15 of the Best Day Trips from Richmond, VA

The up-and-coming city of Richmond seems to have new activities popping up every day. From its extensive history to its outdoor adventures, there is something to do here for all kinds of travelers. 

But why stop there? Richmond’s location makes it perfect for nearby day trips. Keep reading for a quick guide to the top 15 day trips near Richmond. 

1. Jefferson National Forest

Combined with the George Washington National Forest, there are nearly 2 million acres of nature to explore. Popular recreational activities include hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding, hunting, rock climbing and more. 

One of the best views overlooking the forest can be found at High Knob Fire Lookout Tower, where you can climb the tower and stand at an elevation of over 4,000 feet. 

If you’re looking for scenic beauty, check out the massive gorge, the largest of its kind on the east coast, located at Breaks Interstate Park. 

The Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail may be 33.4 miles long, but that shouldn’t stop you from at least hiking some of it to appreciate the forest’s beauty and wildlife. 

2. Norfolk

The small town of Norfolk has something for everyone with a variety of attractions, outdoor activities, history, and art. 

Established in the 1930s, The Chrysler Museum of Art is one of the most significant museums in the Southeast, and is home to over 30,000 pieces of work. 

Hop aboard The USS Wisconsin, a famous battleship during World War II, and imagine what life was like for soldiers as you walk through this fierce ship. 

With over 150 acres dedicated to its 40 themed gardens, you can easily spend the entire day walking the grounds of the Norfolk Botanical Garden

Visit The Virginia Zoo day or night to observe some of the 500 + animals that call this zoo home. 

3. Jamestown

This historic town is famous for being the first official English settlement in America – and the entire area has been built to reflect the times. 

Prior to the known quest of the Mayflower arriving at Plymouth Rock, a group of about 100 men docked along the James River and decided to call the land home. 

Over time, a lot of work has been put into the establishment. The town now has both an indoor and outdoor museum, a Native American village, three replica ships, a riverfront discovery, and a colonial fort. 

4. Lake Anna

Known for being one of the largest lakes in Virginia, there is plenty to do here – whether it be on water or land. There are over 3,100 acres to explore on foot and 13,000 acres on the water. With such a massive lake and vast shoreline, you can easily find a secluded spot to lay out your towel and relax. 

The Boardwalk on Lake Anna is a lively scene, with mini-golf, arcades, local shops, food vendors, and volleyball courts. Here you’ll also find the boat launch for an exciting day out of the water. 

There are six wineries and distilleries in the area, so feel free to stop at a few or take The Heart of Virginia Wine Tour to get a taste of them all. 

5. Philadelphia, PA

The city of Philadelphia is a crowd-pleaser overflowing with activities, sights, and of course, the delicious Philly Cheesesteak. 

Take a moment to appreciate history and stop by the Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol for freedom.

The Benjamin Franklin Parkway has one museum lined up after another for the perfect day of museum hopping. 

For Rocky fans, catch a picture with his statue and run up the famous “Rocky Steps” located outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

In a city famous for its cheesesteak, the chances of you getting a bad meal are slim to none. But, to really see what all the hype is about, grab your lunch from Geno’s Steaks or its rival, Pat’s King of Steaks

6. Winchester

Hidden away in the countryside, the town of Winchester may be off the beaten path – but has a surprisingly active downtown scene and an abundance of trails to get outside and explore. 

Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall is an adorable place to hang out, with its red brick roads and variety of restaurants, shops, and museums. The mall is also a popular location for events, so if you’re lucky you might get to experience one of the town’s markets or festivals. 

The Handley Library is an architectural gem with its curved, stained glass ceilings. 

Walk the trails around the State Arboretum of Virginia to see the unique collection of trees that have been planted by the Blandy Experimental Farm

Make sure to stop at a farm on your way out of town, like Marker-Miller Orchards and Farm Market, for some freshly made apple cider donuts. 

7. Annapolis, MD

Head over to Maryland where you’ll find Annapolis – a city with ocean views, eccentric art district, and rich history. 

Take a tour of the Annapolis Historic District, with or without a guide, and take in the views of the vibrant houses and historic landmarks. 

Known for its impressive collection of model ships, admission to the U.S. Naval Academy Museum is completely free and honors our Navy and Marines. 

With over 340 acres, Quiet Waters Park has many trails to choose from and scenic overlooks that will leave you breathless. 

Perfectly located along the Chesapeake Bay, Sandy Point State Park has a mile-long beach with lifeguards on duty, food vendors on site, access to bathrooms, and a playground for the kids. 

8. Bedford

Plan a trip to Bedford for a day revolving around wine, nature, and history. 

  • Take the Bedford Wine Trail and visit 6 wineries where you’ll enjoy wine tastings, vineyard tours, friendly farm animals, and stunning views. 
  • Pay your respects to our fallen soldiers at the National D-Day Memorial
  • Visit the historical landmark of Poplar Forest where you can walk the grounds and visit the home of the third United States President, Thomas Jefferson. 
  • Stop by the Peaks of Otter Lodge to hike one of its six trails, go fishing out on Abbott Lake, or just take in the views of Sharp Top Mountain. 

