While finding things to do in Richmond is never a problem, we can all agree that finding things to that will appeal to both adults and kids can be tough anywhere. You’ll know this to be true if you think back and realize that you haven’t seen a movie that wasn’t animated since the birth of your first child, haven’t been to a park without spending 98% of your time on the playground in years, or tried to visit a museum, only to nearly suffer a heart attack when your toddler tried to climb the rare antiquities display. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
With spring holidays like Mother’s Day and Memorial Day coming up, not to mention the imminent arrival of summer, many of us will be expecting out of town guests. And naturally, we will want to take them around our fair city to show off just a little (and why shouldn’t we?!). But whether it’s grandma and grandpa coming to stay or our college roommate and her family, chances are, there will be kids (in a range of ages) involved. While fine dining and tours of Richmond’s many historical sites might be appealing to adults, we all know that kids have a short shelf life when it comes to anything they find “boring.”
It’s with this in mind that we set out to find the top five spots in Richmond that will provide entertainment, stimulation, and enjoyment for both kids and adults alike. To make our list, each of the following places needed to offer:
- Hands-on activities
- A range of exhibits or displays that are interesting to all ages
- Plenty of space for free-roaming little ones
The following five places hit the mark, as you’ll see. From gardens to goats (yes, goats), these places have it all. Take a look at our list, and as always, if you have a spot that you love to visit with your kids (and other people of all ages!), let us know. Contact us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nothing says kid-friendly quite like a historical attraction that’s also part playground, park, and petting zoo. But, with costumed living history interpreters, tours, and live demonstrations and programs year-round, Meadow Farm Museum is a homerun for visitors of all ages. Meadow Farm Museum an real 1860 farm site that was the home of Dr. John Mosby Sheppard and his family. Visitors will have the chance to take part in seasonal activities in the farmhouse, barn, doctor’s office, blacksmith forge, kitchen, fields, and pastures. And if all that isn’t enough, the farm is also home to sheep, pigs, cows, and a few other farm animals. As an added bonus, adjoining Crump Park offers playgrounds, walking trails, picnic shelters, and more…just in case you want to make a full day of it. Be sure to visit the Meadow Farm Museum events calendar to see what’s coming up.
Why we love it: Where else in Richmond can you find a place that combines playgrounds, walking trails, fields, farm animals, period-costumed actors doing live demonstrations and history? It’s a rare combination and one that’s perfect for kids with short attention spans. Adults can enjoy the glimpse into 19th century American farm life while kids pet some cute sheep or run around the nearby playground. Even, better…it’s FREE! In the end, Meadow Farm Museum makes for a low-stress, zero-cost way to experience history, get some hands-on fun, and enjoy a beautiful day in the Richmond area at any age.
Location: 3400 Mountain Rd., Glen Allen, Virginia, 23060
Hours: Meadow Farm Museum, Historic Farmhouse, Orientation Center & Out Buildings: March-November: Tuesday-Sunday, Noon-4pm (CLOSED July 4th, 2018) December-February*: Saturday & Sunday, Noon-4pm *Closed first two weeks of January; Crump Park is open daily, dawn to dusk
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is one of the Richmond area’s favorite attractions, whether you’re a local or an out-of-town visitor. But don’t just take our word for it – Lewis Ginter was named the #4 Botanical Garden in the Nation in USA Today’s “Best Botanical Garden” contest. And it’s easy to see why. With more than 50 acres of breathtaking gardens and incredible events and exhibits year round (like their annual celebration of spring, A Million Blooms), this Richmond treasure has something for everyone. Check out their complete events calendar for more ideas, activities, and descriptions of all that Lewis Ginter has to offer.
Why we love it: If you’re thinking that touring a “garden” wouldn’t exactly top the list of things a kid might want to do, that’s only because you haven’t experienced Lewis Ginter. To start, the Children’s Garden offers amazing kids’ programs – that adults will want to be part of, too. From Drop-In Programs to Waterplay to the CWDKids Tree House, the Children’s Garden is PACKED with fun. And of course, adults, kids, and everyone in between will love the gardens’ special exhibits, which currently include Butterflies Live! (which is every bit as cool as it sounds), The Art of Play, and Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks. So yeah, at Lewis Ginter, “Garden” means SO much more!
Williamsburg is great for families and visitors of all ages, but it’s also an hour away and often overrun with tourists, especially when the weather is nice. And since we’re thinking of kids, who don’t always like long car rides, as well as adults, we decided to look a little closer to home for a similar experience. Luckily, we have Henricus Historical Park practically in our backyard. This Chester outdoor living history museum recreates the 1611 English settlement founded by Thomas Dale and is the second oldest permanent English settlement in the country (after Jamestown). With 12 recreated colonial structures, interactive encounters with costumed actors, a recreated Powhatan Indian village with several long-houses, and the chance to see canoe crafting or the cultivation of corn and tobacco, you’ll find fun for everyone. Plus, they offer special programs and events year-round, so check out their calendar for upcoming opportunities!
