums in Virginia. There are plenty of fun festivals and outdoor events in Norfolk’s downtown area during the warmer periods.

From Norfolk, you can also easily reach the neighboring city of Virginia Beach, where beachside restaurants serve up excellent local seafood.  Norfolk is a great place to explore Hampton Roads from Richmond!

Great Dismal Swamp

Distance: 93 Miles

Driving Time: 1 hour and 50 Minutes

On Virginia’s border with North Carolina is Great Dismal Swamp State Park. The swampy area was gifted to the state by a logging company in the 1970s.

At the time, the swamp’s ecology had been destroyed by years of human activity, but after years of careful management, it is once again starting to thrive.

How to Visit the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia (Tips + Facts)

The park has many pedestrian access points where hikers and cyclists can enjoy the trails carved throughout the refuge and try and spot some of the swamps elusive creatures that include bears, otters, bobcat, and many birds and reptiles.

Alternatively, you can take the Lake Drummond Wildlife Drive, a long gravel road that takes you to Lake Drummond in the center of the state park. Along the way, there are plenty of places to stop off and check out the nature, with various wooden walkways taking you through the swampy terrain. 

Fredricksburg Wine Tour

Distance: 58.3 Miles

Driving Time: 1 hour

Virginia’s temperate climate and hilly landscape provide the perfect conditions for growing wine-producing grapes. Virginian wines are known to be some of the best in the country and there is no better place to explore them from than Fredricksburg, in the heart of the wine country.

Spend the day on a wine tour, visiting some of the best wineries in the region, and learning about the wines that are unique to Virginia.

Best day trips from Richmond - Virginia wine country

In addition to tasting fantastic wines and enjoy the beautiful countryside, your informative tour guide will lead you through the history of the region and teach you about any historical sites you pass along the route.

If you do not have a designated driver to return to Richmond that night, there are plenty of places where you can stay within Fredricksburg.

York River State Park

Distance: 45 Miles

Driving Time: 50 minutes

York River State Park is a fascinating area where freshwater and saltwater meet, creating incredible biodiversity. The area is home to rare fish and plant life that thrives in the particular conditions caused by two water bodies meeting.

In addition to its stunning nature, various archaeological sites contain artifacts from Native American settlements and the Colonial-era.

York River State Park in VA
York River State Park in VA

The park can be explored by foot, bike, or horseback with around 30 miles of trails winding throughout the state park. You can rent boating equipment and head out on the river to fish or simply relax away from any crowds in the warmer months. 

These are some of our top picks for day trips from Richmond that you should add to your Virginia bucket list!  Do you have any favorite Richmond day trips you think we missed?  Leave them in the comments below!

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15 Best Day Trips from Richmond (Nature, Cities, & History) - Are you seeking the best day trips from Richmond, VA? This guide gives you 15 Richmond day trips that you should definitely add to your Virginia bucket list! | Places to visit in Virginia | Visit Virginia | Visit Richmond | RVA | Things to do in Richmond

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