It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to family outings. Despite the huge variety of activities available in the Richmond area, a lot of parents find themselves returning again and again to the same old standbys. But just because you have a routine doesn’t mean you can’t change things up every once in a while. Throw a little bit of parenting caution to the wind and embrace a spirit of exploration. There are few better ways to bond with your kids than trying something new or exciting outdoor adventure together.
Richmond is a fantastic city when it comes to outdoor adventures, with everything from white water rafting to miles of hiking trails to Segway tours. In our search for our favorites, we decided to narrow our focus by choosing activities that met the following criteria:
- Adventurous but suitable for a variety of skill levels.
- Beautiful natural surroundings.
Even if you’re an indoor person at heart who would much rather hang out at a mall than hang off a rock climbing wall, just remember you set a fantastic example for your kids every time you step out of your comfort zone and try something new. So, be brave, bold, and fearless and check out these five great outdoor adventures.
5. Zipline the Treetop Zoofari at the Richmond Metro Zoo
If you have kids and live in the Richmond area, chances are you’ve paid a visit to the lions, giraffes, and other animal friends at the Metro Richmond Zoo. But if you haven’t checked out their Treetop Zoofari Zipline, you’ve only scratched the surface of what the Chesterfield attraction has to offer. Zoom through the treetops on one of the two courses, the Junior Explorer course for younger kids (ages 4+) or those wary of heights, or the more adventurous Treetop Zoofari course (ages 8+) with 48 challenges including 15 zip lines and a free fall challenge. Both courses come with training and equipment rental, as well as family access to walk along the course (so you can cheer on your kiddos as they zoom through the air).
Why we love it: There are few experiences in Richmond that can match the wow factor of zooming in the air above exotic animals like giraffes, kangaroos, and apes. It’s the closest you can get to the excitement of a safari without booking a flight to Africa. It’s also a great way to bond with your kids as you navigate the various challenges that come with the course, including jungle ropes, floating logs, tight wires, and the Indiana Jones bridges. And once you’ve conquered your fears and completed the course, you can take it easy and go see some adorable pygmy hippos or baby lions.
Cost: Treetop Zoofari Course ($55/person), Junior Explorer Course ($25/person), Parrot Plunge ($15/person or $10/person add-on with either of the other two courses)
Location: 8300 Beaver Bridge Rd., Moseley, VA 23120
4. Tube/Kayak/Paddle-Board the James
When it comes to Richmond’s outdoor persona, the James River is at the very heart. But many Richmonders, even lifers, have barely touched on all that our beautiful river has to offer. Aside from a lovely backdrop to walks and beers at Legend, the river is also just plain fun. And there are all sorts of outdoor adventures that revolve around it. Whether you’re an experienced rafter or a total water sports newbie, there’s something for every skill level out there. And there are several companies that offer rentals and/or guided tours for everything from paddle boarding to kayaking to tubing, so you can leave all the details to the professionals.
Why we love it: It’s always a win when you can combine the beauty of nature with good old-fashioned fun, and water sports on the James do just that. Aside from the exercise and bonding factor, a family outing on the James is a great opportunity to show your kids a side of their city they’ve likely never seen before. And even if you fall off your paddle board or capsize your kayak, it’ll become one of those epic family stories that are told and retold for years to come.
3. Bike the Capitol Trail
Richmond has, without question, become a bike city. And what better way to experience the great outdoors with your family than on a bike adventure? If busy roads scare you off, the paved bike- and pedestrian-only Capitol Trail is a perfect solution. Completed in 2015, the 52-mile trail connects Richmond and Williamsburg along the historic Route 5 corridor. Even if you only bike a small portion of the trail through downtown Richmond, it’s a great way to explore the city and get active with the whole family. And if you don’t have your own bikes or gear, there are tons of local companies that rent everything from electric bikes to child seats to kid trailers.
Why we love it: There’s something so simple and carefree about a family bike ride, a little call back to a simpler time. It’s an easy activity to do around your neighborhood, but if you really want an adventure and want to explore Richmond in a new way, the Capitol Trail is a safe, perfect option. If you want a great, kid-friendly itinerary, bike from Dorey Park (just east of mile marker 42) to Ronnie’s BBQ. Your kids can enjoy the park’s playground and pond and the whole family can enjoy a Southern barbeque lunch before turning back.
2. Climb the Manchester Climbing Wall in James River Park
Do your kids whine and complain when you try to take them to historic sites around Richmond? Well, they may have a different outlook if your educational outing includes a climbing lesson at an abandoned train trestle of the Old Manchester Bridge. This is a great activity for kids 10 and older and a surefire way to get them excited about nature and exercise in a fun, adventurous setting. RVA Climbs offers youth climbing programs as well as an intro to rock climbing class and private lessons.
Why we love it: Even if the thought of climbing up an old train trestle scares you, chances are your kids will think it’s beyond cool. This is a fantastic way to go outside of your comfort zone and show your kids the value in new experiences and pushing boundaries. And with a picturesque location right in James River Park, they’ll be able to see downtown Richmond in a whole new light (and from new heights).
1. Hike Belle Isle
When it comes to outdoor adventures in Richmond, Belle Isle is the foundation. And the spirit behind every adventure seems to start right at that little island in the middle of the James. There’s a reason Richmonders flock across the swaying footbridge en masse on any warm day, or why the rocks along the bank are almost always full of sunbathers or tourists. In a city full of urban adventures, Belle Island is one of the best places to explore and connect with nature right in the heart of downtown.
Why we love it: There are more challenging hikes around Richmond. There are also trails with more attractions or activities. But a walk on Belle Isle, surrounded by the roaring rapids of the James with songbirds and herons along the banks and the city skyline in the distance, just feels like home. And for kids, it’s one giant, natural playground where they can explore muddy trails, dense inland vegetation, and numerous rock pools along the banks. You can also throw in a little education as you explain the history of the island and its one time use as a prison for Union soldiers during the Civil War. No matter how you explore Belle Isle, you’ll be glad you did.
While these are some of our favorite Richmond outdoor adventures, we’d love to hear about yours and if there’s anything we missed! Let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!