A Visit to Richmond

Since Richmond is only two hours from DC it’s one of my family’s favorite destinations.  We have been often for day trips and the occasional overnight.  This year we decided to spend an entire week in Richmond over the summer since we never get to do everything we want do during shorter visits – and we love the food.  Even after spending a week there, we plan on going back soon.  Richmond has a great mix of new and old – plus lots of fun. 

Here is run down of what we did on our most recent visit, plus some highlights from past visits.

1. The Fun:  The Richmond Children’s Museum is a large complex with plenty of spaces for imaginative play from digging for fossils to “driving” a real ambulance to climbing an indoor treehouse with slides.  There is also a large, well-stocked art room.  My kids range in age from 2 to 11 and they all had a good time.  We also visited the adjacent Science Museum of Virginia.  This museum is highly interactive and features exhibits on speed, genetics, and more.  We even saw rats playing basketball.  Although geared towards older children, the museum also has a very nice play area for children under five.  My kids loved the wind tunnel, playing air hockey against a robot, taking interactive quizzes, and participating in a cooking demonstration.

Richmond - Science Center

2. The AmusementKings Dominion is just a 25 minute drive from Richmond and is one of the best amusement parks my kids have ever visited.  Kings Dominion has a great mix of rides for older kids (and adults) and Planet Snoopy will keep younger kids happy for hours.  We also loved the water park in Kings Dominion, Soak City, which also has a good mix of thrilling water slides and other water rides for older kids, plenty of play areas for little kids, and a lazy river for everyone.  We also took advantage of the meal deal that allowed us to get meals (or partial meals) every 90 minutes. 

Kings Dominion

3.  The Food:  One highlight of our trip was a visit to Charm School Ice Cream.  They make unusual homemade flavors and even hand-make their waffle cones on site.  We even got a few extra cones after we finished our sundaes.  We also ran the gamut of dining from the Ipanema Café with a quaint cave-like interior to grabbing food and snacks to-go at Ellwood Thompson’s Market, to the modern The Daily Kitchen.  

Charm City Ice Cream

4.  The History:  Richmond was the Capitol of the Confederacy and its history is relevant now.  The Hollywood Cemetery is where the former President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, is buried as well as Presidents James Monroe and James Tyler.   There is also a monument to the Confederate War Dead and beautiful views of the James River.  The American Civil War Museum is also worth a visit.   This museum tells the story of the Civil War and Confederacy on a level many children can understand.  Older children can also tour the adjacent White House of the Confederacy.  My six and nine year olds found the tour interesting, but it is close to an hour and younger kids are likely to find it too long.  

American Civil War Museum

5.  The James River:  The James River runs through Richmond and it’s likely you will run into it even if you don’t intend to!  There is a lot to do on the James River.  On past visits to Richmond we have hiked one of the James River’s “easy” trails with kids.  You can also hike, canoe or kayak, swim fish or tube down the river.  On our most recent visit we decided to take it easy and take a Canal Cruise to get a different view of the river and be able to relax and enjoy the view. 

There is a lot more for families to do in Richmond, including the beautiful Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and even Redskins Training Camp.  We have found Richmond to be very family-friendly, including finding the Graduate Hotel, which has family suites with bunk beds.  At just about two hours away we think Richmond should be on everyone’s destination list for when you need to get away but don’t want to go far.  


Photos courtesy of Jamie Davis Smith.

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