Spring Bucket List: 5 Must-Do Activities for Families in Richmond

One of the best parts about living in Virginia is the fact that we have four seasons. And in Richmond, it’s hard to deny that spring may be the best season of all. From the stunning blooms that blanket the parks, city streets, and every neighborhood in the area to the bright sun and warm breezes that help us thaw from the winter cold, spring is practically perfect.

This year in particular, after what felt like the longest winter in history and a record-setting polar vortex that swept across the nation, even the slightest hint of sun is causing spring fever for all of us. Warmer weather has us rushing to the park, sitting on the porch, and doing whatever we can to get out of the house. And now that flowers are starting to bloom and the dogwoods are showing buds, the grass does, in fact, look greener on this side of the seasonal fence.

Needless to say, it’s not hard to find things to do in Richmond – any time of the year. But with spring officially here, we want to make sure you truly make the most of the season. With that in mind, we’ve come up with a list of fun, family-friendly activities that will get you out of the house and ensure that you and your family enjoy all of the beauty and splendor of spring in the Richmond area.

Below, we’ve listed some of our favorite spring activities, but if you have a favorite activity ideally suited for spring that we might have overlooked, be sure to let us know! You can reach us anytime at cs@richmondmom.com.

1. See What’s in Bloom at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Lewis Ginter Spring
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden / Facebook

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is one of the Richmond area’s favorite attractions. With more than 50 acres of breathtaking gardens, delicious dining, and delightful shopping year round, this Richmond gem has something for everyone. Their themed gardens include a Conservatory, a Children’s Garden, a Rose Garden, the Asian Valley, and a Cherry Tree Walk.

This spring, be sure to check out the Children’s Garden for special drop-in programming three days a week. Throughout April and May join in the fun with Garden Art (painting with watercolors on easels under the CWDKids TreeHouse) and fun outdoor activities with “Drop-in and Dig the Outdoors.” Plus, Water Play starts in April! See the full schedules below.

Wednesday: Drop-in and Dig the Outdoors!, 2-3 p.m., meet in the Children’s Garden Farm Garden
Saturday: Drop-in and Dig the Outdoors!, 10-11 a.m., meet in the Children’s Garden Farm Garden
Sunday: Garden Art,  2-3 p.m., meet in the Children’s Garden

April 13 – Sept 30, 9 – 4:45 p.m.
Spring Hours: April 15– June 7,  1 – 4:45 p.m.

Other upcoming events include:

In The Garden:  March 28 – June 19, 2019; 20+ garden and bloom-inspired art works juried by Crossroads Art Center. On display in the Lora Robins Library and Ginter Gallery II in the Kelly Education Center.

The Art of Play: March 29 – September 30, 2019;  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden comes alive with art that explores how playful interactions can create connection and conversation. Enjoy activities like the Bubble Machine, Giant Scrabble on the lawn, and painting on Plein Air Paint Days.

A Million Blooms: April 1 – June 1, 2019; A Million Blooms is Lewis Ginter’s annual celebration of spring. See the Garden explode with daffodils, tulips, peonies, roses, and much, much more.

Butterflies LIVE: April 12 – October 14, 2019; This beloved annual exhibit lets you get up close and personal with hundreds of tropical butterflies. Explore their origins, discover their preferred habitats and lifecycles, and watch as they feed, flutter, and take flight all around you.

Peek-A-Bloom with Peter Rabbit: April 20-21, 2019; Hop in for a meet and greet with Peter Rabbit, pose for pictures, and enjoy a concert on Bloemendaal Lawn (Saturday, April 20; 2-3 p.m.), or bring the family for Easter Brunch in the Robins Tea House (by reservation on Sunday, April 21).

Spring Plant Fest: May 3-4, 2-19; Thanks to this annual event, the Garden’s plant sales are among the largest in the region with more than 40 vendors selling plants ranging from well-known favorites to rare exotics and other garden-related items. Come by for live music, a festive atmosphere, and a chance to get all your gardening questions answered.

See a full calendar of spring events at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. 


2. Make the Most of Spring at Maymont 

Maymont Spring
Maymont / Facebook

Another Richmond gem, Maymont, features fun for the whole family all year long. But spring promises an especially wonderful time at this historical Richmond site. Whether you want to stroll through the Italian gardens, be mesmerized by the waterfall in the Japanese garden, tour the estate’s Victorian mansion, watch James River otters play at the Nature Center, or pet a goat at the Children’s Farm, Maymont has it all. With 100 acres for all to enjoy, Maymont is the perfect place to soak in spring.

