Known for its place in history, Richmond has much more to offer these days: trendy restaurants, vibrant museums, unique shops, and even adventure! The region is perfect for a day trip or longer getaway for Tidewater residents. To learn what should be on your RVA bucket list, you’ll find local insider insights in my new book, “100 Things to Do in Richmond Before You Die.”
The book covers five categories of must-see spots: food and drink, music and entertainment, sports and recreation, culture and history, and shopping and fashion.
That’s 100 entries total, including fascinating venues, like the quirky Edgar Allan Poe Museum, the inspirational Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the natural urban paradise of the James River Park System, a one-stop date night at The Tin Pan, the creativity-packed Crossroads Art Center, and the soul-soothing Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
The book also presents annual events and itineraries: family friendly, dog friendly, craft foodie favorites, and more. Here are my picks for top family activities in Richmond!
A Potpourri of Fun at Maymont
A wealthy Gilded Age couple cordially invites you to visit their 100-acre estate on a ridge above the James River. OK, James and Sallie May Dooley didn’t invite you personally, but they willed their property to Richmond so everyone could visit. One hundred years later, the multifaceted property offers a potpourri of opportunities. Guests can take in a self-guided audio tour of the ornate mansion and servants’ areas and stroll through the peaceful themed gardens and specialty habitats. Tree lovers can hug to their hearts’ content at this nationally recognized arboretum, home to national and state “champion” trees. Visitors can spot local wildlife—including black bears, bald eagles, otters, and owls—pet the farm animals at the barn, and explore the area’s natural history at the Robins Nature Center. Special events enhance the experience, from the Easter celebration to Summer Kickoff Concerts to fall’s Garden Glow light show. Quick, RSVP “yes”!
1000 Westover Rd., 804-525-9000, maymont.org
Playgrounds for Everyone at PARK365
This free, 2.4-acre playground was designed to accommodate individuals with disabilities while welcoming everyone. PARK365 has three separate playgrounds for toddlers, school-aged kids, and everyage after that. Visitors can swing, splash in water troughs, play musical instruments, and more. Extra-special features include a wheelchair-accessible treehouse, a multisensory wall with panels stimulating touch, hearing, and sight; handicap-accessible swings and fitness equipment; and charging stations for electric wheelchairs. The space also provides soft safety surfaces, a shaded pavilion with picnic tables, water fountains and misters, and a family restroom. But what makes PARK365 most special is the people. All are welcome, all are welcoming—that’s one of the best lessons any child can learn.
3600 Saunders Ave., 804-358-1874, soar365.org/park365
Play and Learn at the Children’s Museum of Richmond
Dishing out a heaping helping of play alongside generous servings of learning, the Children’s Museum of Richmond offers hours of fun for kids and their adults. Multisensory experiences engage all the senses in purposeful play and creative art projects. Interactive exhibits highlight age-appropriate lessons in familiar, kid-sized settings: mini restaurants and grocery stores, farm animals, banking, TV broadcasting, trains, trees, caverns, and more! The inside is bright and airy, and the outside features active play areas. CMoR offers special programs, including monthly sessions for children with disabilities, bilingual signage and story times, and sensory backpacks. Oh, and there are lots of tips for adults on engaging with kids, too, as well as chances to play along. The museum celebrates the diversity of children and their cultural traditions, so kids can, too. The museum is tailored for children through the age of 8 years old. Check the calendar for even more fun times.
Children’s Museum of Richmond, 2626 W Broad St., 804-474-7000, childrensmuseumofrichmond.org
Inquiring Minds Will Love the Science Museum of Virginia
After pondering the 29-ton granite globe in front of the museum, move inside to play with—aka learn about—the mysteries of reality. Proclaiming that the word “museum” is a verb, the Science Museum of Virginia packs its galleries with entertaining hands-on activities. Play games that challenge the mind and the body, like air hockey against a computer or a pitching cage and a sprint measuring speed. Feel the power of hurricane-force winds. Be inspired by scientists and mind-blowing ideas. Get creative in workshops combining art and science. Surround yourself with wonders at The Dome, one of the world’s most technologically advanced theaters. Youthful inquiring minds, from toddlers on up, can get involved in galleries designed just for them. Whatever your age, roll up your sleeves and get engaged while learning science, technology, engineering, and math. You’ll have a world of fun and gain a universe of memories.
2500 W Broad St., 804-864-1400, smv.org
Insider’s Tip: Don’t miss the Model Railroad Show in December.
Engage With History at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture
Forget boring history classes and textbooks. The Virginia Museum of History & Culture makes history accessible and relatable. One of the museum’s long-term exhibitions, “Our Commonwealth,” literally surrounds you with each of Virginia’s regions. You’ll learn about the landscapes, foodways, industries, culture, and people, from the mountains to the coast. Visually rich and appealing, each sensory-filled room pulls you gently into the region, using moving murals, gentle background sounds, intriguing artifacts, and striking displays. Other museum exhibitions share different aspects of history: “The Story of Virginia,” from 16,000 BC to contemporary times; “Taking Aim,” highlighting historic firearms; “The Lost Cause,” on the years following the American Civil War; and more. The museum also runs short-term exhibitions and special events—lectures, learning, kid stuff, and fun. Pictures, artifacts, and engaging displays add depth to the lessons. History never looked so good!
428 N Arthur Ashe Blvd., 804-340-1800, virginiahistory.org
Have A Wild Time at the Metro Richmond Zoo
There’s nothing like an adorable animal to elicit smiles and to open hearts and minds. The 150-acre Metro Richmond Zoo also educates and inspires visitors with the long-term mission of protecting animals around the world. The privately owned zoo is accredited by the Zoological Association of America and supports conservation efforts through financial contributions and award-winning breeding programs. Guests can get a gander of animals large and small, representing 190 species: tigers, bears, birds, reptiles, bats, monkeys, and more. Catch a glimpse of zoo babies, including young pygmy hippos, cheetahs, snow leopards, orangutans, and penguins. As one young guest said of the meerkats, “They’re so frickin’ cute!” For a different perspective, guests can hop on the zoo train, the aerial chairlift, or the Adventure Park zipline, including zips over animal enclosures. Gaze, engage, and learn!
8300 Beaver Bridge Rd., Moseley, 804-739-5666, metrorichmondzoo.com