Exploring RVA: Our Richmond Day Trip!

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If you’re hankering for a little getaway, consider Richmond for a day trip! We recently spent a spontaneous Saturday exploring Virginia’s capital city and can’t wait to go back to see even more. From delicious food to outdoor fun to world-class museums, Richmond has it all, and is just two hours from DC.

When our family of 5 went, we loaded into the minivan around 8 am and arrived home to NW DC roughly 12 hours later. While not every family may want to pack that much travel into a one day outing, we found it to be quite doable and would highly recommend RVA, even for just a one-day visit.

Setting Family Expectations

When my family vacations (even for just a day trip), we set the same basic expectations to keep things simple and familiar. Always on our list: get goodies from a local bakery, find a park to run off energy, and visit a cultural or educational site. This gives us a simplified way to frame our day and keep realistic expectations (this is life with small children, after all!). Anything additional is just icing on the cake. Here are some suggestions based on what we loved for a Richmond day trip with our kids (ages 8, 5, and 1.5).

Richmond Day Trip: Getting Started

To be completely honest, the impetus for our Richmond day trip was a desire to return to Sub Rosa bakery. We first visited this wood-fired bakery during a different road trip, on my brother-in-law’s recommendation. This gem in the Church Hill neighborhood currently does carry-out orders only. Place your order online and pick up in about 20-30 minutes. Pro-tip: the earlier in the day you can order, the better! This is a popular spot with locals and tourists alike and they tend to sell out quickly. We have loved everything we’ve had from Sub Rosa, but the bread pudding, cherry and pistachio croissant, and kale and cheese croissants really blew us away. Enjoy your treats in nearby Patrick Henry Park and let your kids run around to get out some energy after that car ride!

Museums & City Exploration

Mid-Morning

Richmond day trip: ACWM
Exploring the American Civil War Museum in Richmond

Perhaps we were a little ambitious in deciding to see two museums, but it definitely worked! After our late breakfast, we started at the American Civil War Museum. Tickets are $16 per adult, $8 per youth (6-17), with discounts or free tickets for teachers, active duty military, or kids under 6. The museum is definitely geared towards older kids. It was a bit of a struggle keeping my toddler entertained, but my older two enjoyed seeing the historic exhibits. Their favorite part was seeing the small trinkets war prisoners would carve out of bone and wood. The museum is a bit on the smaller side, but I’m glad we went. There are elevators and family-friendly restrooms, too!

After the American Civil War Museum, we walked across one of the many nearby bridges spanning the James River. We walked the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, which takes you over to the Manchester neighborhood. On a return trip, we would definitely go explore Belle Isle, which is also just across from the ACWM. I particularly enjoyed seeing so many people partaking in outdoor activities – from biking to rock climbing by the water to hiking, residents of Richmond seems to really embrace the great outdoors.

richmond day trip
The author and her family walking on a bridge across the James River, Richmond

Afternoon

Before our second museum stop, we hit up Roastology for drinks and lunch. While indoor seating is not currently offered, there are lots of seating areas outside. I definitely recommend getting some high quality coffee here, and don’t sleep on the baked goods (check for daily specials)! There are awesome sandwiches here to satisfy all palates, from hearty breakfast sandwiches to gourmet grilled cheeses to chicken curry.

After our tummies were filled, we headed to the Museum District to visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). I had been looking forward to visiting the VMFA for quite a while and it did not disappoint! Entry is free 365 days per year. My children really enjoyed the ancient Egyptian artifacts and the opulent Faberge collection, and I loved the early 20th century European exhibit! There’s something for everyone at the VMFA. After you’ve explored the inside exhibits, don’t forget to stroll the expansive grounds to see the many outdoor sculptures. The grounds are perfect for kids of all ages to stretch their legs and run around, so definitely allot sufficient time to spend outdoors.

richmond day trip: visit to the VMFA
A visit to the VMFA where kids will love the Ancient Egypt artifacts!

Heading Home

To finish our day in Richmond, we stopped by Proper Pie back in Church Hill for some sweet and savory pies to-go. This shop is Kiwi (New Zealand) owned, and has an excellent assortment of pies! Order in advance and pick up your goodies at the window. The menu changes, but if they are available I highly recommend savory sausage roll and butter chicken pies. For dessert, we devoured the chocolate chess and strawberry rhubarb pies. These filling pies were just what we needed to provide the boost of energy for the drive back to DC.

We all had such a memorable time exploring Virginia’s capital on our Richmond day trip, and look forward to going back again to see even more of the city.

*Due to Covid-related concerns, we chose not to eat in any restaurants. Instead we focused on eateries that provided easy take-out options that would satisfy both adult and child appetites. While we know Richmond has an excellent dining scene, we were really pleased to find such yummy, locally owned options for take-out.

Have you spent any time in Richmond? What other places would you recommend visiting? Let us know in the comments!

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