Fredericksburg, VA is a fun place to visit and offers a wide variety of things to do. With its location just an hour south of Washington DC, the charming Virginia town has an important place in American history. It was the childhood home to George Washington, a major port during the colonial era and the site of 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.
Following is a guide to some of the "must see" attractions in Fredericksburg.
Take a Trolley Tour of Fredericksburg, VA
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.
Tours run daily and depart from the Fredericksburg Visitor Center at 706 Caroline Street (corner of Charlotte & Caroline Streets). To purchase tickets, visit fredericksburgtrolley.com.
Walk and Explore the Fredericksburg Historic District
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 at 706 Caroline Street 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.
Mary Washington House - 1300 Charles Street. 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 - 1201 Washington Avenue. 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.
Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop - 1020 Caroline Street. This 18th-century building was restored to house the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop, a museum of medicine, pharmacy, and military and political affairs.
Rising Sun Tavern - 1304 Caroline Street. 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.
Fredericksburg Area Museum & Cultural Center - 1001 Princess Anne Street. The museum has seven permanent and four rotating exhibition spaces presenting the history and culture of this region of Virginia.
James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library - 908 Charles Street. The museum holds the country’s largest collection of artifacts and documents related to the fifth president of the United States.
Mary Washington Grave and Monument - 1500 Washington Avenue. Mary Washington, the mother of George Washington, was buried in Fredericksburg beside "Meditation Rock," a place that she liked to visit.
Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center - 1013 Lafayette Boulevard. The visitor center serves as a starting point for a tour of the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park. Read more about the area's Civil War history on the next page.
Tour the Civil War Battlefields of Fredericksburg, VA
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. Here is a general overview of the four locations.
- Fredericksburg - 1013 Lafayette Boulevard, Fredericksburg, VA. 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. Chatham's Gardens: 120 Chatham Lane, Falmouth, VA. The Georgian-style mansion served as a hospital during the Civil War. The gardens are open to the public.
- Chancellorsville - 9001 Plank Road, Spotsylvania, VA. A twelve mile driving tour links several key spots on the battlefield beginning at the Chancellorsville Visitor Center.
- Wilderness - 9001 Plank Road, Spotsylvania, VA. 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: 36380 Constitution Highway, Orange, VA. This property served as Union headquarters and a field hospital. The cemetery includes the grave of Stonewall Jackson's amputated arm.
- Spotsylvania - 9550 Grant Drive West, Spotsylvania, VA. The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House is a continuation of the Battle of the Wilderness.
See a map of all four battlefields.
Visit George Washington's Ferry Farm in Fredericksburg, VA
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 Highway, Fredericksburg, VA
Tour the Belmont Estate, Home and Studio of Gari Melcher
Gari Melcher’s Home and Studio at Belmont is a less-known, but fascinating attraction located just across the Rappahannock River from the town of Fredericksburg, VA. 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: 224 Washington St., Falmouth, VA
Take a Tour of the A. Smith Bowman Distillery
A. Smith Bowman Distillery is a family-owned company in Fredericksburg, VA 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. - 4 p.m.
Address: 1 Bowman Drive, Fredericksburg, VA
Visit the Art Galleries in Fredericksburg, VA
Fredericksburg, VA 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.
Attend Events in Fredericksburg, VA
Fredericksburg is a fun place to visit year-found and offers plenty of events to entertain the whole family. Popular events include car shows, garden tours, music festivals, food and wine events, colonial reenactments, holiday parades and much more. See the calendar to upcoming events at www.visitfred.com/events.
Enjoy Dinner and Show at Riverside Center Dinner Theater
The Riverside Center is a 36,000 square foot dinner theater in Fredericksburg, VA that stages Broadway 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 (540) 370-4300
For more information about the Fredericksburg area, go to www.VisitFred.com.