Soul Of America





Arthur Ashe Monument in Richmond




    Richmond is a vivid reminder that our nation has a complex and fascinating history that renders an equally complex visitor experience. When you look closer, the city reveals a well-earned reputation as the "perfect blending of the past and present."

    Few American cities can boast of 400 years of history or liven your kid’s Civics lessons when they revisit the birth of America at historic St. John's Church. There, re-enactors bring to life the 1775 Virginia Convention where Patrick Henry made his "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech. Richmond was also a popular hangout of the Thomas Jefferson and Capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Those Americana facts may not impress you, but these facts will trigger a positive response. Many Richmond area slaveholders in the Revolutionary War granted freedom to persons of color who fought on the American side. One of the earliest major slave revolts was planned around Richmond nearly 200 years ago. A field just outside Richmond is the setting where U.S. Colored Troops earned the most Medal of Honors for winning a battle that helped turn the Civil War in favor of the Union. Winning one of the key battles that freed all enslaved Americans -- now that really was Glory!

    Downtown Richmond (map) has the feel of a cosmopolitan city with enough office, retail and entertainment activity to cause traffic jams. It is well connected to Amtrak’s  Northeast Corridor train service. Shockoe Bottom has a sophisticated and diverse collection of restaurants to sooth the palate. Take a relaxing walk along the wonderfully restored downtown Canal Walk beside the James River.

    On the family attractions side, King's Dominion amusement park has some of the most popular thrill rides in the world. The kids will also enjoy the Children's Museum of Richmond and Science Museum of Virginia among other attractions.

    Nature enthusiasts get plenty of props too. In a unique-to-Richmond twist, a sports traveler can raft down James River's class IV and V rapids that run by the heart of downtown. Maymont, a fully restored Victorian estate, boasts Italian and Japanese gardens, and a new Nature Center that focuses on the life of the James River. A short drive brings visitors to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, one of the largest of its kind on the East Coast.

    Remember those African Americans freed after the Revolutionary War?  Their Richmond descendants built a thriving business community called Jackson Ward -- one of the largest free Southern Black communities prior to the Civil War. Even during the Civil War, with powerful slaveholders breaking Virginia away from the Union, Jackson Ward remained strong and autonomous. In the latter 20th century Richmond produced L. Douglas Wilder, who became the first Black governor since the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War. Virginia Union University and nearby Virginia State University maintain a Black college vibe in these parts. Jackson Ward is home to the Black History Museum and America’s first female bank owner, who happened to be a person of color. Perhaps the best time to visit is during the annual 2nd Street festival, when Jackson Ward is ablaze with cultural activities and entertainment.

    Richmond has few peers in the way it rejuvenated historic Jackson Ward without losing its soul. As the focal point of numerous Afrocentric cultural sites and the center of Virginia’s family and American heritage attractions, Richmond is a compelling family, American heritage and Black Heritage destination for weekend getaways.

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