With fun-filled activities all season long, you’ll want to be sure to check out some of Maymont’s upcoming special events, including:

Spring Break at Maymont: April 1-5, 2019; Spend spring break week exploring indoor exhibits including Maymont Mansion and the Nature Center along with special outdoor activities and exhibits all week long. Most programs require advance registration, so be sure to visit Maymont’s event calendar to register online.

Dominion Energy’s Family Easter: April 20, 2019; Experience one of Richmond’s favorite Easter events. The whole family will enjoy exciting games and activities, visits with the Easter Bunny, live entertainment, food trucks, and more!

Herbs Galore and More: April 27, 2019; Get ready to garden as dozens of vendors from the mid-Atlantic fill Maymont’s Carriage House Lawn with every imaginable herb, as well as annuals, perennials, trees, vegetables, and herbal products and crafts during this one-of-a-kind event.

Family Camp-Out: May 31 – June 1, 2019;  Use the stars as your guide to explore how humans and animals alike have navigated the world. This overnight camping adventure brings the family together to learn map and compass skills while on a scavenger hunt and to explore the lives of animals that migrate thousands of miles a year. The evening ends with s’mores and stories around the campfire, followed by overnight tent camping on Maymont’s grounds. Register online by May 30!

See a full calendar of spring events at Maymont.  


3. Head to the Farmer’s Markets

Farmer's Market Spring
GrowRVA / Facebook

Spring doesn’t just mark the start of warmer weather in Richmond, it also signals the start of spring harvest. And thankfully, we have plenty of opportunities to benefit from spring’s bounty thanks to a wealth of farmer’s markets throughout the Greater Richmond area. With many markets opening in April or before, you’ll be able to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as locally sourced foods and handmade crafts. Plus, many markets offer ongoing entertainment, music, and more – making a trip to the market something the whole family will enjoy.

Some of the area’s top markets include:
South of the James Market 
Lakeside Farmer’s Market 
Birdhouse Farmers Market
Manakin Market 

Or for a complete list of area markets, click here!


4. Travel the Richmond Garden Trail

Garden Trail Spring
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden / Facebook

We’ve already mentioned two of the most famous garden sites on the Richmond Garden Trail – Lewis Ginter and Maymont.  But the entire trail is comprised of ten gardens in all. Best of all, the gardens are all within 10 miles of each other, making it easy to navigate over a weekend. The gardens (some free and some requiring an admission fee) are scattered among some of the city’s most historic sites, as well, allowing you to combine history and natural beauty into one fantastic spring outing. Visit one or visit them all, just be sure to catch them in their full spring glory!

Gardens along the Richmond Garden Trail include:

Agecroft Hall: Explore 23 acres overlooking the James River, including the historic hall itself, a Tudor mansion built in the 16th century and brought to Virginia piece by piece from Manchester, England in the 1920s. The manor house is surrounded by traditional English gardens that will be open beginning in late March. Admission fee required.

The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design: The museum is housed in the Branch family’s former winter home (built in 1919). The Tudor-Revival mansion includes 63 rooms and has one of the largest backyards in the Fan district of Richmond. It is here you’ll find the walled garden with manicured lawns and flowerbeds. The garden offers free admission, however tours of the mansion are $10 per person.

Capitol Square: Not only is Capitol Square home to the Virginia State Capitol (a National Historic Landmark designed by Thomas Jefferson), but it also includes a 12-acre park, the oldest U.S. executive mansion still serving as a governor’s residence, and many monuments and memorials. Stroll the grounds (or bring a picnic!) to see the beautifully landscaped lawns and gardens and be on the lookout for an empty crypt at The George Washington Equestrian Monument. The crypt was intended to be the President’s burial site, but in the end, he was buried at his Mount Vernon estate in Northern Virginia. No admission fee required.

Edgar Allan Poe Museum and The Enchanted Garden: The Poe Museum, located in Poe’s former Richmond home, boasts the largest collection of Poe memorabilia in the world and is well worth the tour. But is is The Enchanted Garden that truly delights visitors in the spring. Designed as a “living” tribute to Poe in 1921, it’s layout and many of its design features were taken from his poem “To One in Paradise.” Even the ivy growing in the garden holds special significance as it was originally taken from his mother’s grave in Historic St. John’s Church. Admission fee is required.

Maymont: As previously mentioned, Maymont is a delight for all ages. But if it’s gardens you’re there to see, you’re in for a special treat. Located on the 100-acre grounds, you’ll find the Italian Garden, a carefully curated garden which includes a gazebo imported from Venice and a pergola with granite columns. The tranquil Japanese Garden, originally built in 1912 and expanded in 1978, features a 45-foot high waterfall, stone lanterns, paths, bridges, and a pond with stepping stones. And finally, the arboretum features more than 300 species of trees from six continents, including a Darlington oak that is the largest of its kind in the U.S. Admission to the grounds is free, but nominal fees apply for Mansion Tours and the Nature Center.

