Virginia is a historic state with a bright future.
The first enduring English colony in North America was established in Virginia in 1607, stopping at what is today Virginia Beach before settling in Jamestown. From those English colonists through the American Revolution to the Civil War, Virginia’s history is long and pivotal. The state is home to Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world, and Newport News Shipbuilding, the shipyard that builds all the U.S. aircraft carriers and many of the Navy’s nuclear submarines.
But as Virginia marches toward the future, it’s also known for fun, with beachfront resorts, burgeoning arts districts and booming culinary scenes.
A historic destination and Virginia’s capital city, Richmond also enjoys a bustling arts scene that will get an even bigger boost with the opening of the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) at Virginia Commonwealth University in late April. Because the center is a noncollecting art institute, exhibitions will be changing all the time and will be dedicated to innovative visual and performing arts and design.
The ICA will be an anchor in the Richmond Arts District, which was established in 2012 and flanks several blocks of Broad Street from Belvidere Street to the Virginia State Capitol near Interstate 95. In the district, visitors will find dozens of small, independently owned art galleries, as well as street art and murals gracing alleyways and building walls, and street performers adding music and dance to summer nights. Although the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is not in the arts district, it is a must-see for groups, along with the state capitol, said Toni Bastian, group tour manager for Richmond Region Tourism.
History is another major draw in Richmond, and the city has plenty of it for visitors to explore, from early settlers through the American Revolution and the Civil War. Groups enjoy Henricus Historical Park, a living-history park on the site where Sir Thomas Dale established the colony’s second settlement in 1611 and where Pocahontas lived after being captured in 1613. Today, groups can explore 12 re-created Colonial structures and interact with historical interpreters as they demonstrate cooking, blacksmithing, planting and harvesting. Visitors may even be recruited to join the militia.
Groups can tour the American Civil War Center housed in the historic Tredegar Iron Works, which opened in 1837 and became the Confederacy’s primary iron and artillery works. The Virginia War Memorial overlooking the James River is a museum, a memorial and an educational center dedicated to all Virginians who fought from World War II through today.
The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia opened in summer 2016 at its new location: an 1895 armory that was restored and repurposed as the museum’s new home. Groups can also arrange for a “Liberty or Death” re-enactment at Historic St. John’s Church.