Clocking in at just about 2.5 hours from Annapolis, Richmond is a gem along the 95 corridor. The city along the James River boasts an impressive lineup of museums and attractions. It also features plenty of outdoor activities and adventure, and a bevy of shops and restaurants with a true local vibe, all making it worthy of a stop or standalone trip. We’ve rounded up some of the best experiences and family-friendly spots in the city affectionately known as “RVA.”
*COVID/CDC precautions and guidance are frequently changing, so be sure to visit each attraction’s website for updated information before planning a visit.**
Science Museum of Virginia
From a Speed exhibit (that includes a Supersonic jet, a light race, and hurricane force winds) to ecology labs, animals to science experiments, there’s no limit when it comes to scientific exploration at the SMV.
The museum’s Dome theater, which has the largest screen in the state, transports guests to the depths of the ocean and the far reaches of space. There’s the Forge, a “makerspace” where families can take part in STEM projects, Mental Health: Mind Matters, a touring exhibit that offers visitors a chance to learn more about mental health, and Boost!, which provides interactive brain and physical challenges.
Add in Green Science, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and LightPlace, an interactive exhibit focused on STEM experiences for kids five and under, and it’s nearly impossible to explore all the museum has to offer in just a day.
Imagine the fun that could be had on 100 acres featuring a Romanesque-style mansion, wide open park space, pristine gardens, and a nature center. The possibilities are endless at Maymont, a Victorian estate that functions as a public park and museum. Visitors can explore the mansion and buildings on the property, meet some cuddly friends at the Robins Nature Center or farm and wildlife habitats, or stroll through the breathtaking gardens.
Children’s Museum of Richmond
Adjacent to the Science Museum of Virginia is the Children’s Museum of Richmond, which is celebrating its 40th birthday in September. The museum also has a second location in the Richmond suburb of Midlothian, southwest of the city.
From learning about professions like teaching or driving an ambulance to exploring a living treehouse or learning how a bank operates, the museum offers children wonderful hands-on opportunities for discovering more about livelihoods, science, and nature. There’s even a carousel at the downtown location; don’t forget to take a ride before you leave!
The Flying Squirrels
If you’ve got a baseball fan in the family—or are just intrigued by the team’s name—a visit to “The Diamond” in Richmond to catch a ball game is just the ticket. The Double-A affiliate team for the San Francisco Giants, the Flying Squirrels are now in their 10th season and play primarily evening games until late September.
Fans of all ages can enjoy all the fanfare and charm that come standard during a game. There are also some delicious and wacky food choices including the Funnville Concession Stand’s PB&J Bacon Burger to enjoy.
While kids aren’t currently allowed on the field, the team reports that some special events for Squirrel Tails Kids Club members will allow young fans to run the bases and play a game of catch on the field.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Lovers of flora and fauna will rejoice with 50 acres of gardens to wander and explore. A domed conservatory, more than a dozen gardens and specialty walks, dedicated water and sand play spaces, several dining options, and an education center offer countless opportunities to learn about and appreciate multitudes of blooms, species, and landscapes.
The James River
Calling adventure lovers! The James River Park System is a group of parks on both sides of the James River as it meanders through Richmond, which the city says makes it the “only urban city in the country with Class IV white water rapids in the middle of downtown.” From informal tubing with friends to going all out with the requisite gear and guidance from one of the many river sports outfitters, you’re sure to have a thrilling day on the water. For a slower pace, enjoy the hikes, biking, birding, or waterfront vistas at spots like Robious Landing Park or Belle Isle.
Looking for some stomach-churning fun? Kings Dominion amusement and water park sits just 20 minutes north of Richmond in Doswell. Twelve roller coasters, the 20-acre water park Soak City, Planet Snoopy (featuring 20 rides for kids), and some incredible entertainment and dining options make for a high-octane day. At this time, some types of reservations are required, and safety precautions are in place.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
The VMFA offers a world-class collection of art in the heart of the Museum District in Richmond. From Fabergé (think eggs) to bronze sculpture, photography to some of the most famed names in painting and other media, the museum offers a global exploration of creativity past and present. For visitors with young children in tow, the VMFA offers several fun ways to explore the museum including themed gallery scavenger hunts. Guests can wrap up their visit with a bite at the museum’s restaurant or café and a walk to see a waterfall and outdoor exhibition in the E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden.
Just west of downtown Richmond and positioned between the Museum District and the James River lies Carytown, a hub of eclectic retail and dining options. Murals adorn buildings, sidewalks bustle with buskers, families, and students from the neighboring Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), and small businesses provide everything fun and unique. Catch a show at the Byrd Theater, grab a slice of ‘za at the Mellow Mushroom, check out the wares at one of the nearby boutique stores, then enjoy a sweet treat at the Sugar & Twine bakeshop.
By Laura Adams Boycourt