On a recent drive out to Mechanicsville, I passed a sign on Chamberlayne Avenue for Three Lakes Park & Nature Center. It’s all of three miles away from our house on the Northside, but I’d never noticed before.
(See, that’s one thing I’ve always loved about Richmond. No matter how long you’ve lived here, from time to time you still happen upon fantastic, new-to-you places—spots that have always been around but somehow never made it onto your radar.)
I didn’t stop that day, but I made a mental note to check it out—and soon. As summer started winding down over these last few weeks, my three-year-old son and I found ourselves bored with the usual haunts. I was getting a bit desperate for activities to fill our days.
It ended up taking my son and me two tries to fully appreciate Three Lakes Park—but that wasn’t the park’s fault. Our first attempt apparently coincided with field trip day for several daycares and preschools in the Richmond Metro area, so we kept it brief with a quick lap around the Nature Center and a few minutes on the epic playground before heading home for the day.
Our return trip a few days later, however, gave my son and I the chance to see all Three Lakes Park has to offer. And that, my friends, is a lot—so much that I’m kicking myself for not knowing about this place earlier.
The second time around we started off with a stroll around one of the lakes that helps give the park its name. As the mother of a very active little boy, I’m grateful for any space that allows my son to run himself ragged, and Three Lakes Park’s trails are great for that. We spent a good hour making our way around the park, tossing rocks into the lake, hunting for the perfect stick, and listening to Richmond’s summertime bugs chatter away.
(Quick pro tip: some of the trails around the park have drop-offs into the water. The paths are wide enough so this isn’t a major issue,—just something to keep in mind if your kids have a tendency to bolt out of your line of vision as they’re running off their wiggles.)
We really took our time working through the Nature Center, a 6,500 square-foot gem filled with live exhibits, dioramas, and interactive displays showcasing the wildlife native to the wetlands and woodlands of the park.
After logging some serious time making fish faces at the inhabitants of the center’s 50,000 gallon aquarium, my son bounced from tank to tank and exhibit to exhibit, declaring each his “Most! Favorite! Thing! Ever!” The turtles, frogs, and snakes were a big hit, and couldn’t get enough of an interactive display inviting visitors to match the animal to the footprint—so much so that he asked if he could have one for Christmas.
Good work, Three Lakes Park. That’s pretty much the most solid endorsement you can get from the preschooler set.
Three Lakes Park & Nature Center’s hours for September through November are Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 4:30pm. Hours change season to season, so be sure to check their website before heading out. Admission is free; special programs typically fall in the $6 to $8-range.
Three Lakes Park & Nature Center
400 Sausiluta Drive
Henrico, VA 23227
Valerie Catrow is the former editor of RVANews and a current contributor to their parenting column, Raising Richmond. A Richmonder through-and-through, she grew up in Midlothian, graduated from the University of Richmond, and currently lives on the city’s Northside with her husband, Ross, and their son, JR. You can see what she’s up to on a day-to-day basis on her personal blog: Made in Richmond.