This grand estate is a family favorite with a petting zoo, native wildlife and a preserved 19th-century mansion.
A 19th-century mansion, wildlife such as otters and bears, and acres of gardens have been preserved close to downtown Richmond. Maymont is a 100-acre (40-hectare) estate west of downtown. A wealthy couple owned the property for 35 years before leaving it to the public in their will. The mansion was considered one of the most lavish homes in the city when it was turned into a museum shortly after Mrs. Dooley’s death in 1925.
Go to the Nature and Visitor’s Center at the main entrance. A 20-foot (6-meter) waterfall flows into 13 aquariums. Fish, otters and turtles play in the water. Learn about creatures native to Richmond’s waterways and stay for an otter-feeding demonstration. The Visitor’s Center provides maps and sells souvenirs. There’s no admission fee, but guests are expected to make a small donation. Fees may be payable for special exhibitions and the nature center.
Families should head to the Children’s Farm, where kids can pet and feed farm animals such as goats, chickens and donkeys. Elk and deer, foxes, bobcat and black bear enclosures are across 40 acres (16 hectares) south of the farm.
The house adjacent to the animals is surrounded by gardens. Stroll through a Japanese garden with a koi pond and waterfalls. An arboretum has more than 200 species of trees.
You can also visit the upper floors of the house, but only if you join a tour. Eighteenth century, French-style drawing rooms, an oriental den and a swan-themed bedroom have been preserved.
After the tour, head downstairs into the worker’s quarters. An exhibition through the kitchen, laundry and bedrooms details the daily life of domestic workers.
A tram runs through the grounds on weekends, with stops at the major attractions every 20 minutes. Ride a hay wagon between June and August. The grounds are open every day, but the indoor exhibits are closed on Mondays. Tours of the house run every half hour between 12 p.m. and 4.30 p.m.
A parking lot at the Visitor’s Center gets crowded on weekends. A bus is an easier option.