Vacation Series: Richmond with Young Kids Part 4: James River Park and Deep Run Park

The fun in Richmond seemed never-ending until it ended.  After our morning at the Botanical Gardens we headed for the James River.  The temperature was 90 and muggy and we needed to get wet.  We found ourselves at a section of the James River Park called Pony Pasture which was advertised as being kid-friendly.

Well, the river must have flooded because those kid-friendly play areas could not be found.  We managed to find a shallow creek but the volume of poison ivy was causing such high anxiety I felt an eye twitch coming on. We got back in the car and headed for a flatwater area downriver called The Wetlands which was rumored to have a shallow sandy beach.  There was no beach.  Only mud.  And roots.  And a long walk from the car.  I wore the baby in the Ergo and pulled my daughter along by the hand.  It was the kind of thing that should have been fun but nobody seemed to have received the memo.

Still, we changed our focus from swimming to hiking and with the added intrigue of the floating cottonwood puffballs my daughter became rather enchanted.  I was not but tried to keep my sneezing to myself for the sake of the group.  One day we shall visit these spots again but hopefully during a non-flood period.

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The thing about wearing a baby is that they get to smear you with whatever happens to be on their hands and there is nothing you can do. And they know this.

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The smell of the honeysuckle in the humidity was delicious.

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Wait a minute. Escaping baby!

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Intro to trudging.

Summer 2014 047 The next morning was our last in Richmond.  I took the kids to Deep Run Park in the nearby town of Short Pump and I was so glad we had saved it for our last day.  What a wonderful place.  In Southern Maryland where we live there are many nice playgrounds but few of them have any sense of imagination and they are all in full sun.  Deep Run Park is apparently where that imagination ended up.  There is a CASTLE.  A great one.  In the shady woods.  Behind it there is a smaller play area that features a stagecoach with separate rocking horses.  The bathroom is close by and there were no crowds the morning we were there.


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Deep Run Park, Short Pump, VA

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Vacation Series: Richmond/Charlottesville, VA with Young Kids Part 2

On Tuesday the kids and I drove west one hour to the fantastic town of Charlottesville, VA.  Fortunately I lived there when I was younger and was able to turn off the GPS and just enjoy myself.  There is an incredible amount to do there with young kids so I had to pick and choose.  Knowing that we’d need to be heading back to Richmond by 1PM (sacred naptime) we only had time for a few activities.  The first stop was to pick up bagels from Bodo’s- a necessity anytime we are in town.

The 2nd stop was the VA Discovery Museum and it was well worth the drive. Summer 2014 496 Summer 2014 490 Summer 2014 471 Summer 2014 487 Summer 2014 482 Summer 2014 475 Summer 2014 480Everything is relative of course and if you are coming from a big city or if your kids are older than 6 this may not be worth your time.  For us, coming from rural Southern Maryland where there are almost no opportunities for young kids, this was a goldmine.  My almost 3 year old loved everything about this place.  She ran from the art room to the historic cabin replica, to the giant doll house, to the pirate ship.  My 13 month old loved the giant donkey/stable display, the garden (in which you can plant plastic carrots, etc.), and watching all the other children.  Right outside on the downtown mall there is a small merry-g0-round in which every seat is actually a small horse.  It’s free and my daughter was pretty sure she had never found anything better.

It was lovely to reunite with an old friend and take on Christian’s Pizza before our time in C’ville was over.    Here we are strolling along the downtown mall with our potty seat at the ready.

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Vacation Series: Richmond, VA with Young Kids Part 1

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Vacationing with young kids looks like this.

When your children are young the thought of taking them on summer vacation can make you want to run for the hills.  It isn’t just the short attention spans, the thought of carrying a potty seat with you to all destinations, or the fact that staying in a hotel room is not a viable option.

It’s also the realization that young children come with lots of STUFF.  A double stroller, a stool so that the potty in the rental house can be reached, a baby gate (not kidding here people) so that the baby does not find the bright orange Spic N’ Span cleaner under the non-babyproofed kitchen cabinet, and some kind of a portable highchair.  You must realize there will be no room for souvenirs on this vacation or perhaps any other for the next 5 years.  There will be no room for a 5th pair of underwear or the good camera.  By day 5 we will be in dirty underwear taking photos with our phones, and remembering that traveling with kids is a completely unpredictable and exhausting experience.

We potty-trained our daughter 2 weeks ago and although she is doing great, she is not comfortable going in public without her own Sesame Street potty seat which we clip to the stroller whenever we leave the house.  I try not to think about the ramifications of this too much.  I just use my anti-bacterial wipes and hope to avoid roundworms, rotavirus, crabs, and everything else.  When you have a 2 year old, it’s the best you can do.

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Stonewall Jackson Shrine

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Our rental house porch.

Our vacation to Richmond, VA began wonderfully.  We stopped off at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine near Fredericksburg, VA (what, you’ve never heard of it?) which was where he died in 1863.  We spent a few moments feeling thankful for modern medicine before arriving at our rental house which we discovered through AirBnB.

On Monday morning we headed over to the Meadow Farm Museum at Crump Park.  The playground was fantastic, there were small plastic vehicles the kids could climb in and pretend to drive including a train and fire truck.  My kids would have happily stayed in those two attractions all day.

In addition there was more of a traditional playground with swings (including baby/toddler swings), slides, and a hand-cranked platform.  Some part of the playground area was in the shade at all times. If you have time for a walk up the hill you can find many animals at the Meadow Farm- admission for admiring the animals is free and they currently have some adorable baby lambs.  My daughter also enjoyed the duck pond that we passed on the way.

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Meadow Farm, Glen Allen, VA

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Wildflowers at Crump Park

When we got back to the rental house it became clear that we wouldn’t be spending much time in it this week.  Although relatively clutter-free, we did not anticipate the rickety lamps and old-lady tables.  Our children discovered these immediately and went in for the kill.  The lamps were put in the closet and the tables were stacked on other furniture.  Although I had contemplated bringing outlet covers from home I decided that was just ridiculous.  Turns out that wasn’t a ridiculous idea at all.  We managed to borrow some from a colleague and they are the only reason I am able to cook food when home alone with my kids.  It’s as if my baby has a death wish.  Electricity?  Yes, please!


In a frantic attempt to escape to a more kid-friendly zone we headed off to the Tuckahoe Area Library.  It was a thing of beauty.  Not only was the children’s department as large as my entire library back home but it overlooked a lovely outdoor walking path.  The windows were huge, there was light everywhere, the volume of books put a smile on my face.  We missed storytime but the kids had a great time playing with all the different activities and reading together on the comfortable furniture.

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The entrance to the children’s department. Inside this rocket ship is a starry sky. We blasted off several times.

Vacation is a wonderful thing.  This one is a bit epic and so there will be further installments when I can get to them.  The bottom line though is that Richmond is a fantastic destination with young kids- we are loving it.