Though Richmond may be geographically further than Washington D.C. (60 miles vs. 52 miles), factor in traffic on I-95 and our state capital can actually be a faster destination than our nation's capital with some impressive visitor spots to boot.
There are not many places where you can traipse though formal gardens after stopping to say hello to a bison on the same property. At Maymont, a 100 acre, century-old estate, visitors can do just that, as well as observe bald eagles, black bears and other wildlife habitats on the premises. Maymont also boasts an impressive colonial mansion and nature center. The grounds are free to visitors with nominal charges for the nature center and mansion tour, as well as a suggested donation to stroll the grounds.
Check out: The Children's Barn where youngsters can feed the farm animals.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens (www.lewisginter.org)
Explore more than 40 acres of gardens including over a dozen themed gardens at this conservatory and its adjacent property. LGBG provides an array of children-focused activities, including an accessible tree house, a nature and sand play area, a farm garden, and a water play area as an added feature during the summer time months. The playhouses and plantscapes at The International Village represent various world cultures. (Adults: $11; Children 3-12: $7)
Check out: Butterflies LIVE!, which runs through October 12, 2014, where you can get an up close look at hundreds of tropical butterflies at the indoor conservatory.
Children's Museum of Richmond (CMoR) (www.c-mor.org)
Fredericksburg recently became the site of the fourth branch location of CMoR. While in Richmond, visit one of the three other branches at CMoR Central, CMoR Short Pump, and CMoR Chesterfield.
CMoR Central is the flagship and largest of the branches, with hands-on activities geared for children up to age 8. Attractions include a carousel, a climb-aboard real ambulance and an innovative apple orchard.
CMoR Short Pump is geared towards younger children, up to age 6, but is ideal for toddlers. Attractions include a Wild Safari Train and the Garage Service Station where children can play mechanic.
CMoR Chesterfield has activities centered around children from birth to 8. Attractions include Transporation Station and Main Street, where children can pretend to be grocers, bankers or theater stars.
Check out: Buzz and Ned's Real Barbecue near CMoR Central. This legendary restaurant with picnic table seating offers a casual restaurant style for children with top-notch barbecue for foodie-loving parents.
James River (www.jamesriverpark.org)
Along with the usual activities you find in a park system—biking, hiking, bird watching and climbing—The James River Park System offers an assortment of water activities for adventure enthusiasts. Activities include kayaking, canoeing and white water rafting. (Richmond attained bragging rights to having the only class III and IV rapid system within an urban setting.)
Check out: A bald eagle tour, via a two-hour pontoon boat ride, through Discover the James. ($45 per person)
Looking for a good destination date night spot? Slide into Carytown, a vibrant neighborhood adorned with eclectic boutiques and funky restaurants.
Check out: The Daily Kitchen and Bar, which offers health-conscious meals with many ingredients from the local area.
Kerry Pinto is a freelance writer living in Stafford.