Every spring, summer, and even autumn, outdoor adventures in Virginia should be on your agenda. But with so many options, how do you find suitable activities for your family? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
Kid-Friendly Hiking & Climbing
One of the best outdoor kid-friendly activities you can do during warmer months is spending time in nature.
Kids will love hiking the TRACK Trails at The Peaks of Otter and Mint Springs Valley Park. Plus, by registering their trail adventures, kids can earn a total of six prizes.
For easy access to forested wetlands, the 3.5-mile Greensprings Interpretative Trail in Williamsburg and the 0.8-mile Augusta Springs Wetlands Trail in Augusta County are two fabulous options. Both places are good for birdwatching and learning about the local habitat through kid-friendly educational signage.
Photo Credit: Taryn White
If you’re looking for rugged scenery with incredible water views and various trails from easy to moderate, it’s hard to beat Great Falls National Park. Shenandoah National Park also has a variety of family-friendly trails, including Stony Man Trail and Blackrock Summit.
Related post: 5 Best Scenic Hikes in Virginia for Families
To participate in a more structured outdoor experience, plan a trip to a kid-friendly adventure or obstacle course. In Williamsburg’s historic Freedom Park, a park that dates from the 1650s, you can swing freely through the treetops at Go Ape, an exciting 38-obstacle treetop adventure. A similar experience is offered at Treetop Quest in Roanoke and Sandy River Adventure Course outside of Farmville.
Family Bike Trails
Located in southwestern Virginia near the North Carolina state line, the Virginia Creeper Trail is one of the best biking trails in Virginia. The 35-mile trail was a former railway converted to a multi-purpose trail for pedestrians, cyclists, and pets. The trail cuts across diverse terrain from mountains to rivers. For an easier ride, begin at Whitetop Mountain and take the one-way route for 17 miles downhill to Damascus.
The Virginia Beach Boardwalk is another excellent place to go biking. The boardwalk has separate biking and walking paths, so both cyclists and pedestrians alike can enjoy the area without worrying about collisions or having to dodge each other. For an even more thrilling ride, rent a tandem surrey bike right off the beach.
Completed in 2015, the Virginia Capital Trail is a wonderful trail to bike for scenic water views. This 52-mile bicycle and pedestrian route links Virginia’s most formative cities, Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Richmond.
Photo Credit: Beth Furgurson
With numerous bike-friendly trails within its vicinity, Williamsburg is also a great place for families to explore via bike.
Photo Credit: Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Due to the pandemic, both parks are operating with limited capacity, and face masks, health screenings, and temperature checks are required. The parks have also added hand sanitizing stations and contactless forms of payment.
Some rides and attractions will be closed because they don’t allow for social distancing. For those that are open, wait lines will be marked for social distancing, and seats and armrests will be sanitized frequently.
An alternative to the Splash Park at Kings Dominion, Massanutten Outdoor WaterPark has both indoor and outdoor parks, including a new “MASS Mayhem” experience in which participants experience zero weightlessness as they plunge 47 feet down a half pipe.
To avoid peak crowds at these parks, visit during weekdays.
For the Plant & Animal Lovers
Not only are these botanical gardens lovely places to take long walks with the family, but they are also lovely places to take family photos—entrance fees and photographer permits may apply.
Families will love virtually traveling around the world at the WOW Children’s Garden at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. The garden’s interactive exhibits include world-themed splash fountains, Passport Gardens, Discovery Peak, and the Plant Safari.
Photo Credit: Nicole Franklin
One exciting way to get close to animals is a visit to the Virginia Wildlife Safari Park and Natural Bridge Zoo, which offer drive-through safaris where participants interact with animals from the convenience of their cars. You can also visit Natural Bridge State Park when you visit either of these two facilities.
On the Water
During warmer months, a visit to one of Virginia’s beaches will undoubtedly be a big hit with the kids. Though each of Virginia’s major beach areas—Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Sandbridge Beach, Cape Charles, and Chincoteague Island—offer something different, they all share one thing in common: sunny sandy shores.
Photo Credit: Adam Lewis, IG account: @adamtlewis
Aside from sunbathing and going for a refreshing swim in the ocean, there are numerous other water activities to try across Virginia, such as kayaking. Popular spots for beginners to kayak are Pohick Bay Regional Park in Woodbridge, the James River in Lynchburg, and the Shenandoah River in Front Royal.
Another popular place to go kayaking is Smith Mountain Lake, the most popular and second largest lake in Virginia. Here, you can also go sailing, swimming, and fishing. There’s even a man-made beach at Smith Mountain Lake Community Park.
Photo Credit: Taryn White
One of the most unique outdoor family-friendly activities in Virginia is crabbing at Belle Isle State Park, which also offers lectures and demonstrations related to the environment.
Even if you didn’t see the Christmas Star of 2020, you can still see the constellations in four of Virginia’s parks:
- Shenandoah National Park, which offers Night Skies and Twilight Hiking programs
- Staunton River State Park and James River State Park, which are two of only 81 parks designated as an International Dark Sky Park
- Natural Chimneys Park & Campground, which has low levels of light pollution and offers wide open spaces to view the stars in all their magnificence.
For additional locations, see the comprehensive list of Virginia’s premier stargazing destinations.
Have you done any of these family-friendly outdoor activities in Virginia? Tell us in the comments.