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Halloween is definitely getting closer and if you don’t feel like driving to the ends of Richmond Metro to get a pumpkin or have a genuine Halloween experience, you are in luck this weekend.  Sunday, October 17 from 2-5pm the Edgar Allan Poe Museum downtown is having their own pumpkin patch and other Halloween activities for the kids.  Kids will be able to wrap mummies, go on a scavenger hunt, and decorate pumpkins.  There will also be “Poe-themed” face painting and even a black cat pinata.  Costumes are a must and there will be a costume contest to reward the best.  Of course this isn’t a farm so the number of pumpkins is limited.  In other words, if you want a pumpkin in addition to all the other fun activities, get there early.

The Edgar Allan Poe Museum has the world’s finest collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s manuscripts, letters, first editions, memorabilia and personal belongings.  It also has one of the most beautiful gardens in Richmond.  The museum is located close to where Poe lived and worked in Richmond in the early nineteenth century.  What better place to get the full creepy Halloween experience!  The museum is located at 1914-16 East Main Street Richmond, VA 23223.  Admission is $6 which is a lot cheaper than some of the pumpkin patches are charging this year.  Just watch out for ravens 🙂

If you have already had your fill of apple pie, homemade apple sauce, Brunswick stew, and October beer this Fall, (unlikely, I know, but stay with me here), this Saturday, October 16 from 12-6pm is the Richmond Oystoberfest in Ginter Park.  There will be plenty of oysters, brats (no, not “brats,” we’re talking sausages here), and beer (see, I told you to stay with me, you still get beer) to feast on. You can get your oysters fried, grilled, or raw, however you like them.  There will be other grilled foods and refreshments available as well (none of which are known aphrodisiacs, sorry).

 

There will also be live entertainment, of course, from 12:30 to about 5pm.  You can find the lineup posted here.  Children and pets are welcome at this festival.  There will be a children’s area with slides, moonbounces, and the usual festival activities to keep them occupied.  There will not be a pet fun area so be sure to keep them on a leash.  Prizes will be raffled off periodically all day, including a brand new iPad. 

 

The festival will be held, rain or shine, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 3602 Hawthorne Ave.  You can find a map and directions here.  This is smack in the middle of historic Ginter Park, which is beautiful if you have never been there. This neighborhood was Richmond’s first suburb, connected to downtown by the electric trolley line.  Planned and developed by Lewis W. Ginter, Ginter Park was supposed to be a way that men could return to the “country” after work every day.  Today, Ginter Park features a variety of architectural styles ranging from smaller bungalows to large Colonial Revival mansions. Many of those can be found in the heart of Ginter Park on the historic Seminary Avenue.   
 

Admission to the festival is free, although there are additional fees for food and drinks.  Because all proceeds go to benefit St. Thomas Church, a $2 donation is suggested, but not required. 

Fall is definitely in the air.  The weather has turned chilly, announcers at high school football games can be heard for miles on Friday nights, and the baseball playoffs are on TV.  All of this can only mean one thing.  Its time for the Richmond Folk Festival!  The Folk Festival is a beloved Richmond tradition and, at approximately 200,000 visitors every year, Central Virginia’s largest festival.  Surprisingly, this is only the third year for our Richmond Festival.  Prior to that the International Folk Festival was here.  Despite its short tenure, the Folk Festival has become a favorite in this region and has quickly made itself into a Richmond tradition.  This year the Festival starts Friday, October 8 and runs through Sunday, October 10.

The main focus of the Folk Festival is, of course, the music.  This year the Festival promises 20+ new performers.  There are seven stages and performances do overlap so be sure to map out your favorites ahead of time to avoid missing anyone. You can get information on the different performers and sample their music here.  A full schedule of events is available here.  Types of music will vary from Salsa & Chicago Blues to Andean, Haitian, and Gospel.  With all that music, you’d be crazy to not get out there and dance, at least a little.  Be sure to visit the dance pavilion and let loose.

The Folk Festival is definitely family friendly so don’t leave the kids at home.  Genworth is sponsoring a children’s area where the kids can do arts & crafts, make a sculpture, and see exotic birds.  There will also be vintage games and demonstrations.  Most of these activities are run/organized by the Children’s Museum so they will be top-notch.  There will also be music in this area and the best part of all, a harmonica giveaway (they only have 200 to give, so get there early).

