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26 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From Richmond

Like with any city, Richmond is bursting at the seams with restaurants, bars, events, and concerts to go to. There just isn't a possibility for you to ever feel bored there. 

But sometimes, we all need a little break. We need some time to take a breather and to get out of the city to get out of our routines we know all too well. And what better way to do that than a day trip? The best excursions are always the ones where you get an idea scrolling through Instagram and you immediately text the group, "Hey, you guys down to do something different?" 

Road trips never have to be super elaborate. It's not always about the destination! It's about the people you're with and the time you spend playing the license plate game or blaming the person who's in charge of music.

Whether you're looking for a hike or a weird attraction to visit, this list has it all. You can find an activity that suits you, your friends and your partner. Hey, bring along your dog too! So scroll through the list, pick something out and just hit the road. It pays to be spontaneous sometimes!

Sharp Top Mountain

Time from Richmond: 3 hours

Where: Bedford

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Sharp Top Mountain is one of three mountain peaks called the Peaks of Otter. This has become a popular hike for people, so expect it to be crowded. Don't fear too much about the trail with its huge boulders and rockiness because it's a pretty short hike. And that breathtaking view at the top will make you forget how sore your legs are! If you and your friends are really crazy, it would be an unbelievable place to view the sunrise. If your friends aren't feeling the hike, you guys can part ways because there's a bus that takes you almost to the summit! But you definitely get bragging rights over them if you accomplish the hike.

Harpers Ferry

Time from Richmond: 2.5 hours

Where: West Virginia

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Cross state lines and drive straight to West Virginia! Harpers Ferry is a town with a historic district that is the definition of charming. Take a stroll through the town on the cobblestone streets as you peer into the shops. If you want a view of the town, walk to the observation point called Maryland Heights. But to really spice things up and end the trip on a spooky note, go on a ghost tour.

The Virginia Zoo

Time from Richmond: 1.5 hours

Where: Norfolk

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It's time to get up close and personal with some animals. Freak out over lions, giraffes, and bears. But also go hang out with baby goats. Is that not the itinerary for the perfect afternoon?


Jamestown Settlement

Time from Richmond: 1 hour

Where: Jamestown

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Travel back in time and experience life back in the 1600s. Visiting here is like going to a living museum and that's the fun part about it. Walk around, tour the ships, watch the reenactments and just go along with it. But the one thing you can't miss is the Jamestown Glasshouse. Come see how glass used to be made and then witness glass being blown right before your eyes.

Rocking S Ranch

Time from Richmond: 2.5 hours

Where: Winchester

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Ready to see nature from a new height? Here you go. This ranch offers horseback tours along the hills and ridges of the Shenandoah Valley. Do not be scared off if you've never ridden a horse before because first-time riders have said they thought it was easy and enjoyable! And hey, you get to feel like a modern cowboy. How cool is that?!


Lake Anna

Time from Richmond: 1 hour

Where: Spotsylvania

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Going to Lake Anna could be a day trip or a weekend affair. It depends on how much you're feeling nature at the time and how much you love camping. But crack open a beer, sit by the lake and enjoy the weather. Depending on what time of year you go, camping might not always be an option. But the state park has several cabins and lodges up for reservations. Split the cost between all of you and nobody has to complain about sleeping on the hard and cold ground!

Sandy River Outdoor Adventure

Time from Richmond: 1 hour

Where: Rice

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Jealous of kids who get to play on jungle gyms? Well, here's the adult version. Get out your pent-up energy by going through the treetop obstacles and ziplining through the sky. It could be a three-hour activity or you could even stay the night with your friends in one of their log cabins or their luxury glamping tipis! Once you've been glamping, you can't go back to camping.


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Busch Gardens

Time from Richmond: 1 hour

Where: Williamsburg

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Ready, set, scream! Get your heart racing and your adrenaline going as you line up for these insane roller coasters. If you can handle it, it's definitely recommended that you get an early start and a late finish so you can squeeze in all the rides you want. Plus, that gives you enough time to ride your favorites again and again! If you're down to get soaking wet, Escape From Pompeii is worth the wait.


Skyline Drive

Time from Richmond: 1.5 hours

Where: Shenandoah National Park

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Sometimes, you want to be in nature, but you don't want to do the whole hiking and trails thing. If you want to put the top down on the car, listen to some good music and have the wind blowing through your hair, then try the Skyline Drive. It runs through the Shenandoah National Park along the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you really are up for the drive, you can see the whole park in a three-hour drive. Of course, you can also stop in the park and go hiking to see some waterfalls if you want!

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Time from Richmond: 1.5 hours

Where: Isle of Wight County

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Smithfield is where you go if you don't want to plan anything besides choosing a destination. Visiting the historic district is like being transported to a simpler time when things weren't so fast-paced. After you've seen all the old architecture of the town, head on over to Windsor Castle Park for a picnic.

Natural Bridge

Time from Richmond: 2.5 hours

Where: Natural Bridge

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You might not think bridges are cool until you see this one. It's a natural geological formation in the shape of an arch. It's over 200 feet tall! So get your camera out, snap those photos and then be amazed as you walk under it. Plus, it's a great spot to stay out of the sun.

