I took my Hamilton-obsessed tween daughter to Virginia this past September, to Richmond specifically, but also to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, because like the 3rd President of the United States, she “basically missed the late 80’s.”
While we certainly had our fair share of Hamilton fun at Jefferson’s stately home in Charlottesville, walking the grounds, taking pictures, sharing a tasty craft root beer, looking at framed paintings of Marquis de Lafayette (boy, he sure looks different than the one we saw on stage in Chicago!), and imagining the famously flamboyant musical version of Jefferson (both portrayed remarkably by Daveed Diggs in the original “Hamilton” cast and on the cast recording that’s been spun approximately 1776 times by my kids this year) relaxing in some of the garish and thoroughly uncomfortable-looking 18th-century furniture, our long weekend father daughter road trip to Virginia wasn’t stuck in the past!
Stop number one on our road trip was spent exploring the delicious food scene of Richmond’s Carytown neighborhood!
We strolled up and down Cary Street, chowing down on burgers (real for me, fake for her) at the appropriately named Carytown Burgers & Fries, sat down for an upscale brunch at The Daily Kitchen and Bar, walked with a couple of piping hot slices from Mary Angela’s Pizzeria, and ordered a double scoop of Bev’s Homemade cookies-n-cream ice cream to share.
In between bites, we went in and out of dozens of quirky stores; buying putty, hairbands, and a few early holiday gifts for mom and sis. Thankfully she didn’t ever figure it out, but I was having so much fun with my little kid that I pretty much would’ve bought her anything she wanted!
Because I cannot go anywhere without finding a way to involve soccer, my tween and I spent a pleasant fall evening investing time in America’s sport of the future at the Richmond Kickers USL match versus the Rochester Rhinos.
I got a silky smooth ‘summer’ scarf to add to my collection, she bought a tank top with the cool Kickers logo on it, and in the 2nd half I bribed her with a DIY slushee from the Kona Ice parked inside the City Stadium, and casually reminded her just how many containers of Aaron’s Thinking Putty I bought her at World of Mirth toy store earlier, so that we could stay for the whole 90′.
Good thing we lasted until the final whistle of the rather full affair because the Kickers got a late winner at our end of the pitch which elicited the colorful smoke, cheers, chants, and atmosphere I was hoping for all night!
We rounded out our time in Richmond at the spectacular (and free to enter!) Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and also driving past the Jefferson-designed Virginia State Capital building in the Kia Niro we are currently borrowing.
Then we drove on, about 90 minutes from Richmond, to discover “whatever the hell it is you do at Monticello,” for our father daughter trip’s Hamilton fix.
We sang Hamilton songs before, during and after our 4:45pm tour of Monticello, we made that same “whatever the hell it is you do at Monticello” joke far too often but laughed together every single time regardless, and we got quiet as we walked around Monticello’s slave quarters and considered the complexity of our nation’s past and the inherent contradictions of our founder fathers, mothers, and of our present day heroes.
We slept good in Charlottesville that night, knowing that the next day would be spent underground in cool caves and outside in the warm 65-degree autumn weather.
She and I are both early risers so we were back in the Niro before 8am for the short drive needed to properly start the last day of our first father daughter trip. We paid to enter Shenandoah National Park, probably a couple of weeks before peak foliage season, but pretty nonetheless, and found a manageable hike to take together to see waterfalls.
In the weeks leading up to this father daughter road trip, and after many Google searches, my tween found the perfect final pit stop activity for the drive home on the Monday: Luray Caverns.
We climbed down 26-stories into one of the most spectacular caves in the world, a U.S. Natural Landmark, a subterranean sight so breathtaking that I immediately felt okay with the, gulp, $41 it cost for the two of us to enter!
Our trip was a rousing success; great weather, great activities and sights picked mostly by the kid, and great company! But now it was all over.
The only thing left was to ring mom and her big sister to see what they were up to, because while we discovered Hamilton, explored Richmond, ate too much, hiked, and went spelunking during our father daughter trip, the other two Hamilton-crazed members of our family were on their own dueling adventure to enjoy bike rides through New Hampshire.
The night before the little one and I headed south, Mom and the teen loaded up our family’s Kia Sorento with brand new Schwinn bikes (including that sweet teal one below, the Circuit hybrid sport bike) and helmets that were so kindly sent to us to try, a couple of stuffed backpacks, and pounds of Cheez-It snack mix, and made the six hour trek up to New Hampshire for a classic autumnal New England mom daughter weekend spent outdoors beneath a canopy of colorful fall foliage.
Parents need to carve out this kind of special one-on-one time with their children, and I wish we had started doing it earlier than this year, because there’s real power in traveling with just one kid at a time.
Father-daughter trips like the one my 10-year-old and I took present a unique set of rewards and challenges for both parent & child. We each can talk freely without a sibling interjecting her sarcastic thoughts, finishing sentences on our behalf, contradicting memories, or making fun of something we might think is cool or interesting.
My daughters love each other and I love them both immensely, but it is so rad to go on adventures with them separately sometimes.
It’s thrilling to experience your kid’s personalities in this kind of setting, just the two of you, away from home, making memories that are exclusively yours to share…and to share with the rest of your family, which is what my little one couldn’t wait to do on the phone as we made the 4-hour drive home.
She loved our long father daughter trip but missed mom and her sister, so before we got back to the Hamilton cast recording, she excitedly needed to tell them EVERYTHING she did in Virginia with dad.
Want to support Traveling Dad? All the Traveling Dads use travel rewards credit cards to help fund our world travels. You can too by checking out some great offers from our credit card partners here!