During the festival, don’t miss the Documentary Film Series that will be showing at the Civil War Visitors Center.  Click here for a schedule of films slated to play.

Of course this is a Richmond festival so there will be plenty of food.  If you are all sugared out from the State Fair, be sure to check out some of the more unique dishes offered like alligator bites.  There will also be beer and this year you will be able to drink everywhere at the festival, so enjoy (responsibly of course)!

The marketplace is where you will find all the authentic crafts and artisan demonstrations.  Remember, crafts cost extra so bring your wallet.  It’s never too early for holiday shopping.

The Festival is large so be sure to study a map and bring it with you for your visit.  It is located downtown between 7th street, 2nd street, Byrd street, and the American Civil War Center at Tredegar (they are offering free admission on Saturday and Sunday) with spillover onto Brown’s Island.  You can see a full map here.  There is also a pocket map available and if technology is your thing, they even have an iPhone app this year.

There are multiple ways to coordinate travel to the event. There will be parking available in the surrounding parking garages (for around a $5 fee).  However, if you wish to avoid the traffic crowds, you can take advantage of  free parking and shuttle service leaving from The Diamond and Spring Rock Green on Midlothian Turnpike..

The Festival will go on rain or shine.  The bad weather kept the attendance down to approximately 160,000 last year so most people will not be deterred by the weather.  There are four tented stages so if it does rain (and come on, how likely is that these days) head over to the tented areas to continue enjoying the music.  Hours for the festival are:  Friday, Oct. 8:  6-10:30pm; Saturday Oct. 9: 12-10:30pm; and Sunday, October 10: 12-6pm.  No pets are allowed.

Well, we finally got rain after one of the worst water shortages in recent history so that can only mean one thing.  Its time for the Virginia State Fair.  The Fair is a guarantee every year for a good rain storm.  This year the fair runs until October 3rd so there is still time to enjoy it.  This is the second year the Fair is being held at Meadow Event Park next to Kings Dominion. You can find directions and maps here.

The Fair is huge and there is a Map and Daily Guide with show times  provided.  Make sure you take one so you can get around to see everything.  Each area also has a different “theme” of food provided — another great reason to make sure you visit every area!

In the “Livestock Loop” you can see farm animals, tractors, farm equipment and even lumberjacks.  Here you can also  fill up on fried catfish, barbecue, kettle corn, and sno cones.

Next you can head over to the “Media General Trail” where in addition to some shopping, you can watch magic shows and musicians on the theater stage.  If you are still hungry this is where you are going to find pizza and dippin dots (what the heck are those things anyway?).

You can see the racing pigs and high-flying K-9s at the “South Festival Loop.”  Make sure you leave some room for funnel cakes, fried ice cream, gourmet soups, chinese food, and more.

The “North Festival Loop” has the best food in my opinion.  Here you will find burgers, crab cakes, shrimp creole, cinnamon buns, and hot apple dumplings.  While you are stuffing your face (or at least I was) you can see the firefighter training show and check out the quilt show and some of the craft vendors.

What would a fair be without scary looking rides that your kids cry and scream for?  You’ll find the rides at the “Kidway and Midway.”  All the classic rides are there including the Himalaya (definitely do this ride BEFORE you eat), Scrambler, Tea cups, Ferris wheel, and the Carousel. You will also find a circus show and millions of ways to spend money and hopefully win stuffed animals to please those crying kids.

The main shows are held at the Horse Complex and Festival Stage.  In addition to nightly concerts, you will also find bull riding, rodeos, horse shows, and other animal shows. You can find the daily concert schedule here.  Concerts are included in your general admission.  There are no seats so make sure to bring blankets or chairs to sit on or you can rent a folding chair for $5.

Other activities you can see daily at the Fair include cow milking, soap making, violin making, masters of the chainsaw, and pumpkin carving.

