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Exploring the River District

River District Canal Cruises, Richmond Virginia

Courtesy of the Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau

Soak up four centuries of Richmond history on one of the River District's scenic canal cruises.

Richmond is unquestionably a beautiful city. Historic architecture coexists with contemporary design in every direction, seamlessly blending Southern influences both old and new. And with its picturesque location on the fall line of the James River, it’s no surprise that much of Virginia’s capital revolves around the waterfront. Packed with historical treasures, vibrant culture and exciting outdoor recreation, it’s easy to spend an entire day in Richmond’s River District.

Begin your riverside adventure by embarking on the area’s famed Canal Walk, a 1.5-mile pedestrian journey on the banks of the Haxall and Kanawha Canals alongside the James. Four centuries of Richmond history are marked and interpreted through medallions, monuments and exhibits on this self-guided walk. Catch the trail at the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar and learn about the city’s storied past as you stroll the waterfront—but don’t miss the chance to get out on the water. Hop aboard a covered boat at the Turning Basin between 14th and Dock Streets and enjoy a 40-minute narrated canal cruise through the River District, complete with fascinating history and beautiful urban views.

Hoping to spend even more time near the water? Head to the lovely Belle Isle—a 50-acre natural paradise in the middle of the river where the modern skyline provides a unique backdrop for long bike rides, scenic hikes and picnics in the park. On neighboring Brown’s Island you’re bound to find a variety of free outdoor festivals, concerts and other family friendly entertainment. And for those seeking a little more adventure, Riverside Outfitters offers kayak, raft and canoe rentals in addition to guided excursions on the James that range from mild to wild. Float leisurely down the river in an oversized tube or get your adrenaline pumping on the Class IV rapids in the heart of the capital—the only metropolitan whitewater river in the country.

Venture farther into the city and you’ll find a multitude of captivating attractions not far from the waterfront. Just a few blocks away is the magnificent Virginia State Capitol designed by Thomas Jefferson. Explore the 17th Street Farmers Market for a taste of local produce and enjoy a delicious American meal or cup of coffee on the outdoor patio at Café Gutenburg. A visit to the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, which celebrates this literary giant and Richmond native, is a must for poetry buffs, and not far away is Saint John’s Episcopal Church where Patrick Henry delivered his immortal line during the Second Virginia Convention in 1775. Stop in any Sunday afternoon in the summertime to witness a 45-minute historical reenactment of this famous speech. Though the performance begins at 2 p.m., you’ll want to arrive an hour early to claim your tickets and to enjoy a patriotic music program as you wait for the show.

No matter what time of year you visit Richmond's River District, you may want to set aside more than a day to explore this dynamic part of town. With so much to see and do, the riverfront neighborhoods are sure to to keep you entertained—both on and off the water.

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