Up first, Maymont.
If you are from Richmond or the central Virginia area, you probably know Maymont. If you are a transplant like myself, you probably don't know Maymont or it took you a long time to figure it out unless a native took you early on. It's such a great place that I think Richmonders kind of want it to be their "secret."
I didn't really discover Maymont until I had been in Richmond for four whole years. Don't ask me how that happened - the place has so many of my favorite things that it's ridiculous. A Gilded age mansion with all the trimmings, beautiful gardens, open park land, big old trees, adorable animals.
And best of all, it is free.
The thing that most people don't realize is that Maymont is not funded by the City of Richmond, but run by a private foundation. It costs over $9,000 a day to keep Maymont free and open to the public 365 days a year. So the next time you visit, stick a few dollars in the donation collection spots or text to give.
When family and friends come to visit, Maymont is now one of the top "Places to Visit" on my list.
Here's just a taste of what it has to offer (all photos are my own):
|Spring magnolias along the famed Magnolia Drive|
|The Three Graces and reflective pond|
|Italian Garden in the fall|
|Japanese Garden with Azumaya in the fall|
|More Japanese Garden|
|J, myself, my best friend, and her husband on a trip to Maymont in the fall|
Oh yes, and Maymont is in fact so fabulous that you can also run a race there.
Sportsbackers sponsors a Cross Country Festival at Maymont each year in September. I did the 8 Miler for the first time in September 2011. It was extremely challenging for me (the longest distance I had ever run) with lots of different types of terrain and even some water obstacles. A beautiful but difficult run. You start in Maymont then utilize a series of James River Trails before re-entering the property. The last quarter mile involves running up the extremely steep hill in front of the mansion, which is where they thought it would be best to station the photographer (naturally).
|Please, don't be blinded by my paleness.|
I hurt for a week afterwards, but it was great fun.
More info for the 2012 Maymont Cross Country Festival is here.