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It’s no secret why the state motto is “Virginia is for Lovers.” Whatever you love to do, you’ll find it on your Virginia family vacation. Don’t know what to do in Virginia? We are here to help.
For a start, families can experience history at places like Colonial Williamsburg. One of the best things to do with kids in Virginia is to get outdoors. Virginia has 38 state parks including the famous Natural Bridge State Park and is home to Shenandoah National Park. Here are our picks for the top ten things to do in Virginia with kids. We cover all the best places to visit in Virginia, from civil war historic sites to rocky mountaintop vistas to thrilling theme parks.
10 Places to Visit in Virginia
10. Go Hiking at Natural Bridge or Another of Virginia’s 38 State Parks
From the shores of the Atlantic where the first English colonists landed in 1607 to Grayson Highlands in the Appalachian Mountains, Virginia’s state parks are some of the best in the United States. This expansive state park system counts over 8 million visitors a year to its 38 state park units. More than 15 of the parks have fully furnished cabins, many within view of Virginia’s most scenic lakes, rivers, forests, and beaches. As of the fall of 2016, Virginia’s Natural Bridge, one the state’s most iconic natural features, became part of this collection of family-friendly outdoor destinations.
Want to know what to expect from a vacation at a Virginia State Park cabin? Read a full review of the cabins at Shenandoah River State Park.
9. Enjoy the Thrills at Busch Gardens Williamsburg or Kings Dominion on a Virginia Family Vacation
Want to take a tour of Western Europe without flying across the Atlantic? Families can experience the traditions of many European countries and ride more than a half dozen roller coasters at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. At this theme park in Virginia, only minutes from Colonial Williamsburg, families can sample the food, hear the music, stroll through beautifully landscaped villages that resemble European locations.
From the kiddie coasters of Sesame Street’s Forest of Fun to Alpengeist, which has six inversions and reaches speeds of up to 67 miles per hour, there is something for the everyone at this amusement park in Virginia. During the holidays, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is lit up for its annual Christmas Town celebration.
Kings Dominion is a beautiful amusement park in Virginia with a real Southern, uniquely Virginian feel to it. Ride the kiddie cars on the Blue Ridge Tollway or cool down on a classic log ride at Shenandoah Lumber Company. In May, experience the Taste of Virginia featuring food from around the state at this amusement park in Virginia. For thrill-seeking teens, Kings Dominion has some of the largest roller coasters in the state, while Planet Snoopy provides plenty of fun for the tiniest of tots.
8. Taste the Bounty of the Chesapeake Bay on the Eastern Shore
One of Virginia’s best kept secrets is its Eastern Shore, a tiny sliver of land accessible only via Maryland or the remarkable 23-mile-long Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. On Virginia’s Eastern Shore there are 5 public beaches along the Chesapeake Bay; these beaches have calm waters perfect for tots looking to splash in tiny waves.
On the Atlantic shore, families can either charter a boat from Wachapreague to one of Virginia’s protected barrier islands or drive across a short bridge to Assateague Island National Seashore . At the shore, families can share the beach with the resident wild Chincoteague ponies. Regardless of where you go on the Eastern Shore, you’ll find some of the nation’s best seafood, from the fried oyster po’boy at The Shanty in Cape Charles to the flounder at The Island House in Wachapreague.
Virginia’s Eastern Shore is the perfect weekend getaway for your Mid-Atlantic family. Check out Trekaroo’s favorite Eastern Shore Getaways for ideas on planning the perfect Eastern Shore family vacation.
7. Pay your Respects at a Manassas National Battlefield Park or Another American Civil War Historic Area
The state of Virginia is saturated in American history, from the stories of the Native Americans to the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial dedicated in 2008. However, few events have shaped Virginia the way the battles of the Civil War did in the 1860s.
Most cities have memorials to their soldiers who fought and died on these American battlefields. There are countless places to visit in Virginia where families can learn about the soldiers who fought and pay their respects to those that paid the ultimate price. The National Park Service has visitor centers and Junior Ranger educational programs at many sites including: Manassas National Battlefield, Petersburg National Battlefield, Arlington House – The Robert E. Lee Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, and Richmond National Battlefield Park.
Trekaroo has many resources that can help you plan an educational visit to some of these top tourist attractions in Virginia. A great place to get started is Northern Virginia Field Trip Tips written by a local, Washington DC area, homeschooling mom.
6. Paddle the James River in Richmond, VA
Did you know that Virginia has some of the best urban whitewater in the U.S.? And, it’s kid-friendly too! The James River runs through Virginia’s capital city, Richmond. Its rapids are a favorite for whitewater enthusiasts young and old. Riverside Outfitters can take families with children as young as 6 years old canoeing or rafting on the upper section of the river. Teens can enjoy the lower section of the river for some real action.
Richmond, a city once known almost exclusively for its Civil War sites, is now becoming one of the South’s premier urban destinations for families. Now more so than ever, due to the 2015 completion of the Virginia Capital Trail for biking. And, no worries, Richmond is still chock-full of historic Virginia attractions for families including museums and noteworthy Civil War historic sites for the history buffs.
