“Mom, I’m bored?” Well, what mother hasn’t heard that phrase hundreds of times? I know the answer to question, “Well what would you like to do?” Most children will respond with the inevitable answer that in these tough economic times is hard to fulfill. It seems, so many of the activities that children (toddlers to teenagers) like to do, sadly can put quite a dent in the wallet.
I love amusements parks, in fact, will ride the scariest roller coaster, but to take a family of four for the day, I’m likely to spend $300! Sometimes that doesn’t even include the food and drinks. In an effort to save money yet still spend quality and enjoyable time with my kids, I’ve spent countless afternoons at one of Richmond’s most notable attractions-Maymont.
Maymont is a 100 acre Victorian estate located in the heart of Richmond and overlooks the James River. Maymont was once a private estate owned by Major James Dooley and his wife Sallie. Dooley was a lawyer and a philanthropist, and built a Gilded Age estate complete with formal Italian garden and Japanese gardens. The Dooley’s will left the estate to the city of Richmond for all to enjoy (they had no children). Over the next 75 years The Maymont Foundation with the help of charitable donations have added many delightful attractions which an arboretum, a barn and petting zoo, and most recently the addition of The Nature Center complete with a learning center and large aquarium tanks filled with aquatic creatures who are native to Virginia.
Since my children were infants, we’ve gone to Maymont and spent an entire day just walking the trails, catching glimpses of bears and bobcats, played hide and seek in the bamboo forest, and jumped over the stepping stones in the Japanese gardens. We’ve packed picnic lunches and lay overlooking the arboretum. We’ve even had a birthday party (for a nominal fee) which included arts and crafts and an educational lesson on some of the animals who reside at Maymont.
We’ve handfed the goats, sheep, and pigs who live in Childrens Petting Barn. We’ve rolled down the hills on the side of the mansion, or climbed in the magnolia trees, and raced up to the top of the waterfall. We’ve observed the owls from their cages, searched for the grey fox in his habitat, laughed when the grown black bear lay on his back entertaining us. Many of these animals came here for refuge, as they’ve been injured and are unable to return to the wild, so the Maymont staff excels at providing a wonderful and safe habitat for these creatures.
Over the years, we have spent a few dollars here and there to tour the mansion and marvel at the Mrs. Dooley’s famous swan bed or to take horse drawn carriage ride around the grounds. There is also a donation box that we usually throw in a few dollars at each visit and it strictly goes to help feed and care for all of the animals who reside at Maymont. I can say from experience, a family can pack a lunch and spend a whole day together enjoying the grounds, experiencing the animals, and best of all getting some wonderful exercise with your children. There is something for everyone at Maymont and after many years of going I still don’t think I’ve seen it all.