Known as the home of the legendary president George Washington, this little city packs a whole lot of history, relaxing nature spots, and great entertainment into one place. The city was built along the Rappahannock River and it boasts an impressive number of 18th and 19th century buildings, some 350 to be precise!
It was an influential port city during the colonial era, then later the site of many of the major battles during the Civil War. Fredericksburg is just an hour away from Washington D.C. too, so you can come on a day trip!
There are plenty of things to do in Fredericksburg to keep you busy for a while with tours around the historic Old Town and visits to the home of George Washington and many of his family’s dwellings. You can also tour whiskey distilleries, browse the art pieces at the Gari Melchers Museum, and get your dose of nature at Alum Springs Park.
14. Mary Washington House
The cute Mary Washington House is a cottage-styled property. It was purchased in 1772 by George Washington for his mother Mary Ball. The house was destined to be demolished but luckily it was purchased in 1890, preventing this unfortunate fate and preserving the historical site.
The house underwent a long period of restoration, opening up to the public in 1931. Mary Washington spent the last 17 years of her life here, and lived just down the road from her beloved daughter.
The cottage’s exterior is painted white with black windows, and the interior is decorated with old fashioned art and weathered period furniture. Don’t miss this little gem whilst you’re in Fredericksburg!
13. George Washington’s Ferry Farm
George Washington spent several years of his childhood at George Washington Ferry Farm. Of course, back then it wasn’t called that. The property has guided tours that delve deeper into the lives of his close family who lived here with him, as well as the slaves that worked for them.
Aside from exploring the life and iconic career of George Washington, the house has an archaeology lab where colonial and Civil War artifacts that have been excavated at the property are studied. Peek through the windows into the lab and check out their latest findings.
George Washington’s Ferry Farm was built in 1738, and it was the home of the young president for many of his formative years, it gives us insight into how he lived and the backdrop to this great thinker’s earliest ideas.
12. Alum Springs Park
If it’s a greener side of Fredericksburg that you’re looking for, then come to Greenbrier Drive and spend a few hours basking in nature at Alum Springs Park. Go on a short walk at the park, or bring some burgers to grill and spend the whole day here with friends or family!
There are lots of picnic tables and grills, as well as some play areas that the kids will love. With everyone happy and fed, you can sit back and enjoy the sun.
If you’re coming alone, bring a book and spend a few lazy hours relaxing under the shade of a tree and catching up on some me time.
11. Gari Melchers Museum
Just outside of the city sits the home of the esteemed artist Gari Melchers. His estate houses his historic home, beautiful gardens, outbuildings, and most importantly his art studio where he sat and painted for long hours.
After you’ve explored or toured the house and wondered at the original furnishings and Melchers’ art collections, head outside and stroll along the many miles of walking trails that run through the estate. There’s also a little museum shop where you can get Gari Melchers inspired souvenirs to take home with you.
Melchers and his wife lived in the old house from 1916 until his death, just 16 years later, in 1932. The Gari Melchers Museum is just 10 minutes drive away from Fredericksburg, in the town of Falmouth.
10. James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library
Since Herbert Hoover, presidents have been building libraries in their home states that explore their time in office, as well as their personal lives. James Monroe was the fifth president of the US, and his memorial library was opened in 1927 in downtown Fredericksburg.
There are permanent exhibits in the museum, like books from the president’s personal library, and artifacts that were housed here by his descendants, who were the original administrators of the library and museum.
The museum holds the largest collection of artifacts and documents about Monroe in the country, so there’s no better place to come if you want to learn about the 5th president of the US!
9. Rising Sun Tavern
There’s no doubt that many of the attractions in Fredericksburg are related to the Washington family, and this tavern is no exception!
The property was constructed in 1760, but back then it was the home of the younger brother of George Washington, not a tavern. In 1790 it changed hands and was set up as a local tavern that served the community for some 30 years.
At the time, the men and women who visited didn’t hang out in the same room! The men drank and played cards in the Taproom and Great Room, whilst the women allegedly gossiped and did their needlework in the Retiring Room. They run fun, short tours of the place so you can find out all about the history of the Rising Sun Tavern.
8. Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop
This museum explores a range of disciplines, from pharmacology to politics. It was named after Dr. Hugh, a notorious doctor in Fredericksburg who had famous patients from the area like Mary Washington. He used out-of-the-ordinary ingredients like snakeroots and lancets in his medicines.
Sadly, he died in the Battle of Princeton during the Revolutionary War, but his legacy lives on in this little museum, that is styled like a shop.