The fair is open daily at 10am, although most of the shows, events, and activities don’t open until 11am.  Tonight the fair is open to 1am, Saturday until midnight, and Sunday until 10pm.  Admission is usually the most confusing part of the Fair, so I’ll do my best to explain.  General admission fees range from $10-$15 per person.  Rides are not included with general admission.  Each ride requires a specific number of tickets (a few cost money at the ride).  Tickets needed for rides range from 3-6 tickets per ride.  You can find the list of tickets needed here.  Tickets cost $1 each or $20 for 25.  There are supposedly coupons floating around out there at McDonalds that will give you 30 tickets for $20.  You can also purchase a combo ticket which will give you admission and 40 ride tickets for $30.  This is probably your best bet if you plan on riding a lot of rides.  In case I did a terrible job explaining that, you can get ticket information and prices here.

Don’t be dissuaded by the fact that this is the last weekend.  There is still plenty of time to enjoy the State Fair.

It may be Fall, but the festivals continue.  In fact, Richmond has their own Fall Festival season, much like we have our Spring Festival Season.  It really started last week (I’m so sorry I missed it!) with the Armenian Food Festival and others.  Hopefully you got out to enjoy some of them.  It continues this weekend with several more festivals and it is going to continue throughout October so keep an open stomach!!  Tomorrow, Saturday, from 10am-5pm is the 19th annual 43rd Street Festival of the Arts.  This Festival is going to take you South of the River to the beautiful and historical Forest Hill neighborhood.  The intersection of 43rd Street and Forest Hill Avenue to be exact.

The focus of this Festival is art — it features about 65 of the Richmond region’s finest artisans and their crafts. Don’t worry, there will also be local musicians, including Susan Greenbaum, Blue Line Hwy, OminOtagO, Bluz Catz and Rachel Leyco,  and of course, plenty of festival food.  The festival is also for a good cause of course, with funds going to help the  Freedom House, a local homeless shelter.

Admission to the festival is free, but food and any arts and crafts purchases will cost money so, as I always say, don’t leave your wallet at home.  The weather this weekend (unlike the past couple of days) is supposed to be beautiful and autumn-like so this is a great time to get out and explore some of Richmond’s Fall Festivals.  Make sure to put this one your list.

Day 92 – Belle Isle

For the sake of full disclosure, I must tell you that Belle Isle is one of my favorite places in all of Richmond.  I’ve been waiting to write about it so that I could make another trip there and have everything fresh in my mind (ok, I admit, I really just wanted to go again!).  Aside from its amazing beauty, incredible convenience, and utter peacefulness, the island also has a long detailed history (but really, I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you).  Don’t be turned off by the fact that summer is over.  This is an even better time to go –without the crowds. The fall colors on the island are incredible.

Belle Isle is a 54-acre island on the James River that is owned by the City of Richmond.  It is said that the island was first explored by Captain John Smith in the early 1600’s.  Later in the 1600’s the island was owned by William Byrd I (but really, what wasn’t?).  In the 1700’s the island was home to a fishery.  In the 1800’s the Old Dominion Iron & Nail Company built a factory on the island.  By the 1860’s the island was inhabited by an actual village with a school, church, and general store.  During the Civil War, the island served as a prison for Union soldiers (this is the story I had always heard).  Between 1862-1865 the island held approximately 30,000 POW’s.  After the war, the nail factory reopened and operated until 1972.

In 1904, Virginia Electric Power Company built a hydroelectric power plant on the island which operated until 1963.  The shell of this building still stands on the bank of the James and on warm days you can watch crazy people with no fear (or too many beers in them) jump from the building into the water.  The island was designated a Richmond city park in 1973.

Today Belle Isle is one of the most popular parks in Richmond with areas for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, picnicking, sunbathing, exploring, kayaking, and more.  It is also home to the Xterra Challenge Mountain Biking Tournament which is a testament to the quality of mountain biking opportunities available.  The island is accessible by a suspension foot bridge from the north bank, under the Lee Bridge (watch out for the bikes crossing over).  I know it looks scary, but trust me, you’ll make it.  If you are driving, park over by Tredegar (don’t expect to find parking on a warm summer day). If you are feeling more adventurous (and the River is low) you can hop the rocks across the James River to get to the island.

