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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

From one man’s riches, a public garden grows

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, courtesy Richmond Region Tourism

The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden seems a strange tribute to a man who made his fortune marketing prerolled cigarettes. But Ginter used his tobacco fortune well, developing lands in and around Richmond for the public good.

In the late 1800s, he built the now Forbes Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond Jefferson Hotel. Ginter also built the Lakeside Wheel Club for cyclists, who would pedal out from the sweltering city to eat ice cream and fish in the lake. The club property was left to the city of Richmond and opened as a botanical garden in 1983.

Today, the 50-acre garden is a delightful setting for a meeting or an event.

One of its most charming spaces is the Robins Tea House, off by itself in an Asian Valley garden. The teahouse is open to garden-goers for lunch Wednesday through Sunday, except during the winter. It is available for events for up to 60 guests every evening, as well as all day on Mondays and Tuesdays and during the winter months.

In addition to welcoming visitors, the Visitor Center houses three meeting venues, including the Garden Cafe, for a reception of up to 250 in the evenings and a 250-seat auditorium.

A bridge over a lake leads to the historic Bloemendaal House, where the Wheel Club began. During the week, the house can be booked for small meetings. Lunch can be served on its glass porch. For larger events, a permanent tent outside the house seats 144 and gives guests access to the home’s first floor and its lawns.

A spectacular time to visit is during the Grand Illumination, between Thanksgiving and mid-January, according to Kristen Hughes, events coordinator. Instead of blossoms, lighted shapes that impersonate flowers, birds, bees and buds spring up throughout the garden.