I saw the movie “Lincoln” recently, and it reminded me how less than 150 years ago, a large part of Richmond, Virginia had been burned to the ground. Back then, Richmond was the capitol of the confederacy, and when the Union army was threatening to capture Richmond, retreating Confederate soldiers set fire to as many buildings as they could. But in practically no time, Richmond bounced back and emerged from the smoldering rubble of the Civil War to become an even more important and economically powerful city than before!
Richmond is a city that everyone should plan to visit. But it’s an especially great destination if you are even a little intrigued by our nation’s history. Begin by spending some time at Richmond National Battlefield Park. The park is actually a number of battlefields and visitor centers located in the City of Richmond and adjacent counties. The park's Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works houses an informative museum containing many Civil War artifacts. The surrounding grounds were the location of the iron works which produced cannons, small arms and the armor for the warship Merrimac. The American Civil War Center next door also has some artifacts and a gift shop, but its main focus is in showing different perspectives of the Civil War, from the viewpoints of northerners, southerners, and African-Americans. I found it really fascinating and thought provoking. A driving tour of the battlefields includes 13 separate sites with four visitor centers along an 80 mile route (some of the visitor centers are only open seasonally), and though I suppose you could see them all in one day, I’d recommend that you give yourself a couple of days to take it all in.
Don't rush your way through Richmond! The city is filled with so many wonderful historical things to do and see. For example, you can take a free guided tour of the beautiful Virginia Capitol Building, which is full of historically significant artifacts and rooms. Take a nice walk or drive on Monument Avenue, where you’ll see statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart, and more. Pay a visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church (where Patrick Henry delivered his impassioned "Give me Liberty or give me Death" speech.) and stop by the fascinating Hollywood Cemetery, where U.S. presidents James Monroe and John Tyler, Jefferson Davis, Jeb Stuart and George Pickett are buried. (Make sure you pick up a guidebook at the gate house – it will lead you to all of the many prominent people who are buried there.)
Of course, Richmond is not only a mecca for history buffs — it’s an incredible, vibrant city with something for everyone.