Tangier Island

Time from Richmond: 4 hours (3 hours drive to Onancock and 1-hour ferry ride to Tangier Island)

Where: Tangier Island

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Not gonna lie, this one's a bit of a trek. You go here if you are feeling extra adventurous or you want to go away for a quick weekend getaway. It's a small island, but a bike tour is a fun way to see all of it. And after you've finished your exploring, eat some fresh seafood while looking out at the water.

Virginia Safari Park

Time from Richmond: 2.5 hours

Where: Natural Bridge

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Zoos are fun, but what about a step up from that? Virginia has its own drive-thru safari! You get to witness animals come right up to your car window and you can interact with them without even having to get out of the car. If that isn't luxury, what is?


Massanutten Resort

Time from Richmond: 2 hours

Where: McGaheysville

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You can visit here all year round and never get bored. Whatever your heart desires, you shall have here. You can play golf, splash around in the indoor water park, take the ski lift in any season, go snow tubing, go ziplining and even race your friends in a go-kart. The options are endless and that kind of makes it the perfect day trip.


Dragon's Tooth

Time from Richmond: 3 hours

Where: Catawba

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It's only appropriate you refer to yourself as Khaleesi when you make it to the top of this hike. After your legs are tired from all that walking, you're gonna wish you had dragons to fly you back down to your car. But until then, enjoy the sitting on the rock formation while looking over the valley.

Monticello Wine Trail

Time from Richmond: 1 hour

Where: Charlottesville

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There are 33 wineries along the Monticello Wine Trail that are waiting for you! It's up to you how many wineries you want to visit in a day or it's up to how much alcohol you can handle! You can take a tour, go to the tasting room, or even enjoy a concert under the stars.


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Swinging Bridge

Time from Richmond: 2.5 hours

Where: Buchanan

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Pile in the car and head here if you want a day of roaming the streets looking in antique shops and art galleries. The town has a great view of the James River and the Blue Ridge Mountains, but the hot spot is the swinging bridge. Walk, dance, or run over the suspension bridge that's above the river.


Time from Richmond: 2 hours

Where: Alexandria

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It's not a visit to Alexandria without visiting the historic row of houses downtown. You have to make sure you pause and look at the narrowest house aka the Hollensbury Spite House. After you've finished marveling at the houses, head to a nearby cafe to sit and eat while people watching.

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Rappahannock River Cruise

Time from Richmond: 1 hour

Where: Tappahannock

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Set sail down the Rappahannock River. While on the cruise, focus on the beautiful scenery and the fact that you can see bald eagles! It is recommended that you bring binoculars to get a better look at the wildlife. The cruise docks in Ingleside Vineyards so you can tour the place, go to the tasting room and have a picnic on the patio.


McAfee Knob

Time from Richmond: 3 hours

Where: Catawba

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This spot on the Appalachian Trail is popular for photos. You can easily get a good workout in just hiking to the top with your friends. If you're with your SO, it's a romantic moment being able to sit on the edge and take a classic "We're cute and we're kissing" photo.

Luray Caverns

Time from Richmond: 2.5 hours

Where: Luray

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It can be hard to imagine what it's like being underground until you get here. Try not to get spooked while taking the guided tour. Just let it happen and look up at the towering stone formations at every turn.


Carvins Cove Natural Reserve

Time from Richmond: 3 hours

Where: Roanoke

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This park isn't just for you to hike or bike in. There are plenty of events and activities set up for you! The park offers lessons on how to paddleboard, yoga classes on paddleboards and canoeing lessons. So now's the time to take up a new water sport!

Taubman Museum of Art

Time from Richmond: 3 hours

Where: Roanoke

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There are more than just oil paintings here. And you certainly don't need to have some kind of fine arts degree to understand what's going on here. Just take a trip here to look at all kinds of things. They've got a car exhibit, a fashion accessories collection, and so much more! Plus, the outside of the building is really cool. Take pictures with it and you don't even have to step inside if you don't want to! Admiring the architecture is enough sometimes.



Time from Richmond: 2 hours

Where: Centreville

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Listen, not all of us can ever make it to England to see the real Stonehenge. And this is really the next best thing. This art installment by Mark Cline became a huge hit and is now a tourist attraction. It's sitting there just waiting for you to prank your friends into thinking you've taken a secret vacation to see the real thing.

Smith Mountain Lake

Time from Richmond: 3 hours

Where: Roanoke

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Take a romantic walk through the woods before ending your hike at the lake. You can visit any time, but low-season does offer you huge discounts on vacation rentals. And who said lakes can only be fun in the summer? Just try not to fall out of your kayak or splash the water on yourself and you should be good to go in the colder months!

Colonial Williamsburg

Time from Richmond: 1 hour

Where: Williamsburg

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It's a tale as old as time by now, but it's still fun. Engage with the actors as they explain what life was like at the dawn of America. These actors are everywhere so be prepared to sing, dance, eat and joke around with them while you make your way through the living museum!


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