Maymont is a 100-acre of public park in the heart of downtown Richmond, with a beautiful, historic Victorian Estate and several things to do for the whole family.
I’ve been returning here every couple of years for seventeen years and it has even more to offer now that I’ve had children.
This is one place you will thoroughly enjoy that helps you feel like you’ve escaped it all, spent time in nature, had fun and most importantly, spent some quality time with your family.
What to See & Do at Maymont
While at first glance, you may think there isn’t much to do at a public park, you’d be wrong. In fact, if you’re not careful you could easily run out of time.
Where else can you have unique experiences like seeing a Tiffany window, cooling off under a waterfall, touching a snake, and looking eye to eye with a brown bear all in one day?
During your Maymont visit, you can:
- Take historic mansion tours (great for art and history lovers)
- Tour beautiful gardens (perfect for plant lovers)
- An aboretum
- Carriage collection
- Visit a nature center with wildlife exhibits
- Explore the Children’s animal farm (the place to be for animal lovers and children)
To see everything at Maymont would take an entire day.
There’s lots of walking and it’s quite hilly. A tram is available from noon to 5pm on weekends for a small fee.
Depending on what you want to see, different entrances are appropriate.
Take a walk on the wild side, or a stroll if you prefer, at Maymont’s outdoor wildlife habitats.
All habitats feature Virginia native species (historic and present) in the 40-acre valley located between the historic estate, the Maymont Farm and The Robins Nature Center.
Did you know? You can even take a virtual tour via Google Street View or listen to a mobile tour as you walk the estate.
Whether strolling through the gardens, touring the mansion, watching river otters play, petting a goat or picnicking on the lawn, Maymont is a gift of 100 acres for all to enjoy.
Historic Maymont Mansion
Many big cities have historic homes like Monticello on Virginia and Biltmore in North Carolina. Likewise, Richmond has quite a rich history just as it’s historic house, Maymont does.
In 1886, James Dooley, a millionaire railroad magnate, and his wife Sallie Dooley acquired farmland on the banks of the James River.
Their home was completed in 1893 and they lived there until 1925, when the house and the land were donated to the City of Richmond.
The 12,000 square foot, 33-room Victorian home was christened Maymont, a combination from Sallie May Dooley – Sallie’s maiden name May and mont, the French word for mountain.
Did you know? In 2022, the nonprofit Maymont Foundation received a grant to improve infrastructure in the Maymont Mansion and the surrounding animal habitats, so it’ll be great to see what they do with that!
The main house is only available for viewing by a guided tour. Tours are given every 15 minutes and are approximately 45 minutes in length. You can buy your tickets in the mansion’s basement.
The tour was surprisingly kid friendly. The Dooley’s loved animals and the guide encouraged our kids to do a scavenger hunt of all the animal imagery in the house.
At the end of the visit, she said she herself had found 370 depictions of animals in the house. The main level has two drawing rooms, a library, dining room, and living room.
The highlight of the upstairs is the 12-foot high stained glass Tiffany window. The most memorable room in the house is Mrs. Dooley’s bedroom. It features a bed in the shape of a swan. My daughter counted eleven swans all together in the room.
Mrs. Dooley’s dressing table was made by Tiffany of silver and ivory and the legs were made of narwhal tusks.
Return to the basement to learn about life below the stairs. You’ll find the kitchen, wine cellar, laundry, butler’s bedroom pantry, and learn how the servants lived. In its own way, it’s equally fascinating. The basement is free to the public.
You’ll see a gilded age, 18th century design throughout the mansion as it was built and furnished with all the lastest modern conveniences of that time.
Maymont has 4 main garden areas to explore:
- Italian Garden
- Japanese Garden
- Specialty Gardens
Maymont Japanese Garden
The Japanese garden is lovely with trained trees, stone lanterns, paths and bridges. A number of visitors were cooling off under the waterfall there. We liked the Italian Garden even better with its formal gardens, gazebos, statues, and fountains.
There are a number of steps that lead from the Japanese Garden to the Italian Garden.
The Italian Garden & Historic Garden Tour
The Italian garden is magnificent—featuring exquisite stonework, statuary, gazebos, fountains and, of course, beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees.
The Victorian garden is far better suited to an exclusive mansion than to a public space.
You can take a 30-minute guided tour of this garden on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Other gardens on the property include the herb garden, grotto, daylily and daffodil display, and cactus garden (small). A wetland habitat, vegetable garden, and butterfly trails are near the Nature Center and Barn.
