Raising Richmond: Get out while you can!

Well, looky-there, it’s October. I’m not sure how that happened either, but happen it did and it only means one thing: Winter is coming. We must embrace these final weeks of optimal weather and squeeze out every last bit of kid-friendly outdoor entertainment possible.

Well, looky-there, it’s October. I’m not sure how that happened either, but happen it did and it only means one thing:

Winter is coming.1

I realize we still have a good chunk of fall to get through, but the increasingly noticeable chill in the air shows that our days are numbered. Before too long, we’ll bid adieu to the charmingly crisp days of early autumn and find ourselves trudging through those blustery weeks leading up to December.

Yes, yes, I know what you’re all saying. But the leaves! And pumpkins! And sweaters! And warm cider! And maybe snow! And boots, don’t you love boots?

Of course I do! I love all of those things as much as the next person. In fact, I probably love them more than the next person because their arrival means the end of summertime in Richmond, AKA the three-month period during which I can’t walk out of the house without involuntarily shrieking, “OH GOD WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.”2

But here’s the thing: cooler temperatures mean less time outside. Less time outside means more time inside. More specifically it means time inside with my almost-four-year-old son, a tireless tornado of a boy who is becoming harder and harder to wear out with each passing day.

Dear friends, we must act now. We must embrace these final weeks of optimal weather and squeeze out every last bit of kid-friendly outdoor entertainment possible. To make sweet, memorable experiences for our children to look back on as they grow older, yes. But also to create memories that will anchor us, keep us sane, and give us hope once winter holds us captive in our homes with stir-crazy children and only so many episodes of Phineas & Ferb3 available on Netflix.

If you’re not sure where to start—because, after all, the plethora of choices in Richmond can be a bit overwhelming—here’s where my son and I will be hanging out as much as possible for the next month or so. Feel free to join us. Our kids can play together…and you and I can hold each other and quietly whimper in fearful anticipation of what Old Man Winter has in store for us. The frigid bastard.4

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Sweet 95

Yeah, yeah, Sweet Frog, Yapple, blah dee blah blah. I want ice cream. Not frozen yogurt served up with a complete auditory and visual assault. Ice cream. The real stuff, just like the Homestead Creamery version Sweet 95 serves up on their lovely, open deck just across the parking lot from Kitchen 64. But we’ve got to act quick on this one, folks. My sources5 say that Sweet 95 is only open through next week. After that, they’re closed up until spring.

The Backyard at CMoR

I’m sure we’ll pretty much live inside Children’s Museum of Richmond once temperatures really start to drop, but until then, we’re just setting up camp outside in their amazing “Backyard” for as long as we can.6 It’s got tons of plants, bikes, a fantastic sandbox, waterplay, and big ol’ musical instruments (think large drums and xylophone-type-things) with which you and your kids can make all kinds of ruckuses. And since it’s at CMoR, I tend to think of The Backyard as a very “intentional” playground; your kids are having fun and getting good and tired, but you know everything’s been put in that space to for a very specific, thought-out purpose.

VMFA Sculpture Garden

World class art aside, the E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Garden at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts also serves as home to two things every kid loves: stairs and water. My son’s been known to spend upwards of an entire hour7 moseying up and down those steps, just gazing at that trickling waterfall from every possible angle. As long as the weather continues to cooperate, I’ve got plans for a mother-son picnic or two up there on the top terrace—which my son honestly thinks is the “tippy top” of the world.

Merry Funford Playground

Located at Mary Munford Elementary, this community playground is…well…if a preschooler were to describe what he hoped heaven was like, chances are he’d describe this place down to the very last tire swing. We’re talking a massive wooden fort (with towers!), huge slides, tons of swings, climbing walls, you name it. It’s open to everyone until dusk all year-round, but things can get crazy when school is session (especially between noon and 3:30pm). Your best bet is to save it for late afternoons and weekends, but trust me; it will be well worth the wait.

Can Can’s patio

You would think fancy-ish restaurant + preschooler = hell on earth, but not so at Can Can. Thanks to the busy location and generally bustling atmosphere, we’ve always found Can Can to be a great spot to take our son on the rare occasion we get to enjoy a treat out. Eating inside is a delight in itself, but that outside space is hard to beat—especially this time of year. Best-case scenario? Hot chocolate, croissants, and a shared order of frites out on the patio while the little guy colors on the paper tablecloth and the grownups enjoy some serious people watching, courtesy of all those crazy kooks in Carytown.

Three Lakes Park & Nature Center

Even though we’ve spent the last four years living just down the street from what is apparently one of the most beloved jewels in Henrico County Recreation and Parks Department’s crown, my son and I didn’t discover it until this summer. And, guys? We’re in love. Miles of tree-lined trails; three huge lakes (hence the name) perfect for lots of rock kerplunking8 sessions; a gorgeous nature center with a 50,000 gallon aquarium; and two (count ‘em TWO) amazing playgrounds—I mean, this place practically Instagrams itself.

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Where will you and your kids make the most of Richmond’s outdoor offerings while the weather holds out? Leave your suggestions in the comments—and maybe we’ll see you out and about!

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  1. We all get that reference now, right? If not, here
  2. I would apologize for being dramatic, but I’m not at all sorry. I’ve spent every summer of my 30 years in Richmond and I swear to you, my hand to God, it gets hotter every single year. 
  3. A legitimately funny show, by the way. 
  4. Ok, apparently I’m also dramatic about the cold. I just want it to be 65 degrees always, is there anything wrong with that? 
  5. And by “sources” I mean “the dude who picked up the phone when I called on Sunday.” 
  6. CMoR’s Backyard is actually open year-round, but please see footnote #4 as to why you won’t see us out there once winter hits. 
  7. That’s like 45 years in adult time. 
  8. We have to call it “kerplunking” because that terms hints at the act of simply dropping the rocks into the water. Any mention of “throwing” around my son would be disastrous for us all, I promise you. We’d all be sporting eye patches and head wounds. 
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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Kelly on said:

    Can Can is a surprisingly great place to take a toddler. And an even better place to take a grandparent who will pay for it.

  2. Kelly, I think the high ceilings are part of why it’s awesome. Children’s shrieks rise, just like heat. Also, I’ve found the staff to be super accommodating–helpful with strollers, bring the kid’s food out as soon as possible, etc.

  3. Shhhhhh don’t tell people about the tippy-top part of the fountain area at the VMFA. That’s my chill spot! Hardly anyone is ever there! Delete all references to it at once! :P

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