5. Bike the Virginia Beach Boardwalk
Each summer thousands of families hop on a bicycle and leisurely peddle the 3-mile Virginia Beach Boardwalk. Ask anyone who grew up in Virginia, and they will happily recount their childhood memories along this stretch of sand in Virginia Beach. As families travel from one end to the other, they pass only a few of the kitschy souvenir stores that are all too common along East Coast boardwalks.
Instead they enjoy the sound of the waves and alleyways adorned with ocean-themed, public art. When your family makes the visit to the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, don’t forget to stop mid-way and snap a selfie with the 30 foot high King Neptune statue!
Want some ideas on which Virginia attractions you should with your family visit after enjoying the boardwalk in Virginia Beach? There are many Family Outdoor Adventures in Virginia Beach available along this section of Virginia’s Atlantic coast.
Visit Virginia Beach and stay at these family-friendly hotels!
4. Go Underground at Luray Caverns in the Shenandoah Valley
Just below the ground in the Shenandoah Valley, there are labyrinths of underground tunnels. Families can visit these caverns nearly any day of the year – no matter what the weather is above ground. The caverns of the I-81 corridor, just west of Shenandoah National Park, amaze visitors with spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. Many of the caverns are even accessible to the youngest visitors via wide gravel paths.
Luray Caverns boasts large cathedral-size rooms with a staggering number of rock formations that have made their cavern tour one of the most popular east of the Mississippi. However, Shenandoah Caverns are equally enticing with cave formations known as “cave bacon,” an elevator, flat gravel paths throughout the cavern, and a few dazzling, white crystalline formations.
Plan to make a stop at one of these Virginia attractions for families the next time you drive I-81. Read Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail for more ideas.
Consider these hotels for your visit to the Shenandoah Valley.
3. Learn about our Founding Fathers at Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, in Northern Virginia
Of the first 5 presidents of the United States, 4 of them were Virginians: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Today many of the birthplaces, homes, and burial sites of these legendary men can be visited across the state. The most recognizable of these sites is Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. It’s the image on the back of the United States nickel. Trekaroo families love the special guided tours that are great for kids. The guides go out of their way to sit children down and tell stories of Thomas Jefferson’s life at Monticello.
There is also much for children to learn at Mount Vernon, the 18th century home of George Washington situated on the Potomac River. George’s step-granddaughter Nelly can be found roaming the grounds ready to chat about life at Mount Vernon. There is also a special hands-on section of the museum with a dollhouse modeled after the famous house.
These 2 famous houses should top any family’s itinerary. However, there are so many more Virginia attractions available for families learning about our founding fathers. A good place to start is in Family-Friendly Historic Charlottesville, also home to James Monroe’s Highland.
2. Enjoy the Changing Seasons in Shenandoah National Park and Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
No matter what season it is, there is no better place to get outdoors than the mountains of Virginia. In the summer months, families can escape the heat and humidity of the Mid-Atlantic by setting up camp in one of Shenandoah National Park’s 4 campgrounds and taking a hike to one of the park’s many waterfalls.
In the winter, Virginia’s most scenic and family-friendly skiing is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Wintergreen Resort. When the Blue Ridge Mountains turn green in the spring time, the parkway is fresh and new with blooms. The rhododendrons lining the trails by Mabry Mill are photographed by young and old. Alas, all the locals know that the most popular time to drive Skyline Drive is in the fall. That’s when the hillsides turn brilliant shades of red, yellow, and orange.
There are over 300 miles of scenic roadway along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. Trekaroo’s guide to Shenandoah National Park with Kids and Road Trip through Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway provide all the details you need to start planning your adventure at this popular Virginia attraction for families. Don’t forget to stop by a visitor center for a junior ranger booklet!
1. Experience 18th Century History at Colonial Williamsburg in the Historic Triangle
It’s impossible to visit this state without reflecting on the its history. From cobblestone streets and statues of George Washington to community museums, Virginia remembers its past like no other state. It’s our number one choice for the top 10 things for kids to do in Virginia.
While there are certainly many worthwhile lessons to be learned in the state’s history museums, your children are sure to make the most unforgettable memories when they experience the past at Colonial Williamsburg, an incomparable living history museum. Stomping through mud in the brickyard at Colonial Williamsburg, putting on the helmet and armor of a British soldier at the Jamestown Settlement, and hearing the boom of a cannon being fired at Manassas National Battlefield, are the experiences that make family vacation memories for kids of all ages.
There are dozens of historic Virginia attractions for families that offer opportunities to experience history across the state. But, there is still no place better to immerse yourself in history than Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown all offer living history experiences and are among Trekaroo’s Top 10 Things for Families to Do in Williamsburg.
Check out this article for more ideas on Spending the Holidays in Colonial Williamsburg.
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From coast to coast, we’re determining the Top 10 Things to do with Kids in each state of our great nation.