Get a National Park Service Passport
These are really fun and spark interest in the National Park Service system. The brainchild of a marketing genius, the purchaser can get a stamp from each of the NPS sites he or she visits. The collection of these stamps, similar to postal cancellation postmarks (which include the name of the park and the date visited) become fun to collect. It's a great way to get the kids (of all ages!) excited about going to different parks, monuments, seashores, etc. that are operated by the NPS.
The passport itself is reasonably priced and the stamps are, of course, free. Each NPS facility has a stamp available at the visitor's center. If you don't see it just ask the ranger on duty. Some (e.g., Mt. Rushmore, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse) have special stamps with a depiction of the area/monument. Great fun!
You can obtain an NPS passport at any park Visitor's Center or online at the National Park Service Store.
In and around Richmond, you can get stamps at the Richmond National Battlefield Park, Maggie L. Walker NHS, and Petersburg National Battlefield. Further afield you can also get stamps at the Fredricksburg & Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Memorial Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Appomattox Court House NHP, Jamestown NHS, Colonial National Historic Park, and the various sites in and around DC.
Uneven Restoration in Jackson Ward
This is not a fond memory, but rather a potential opportunity. Jackson Ward is more like Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. "It was the best of times..." (Maggie Walker House, the wrought iron porches on Leigh Street, and popular tourist spots). "It was the worst of times..."
The Elk's Lodge, 526 N. 2nd St., is an impressive structure that has seen better days. It was built about 1905 as the 26-room mansion of the Reverend W.L. Taylor, a leader in the United Order of True Reformers, a temperance organization. One of the first buildings in Virginia designed by a professional black architect, J.A. Lankford, it was one of the largest buildings in Virginia, possibly in the country, built for a black man.
The Hippodrome Theater right nextdoor is now missing its famed marquee, is currently being restored that may one day return it to its glory days (from the late 1920s to the 1940s and somewhat beyond). It was one of three performance sites that gave Jackson Ward its nickname, the Harlem of the South. Many black entertainers built their reputations here, including local legend Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole and James Brown.
The nearby convention centre presents a problem and an opportunity at the same time. The problem is that development encroaches on the historic neighbourhood. However, designation by many buildings as a historic area will limit this dubious progress. Also, with new development comes the possibility of more tourism that will come when delapidated older buildings like the two pictured here get revitalised. However, restoration in this community moves on at an uneven pace.
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Virginia State Fair a gigantic traffic snarl!
Is it just me, or did anyone else notice the horrendous job those responsible for getting state fair goers in and out of the new location did? Did they not plan for the thousands that might show up?
First, there is only one long, 2-lane road into the new facility, which goes for miles after exiting 95. The glut of cars on this inadequate road created a backup all the way to 95 north, and stretched for miles -- all the way back to Richmond.
Then, the troupers who were supposedly responsible for directing traffic, were untrained and had no real plan for where they were directing cars once they were headed down this road, towards the fairgrounds. They only had one entrance into the parking area -- which you needed a 4-wheel drive to get across, the fields were so rutted and uneven.
The best part was yet to come -- trying to actually leave the fair! Did they forget there needed to be exits out of the acres of parking? We sat for an hour in a terrible gridlock of cars trying to get out the one exit we could find, that eventually was closed by a lone event employee. No signs, no one directing visitors to any other exits.
Out of frustration, we got out of out car and walked up to the nearest trouper who was only allowing traffic into the fair, not out. He said he was told to concentrate on getting cars in. (duh) Eventually even those cars couldn't get in, blocked by all the cars not allowed to exit. What a mess!
By chance, walking back to our car, we noticed one opened gate, unattended, that emptied out to the main street, away from the traffic snarl the troupers had created. We broke out of the line, headed across the acres of lot, and were at last free!
By the time we got onto 95 heading back to Richmond, we could see the full extent of the gridlock they'd created -- now thankfully for us, on the other side of the freeway.
What an example of ineptitude and poor planning for our own state fair! Is this really the best Virginia can do for an event of this size? If so, now I know why the Confederacy never had a chance!
Putting on the dog for Christmas
Richmond's skyline lights are turned on in the Grand Illumination which typically takes place the first Friday evening in December, then the reindeer and other decorations will be lit up around the James Center shortly before 6:30pm. Also that night (since its reopening), the Main Street Station hosts a Holiday Open House from five to nine with kiddie train rides, live music, hot chocolate and cookies. The following morning at 10am, Broad Street (one of Richmond's main drags for those from out of town) becomes the downtown venue for the annual Christmas parade. Richmond's skyline remains illuminated until just after each new year.
Historic Chelsea Plantation
Built in 1709 by Col. Augustine Moore, Chelsea Plantation is the 2nd oldest Virginia Plantation still open for tours. It is on the National Historical Registry. Here is a few important keynotes about Chelsea :
During the Revolutionary War, General Lafayette encamped here during the campaign of 1781, just before the battle of Yorktown where he defeated Cornwalis. There is a historical marker at the corner of Rte 30 and Rte 635 signifying this.
Robert E. Lee's grandmother was both born here and married here.
Thomas Jefferson attended a wedding here of his best friend Dr. John Walker. Very 1st speaker of the House of Burgesses, Speaker John Robinson married a Moore of Chelsea.
The parson at St John's Church (open for tours) was also the schoolmaster at Chelsea schoolhouse, which is still standing.
The Knights of the Golden Horseshoe was formed here by Governor Alexander Spottswood.
Col Augustine Moore's grandson Bernard II became one of the first 3 Admiralty Court Justices, which was the 1st judicial system in this country.
George Washington stopped here on his Burgess Route on his way from Fredricksburg to Williamsburg .
Capt John Smith passed by the site of Chelsea on his way to Chief Powhatan at Werewocomoco when he was taken captive.
Tours open Thurs through Sunday 10am to 4:30pm, and Mon-Wed by appointment only. Group Tours also need advance notice. 804-843-2386
Website is: http://www.virginia.org/site/description.asp?AttrID=11005