10 Free Toddler-Friendly Activities in Richmond
I’m going to go out on limb and say that it is finally Spring in Richmond, VA! Mother Nature fooled us with a few warm days, followed by snow and more cold weather, but the forecast is looking pretty “Spring” to me! We’ve spent a few days outside and I am beyond ready for more! It’s time to stop being homebodies and get out to enjoy all that Richmond has to offer! Mara and I had so much fun last Spring and Summer because there are a lot of free toddler-friendly activities in Richmond. We may not be able to do as many of them this year since I’m ginormously pregnant, but we are certainly going to try!
10 FREE Toddler-Friendly Activities in Richmond
1.The Splash Pad at Stony Point Fashion Park
This one gets first mention because Mara and I went to the splash pad at Stony Point on a weekly basis last summer. We’d get there early, they open at 10 am Monday – Friday, before most of the older kids and play for an hour or two. Mara had so much fun running in the fountains and I loved that she got to play without me being super hands-on. There’s also a little “grassy” knoll for the kids to run around on if they get tired of being in the fountains. After she played for awhile we would have lunch at the mall. There are a lot of tables and places to sit, so I usually packed a small lunch for us. This kept our weekly outing completely free, most of the time. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t sometimes splurge for Panera. After we’d eat I would sometimes stroll Mara through the mall and do a little window shopping, depending on her mood. The best part of the Splash Pad though? The amazing, long nap she’d take when we got home!
ARC Park is a free park in the city for all ages and abilities. They have 3 playgrounds, including one for toddlers, and a ton of wheelchair accessible equipment. There are lots of swings and a ton of activities for tots, like a multi-sensory wall and outside musical instruments. As you can imagine, this park can get pretty busy when school is not in session. It’s another place where I’d suggest going early and they are open dawn to dusk. If you have an early riser, you could beat the heat and the crowds and have them exhausted before the morning is even over!
3.Maymont Children’s Farm
Another spot we frequented during the warm months was the Maymont Children’s Farm. Mara loved looking at all the farm animals, like the chickens, rabbits, goats and cows. Occasionally, I would let her feed the goats which she surprisingly wasn’t afraid of! They have a great system of outside sinks so I could wash her hands immediately afterwards. After looking at all of the animals we would walk down to the Japanese Gardens so Mara could look at all of the fish in the pond. This is a little bit of a hike, down some pretty big hills, so just keep in mind that you have to go back up! I loved going to Maymont because I felt like I got a bit of a workout strolling her around. Mara loves being outside and doesn’t fight riding in the stroller, so that was never an issue for us. There are also festivals and events that happen at Maymont all the time, so be on the lookout for those! We went to a few last year and enjoyed food trucks and ice cream before going to see the animals.
Another note about Maymont, there is a Nature Center as well. Admission is $4 for adults, but children under 4 are free. This made it more than worth it for us. The Nature Center has several educational displays and giant fish tanks with a waterfall. There are also otters in the very back! We did this several times when it was raining, just to get out of the house. It’s also been a favorite spot when either of the grandmas have wanted to join us on an outing.
4.Perk! Coffee and Lunchbox
Perk! is a cute little coffee shop in Bon Air, next to Joe’s Inn. They have a great selection of coffee and caffinated beverages, plus some super yummy food! In the back is a gated off area for tots to play while Mommy (or Daddy) enjoys a cup of coffee. This is a great place to catch up with a mom friend because you’re child is contained and able to play while you sit, watch, and enjoy your coffee! While there is no “admission” to the children’s area in the back, it’s not completely free because you would be buying a coffee. However, a coffee and play area with no extra charge is still a great deal!
5.Westover Hills Toddler Playground
I feel like this gem is such a secret that I debated sharing it here, but it’s too good not too. The official name for this toddler spot is the Westover Hills United Methodist Church “Tot Lot.” It is a fenced-in playground full of fun little toys for toddlers to climb, ride and slide. It’s like PlaySkool heaven. There is also a small playground, some swings and a sandbox. I love this spot because it’s for toddlers and preschoolers only, so everything is geared toward them. I don’t have to be super diligent about Mara getting run over by a big kid or falling off equipment that’s too high, plus it being fenced in is a HUGE stress-reliever. Not to say that I don’t have to watch her, I just don’t have to be right by her side every second.
6.Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA)
The VMFA may not be a place that people necessarily think of as being “toddler-friendly,” but it has been a life saver on rainy, gross days! I took Mara frequently when she was an infant because I got to get out of the house and walk. Though we went less often last summer, it was always a place I kept in my back pocket. I learned which exhibits Mara liked best, Modern Art and sculptures of animals, so we stick close to those. She’s also a big fan of the glass elevator, so we make sure to travel between floors frequently. Jesse and I even took her to a special exhibit here a few months ago and when she got bored we let her play with her tablet in the stroller. We were able to enjoy some adult time while keeping her entertained. It is free admission to walk around the museum and look at the exhibits, so it’s definitely budget friendly and worth a try.
7.Chesterfield County Parks
I live outside of the city, in Chesterfield County, so I can’t not mention the great parks there too! Each park has something different to offer, so it’s easy to decide based on your kid. You can find information about each park on the Chesterfield County Parks and Rec website. If we are moving, Mara doesn’t mind the stroller so I’ve definitely walked and jogged several of the paths at these parks. It’s great for getting in some exercise and fresh air! Afterward, we will swing by the playgrounds so she can play and get out some energy. I like to go to the parks early during the summer so Mara can play without a ton of older kids around and to beat the heat. A few special things worth noting are the boardwalk type paths at Mid-Lothian Mines Park and the Nature Center at Rockwood Park. Mid-Lothian Mines is great for feeding ducks and looking out for turtles and Rockwood’s Nature Center offers classes and workshops.
8.Public Library Storytimes
The local library is also a LIFE SAVER during rainy days, or days when it’s just too hot to be outside! Since I’m in Chesterfield County I regularly take Mara to storytimes and toddler activities at the various county libraries. Since I’m a planner, I love that I can check the library schedules and add activities to the calendar in advance. It gives me something to look forward to and helps me plan out our weeks. You can check out happenings at your closest library on their websites, Chesterfield or Richmond. Keep in mind that you may need to register in advance for some activities, so be sure to keep track of dates and when registrations open. I like to check out almost all of the libraries happenings and pick the activities that sound the most fun. It’s usually worth the longer drive to check out a new library!
9.Lewis Ginter Free Days
Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens is a beautiful spot for walking around and looking at various plants and exhibits, but it’s not usually free. I like to check their calendar and make note of any “Free Days” they may be offering and put them on the calendar. In the Summer, they have Water Play (a splash pad area) open for kids that is included in admission as well. I’ve definitely paid the $13 admission (children under 3 are free) before when I’ve wanted a total change of scenery or if friends were visiting. This is another spot I recommend getting there early, especially on free admission days or if you want to experience Water Play. It definitely can get crowded later in the day!
10.Goldfish Swim School Free Family Swims
It’s no secret that I LOVE Goldfish Swim School and another thing I love about them is that they offer several Free Family Swims throughout the year. This is a great way to not only try out their facilities, but spend some time in the water as a family. Since the pool has limited space, many of these Free Family Swims require a reservation in advance. Be sure to visit their website and make a note of any dates you’d like to attend and when you need to make a reservation. There are also several opportunities for regular Family Swims. These require a reservation and you would pay either $5 per person or $15 per family.
Whether you live here, or are visiting this summer, these free toddler-friendly activities in Richmond are a great way to get out and enjoy different parts of the city and keep your little one entertained. Richmond has so much to offer, you just have to know where to look!