The Top 10 Things to Do in Fredericksburg, Virginia

Fredericksburg, Virginia

Eli Wilson / Getty Images

With its location just one hour south of Washington, D.C., the charming Virginia town of Fredericksburg has an important place in American history. It was the childhood home of George Washington, a major port during the colonial era, and the site of several major battles during the Civil War. The historic district, set along the Rappahannock River, contains 350 original 18th and 19th century buildings and is home to many living history museums, restaurants, shops, and art galleries. If you're planning a trip, here's what needs to be on your itinerary.

01 of 10

Take a Trolley Tour

Fredericksburg Trolley

 Fredericksburg Tourism

The 75-minute trolley tour of Fredericksburg is a good way to get oriented to the city and to learn about the history of the area. The guides are entertaining and share insight about the historic district and battlefield. Key sites on the tour include Mary Washington's home, James Monroe museum, Kenmore Plantation, the Fredericksburg Civil War Battlefield and more.

02 of 10

Visit George Washington's Ferry Farm

Ferry Farm

Rachel Cooper

George Washington lived at Ferry Farm, located across the Rappahannock River from the town of Fredericksburg, from age 6 until he was 20. The homesite location was just identified in 2008 and is being excavated. Begin your tour in the Visitor Center, walk through the 18th century gardens and around the rest of the grounds. An interactive ipad tour offers a unique way to explore the site with videos and photos and provides in-depth details about the history of Ferry Farm.

Address
268 Kings Hwy, Fredericksburg, VA 22405, USA
Phone +1 540-370-0732
03 of 10

Explore the Fredericksburg Historic District

Fredericksburg VA

Grace Cary / Getty Images

Fredericksburg's historic downtown is a 40-block National Historic District with dozens of interesting places to explore. Pick up a map at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center and create your own walking tour. While there are dozens of things to do and sites to see, check out these key attractions. Be sure to take some time to enjoy the restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries as well.

04 of 10

Visit Historic Civil War Battlefields

Chancellorsville, Virginia

Grant Wylie / Getty Images

Four Civil War battlefields—Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness and Spotsylvania—are located in the Fredericksburg area. With its location midway between Washington DC and Richmond, the region was devastated by the death and injury of more than 100,000 Americans during the Civil War. The National Park Service maintains nearly 9,000 acres of land where these major historical events took place. The battlefields are spread out over a large geographic area. Each one has a driving tour and numerous walking trails. You can take a self-guided tour and explore them on your own, take a guided tour with a park service ranger or take a private customized tour through Hallowed Ground Tours.

  • Fredericksburg: Located on Sunken Road in the historic district, a focal point during the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Visitor Center serves as a starting point for a tour of the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park: The Georgian-style mansion served as a hospital during the Civil War. The gardens are open to the public.
  • Chancellorsville: A twelve mile driving tour links several key spots on the battlefield beginning at the Chancellorsville Visitor Center.
  • Wilderness: The Battle of the Wilderness was the beginning of the Overland Campaign, the bloodiest campaign in American history and the turning point in the war.
  • Ellwood Manor: This property served as Union headquarters and a field hospital. The cemetery includes the grave of Stonewall Jackson's amputated arm.
  • Spotsylvania: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House is a continuation of the Battle of the Wilderness.
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05 of 10

Tour the Belmont Estate, Home and Studio of Gari Melcher

Belmont Estate

Rachel Cooper

Gari Melcher’s Home and Studio at Belmont is a lesser-known, but fascinating attraction located just across the Rappahannock River from the town of Fredericksburg. The 28-acre estate and former residence of the artist Gari Melchers and his wife Corinne is a National Historic Landmark. The complete tour includes a 12-minute introductory film, a 30-minute docent led tour of the 1790s Georgian house museum, and a self-guided tour of the Studio’s four gallery spaces and the gardens. Tours run continuously throughout the day. The museum, garden, gift shop, and trails are open daily, except Wednesdays.

Address
Belmont Terrace, Fredericksburg, VA 22401, USA
06 of 10

Take a Tour of the A. Smith Bowman Distillery

Smith Bowman Distillery

Rachel Cooper

A. Smith Bowman Distillery is a family-owned company in Fredericksburg that produces hand-crafted spirits and offers free guided tours that take visitors through the distilling process and include a tasting. The company focuses on the production of small batch premium spirits and is the only bourbon producer outside of the state of Kentucky. The tours are personal and informative. Tours depart every hour Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Address
1 Bowman Dr, Fredericksburg, VA 22408, USA
Phone +1 540-373-4555
07 of 10

Visit an Art Gallery

LibertyTown Arts

Courtesy of LibertyTown Arts Workshop

Fredericksburg is a great place to celebrate the arts and visit a variety of galleries. See a wide range of artwork by local artists including acrylic, oil, and watercolor paintings, glassworks, pottery, photography, hand-made jewelry, and more. Be sure to check out Liberty Town Arts Workshops, a former plumbing warehouse that is home to more than 25 unique artist studios with more than 50 working artists. Mark your calendar for First Fridays when the art galleries throughout downtown stay open late (until 9 p.m.) with music and refreshments.

Address
916 Liberty St, Fredericksburg, VA 22401, USA
Phone +1 540-371-7255
08 of 10

Catch a Show at the Riverside Center for the Performing Arts

Theatre

Adam Taylor/Getty Images

The Riverside Center for the Performing Arts is a modern performing arts center and dinner theater in Fredericksburg that stages professional musical productions. Evening performances are held Thursday through Saturday and matinee performances on Wednesday and Sunday. Children's theater matinee performances are offered every Saturday and on selected Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Address
95 Riverside Pkwy, Fredericksburg, VA 22406, USA
Phone +1 540-370-4300
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09 of 10

Visit a Washington Family Monument

Mary Washington

Courtesy of Mary Washington House

The Ferry Farm isn't the only spot in Fredericksburg associated with George Washington and his family. There are a number of Washington family houses and monuments that you can visit around the city. They include:

  • Mary Washington House: George Washington's mother lived in this house for the last 17 years of her life. The property has been preserved and serves as a museum and tribute to Mary Washington.
  • Kenmore: This beautiful, Georgian-style, brick mansion was the home of George Washington's sister, Betty Washington Lewis, and her husband, Fielding Lewis. Visitors can take a 45-minute tour of the first floor of the house and the kitchen. After the tour, roam the gardens and grounds.
  • Rising Sun Tavern: Built by George Washington’s youngest brother Charles around 1760 as his home, this historic building became a tavern in 1792. Preservation Virginia acquired the Rising Sun Tavern in 1907 and restored it. Today it serves as a living history museum examining 18th century life.
  • Mary Washington Grave and Monument: Mary Washington, the mother of George Washington, was buried in Fredericksburg beside "Meditation Rock," a place that she liked to visit.
10 of 10

Visit the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library

James Monroe Library

Courtesy of the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library

Since 1927, this museum holds the country’s largest collection of artifacts and documents related to the fifth president of the United States. The descendants of President James Monroe believed that this building had once housed Monroe’s law office, and therefore chose it as the location for the museum. It was later discovered that the brick building was not old enough to have been in existence when James Monroe was practicing law, but that his former office did sit on the same plot of land.

Address
908 Charles St, Fredericksburg, VA 22401, USA
Phone +1 540-654-1043
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The Top 10 Things to Do in Fredericksburg, Virginia