Maymont Park in Richmond is known for children's farm, but don't miss the Japanese Gardens because you think the kids won't enjoy them!
A friend and I recently travelled to Richmond to meet up with some friends at a quilting shop there. We had all four of our children with us -- two six-year-olds and two two-year-olds. If you've ever been in a quilt store with a two-year-old, you know that when the child sets foot in the store, a timer starts running, and when the timer runs down to zero, the child must be removed from the store, or else the fabric, the quilts, the buttons, the thread, the books... will all be in an inglorious heap on the floor, and the child will somehow have managed to smear chocolate on them too.
So we decided to leave for a little while and come back later, taking the children in the interim to a place where they could stretch their legs. I had only vague directions to Maymont, and I couldn't tell you how to get there, except that "The Boulevard" had something to do with it, and there were a lot of turns where the choices weren't perpendicular. We ended up at an entrance to the park that we hadn't meant to choose. We had been looking for the children's farm, but instead we had the Japanese gardens. Having considered the possibility of buckling everyone back into the car and making more random turns around Richmond, we thought the gardens seemed like a great idea.
And to our surprise, they WERE.
First there was the waterfall. Who knew that within 90 minutes of driving from Norfolk you could find an elevation of sufficient height to produce this charming sight?
Then there were the stepping stones. Our six-year-olds were delighted to be allowed to go across on their own. I figured, hey, it's only a foot of water, and if he falls in it doesn't matter because he's already wet from the sprinklers in the Italian garden at the top of the hill.
Nobody fell in. But they did see lots of huge koi, right up close. And a baby turtle. And the gardens are HUGE. When I saw the sign for Japanese gardens, I thought maybe a latticed hut, a fish pond, and a dramatically arched bridge. Those things were there, but they were on a much bigger scale than I imagined. The children were completely delighted. Here are the two-year-olds spotting fish in the pond:
Finally, they got to climb up on the rock and actually dunk their feet in the actual waterfall -- it was heaven.
If you're going to Richmond, this is worth the stop. And don't worry if they're old enough to appreciate it. No one is more barbaric than a two-year-old, and our two little unsophisticates give it four thumbs up.