It's getting a little toasty outside, which makes me realize how quickly summer is approaching. Richmond's in a great location for getting away - beach to the east and mountains to the west - but there are also a couple of places along the way to plan a day of summer fun.
There is, of course, at the heart of Richmond, the James River. A lot of people go to the James on a daily basis when the weather is appropriate. Me? I can't really stand it. It may not be as bad as it used to be, but when I was younger I heard some pretty terrible things about it. (Now that I'm thinking about it, most of the terrible things I heard came from my brother's mouth, so the validity of those statements... not entirely solid.) It's definitely not the cleanest place, and people do tend to do a lot of day drinking (which is cool if you're into that sort of thing), but it can be a pretty good place to take your pups for a swim or take a walk in the woods. Some areas are a little better kept than others, but for the most part, not really for me.
If you go a little north of Richmond, out towards Ashland and the Doswell area, you'll find Kings Dominion. Formerly owned by Paramount, this place has changed a lot since the old days. It's mainly known for its mass quantity of roller coasters, which are all pretty neat and unique if coasters are your thing. The water park is obviously a great destination for the summer, and since it's located smack in the middle of the park itself, I always tend to make my coaster rounds first, weave my way into the water park to cool off for the hottest part of the day, and then hang around and enjoy the lights in the evening. Depending on when you go, you might see a nice little fireworks show before you call it a night. It's an amusement park, and very nostalgic for some (including myself).
Now, if you want a THEME park, you need to head east of Richmond towards Williamsburg. I'm not talking about colonial Williamsburg, because historical sites do not constitute a theme park in my opinion and are best left for school field trips. I'm talking about Busch Gardens. This place has a lot more to offer than just a ton of roller coasters, although the few that it does have are absolutely worth the hefty price of admission. Busch Gardens has a set of countries to explore, each with unique food and attractions. They have live animals, stage shows and an awesome train that transports you around the outside edges of the park if you get tired of walking. They've even got the Loch Ness Monster! It's a pretty awesome place, and hey, if you get tired of being out in the heat, you can pop on over to Water Country USA right down the road and ride some gnarly waterslides.
If you keep going east, you'll eventually hit the beach, because who doesn't love that? The Eastern Shore Peninsula is a pretty cool destination, too. They've got native wild horses, which young me was completely obsessed with.
If you head west of Richmond, you'll eventually run into some mountains. Some of my favorite things to do out this way? Visit the breweries around Nelson County, Virginia. There's this stretch of highway that's been dubbed the "Brew Ridge Trail" that you can follow to get to several local breweries, most of which have some awesome food too. Blue Mountain is probably my favorite. Devil's Backbone is awesome too, but it's usually a bit crowded for my taste. My other favorite thing to do in the mountains is go apple picking at Carter Mountain Orchard. This place is ALWAYS packed on the weekends, but it's super fun to wander around an orchard and climb trees (alright so you can't actually climb them really, but if you could... the apples. Oh, the apples.)
Well, that should give you some pretty decent ideas for some things to do around and out of town. I'll probably start planning some weekends soon for myself. I'm aching to get back on the Alpengeist!