Kids love their comfort zone. But sometimes it’s good to get them out of it – to experience something a little different. In other words, not the shopping mall or amusement park. Carytown in Richmond provides that – plus the comfort zone stuff, too.
What does Carytown have to offer kids? Or, put another way, what does it offer to the parents of kids? Quite a lot …
Something Different for the Kids
Too much emphasis can be placed on the destination. “Let’s go here – the kids will like it.” What about the journey? That’s one area where Carytown excels. Just walking around this edgy downtown district of Richmond, Virginia, provides a unique experience if you simply pay attention.
World of Mirth and the Funhouse Mirror
Walking along the sidewalk in front of the World of Mirth novelty shop, you’ll run into their funhouse (distortion) mirror. Every kid – and many adults – get a kick out of the distortions in their face and body. And it doesn’t cost a thing to enjoy!
Walk inside World of Mirth and you’re guaranteed to find things you’ve never seen before – from the US and overseas. As the store explains, they “began as a funky little vintage and novelty shop determined to provide a shopping experience that was a much needed alternative to the main stream.” It’s kid-friendly, but adult-friendly too. Books, toys, gag gifts, arts and crafts, games, costume stuff, plushies – you name it.
Rocket Fizz Richmond – Soda Pop and Candy Shop
We all think of those old-school, 50’s-style candy shops with the bulk bins, even though many of us have never experienced the real thing. In Carytown, you can find it for real at Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop, including all the soda pop brands you can’t find at the supermarket or in bulk at Costco.
Let the pirate statue greet you before you walk in the door. Then check out some Judge Wapner soda, Butter Soda, Japanese “collection cards” and other foreign goodies, bubble gum, cherry soda-flavored chews, and Professor Snape greeting you along with Marilyn Monroe. Those two together make perfect sense, right? Time to learn about pop culture new and old, kids!
Books Can Be Fun: Explore the Stacks
My wife and I have always believed that if you want a kid to learn to write, just get them to read – anything. Reading often begins by browsing, whether in the library or the bookstore.
Carytown’s Chop Suey Used Books offers a more unique experience than the sterilized atmosphere of a Barnes & Noble. Nearly every bookshelf is different, books are crammed high and low, and you have to climb a lime green staircase to get to the second floor. Even before they get to exploring the actual books on the shelves, kids might think they’re in a find-your-way maze.
Going down in age brackets, bbgb (“tales for kids”) offers reading material for the really little kids – picture book kind of stuff. The Big Book of Bugs. Where’s the Ladybug? Bees. (You can tell that the theme was bugs on our most recent visit.)
Watch Out for Carytown’s Street Art
When you stumble past that dingy-looking side street, don’t hurry up, and encourage the kids to look around at all times. That’s often where the art is. Carytown is a good lesson for kids in not continuously staring at the screen of a smartphone or tablet.
Granted, you may not want your child to practice her painting on the outside wall of your own home, but that’s the kind of artwork you can find if you keep your eyes open. From a huge whale to visions of China. Never did a trash bin alley look so fine.
Kid Dining and Food Choices in Carytown
MSN once rated Galaxy Diner the best in the state, stating that “the space-themed Galaxy Diner is the go-to place if you need massive amounts of crispy cuisine, like fried pickles or fried Oreos.”
Fried pickles may not be everyone’s favorite, but kids love the Galaxy’s space-age vibe – like their Intergalactic baskets, cosmic platters and sides, and supernova burgers. Don’t forget the space chips. Adults looking for something a little less diner-ish can choose from cucumber salad, chicken bruschetta, and black and bleu tuna steak.
Bottom line: Galaxy offers a more unique experience than Applebee’s or Shoney’s or fast food.
Pizza Choices: From Old School to Full Menu
One thing that’s common these days is too much food. You know what I mean. You order food with the kids and there are leftovers. Who wants to walk around shopping with to-go boxes when there’s still more to do? (Including leaving room for dessert.)
Pizza by the slice is one option. Buon Giorno Pizzeria is a little sit-in style pizza joint located in the heart of Carytown. No kids menus, no special treatment. No fuss, no muss. Just eat and run.
Want more than a pizza slice? Mellow Mushroom, on the other side of the street, offers a full menu in a sit-down setting. Sure, it’s a chain, but when you need to sit down and chill, it does the trick. Beer and cocktails are available for the adults. It’s got a welcoming vibe even from the outside.
Time for Dessert
Speaking of dessert …
Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt
Let’s be honest. Sometimes you want something for yourself, but you masquerade it as something for the kids. Like watching Looney Toons cartoons, it’s not really for them – it’s for you. Frozen yogurt is such a thing. Sweet Frog, while not unique to Carytown, is a winner.
Two cool things I like about it: they have real hot fudge (not chocolate syrup), and the plastic spoons turn color when cold. It’s those little things that keep kids entertained that can make the afternoon easier.
Bev’s Homemade Ice Cream
If you want something unique to Carytown, and the real thing in terms of calories and cream, Bev’s Homemade Ice Cream is probably up your alley. Beverly Mazursky still runs Bev’s in her 70s. She’s got all the usual flavor standbys, including some originals, such as Honey, Pumpkin Stout, White Chocolate Mocha Chip, and Pineapple Sherbet.
She started Bev’s up in Massachusetts over 25 years ago after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America. She opened up the Richmond store (now the only Bev’s in the world) in the 90s after visiting her son in Richmond. We’re glad she did.
Carytown Cupcakes is another option for those who like their cake and icing. Red Velvet, Oreo Peanut Butter, Lemon Lover, Blackberry Cobbler – they’ve got a lot. But guess what? In keeping with that “let’s keep all the adults happy too” theme of Carytown, they serve beer, wine, and prosecco.
If you want to return without the kids, Carytown Cupcakes offers two-hour cupcake-making classes on Friday evenings. They’ll help you make their classic cupcakes and provide all the ingredients required, and you leave with a dozen cupcakes (a $28 value) to take home after the event.
Now that’s a cupcake shop!