9. Charlottesville

Prepare for a day filled with history as you venture through different historical sites and learn of their importance. 

A significant UNESCO World Heritage Site, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello houses thousands of important objects, and guided tours are available to get up close and personal with some of the president’s finest work. 

With Virginia being the leading battleground for many of the historic fights throughout the Civil War, there are many war sites you can visit like Appomattox Court House National Historic Park.  

Stop by James Monroe’s Highland to see yet another president’s home, and walk through the many buildings to get an idea of what life was like in the early 1800s. 

10. Williamsburg

There’s fun for the whole family waiting for you in Williamsburg! Visit the largest, active history museum in the country at Colonial Williamsburg, where you can walk through 40 historic buildings, check out two art museums, and learn how to fire a musket. 

Get your heart pumping with the large selection of roller coasters and thrill rides at Busch Gardens or add in some water into the fun at Water Country USA

Check out a few of the breweries to get a taste of the local flavor at The Virginia Beer Co. and Alewerks Brewing Company. 

If you’re looking to spend some cash and find some killer deals, stop by the Williamsburg Premium Outlets where you’ll find popular name brands and a ton of savings. 

11. Shenandoah National Park

One of the most underrated national parks in the country, Shenandoah is more than just a pretty place to drive through.

If you’re short on time, Skyline Drive is nothing short of magnificent with windy roads that take you through some of the most beautiful parts of the park. Along your drive you can stop a variety of different overlooks, waterfalls and visitor centers. The drive is a little over 100 miles long and averages at about 3 hours long, but you could always cut your drive short as needed. 

Make sure you don’t miss Thornton Gap and its neighbor Swift Run Gap to really see what the park is all about. There are over 500 miles of hiking trails in the park varying in experience levels for all kinds of hikers. Dark Hollow Falls is one of the more popular hikes, because its short distance takes you to the largest falls in the park. 

Get the rush of rock scrambling without going overboard with the 1-mile hike up to Bearfence Mountain. Trek up to the highest peak in the park, Hawksbill Mountain, with an exhilarating 2-mile hike that takes you up to an elevation of 4,049 feet. 

For the best panoramic view of the park, you’ll want to take the 2.6-mile hike up Mary’s Rock South or challenge yourself by taking the more inclined, 3.6-mile hike up Mary’s Rock North

12. Tangier Island

Hop on a boat or a plane and head over to the small islands that make up Tangier. The islands are only 3 miles long, and are separated by marshes and streams. The easiest time to visit the island is during the summertime when the ferries depart daily from Onancock.

Amenities are limited, with very few shops, restaurants and accommodations. An interesting aspect of the island is its lack of automobiles. You’ll see many people traveling around on golf carts and bikes.  Many of the people who live on the island make their living off of soft shell crabs. Learn more about the process on a Watermen’s Tour

Stop by the Tangier Island Visitor Center and History Museum to get some insight into the island community and culture. The museum also provides kayaks free of charge, for those interested in taking a self-guided tour through the marshes. 

While you’re on the island, try some of the freshly-caught seafood at Chesapeake House where you can all the crab cakes you can eat. 

13. Scottsville

Enjoy a day in the country in Scottsville, where all the locals know each other and love to share their hospitality with visitors. 

  • Start your day off right with a delicious, hearty breakfast at Lumpkin’s Restaurant.  
  • Stop by the Scottsville Museum to learn the history of the land and its people. 
  • Opt for one of the guided tours of Scottsville Historic District and learn about the architecture, natural disasters, and rumored ghost stories. 
  • Visit one of the local wineries or head over to James River Brewery to drink a few hand crafted beers with the locals. 
  • Finish your day at one of the local music venues – where the night comes alive with sounds of Bluegrass and Rock n Roll. 

14. Roanoke

The town of Roanoke has a variety of attractions and tons of outdoor activities. 

Head over to Mill Mountain Park where you’ll have access to 10 miles of hiking trails and you can see the iconic Roanoke Star. 

Rent a bike and head over to Carvins Cove Natural Reserve where you’ll find over 60 miles of biking trails around a massive reservoir. 

Head over to the largest lake in the state, Smith Mountain Lake, where the most popular activity is boating along the 21,000 acres of water. 

15. Virginia Beach

During the summer months, Virginia Beach is flooded with visitors thanks to its pristine collection of beaches. 

Check out the Neptune Statue before making your way to the golden sandy shore of the main, beach but make sure to arrive early to land a good spot. 

The paved boardwalk runs along the beach for 3 miles, and is perfect for those looking to take a morning stroll or burn some calories biking. Along the strip, you’ll find a variety of stores selling beach attire, trinkets to take home, and mouth-watering fudge. 

When you need a break from the sun, head over to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center where you can hang with marine life.