Your Guide to Exploring Virginia’s History by Train

by Patricia Keppel | Posted: Mar 5, 2018

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**This post is written in partnership with Amtrak Virginia and Virginia Department of Rail & Public Transportation.**


Virginia has a rich, complex history ripe for exploration. If you’re ready to plan your next adventure, our historic and historical sites will transport you to a vibrant tapestry of moments from the past. Amtrak will transport you to the sites themselves – with no traffic, no parking and no distractions from the fun of your journey. Amtrak’s passenger routes take you directly to many of Virginia’s most popular destinations, and a short walk or Lyft ride gets you to the heart of the action.


Of course, even the most enthusiastic history buffs tend to appreciate the conveniences of modern travel. Amtrak trains offer complimentary Wi-Fi service and in-seat outlets to support all your pre-trip reading and post-trip photo-sharing. There are no middle seats to navigate – you can just sit back and relax in wide, comfortable reclining seats with plenty of legroom. And, the café car has sandwiches, salads, snacks and hot and cold beverages available for purchase.

This post features Williamsburg, Richmond and Charlottesville, three iconic locations seeped in the history of the Commonwealth – and our nation. It includes all kinds of inspiration for a history-themed excursion, as well as information on Amtrak and Lyft to make the logistics simple.




As seasoned Virginia travelers know, Williamsburg offers a host of cultural and recreational activities and events. Its worldwide renown, however, comes from the unique opportunity to experience an in-depth recreation of early American history. You’ll love diving into the “Colonial Capital” of Virginia.

Amtrak Station: The Williamsburg station could not be more conveniently located, just blocks away from Colonial Williamsburg. It offers a comfortable waiting room and a design to complement the region’s history – a steep gabled roof and classical portico.


Colonial Williamsburg

Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg

Take a stroll down Duke of Gloucester Street and get a “live” look at the 18th century. In Colonial Williamsburg you can see, touch, taste and even smell key elements of our nation’s history in live demonstrations, restaurants and shops.

From Amtrak Station: Walking Distance


College of William and Mary

William and Mary College

Founded in 1693, the College of William and Mary enjoys a rich legacy all its own. Its Sir Christopher Wren Building, completed in 1700, is the oldest college building still in use in the U.S. Open to visitors, “Wren” is a great place to begin a campus walk.

From Amtrak Station: Walking Distance


Powhatan Creek Trail

Whether you prefer walking, jogging or biking, the Powhatan Creek Trail offers exercise – and several historic stops, including the Church on the Main, Mainland Farm and the Tomb of the Unknown Patriot Solider of the American Revolution.

From Amtrak Station: 5.6 miles



jamestown ships

Travel back to 1607 at Jamestown Settlement to meet English colonists and Native Americans of the region. With life-size re-creations of the colonists’ fort and ships, as well as a Powhatan village, you can enjoy truly hands-on exploration.

From Amtrak Station: 6.2 miles 




Virginia’s present-day capital has a little something for everyone, from patrons of the arts to NASCAR fans and from foodies to outdoor enthusiasts. For history buffs, Richmond offers a diverse array of sites and experiences spanning more than three centuries. The only challenge: narrowing down your itinerary.

Amtrak Stations: The two train stations in Richmond are located downtown (Main Street) and just outside of the city in neighboring Henrico (Staples Mill Road). Both feature a waiting room and are only a quick walk or Lyft ride away from the city’s many historic sites.


Virginia State Capitol

Virginia State Capitol

Designed by Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia State Capitol has served as the home of the Virginia General Assembly, America’s oldest English-speaking legislature, since 1788. You can enjoy interior tours as well as a stroll on the grounds.

From Main Street Amtrak Station: Walking Distance
From Staples Mill Road Amtrak Station: 8.6 miles 


The Valentine

Valentine Museum

The Valentine collects, preserves and interprets 400 years of Richmond history. Tour the 19th-century Wickham House and sculpture studio and explore the extensive collection of costumes, textiles, photographs, artwork and other curiosities.

From Main Street Amtrak Station: Walking Distance
From Staples Mill Road Amtrak Station: 8.3 miles 


Historic Tredegar

The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar

The American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar brings to life the history and perspectives of Union, Confederate and African-American participants. The riverside site also houses the Richmond National Battlefield Park Visitor Center.

From Main Street Amtrak Station: Walking Distance
From Staples Mill Road Amtrak Station: 9 miles 


Canal Walk

Canal Walk

The Richmond Canal Walk interprets four centuries of Richmond history through medallions, monuments and exhibits along a scenic 1.25-mile route. You can take in the city skyline and water views on the Haxall Canal, Kanawha Canal and James River.

From Main Street Amtrak Station: Walking Distance
From Staples Mill Road Amtrak Station: 10 miles 


Other Richmond Historic  Highlights:

Agecroft Hall, Beth Ahabah Museum & Archives, Hollywood Cemetery, Maggie Walker National Historic Site, Maymont, Poe Museum, Richmond Slave Trail, St. John’s Church




Nestled in the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville showcases spectacular scenery year-round. Its historic sites reflect the rich cultural, natural, and artistic heritage of the region, offering tours, special events, and educational programs that are entertaining and informative for the whole family.

Amtrak Station: Located in a building dating back to the 1890s, even the Charlottesville station reflects the region’s history. It’s in walking distance to several historic areas, including the University of Virginia campus and the bustling downtown.


Charlottesville Historic District

Charlottesville Downtown Mall

The town of Charlottesville, founded in 1762, evolved around Court Square in today’s Charlottesville Historic District. You can visit historic sites like the Albemarle County Courthouse, then stroll the brick pedestrian mall to shop and dine.

From Amtrak Station: Walking Distance


University of Virginia and Central Grounds

University of Virginia

Enjoy a stroll on the original Grounds of the University of Virginia, designed by Thomas Jefferson. This “Academical Village” includes the Lawn and the Pantheon-inspired Rotunda, the signature landmark of the University, open for tours.

From Amtrak Station: Walking Distance


Michie Tavern

Michie Tavern

A truly sensory experience awaits you at Michie Tavern. Eat a hearty Southern meal, then discover 18th-century travelers’ secrets and woes through a self-guided tour with interpretations on drinking, gaming, dining, sleeping and entertainment.

From Amtrak Station: 3.7 miles



Thomas Jefferson designed, redesigned, built and rebuilt Monticello for more than 40 years – his autobiographical masterpiece. Tour the interior of this beautiful home, but don’t miss the gardens, a showpiece and experimental botanic laboratory.

From Amtrak Station: 5 miles


Plan Your Travel

Manassas train station

While this post hopefully sparked some inspiration, the featured cities and attractions are only the beginning of Virginia’s historic destinations. Check out the full list of historic and historical sites to map out the right trip for you and your group.

Then, head to to book your tickets for a comfortable, convenient travel experience. On the day of your excursion, you can use the Amtrak mobile app to access the Lyft app and request a ride. New users of Lyft will receive $5 off each of their first four Lyft rides by using the promo code AMTRAKLYFT!


No matter where you go, you’ll find incredible experiences – Virginia is most definitely for history lovers.


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