June in Review: Summer of travel continues

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After the weekend to DC, I worked a week before taking off again to Richmond, Va. Two of my best friends from high school, Mike and Janelle, moved down to Virginia last year, and I had wanted to visit for a long time. They recently decided to move back to Lancaster in July, pushing me to make that last-minute trip before they were back for good.

Since Mike was staying in PA for work, I decided to go keep Janelle company.  I drove down after work Friday, making it to Richmond just before midnight.

I was greeted with a hug and a hummingbird cupcake followed by a much-needed catch-up session. After a couple hours of gabbing, and few episodes of Shipping Wars (so addicting), we passed out around 3 a.m.

Despite the late night chat fest, we got up early the next morning and headed out to Busch Gardens. Busch Gardens is an adorable theme park that’s reminiscent of Epcot, but with better ride options and a more old-school vibe. It’s split up into different countries, and in an attempt to make everyone happy, offers a good mix of thrill rides and shows.

It was hot and stormy, but Busch Gardens was a blast.

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We hit a few snafus (including a ticketing mistake thanks to Groupon, nearly 100% humidity and nearby storms that kept rides shut down despite the fact they never came our way) but we were determined to make the best of it. When the clouds were closing down rides, we rode coaster after coaster, stopping to catch an Irish step show or the German Oktoberfest tent in between.

In Italy at Busch Gardens.
In Italy at Busch Gardens.

We logged nearly 10 miles by the end of the day — thanks FitBit for keeping me informed — and we were starving.  But, luckily, Janelle had a plan. That plan included a name she had spoken several hundred times to me prior to my visit — Don Pepe’s.

“They serve margaritas the size of your head for five bucks,” she promised. How could I resist?

A long day is best ended with plenty of tequila.
A long day is best ended with plenty of tequila.

We had planned to go out and see more of Richmond, but we were just too damn tired. So instead, we went to bed and got up early Sunday morning with Sugar Shack donuts calling our name.

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Hit up Sugar Shack if you're in Richmond.
Hit up Sugar Shack if you’re in Richmond.

Then it was time to play tourists. Janelle wanted to show me Maymont, a 100-acre Victorian estate and public park that originally belonged to a wealthy industrialist and his wife. After they died, they left the property and their incredible home open to the public.

There’s a lot to see — you can tour the mansion, visit wildlife exhibits the include bears and bald eagles, stroll around the Italian and Japanese Garden and just enjoy the views. It’s beautiful (there was even a wedding in progress when we visited), and has a fascinating background. If you’re a history buff, or if you want a cheap activity while you’re in the city, check it out.

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But, come on. It’s not a trip to the south without some barbecue. So after wondering around the gardens and pretending that we too could own a Tiffany Narwhal Tusk Vanity one day (seriously, the Maymont mansion is INSANE), we hit up Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue, which Janelle told me was on Man vs. Food. (Side note, I love Man vs. Food. Really, I’m into any show dedicated to showing off scene after scene of fatty, luscious food.).

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We split a rack of ribs with some fried okra and hush puppies, which was just as good as it sounds. We decided to walk off lunch a bit, before stopping for a cold treat.

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Honestly, Richmond was one of the best trips I’ve taken in a long time. It completely exceeded my expectations.  I enjoyed it so much, I told Tom I want to go back for a weekend. It’s a great alternative to your traditional beach or mountain get-away, and has a little bit of everything to keep you busy.

But, if I’m being totally honest, it wasn’t just the city that made the trip great. It was also my fabulous host, Janelle … who I’m very happy is home (even if that means I don’t have a spot to crash in Richmond anymore).

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