If you have been reading this blog over the last few years, you know that we have been to Richmond many times. However, our most recent Richmond trip was the first time that we went with a baby (4 months old!) It was a lot of work but also extremely rewarding and lots of fun. Here is a recap and some tips to help with traveling with a baby.
Rather than drive and keep our son cooped up in a car seat for three hours, we took Amtrak from Union Station to Richmond Main Street, Richmond’s downtown train station. This way, we had plenty of time together as a family. We could easily feed Bren, change his diaper and most importantly, get to play with him!
There are two spots in each Amtrak car that have extra leg room, perfect for changing a diaper and keeping a stroller unfolded. An airplane this is not! One spot is usually reserved for disabled riders, so keep an eye out for signs. We made sure to seek out one of these seats each time we were on the train.
The other thing to keep in mind is that once Bren was asleep, I was able to go to the café car and get us some wine and snacks! We just relaxed, enjoyed our wine and a little time to ourselves and waited to arrive in Richmond.
Take Public Transit
Richmond Main Street Station is large, comfortable (lots of places to sit) and has nice bathrooms. It’s all you could want when traveling with a child. Once you step out on Main Street, the bus rapid transit, with its high platforms and level-boarding, is right outside the station. We didn’t have to fold the stroller on the bus, just take our son out and hold him. That was much easier than both holding a folded stroller and a baby.
Stay at a Cool Hotel
Our digs for the weekend were at the Quirk Hotel, a hip loft-style boutique hotel in Richmond’s hopping Arts District. In a great move for parents taking the train, the hotel offers Pack n’ Plays for your little one to sleep in. It was a HUGE help, because it would have been difficult to bring our travel crib in addition to all Bren’s other things.
You can’t beat the location. Once Bren was asleep, I walked over to Charm School Social Club, home to some of the most creative ice cream sundaes (both vegan and non-vegan) you will ever see. Charm School is conveniently located within a 2 minute walk of the hotel. I’ll be honest, the vegan sundae was just as good as the non-vegan!
Be Prepared for a long day out
Saturday was our big day out so we were prepared with everything Bren could need. Toys, outfit changes, LOTS of diapers and wipes and every warm outfit he owned. We also attached a “footmuff” to his stroller, which looks like a sleeping bag for babies. It was in the 30s that morning but Bren LOVED his stroller. He slept the entire time and was so cozy!
A few weeks before our trip, we realized that Saturday morning was the Richmond Marathon. That meant no bus service. Our plan had been to spend the day in the hopping (but kid friendly) Scotts Addition neighborhood, a few miles from our hotel. No worries, though! We walked the 3 miles in the cold (due to detours) but Bren kept so warm!! And his parents got to enjoy some nice walking time too!
We stopped for coffee and bagels with housemade veggie schmear at Chairlift, the café inside of the acclaimed Alpine restaurant Brenner Pass.
Our main event was lunch at ZZQ. (As you know, once you have a baby lunch becomes your main event). However, we didn’t want all three of us to be waiting in line before ZZQ opened in the cold. That is why while I left to stand in line, Marnay and Brendan hung out at Chairlift. Marnay finished her coffee and changed Bren in preparation for a Texas barbecue extravaganza.
ZZQ serves up the best Texas BBQ outside of Texas. It also happens to be very child-friendly! While we were enjoying our massive, peppery beef rib, we had plenty of room to keep Bren inside his stroller. We even had enough space to move to the bar after our meal, enjoy some Lone Stars while Bren stayed asleep in the stroller! That was the biggest game changer for us.
Besides incredible barbecue and restaurants, Scotts Addition is the land of breweries and distilleries. Post-BBQ, we hung out on the awesome heated patio of Blue Bee Cider, our first time at this location! Bren loved playing with his toys at the picnic tables and we loved drinking the dry, delicious local cider.
Find time to rest
Once we walked back to the hotel, we took turns resting while the other one took Brendan to the lobby to play. When it came time for dinner, there was no shortage of options for takeout near the Quirk Hotel. We chose a personal sized Neapolitan-ish pizza from Stoplight Gelato Café, a cute spot for gelato, sandwiches and pizzas in the Jackson Ward neighborhood. It’s only a 5 minute walk from the Quirk Hotel, so I walked over to get it and we ate it as Bren settled into his crib for the night.
Even after all we did, we still had to end the night with ice cream sundaes from Charm School!
The next morning, we had a 9am train to catch. But when your baby is waking up at 5am, 9am doesn’t seem that early. Instead of going out for breakfast, we treated ourselves to some seriously good room service. It was wonderfully relaxing to eat in the loft-style hotel room as our son napped.
It’s only a 1.3 mile walk from the Quirk Hotel to the Main Street Station and we enjoyed the fresh air. Boarding the train can be stressful so you need to have a strategy. This station has a low platform, so you can’t easily put the stroller onboard. Therefore, I boarded first with our suitcase and backpacks while Marnay stayed with Bren and the stroller. I put the suitcase in the luggage nook by the door and then zoomed to the front of the car to reserve one of the two seaters with extra legroom. I then hurried back to get Marnay, Bren and the stroller and bring them all back to our saved seats.
Our weekend in Richmond with Bren was honestly not that different from our child-free weekends in Richmond. I think that was mainly a testament to our preparation and to Bren being a chill baby, for the most part. We were still able to do a ton of different things and enjoy the weekend as a family.