Why we love it: History and kids don’t always mix, and straightforward museum exhibits tend to elicit blank stares or yawns in the younger set. But when history comes alive in an interactive format, kids can truly engage. This interactive historical park is a great way to get your kids excited about our nation’s past because they can actually see, touch, hear, smell, and taste Virginia’s history. And as an adult, if you love history, especially when it comes to life in front of your eyes, you won’t be able to get enough of this amazing park. Simply put, it’s the perfect local alternative to Williamsburg that’s both much closer and far less crowded.
Location: 251 Henricus Park Rd., Chester, VA 23836
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday (10am-5pm)
Cost: Adults: $9, Children (ages 3-12): $7, Military: $1 off, Children Under 2: Free, Members: Free
Another Richmond gem, Maymont features fun for the whole family, from little folks to big. The main park features lush gardens, including a Japanese Garden (with a waterfall), an Italian Garden, and an arboretum; a Children’s Farm with a petting barn and goats (see, we told you there would be goats) that you can feed; wildlife exhibits including bears, foxes, and other Virginia animals and birds; and a Nature Center with fish, reptiles, and playful James River otters. With more than 100 acres, to explore, you’ll have no shortage of things to see and do. You can even take a horse drawn carriage ride or golf cart tour!
And of course, if history is more your thing, be sure to stop by the Dooley Mansion to see the elegantly restored Victorian home of Major James H. Dooley and his wife, Sallie, who built the house in 1893 and donated the home and Maymont grounds to the city after their deaths in 1925. Maymont also offers a wide variety of events, special exhibits, and interactive activities throughout the year. To see what’s coming up at Maymont, visit their events calendar here.
Why we love it: Part park, part nature center, and part history museum, the description of this amazing place pretty much says it all in terms of why we love it. But to make it an even more appealing choice for visiting with a group in a range of ages, all outdoor portions of this incredible park are free. However, for upkeep, the Nature Center does charge a small admission fee and tours of the Dooley Mansion (including guided tours of the upstairs and self-guided tours of the “below stairs”) and the Children’s Barn each have a suggested donation of $5. But for a family outing that everyone will love? That’s a small price to pay…literally.
Location: 2201 Shields Lake Drive, Richmond, VA 23220
Grounds and Gardens: Free
Children’s Farm and Wildlife Exhibits: 10am-5pm, Daily (weather permitting)
Nature Center and Visitors’ Center: 10am-5pm, Tuesday-Sunday; Last entry at 4:45pm. Snacks, drinks and souvenirs available for purchase.
Maymont Mansion: 12-5pm, Tuesday-Sunday; Guided tours every half-hour 12-4:30pm.
Grounds and Gardens: Free admission
Children’s Farm and Wildlife Exhibits: $5 per person suggested donation
Nature Center and Visitors’ Center: $4 per person (ages 13-59) / $3 (ages 4-12 and seniors 60+) / Free for members and children under 4.
Maymont Mansion: $5 per person suggested donation
This long-standing RVA institution is rightfully beloved by both kids and adults. Set in a gorgeous old train station, the soaring architectural beauty is jam-packed with educational and interactive exhibits and programs. Between the IMAX Dome theater, the rotating special exhibits (currently featuring Curious George: Let’s Get Curious! through September 15, 2019 and Pompeii: The Immortal City coming June 8, 2019), and the permanent exhibits focused on topics like space, health, speed, and technology, it would be easy to spend not just a day, but an entire weekend at this incredible museum. But just to be clear, “museum” hardly captures the immense interactive nature of the Science Museum of Virginia. Far from stodgy, SMVA is a wonderland of fun, excitement, and hands-on learning for all ages. Plan your visit and see what’s happening now on the SMVA event calendar.
Why we love it:
This is one of the few places that manages to appeal to both kids and grownups in almost equal measure. Fitness-minded adults will love the Boost exhibit, which lets you test out and measure your athletic prowess in everything from bench pressing to tightrope walking. Science and nature lovers can sit back and enjoy a gorgeous IMAX film in the Dome theater. School-aged kids will lose it over the Speed exhibit, where they can play air hockey against a robot or test out the speed of their fastball. There’s even a special room for children 5 and under, where they can explore and satisfy their own scientific curiosity. And if all that isn’t enough, there are interactive programs and labs, as well as a café that offers kid-friendly options and an adult-friendly espresso bar.
Location: 2500 W Broad St, Richmond, VA 23220
Hours: Open daily, 9:30am – 5pm
Cost: Adult general admission starts at $15, Youth 6-12 starts at $13.50, Preschool age 3-5 starts at $10, Members are free. Additional fees for special exhibits and dome. Family memberships are available starting at $130.
For more great resources, activities, ideas, and family-friendly spots in Richmond, be sure to visit our entire Best of Richmond series – only on Richmond Mom!