Once you come off the pedestrian bridge go straight for about 100 yards and then bear right to the river. This is the main trail that loops around the island.  You can continue following this path along the river, or veer off on one of the many  side paths that will take you over to the rocks where you can sunbathe, picnic, swim, or relax.  Just remember, the rock is a rock — its hard, hot, and slippery so wear good shoes and bring something to sit on (trust me here).  If you continue on the trail, you will come to the quarry and pond on the left.  I’ve spent many days fishing there.  Can’t say I ever caught anything, but the relaxation was satisfaction enough.  Not too far from this point is a picnic area (if you don’t find the rocks appealing).  After you are done eating, continue on the main loop about 150 yards and there will be a side path that will take you to remnants of the power plant dam, oh, and more rocks.  As you keep walking on the main trail, you will also see the power plant and the iron mill.  Continue circling around until you see a steel framed building right before the foot bridge, which is the old iron foundry.  If you stop to explore on the way, the entire loop will probably take you about an hour.  It is an easy path with markers and historical notes along the way.  If you are looking for something more challenging (hiking or biking) head to the thinner trails on the interior of the island.  Wherever you go, do not miss the fantastic views of the Richmond skyline, Hollywood Cemetary, and Tredegar Iron Works.

The park is open from sun up to sun down.  Alcohol is supposedly not allowed, but evidence of how much Richmonders care about that law is littered all over the park.  As an aside, please pick up your trash when you leave.  I was very surprised at how much trash I saw everywhere!  Dogs are allowed on the island, as long as they are on a leash. Admission to the park is 100% free!!

You can walk the 2 mile + trail in just about an hour, but plan to spend the whole day so you can really explore the island, and get some relaxation time in!

It looks like the weather is finally starting to turn to what it should have been in June.  This will be the perfect opportunity to get out and enjoy some of Richmond’s outdoor activities.  Pocahontas State Park is a great place to do a host of outdoor activities.  Located in Chesterfield, its Virginia’s largest state park and includes parts of Swift Creek Reservoir and Beaver Lake.  Available activities at Pocahontas include camping, swimming, hiking, biking, picnicking, boating and fishing.  This is also the site of the Muddy Buddy and Run Like A Girl races.

The park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and was the first recreational park in the Richmond-Petersburg-Hopewell area.  The National Park Service then donated the park to Virginia State Parks in 1946.  The park is obviously named after Pocahontas, the daughter of Chief Powhatan.

Swimming – Merely calling it a pool, doesn’t really do it justice.  The aquatic center, as it is called, is open from 10am -7pm Memorial Day through Labor Day.  There are several pools with different depths, all with lifeguards.  There is also a sprinkler area and two 15-ft high water slides.  But best of all, there is a water-park like area that will keep the kids occupied for hours.  The pools are located in the northern area of the park with a large picnic area right next to it.  There are also locker rooms and a snack bar.  The fees to swim are: Weekdays ages 3-12 $5 and ages 12+ $6;  Weekends ages 3-12 $7 and ages 12+ $8.

Camping – It was a surprise to me (and I’ve even been to the park) that there are overnight camping facilities.  There are facilities for RV, pop-ups, and tent camping.  Each campsite has a fire ring for campfires. Campers have access to bath houses for showers.  Overnight campers also get access to swimming and the boat launch for free.  There are larger “camps” and dining houses for large groups (think your office retreat).  You do need to reserve a campsite in advance by calling 1-800-933-PARK (7275).  Same day reservations are usually not accepted.  There is also a “reserve now” button on the top right hand side of the website (its small, keep looking).  Camping fees run from $25-$78 which is a lot less than a decent hotel, and provide much more atmosphere.

Trails for Hiking and Biking – There are approximately 5 miles of hiking trails just around Beaver Lake.  There is also a 5 mile biking trail (it wouldn’t be Richmond if there weren’t biking trails as well) and scattered mountain-biking trails ranging from easy to difficult You can find more information on the biking trails here. There is even a  trail that is accessible for people with disabilities.  You can also find scattered winding trails throughout the park and horseback riding trails (sorry you have to bring your own horse).  Some of these hiking trails can be steep and rocky, so where good shoes.  There is more information on the different trails and maps/videos available here.

Boating/Fishing – Boating is allowed during daylight hours at the park.  Private boats are allowed on Swift Creek (no gas motors).  You can also rent rowboats, canoes, and kayaks from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  You do need a fishing license to fish at the park, and if the office is open you can purchase one there.

Pocahontas State Park is a great place to explore the outdoors right in our back yard.  Even though Summer is about to end, there is still plenty of time to explore this local gem.  At last check, there was a $4 parking fee on top of any other fees for activities in the park, definitely doable no matter what your budget is these days.