Maymont – A Children’s Farm, Garden and Mansion
When in Richmond, VA even if just for an afternoon, you can’t miss a visit to Maymont. Perched on the top of a hill overlooking the James River, the 100 acre grounds and mansion were bequeathed to the people of Richmond by a wealthy Richmond lawyer and philanthropist and his wife. In the decades since, the city has added a Children’s Farm, a Nature Center, trails and other exhibits to the original estate making for an unforgettable day. Parking is free and available in several lots surrounding the estate – we usually park near the Children’s farm off Hampton Street.
Although free to enter, donations are gratefully accepted. The park is spread out over many acres and there are some pretty steep climbs between the children’s farm area and the lower Japanese gardens. Make sure you use the bathrooms and water fountain when able as the next facilities are usually quite a hike. You can pack a lunch and spread a picnic blanket if you get hungry after a hike or drive less than 10 minutes and have a lunch in a locals’ favorite: the Carytown area.
Maymont Children’s Farm
The Children’s Farm at Maymont is one of our favorite quick afternoon stops that can be done in under an hour and the close-in trails up and down hills can be marvelous at chilling out some young children’s spastic afternoon energy. At the top of the hill in the farm buildings, you can meet the peacocks and peahens which roam at will, chickens, pigs and other birds in and outside the barn. With littles, you’ll want to check out goats, cows, horses and sheep in the pastures near in to the farm buildings. Pay a quarter to get some feed, but don’t offer the animals any people food, and don’t throw litter in the pens!
Maymont has wildlife exhibits throughout the property, including bison, fox, bobcat, deer, bears, eagles and other wildlife not able to be returned to the wild due to injury or illness. As you head down the hill from the Children’s farm, you’ll begin seeing areas fenced off for a variety of species. The exhibits are generally marked and easy to see from the paved trails, however the animals may or may not cooperate on any given day. The brown bears are fun to watch even though it is sad to see them in a largely concrete compound, and try to see one of the raptors if you can.
The Japanese gardens are a beautiful respite from the noise and bustle of the city. As you descend from the top of the hill and pass the final wildlife exhibits, the air gets cooler and the sounds become softer. Bamboo grows alongside the paths (look for secret tunnels through the bamboo if you’re adventurous!) and a beautiful Torii gate frames the formal entrance to the garden. Step inside and enjoy the colors of the trees, the magnificent waterfalls, bridges and stepping stones over the koi pond. This is one of our favorite spots and it’s totally worth the hike back up the hill after a nice sit on a bench in the cool of the shade.
There are several paths to the Italian gardens. If you’ve made your way down to the Japanese gardens, you can climb up next to the waterfalls and come out next to the very formal Italian marble fountain and falls – quite the opposite of the naturalist Japanese falls below. Otherwise, you can go cross-country and avoid the hike. Head to the left leaving the Children’s Farm instead of down the hill. Roses, herbs and box bush hedges line the gravel paths and provide a beautiful backdrop to the sculptures and buildings. Weddings and photo shoots are often held here, so don’t be surprised if you’re not alone in this beautiful garden.
The Maymont mansion is a Victorian masterpiece furnished in period pieces and
Nature Center, Carriages and More…
Maymont is easily a full weekend adventure. There are parts of the park we’ve not investigated for years. There is a world-class carriage collection that is trotted out for the holiday season and used to give carriage rides during the Christmas celebration and for special events such as teas and Valentine’s Day.
The Nature Center is clear on the other side of the property and has its own entrance and parking lot. We’ve been there a couple of times, and enjoyed the indoor exhibits on a rainy day, but it doesn’t compare to the other end of the park in our estimation.
Have you had a chance to visit Maymont? What’s your favorite part?