$3 family guides (Mansion and Carriage Collection, Gardens and Trees, and Animals) are available for purchase at the Mansion and the Nature Center.
Each full-color booklet has a few games for children.
Where to See Animals
Mayment has 3 places where you can see a variety of live animals and they’re a lot of fun to see. You can visit:
- The Robins Nature Center
- Maymont Farm
- Wildlife Habitats
Let’s start with the nature center…
Robins Nature & Visitor Center
Although the mansion is a logical place to start to find out the history of Maymont, a better place to start would have been the Robins Nature & Visitor Center.
It’s up a very steep hill. My husband remembers with dread his visit there pushing a stroller. The Nature Center is the best place on the grounds for a restroom or food break.
The Nature & Visitors Center interprets the natural environment of the James River.
In the center of the room are twelve linked aquariums with the fish and turtles found in the area.
There’s also a display on:
- Virginia rocks
- Weather station
- Light up map of the area around the James River
- Room full of nocturnal animals
- Great live otter tank
There’s an area where you can figure out how fish can swim up a wall by using a “Twiddlefish”, which was very popular with my girls.
Demonstrations are given around four times a day.
My daughters got to touch an otter pelt and skull and touch a king snake.
The Discovery Room
The Discovery Room is open from noon to 5pm on weekends if volunteers are available. Unfortunately it was closed when we visited.
On a previous visit, our daughters played for almost an hour at the large puppet theater with many puppets. It also has discovery boxes on fossils, fish, birds, etc. and a number of books.
Maymont Children’s Farm
After visiting the Nature & Visitor’s Center, we headed to the Children’s Farm. The farm has lots of animals including:
The barn itself is open only from noon to 5pm, but you can view and feed the outside animals earlier. There are 25 cent pellet machines. Unfortunately, we learned that the animals and feed are moved inside at 3:30pm or even earlier if it’s hot out so our kids didn’t get to feed any animals.
We did, however, enjoy seeing a peacock outside. The signage describing the different kinds of farm animals is very informative. This farm may be my all time favorite of all the ones I’ve seen.
Native Virginia Wildlife Exhibits
Maymont’s native Virginia wildlife exhibits are scattered throughout the 40-acre valley between the farm and the estate.
You’ll see an aviary, deer, black bears, bobcat, red and gray fox, elk, and sika deer.
A real highlight of this area was the birds of prey exhibit with hawks, vultures, and owls. It ends with a display of bald eagles. A 25 cent machine allows you to see with the acuity of an eagle.
You can also compare your wingspan to that of a hawk or an eagle.
Events & Programs
Maymont also hosts regular, as well as seasonal events, not only for adults but for kids too. For kids, they’ve held events like Living Alphabet, That’s Gross, Maymont Explorers and Budding Biologists.
For adults they hold events in Maymont Park like Community Yoga and the Richmond Jazz and Music Festival. Some other popular events include:
- Garden Glow
- Family Easter
- Bier Garden
- Summer Kickoff concert
- Merry Market
Hours & When to Go
It’s important to know that Maymont’s grounds have different hours than its indoor exhibits.
The Grounds, Wildlife Exhibits and Gardens are open daily from 10am to 7pm.
The Maymont Mansion is open Friday through Sunday and closed on other days and holidays.
Tours are available from 10am to 5pm with the last tour starting at 3:30pm
The Visitor Center and Nature Center are open Friday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
Tickets & Pricing
Admission to the grounds, gardens and outdoor wildlife areas is free but a donation of $5 is recommended.
General admission tickets for the nature center, historic garden tour and mansion tour is $8 for adults and $6 for kids ages 3+
Memberships are available if you plan on visiting a number of times during the year.
Good to Know Before You Go
- There are restrooms (mostly with changing tables) and water fountains throughout the grounds
- The restrooms at the Children’s Farm don’t have changing tables
- Maymont has rental spaces available for large events at their stunning Carriage House
- Maymont Cafe is the only sit down restaurant in the premises and serves hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads and desserts. It’s open from 11am to 4pm.
- Consider bringing a picnic as there is plenty of space on the grounds to spread out
- There are two vending machines for drinks near the mansion and there are a number of ice cream vendors especially in the Nature Center, Barn, and wildlife sections.
- Maymont’s neighbor Byrd Park is a great place to be by the lakes, enjoy the trail or have a picnic. Another great option is North Bank Trail which is good for scenic views, bird watching, and walking. Plus, it’s another historic site!
Maymont is about a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C. There is ample free parking at all three entrances.
Their address is 1700 Hampton Street, Richmond, VA 23220