Visit Maymont: Richmond, Virginia's Family Friendly Historic Mansion and Estate
Historic homes don't often rank high on the list of places kids want to visit, but when a house is more like a mansion, and the estate has acres and acres of parkland, gardens and trails, an arboretum, wildlife exhibits, farm animals, a nature center, and lots more, that's a different story. We recently shared a video about the Biltmore Estate in Asheville with its incredible mansion and grounds. Maymont in Richmond is similarly spectacular.
Maymont is a love story. It’s the tale of a lady, Sallie Dooley, who was so adored by her husband, James Henry Dooley, he tried to give her the world: Exotic gardens modeled after ones in far away places and an opulent mansion filled with precious objects, designer clothing, and Tiffany stained glass windows. Now Maymont belongs to the people of Richmond and their visitors. During my first visit, I fell in love with the place. When you visit and try these things to do with kids at Maymont, I'm betting you'll feel the love, too.
1. Start in the Visitor Center and plan your day using the topographical map. Buy some snacks for later (because you know the kids' tummies get grumbly).
2. Head in to the Nature Center ($) to get to know the wildlife of the James River. A 20-foot waterfall cascades into 13 giant, linked aquariums that are home to river otters, turtles, and fish.
3. Have a close encounter of the safe kind (behind glass) with venomous snake species native to Virginia.
4. Explore the Virginia Sweetspire, Bottlebrush plant, Southern Arrowwood, and other native plants outside the Nature & Visitor Center.
5. Catch a ride on the tram or hay wagon (weekend afternoons $).
6. Watch the Bison roam as they once did throughout America.
7. Learn new techniques for growing your own food in the Vegetable Garden.
8. Cozy up to (and feed some) goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, donkeys, cows, rabbits, pigs, geese, and ducks at the Children's Farm and Barn ($). Time your visit to see the farm animals parade back in to their abodes in the afternoon.
9. Flutter through the Butterfly Garden, down the hill to the Bobcat exhibit.
10. Search for birds, dragonflies, turtles and snakes in the Wetlands Habitat.
11. Marvel at the majestic eagles and other birds of prey in Raptor Valley (and make a pit stop while you're there).
12. Catch the black bears romping or napping, depending on the time of day.
13. Get up close and personal with the wildlife of Maymont during a VIP Animal Experience ($$$).
14. Teleport to the 1800’s, when carriages were the mode of transportation on country estates in Virginia: Peruse the Carriage Collection and experience a carriage ride ($) for yourself.
15. Look for the carriage horses in their pasture at the Children’s Farm or in their stalls at Shed Row. You may even have a chance to pet them!
16. Take a guided tour of the Mansion ($ donation requested) to witness the opulence of the Dooleys’ lives. Peek into Mrs. Dooley's room to see the Victorian version of Pinterest boards (or Valentines in February).
17. Head "Belowstairs" in the Mansion to learn about the labors and lives of the Maymont staff.
18. Celebrate the season in the decked out Mansion at Christmastime (Late November – early January, $).
20. Imagine yourself in Rome as the water skips down the steps of the Cascade, based on the cascade at the Villa Torlonia in Itlay.
21. Stroll through the Japanese Garden, hop across the stepping stones like frogs on a lily pad, watch the Koi swimming in the pond, and climb up to the waterfall for a picnic lunch.
22. Check out the stalagmites and stalactites in the Grotto.
23. Smell, touch and taste the fragrant wonders of the herb garden.
24. Hike and camp out overnight with other families ($$)
25. Cheer on the runners sweating it out in the X-Country Festival (late September).
Good to know before you go:
- The Nature & Visitor Center, Children's Farm Barn, Mansion, and Carriage Collection are closed Mondays. Check the Maymont website for hours.
- Entrance into Maymont is free, but small fees are charged for most of the indoor areas.
- Trams and hay rides only run on the weekends and there is a per person fee for the rides.
- Snacks and drinks are available for purchase at the Robin’s Nest in the Visitor Center.
- Restrooms (wheelchair accessible) and water fountains are located in the Nature & Visitor Center, Raptor Valley, and Children’s Farm.
- There are three entrances to Maymont: Shields Lake Drive Entrance at 2201 Shields Lake Drive in Byrd Park, the entrance closest to the Nature & Visitor Center, where guests are encouraged to start their visit to Maymont; Hampton Street Entrance at 1700 Hampton Street, for easiest access to Maymont Mansion and the Gardens; and Spottswood Entrance at Shirley Avenue and Spottswood Road near the Boulevard Bridge, the one you'll want to use if your family is most interested in visiting the Children's Farm and Wildlife Exhibits.
- Check the Maymont calendar for special programs happening during your visit, like Family Night Hikes and Scavenger Hunts, Spring Break activities, the annual Family Easter event, a Fairy Chase, an American Girl Tea Party, and Holiday happenings.
Maymont | 2201 Shields Lake Drive, Richmond, VA 23220 | 804-358-7166
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