Richmond is a fantastic city for families with young children. If you just moved here, you probably don’t know that yet. Welcome! I was in your shoes two short years ago when my husband was offered a new position in Glen Allen. We soon moved to Richmond with our two-year-old and six-month-old boys in tow. At the time, I felt absolutely overwhelmed by how little I knew about the area, and I longed to move back to Crozet, VA, our former town nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains (oh, how I missed the mountains!).
In Crozet, we had friends within walking distance, family only 15 minutes away, and familiar destinations that the kids and I loved to frequent. How on earth was I going to raise my children outside of our (literal and metaphorical) village? I stayed at home with my boys–what on earth would be do with our time in a new place? What about a preschool? Pediatrician? Where could I find the nearest Target?! It was daunting, discouraging, and downright scary.
Well, eventually I found my footing and (much to my surprise) became a convert. Richmond is awesome, I promise. Give it a chance, and you will love it too. Here’s a little advice to help you feel more at home, or at least get you out of the house and away from the moving boxes ASAP.
1. Start with the libraries.
Richmond (including Chesterfield and Henrico Counties) has a wealth of fantastic librarie
s, all of which have multiple children’s programs each week. I remember digging my children’s winter coats out of a box (we moved in January–try to avoid that if you can) and putting everyone in the car with absolutely no destination in mind. We just needed to get out of the chaos and let my husband unpack in peace. So, I quickly found the nearest library on my phone, and we headed there with equal parts hope and trepidation. Imagine our delight when we found a play section in the children’s area equipped with toys and puzzles, a toddler story time about to start, and lots of friendly faces (adult and kid alike!). While there, I managed to strike up a conversation with another mom and got a recommendation for a local gym that provided free childcare. Score.
2. If the weather is decent, head to a park.
The Richmond area is beloved for its park system, and you and your kids will benefit from getting some fresh air. Maybe you’ll even forget about all the boxes left in the basement and the fact that you haven’t yet found a local pediatrician. (Not to worry, we have lots of great options for that as well!). Some of our favorite parks include Maymont, Deep Run, Crump Farm, and Arc Park, but there are plenty of little tot lots and playgrounds around Richmond as well (our current favorite is Lombardy, and we’ll occasionally follow it up with an early lunch at nearby restaurant Kuba Kuba). If you’re willing to spend a little cash, don’t miss the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens either! While my two-year-old son fumbles the pronunciation and calls them the “terrible gardens,” they are my personal favorite destination in all of Richmond, especially in the spring and summertime.
3. If the weather is poor, pick a museum: children’s, science, art, or history.
The Children’s Museum is an obvious and fun choice, and with three different locations; it offers a lot, especially to the toddler set. However, I find that my family gets a little more leverage out of the Science Museum right now (they have a new exhibit for preschoolers that’s fantastic!). The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and Virginia Historical Society are free and right next door to each other in the lauded Museum District. Their grounds are beautiful and equipped with more fountains than your little ones could possibly admire in half a day’s time.
4. Join a Mom’s Club.
Richmond offers several active parent/child organizations, so find one that speaks to you. Whether it has a religious affiliation or another particular focus, it will instantly provide you with the community you need to rely on as you navigate local childcare, school systems, medical service recommendations, and all the components of raising children in Richmond.
5. Embrace your new city.
Richmond has so much to offer, and it’s still a bit of a hidden gem to the outside world. It’s known for its food festivals, music scene, and culinary chops, among other things, and you can make it yours by being active and engaged. Find a family-friendly event, or book a babysitter and hit the town with your partner. Discover new restaurants, take your children on mural walks, drive through Hollywood Cemetery on a breezy afternoon, feed the ducks at the University of Richmond, and whatever you do, don’t miss dipping your feet in the James River. After that, you’ll be baptized a Richmonder, whether you’re ready or not.