Exploring Close to Home: Richmond

Well, this was supposed to be the weekend we went to Seattle for a quick weekend getaway, but travel plans don’t always go the way we want. A few factors came into play. First there was this little thing called the government shutdown in the United States. The border waits on weekends are always an issue these days and anything that might make them longer would have been a damper on the trip. We were pressed for time as it was, but when something came up that required a trip to Richmond on the weekend, it became apparent that there just wasn’t enough time for Seattle this weekend. So we postponed our hotel reservations to another weekend and started looking at our alternatives.

The obvious first place to look was Richmond itself since we were going to be there anyway, and it turned out to be a great choice for a weekend getaway close to home. We had taken a relative to the airport this summer and had killed a few hours of waiting in the Steveston village area of Richmond. We had been really impressed with it and had hoped to come back some time. Steveston is in the low lying, southern part of Richmond and had formally been the blue collar, industrial part of town. The fishing industry had been the mainstay of the local economy and canneries had been operation in the area for over 100 years along with shipbuilding and other industries. The area had been run down and derelict for years after the fishing industry slowed down, but it has recently been updated and restored. There is a national historic site at the old Georgia cannery as well as seafood restaurants and a few working fishing vessels selling their catch off the ships at the west end of Steveston, but for this visit we focused on the eastern side of the village. The area is in transition as industrial land is being transformed into residential and retail space, but there is a lovely walkway along the river that is humming with activity during the day. At the end of the walk is another historic site with several restored houses, shops and offices from the cannery days. There was a group of men restoring some old wooden boats and they were finishing up for the day and invited my daughter and I to help push the boats back into the shed. My daughter is still talking about how she’s going to tell the kids at school that she got to push a boat on the weekend.

We enhanced our exploring with a bit of geocaching, or treasure hunting as my kids call it. We found two of the three caches we were seeking, so all in all it was a good outing. The business of the area made it a bit hard to get to the caches without drawing attention, but it added to the adventure.

We also took advantage of the chance to check out the great playground near the Steveston community centre. I was actually born in Richmond and lived in the city until my fourth birthday, and the Steveston playground was one of the few things I remembered about those years. The park had been updated and expanded in the (many) years since I had played there, but my kids loved it just as much. Seeing my son play on the pirate ship structure actually triggered some memories for me and when we got home I called my mother and sure enough, that pirate ship had been in the playground many eons ago when I was a child. I’ll have to go through the family albums and see if there are any pictures of me in the playground when I was that age.

After supper we headed out to our second destination, the Richmond Night Market. This market is in the northern part of Richmond near the airport and takes place on from seven pm to midnight weekend evenings from May to October and is modelled after similar markets in Asia. It was the second last weekend of the season and this combined with the good weather made for a busy night. The crowds weren’t oppressive though and the bustling atmosphere really added to the experience. Admission cost two dollars per adult and parking was free and we felt it was a lot of fun, although maybe not the most child friendly activity. About half the area is dedicated to food stalls and this is obviously the highlight for most visitors. There was every kind of exotic Asian offering you could think of as well as a smattering of Western options. We had just eaten supper so we only bought a few treats for dessert, but if I went without the kids I’d definitely arrive with an empty stomach. The merchandise stalls were nothing to write home about with a lot of inexpensive clothes and dollar store type toys but there were a few unique items here and there. The kids, at least, were thrilled with the little toothbrush holders we got them from one of the stalls.

market1

Overall, we really enjoyed our day in Richmond, even though we probably never would have though of going there if we weren’t headed to Richmond anyway. We spent a great afternoon in Steveston and only got to see about half of the area and the night market was a fun multicultural experience. The next time a family member needs a ride to the airport I may volunteer to drive just to get a chance to explore the area again.

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