The Jefferson Hotel
I had another dream last night about alligators. It must be my subconscious telling me that I need to go back to The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, VA, where baby alligators used to swim in shallow ponds in the lobby in the 1930s.
Truth be told, they really don’t need any gimmicks to draw in guests. The Jefferson Hotel is simply magnificent on its own.
After viewing the pictures on their website, I joked all day with my three year old son that we were spending the weekend at a castle. When we arrived late, way past his bedtime, Ryan walked up to the reception desk almost banging into the beautiful couches and the Jefferson statue. It wasn’t a sleep daze that kept him off balance, it was the sight of the of the dazzling stained glass rotunda above him. It lit up the room and the night turned into day right before his eyes. The pictures I saw before our visit didn’t even do it justice. It seriously took my breath away.
The staff at the Jefferson is well trained in the art of hospitality. While grandeur surrounded us at every corner, we felt right at home in our large suite complete with a living and dining area.
We were greeted with delicious array of bedtime snacks, a few cold local microbrews for Mommy & Daddy and a gift of a fuzzy alligator friend and bedtime story for Ryan. While my son snuggled with his new toy on the sofa bed,
I peeked through the French doors that led to the master bedroom and bath. I felt like I was surrounded by poshness from the beautiful linens and drapes down to the intricate patterns in the bathroom’s marble floor.
While Ryan was getting his new story read to him by dad, this Poshbrood mom took a grown up “time out” and wandered downstairs to the bar for a nightcap. One intoxicating mint julep and scrumptious crab cake sandwich later, and I was ready to be tucked in, too.
In the morning, we went to the hotel’s Lemaire restaurant for breakfast. While the crystal chandeliers and elegant place settings screamed: sit still, chew quietly and don’t laugh louder than a church giggle, the staff was incredibly welcoming of my son’s exuberance. They asked him about his Batman & Green Lantern action figures (which he trapped in the wine glasses on the table) and made sure he enjoyed every bite of his buttermilk pancakes. There was no children’s menu available, but the staff was happy to arrange chocolate milk in a secured sippy cup, extra napkins, a few jokes and anything that would not only appease, but delight our son.
We set off to explore Richmond and found numerous family activities, many suggested by the hotel as good bets for Ryan's age. Our first stop was The Maymount Foundation, home to a 100 acre estate complete with a petting zoo, rehab center for injured wildlife, and a nature center.Ryan will be writing postcards to the goats that he feed for what must have been an hour. I’m sure they miss him already. This is an activity for families with children of all ages. I even spotted a few teenagers on a date strolling through the grounds.
Our next stop was to the Children’s Museum of Richmond. No teenagers would dare step inside as this is purely for families with kids from 1-8 years old. Packed from floor to ceiling with activities in every corner, you could spend a full day here and possibly go through a bottle of aspirin. The museum is completely interactive and creates a kid friendly town begging for exploration. Visit the farmers market, milk the cow, and go fishing from a row boat. Climb the tree house complete with real animal exhibits hidden in the trunk and tree branches. Grab a sports jacket and become a news anchor and later, fix a car’s transmission at the mechanic shop. Finally, don’t forget to dig a fossil up and sit in a cracked dinosaur egg. The museum is a feast for the eyes and a Facebook photo album in the making.
While in Richmond, you must stop at the World of Mirth, a toy shop for children and adults alike. There were so many unique items here that I’m sure my credit card company is going to call with concern that someone was making fraudulent charges. Okay, so I bought a baking dish in the shape of a mustache. Is that really so criminal?
Back at the Jefferson Hotel, we finished up our weekend with the famous champagne brunch in the hotel’s Palm Court. Again, we were treated to a sophisticated dining experience that was made more informal by the warmth of the hotel staff. Guests in their Sunday best attire enjoyed their time with family while being entertained by a jazz trio. Many of us took bets on how long the enormous ice sculpture of an eagle would stay solid before dripping down into the mussels. There are no doggie bags allowed at this $50 per plate event, but it is well worth the cost when you sample the fare on the dessert towers, custom order omelets, watch bananas get flambéed, and sip from a champagne flute. The brunch was extremely kid-friendly with an array of food for even the pickiest eater.
Our next stop was to the historic Centerstage Theater to catch the Sunday matinee of RAIN: the Tribute to the Beatles. A wonderful member of the concierge staff at the Jefferson Hotel contacted the box office for us and got us the best seats in the house! My three year old, a Beatles fan since birth, could not wait to twist and shout.
Before leaving the Jefferson Hotel, I took one last walk down the Hall of portraits showcasing American presidents who were Virginians first. From this spot, I could look down at the majestic stairway, which any Richmond resident would swear up and down was the inspiration for Scarlet’s staircase in Gone with the Wind. If I squinted hard enough, I could evens see the stream of fathers introducing their daughters to society by walking them down, step by step, arm in arm.
There’s an intriguing mix of traditional Southern culture with a dash of whimsy and nostalgia by the presence of alligator statues on fireplace mantels, foyers, and even under the grand rotunda. And for one moment, while standing on the marble floor where the reception desk once stood back in 1895, I could feel the deep indentions of footprints made by thousands of visitors. I liked the way it felt to add my own weight and presence to 115 years of Jefferson Hotel history.
If you live in the Washington, DC area and you’re looking for a weekend getaway, or coming to the DC area to visit, you MUST take your brood the Jefferson Hotel. Room rates begin at $299 a night. Luxury family packages and upgrades available if you book through Poshbrood/SmartFlyer.
Submitted by Karen Nudelman. Karen is a mom, a real food advocate and a healthy cooking coach. She shares her knowledge of cooking healthy, delicious meals through her business, “Cooking with Karen.” (www.karencooking.com) She resides in Potomac, Maryland with her husband and three year old foodie/son, Ryan.