Explore the quirky cabinets in the museum, which have some of the strangest ingredients he used to treat his patients, like crab claws. The rows of glass vials and pestle and mortars give the little shop an old-fashioned charm.
7. Historic Kenmore
History buffs will love the old Kenmore house, which was built by none other than George Washington’s sister Betty and her husband Fielding. It’s a large Georgian-style mansion that reflects their wealthy status as merchants.
Like many of the historic properties in the area, it was threatened by demolition at one point in 1922. Luckily, a group of local women came together and put their minds to work, saving the property and preserving this important landmark for all.
The house has period furniture and old-fashioned decor that will transport you back in time to when the Washingtons walked the halls of Historic Kenmore. There’s also a visitor center and a gallery that commemorates the women that saved this spectacular local landmark.
6. Chancellorsville Battlefield
Head to the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center first to find out about the importance of this battlefield, and get in-detail facts about the battles that went on here. Most of the battles took place in the woods, and there are plenty of historical trails running through the site, from the short 0.2 mile Jackson Wounding Trail loop to the 4.3 mile Chancellorsville History Trail.
Amongst the most important sites across the vast battlefield are the Chancellor House Site that was burned down whilst the soldiers were fighting in 1863, but it once housed the Chancellor family and served as the Hooker’s headquarters during the battle. There’s also Hazel Grove, where 30 canons were positioned and opened fire on the 3rd of May 1863.
History and nature lovers will be equally content spending a day here, exploring the woodlands and meadows, and finding out about the battles and military history of Chancellorsville Battlefield.
5. A. Smith Bowman Distillery
A. Smith Bowman purchased a chunk of land in 1927 and started farming the land, but he soon realized he needed a creative way to use all the excess grains the farm was producing. And so it was that in 1934, Bowman set up the distillery.
It was here that the first batch of Virginia Gentleman whiskey was produced. Amazingly, until 1950 the A. Smith Bowman Distillery was the only legal whiskey producer in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The family owned business continued to grow, and much later the distillery moved to Fredericksburg where it still produces some of the finest whiskey in the world (that’s according to the World Whiskies Award!). Take a tasting tour and sample this delicious piece of Fredericksburg history!
4. Fredericksburg Battlefield
Fredericksburg played an influential role in the Civil War, and was the site of many great battles. Over 9 months there were four large battles in the area that left 100,000 men dead or wounded.
The battles were felt by the whole community, from the soldiers to the laboring slaves. The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park span four different battlefields, Fredericksburg where the 1862 battle broke out in December, the Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House.
Start your visit at the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center at the base of the Fredericksburg battlefield, then continue exploring from there. History buffs – put this destination at the top of your list!
3. Canoeing or Kayaking on the Rappahannock River
The Rappahannock River extends over a total 195 miles along its course from western Virginia to Chesapeake Bay. A day paddling and riding the rivers currents is always a good idea when the sun’s out and it starts to get hot in the summer.
Along the length of the river between Motts Run Landing and Fredericksburg there are Class I and Class II rapids. This 4.5 mile stretch is great for less experienced adventurers who want to have some lighthearted holiday fun.
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, go on a kayak tour with the Virginia Outdoor Center, their Hole in the Wall trail has fast-paced rapids along its 10 miles stretch that will challenge even experienced kayakers!
2. Chatham Manor
This stunning manor has sat above the banks of the Rappahannock River for more than 250 years. It was built in 1771 for William Fitzhugh and ran as a plantation, relying on the labor of slaves, for a long time.
The huge Georgian house was built at the top of Stafford Heights so that all of Fredericksburg could see how wealthy the Fitzhugh’s were. Unfortunately, he had to sell the property just 35 years later because his money ran out!
During the Civil War, it was abandoned by its owners and taken over by the US Army, who used it as their headquarters during the Battle of Fredericksburg. Afterwards it was used as a hospital, and later restored in the 1920s. The property is packed with history and lavish decor. You can’t skip a trip to this iconic home in Fredericksburg!
1. Old Town
The charming and lively downtown district of Fredericksburg is very walkable, and extremely cute. It’s riddled with historical buildings that stand as testimony of the cities long and at times arduous past, and reminds us of the importance of preserving these national treasures.
If you want to find out more about the city, go on one of the historic walking tours around town and enjoy sightseeing with a friendly local who knows all there is to know about the past and present of Fredericksburg.
Do some light shopping, sit and sip on a cup of coffee in a little cafe, try all the best foods in the local restaurants, and stroll in and out of the galleries in Old Town – there’s a whole lot to do in this little district.