The John Marshall House: John Marshall was known as the “Great Chief Justice” for his role in creating the modern Supreme. His home, built in 1790, is now the site of a museum and gardens. The gardens contains historic Virginia flowers and plants found in the colonial gardens of Williamsburg and Yorktown, replicating those that might have been planted and maintained by the Marshall family in the 19th century. No admission fee is required to explore the gardens, but house tours are $10/adult; $9/senior; $7/students; and children 6 and under are free.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: As with Maymont, we’ve already sung the praises of Lewis Ginter – but when it comes to gardens, you can’t say enough about this Richmond treasure. Named one of USA Today’s “Best Botanical Gardens,” Lewis Ginter has a wide variety of plants to explore, including a 100-year-old mulberry tree, a glass conservatory full of orchids and tropicals, a special collection of carnivorous pitcher plants, and nearly 1,800 roses. Admission fee is required.

The Valentine Museum Garden: This historic museum showcases more than 400 years of Richmond history. The site includes the 1812 John Wickham House and, of course, the Valentine Museum Garden. Originally, Wickham’s garden stretched a city block in length. Inside the museum, you can find archives of plantings from the original garden. Today, the courtyard garden is being restored to an 1890s style garden and offers a peaceful city escape, perfect for picnicking or simply taking in the sights of spring. There is no admission fee to visit the courtyard garden, but museum tours are $10/adult; $8/senior; and museum members, children under 18, active military with ID, and SNAP recipients are free.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is home to some of the finest works of art, not just in Virginia, but in the world. But the museum’s grandeur extends far beyond the gallery walls. Located outside of the museum, the E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden has become a destination for Richmonders with its beautiful green spaces and captivating artwork. Since it opened in 2010, the garden has served as a city oasis for patrons of the museum, as well as members of the community. Featuring 3.5 acres of manicured lawns and water features, the garden is also home to one of only eight permanent art museum installations of work by artist Dale Chihuly in the U.S. No admission fee is required.

Great Shiplock Park and the Low Line: A newcomer to the trail, this beautiful public green space came about through a group known as Capital Trees. Their efforts have led to a linear park along a stretch of the Kanawha Canal and Virginia Capital Trail. This space known as the “Low Line” connects Great Shiplock Park with Richmond’s Canal Walk. No admission fee is required.


5. Discover the Best Hikes the City Has to Offer 

Best Hikes Spring
Kevin Kelley / Creative Commons / Flickr

It’s no secret that Richmond is an urban paradise for outdoor activities. From hiking to biking, there’s adventure to be found at every turn. But spring is especially perfect for exploring the city’s many available hikes, thanks to fewer crowds and cooler temperatures.

To get you started, here are a few of our favorite hikes:

The Powhite Park Trails: This hidden oasis is located just off the Chippenham Parkway in Bon Air. The 100-acre park offers five miles of trails and hiking paths through hardwood forests, open fields, and wetlands. The two-mile outer loop is perfect for families and offers the chance to see wildlife, including birds, deer, and maybe even beavers who make their dams in the park’s wetlands.

The Pony Pasture Rapids Trail: Located at the ever-popular Pony Pastures Rapids, this James River Park trail features a two-mile loop that explores the lush wooded areas around the river. Along the way, you’ll find wetlands, a wildlife blind, and a small stream called Pleasant Creek. Easy enough for little ones, this trail is a winner year-round, but can get crowded.

The Belle Isle Trail: The Belle Isle Trail, which runs for 1.8 miles around the perimeter of the island, is a hike through history. Belle Isle’s colorful past includes ancient Native American fishing sites, a landing site for Captain John Smith in 1607, a nail factory in 1814, an ironworks until 1972, a granite quarry in the 18th and 19th centuries, and a power plant from 1904 to 1967. But most notoriously, Belle Isle was a Civil War prisoner-of-war camp.

The James River North Bank and Buttermilk Loop: With 6.2 miles of easy-to-hike terrain, the North Bank / Buttermilk Loop Trail takes you through woods, along the riverside, through parks and gardens, past historic cemeteries, and along some of the city’s favorite sites. This pet-friendly trail allows you to see the river, wildflowers, birds, local wildlife and more – all within the city limits.

The Forest Hill Park Loop:  This beautiful loop trail takes you through forests and over hills with terrain that’s perfect for all skill levels. After completing the three mile hike, be sure to enjoy all that Forest Hill Park offers, including historical sites, picnicking, playgrounds, and more.

For more information on all of our favorite hikes, click here!