The great thing about Virginia is how many options there are when it comes to family travel. As cliche as it sounds, there really is something for everyone. These 10 ideas for a family vacation are just the tip of the iceberg, and we know you have some great ideas yourself. Go ahead and leave a comment with your favorite Virginia vacation memory. Who knows? You may inspire someone else!
photo credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos
The term “the beach” is somewhat deceiving in Virginia, as there are many. Even within the city of Virginia Beach, there are three distinct beach experiences, and moving from one to another is a great way to enjoy a little bit of everything.
The Resort Life – Here, visitors can “live the life” along the iconic three-mile oceanfront boardwalk lined with hotels, museums, bars, restaurants and shops. There’s always live entertainment, too.
The Island Life – Virginia Beach’s southern shore, Sandbridge, offers a secluded island-like environment full of breathtaking views bordering the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge, along with local shops, restaurants and outdoor outfitters.
The Bay Life – For a quieter beach vacation, the Chesapeake Bay Beach is preferred for its tranquility along the scenic, calm and shallow waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
photo credit: Chad Williams, @echadwilliams
Much like “the beach,” “the lake” begs the question, “Which one?” Choose one of the bigger lakes or hit up a Virginia State Park for lake adventures, too.
The Largest Lake – John H. Kerr Reservoir/Buggs Island Lake in Clarksville is more than 50,000 acres of fresh water and 800+ miles of shoreline. Two state parks border it, and it’s been dubbed “the best crappie lake in the world” by In-Fisherman magazine.
The Second Largest Lake – Many believe Smith Mountain Lake is the largest in Virginia, but alas, it only boasts 500 miles of shoreline and spans three counties. Choose from a range of accommodations and find water sport rentals easily available.
The Third Largest Lake – Lake Anna is bordered by Lake Anna State Park on its north side, has 200 miles of shoreline and encompasses 13,000 acres of water surface.
photo credit: Mike Herrick, @wahoophoto
Spend some time on the Blue Ridge Parkway or in Shenandoah National Park. Many trails lead you to beautiful outcroppings, waterfalls, historic ruins, and other special places. The Appalachian Trail courses through them both, so pick up a leg and walk for a while. To say you’ve even step foot on the AT gives you the right to brag.
Mountain Experiences to Consider:
- Mabry Mill
- Peaks of Otter
- Blue Ridge Music Center
- Mount Rogers National Recreation Area
- Breaks Interstate Park
photo credit: Big Orange Frame
The Chesapeake Bay is vast and approachable from many river and coastal points. Fishermen love the Bay for its blue crab, Spanish mackerel and croaker. However, it’s the revitalization of Virginia oysters along the Chesapeake Bay that many seafood lovers relish. Exploring the Bay on land is a big adventure. Learn more about Virginia’s maritime history in places like Irvington, home of the Steamboat Era Museum, or watch the bald eagles soar above the Potomac River at Caledon State Park in King George. From the Eastern Shore, ferry out to Tangier Island for an entirely different perspective of Chesapeake Bay life.
Will it be bayside campsites at Cherrystone on the Eastern Shore, oceanfront campsites at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, or perhaps wooded campsites at Sherando Lake in the Shenandoah Valley? There are many places to pitch your tent and you can do it primitively or glamorously, if you wish. Pull your tag-along into a KOA like Williamsburg or another fantastic family campground. The memories of camping (good or bad) will last forever.
photo courtesy of The Omni Homestead Resort
Tap into the fun amenities available at a Virginia resort this summer. Great opportunities like the Unlimited Activities Package at The Omni Homestead Resort, the Ultimate Family Fun Package at Kingsmill Resort, and the Family Vacation Package at The Tides Inn make it affordable and loads of fun to live a sweet suite life this summer.
THE THEME & WATER PARKS
photo courtesy of Busch Gardens Williamsburg
If you’re looking for the most roller coasters in Virginia, Kings Dominion is your go-to. If it’s well-rounded family fun with a little of this and a little of that, Busch Gardens is the place. Each has a distinct vibe. Perhaps the best thing to do is BOTH!
At Kings Dominion, WaterWorks is already included with admission, so maybe add Water Country USA into your Busch Gardens trip and then you can say you’ve done the best of Virginia’s theme park fun while sprinkling in Colonial Williamsburg and Richmond along the way.
photo credit: Brantley Ussery
Make your trip to discover the fun side of Virginia’s history a historic one your family will never forget when you visit the homes of our United States Presidents. Monticello was Thomas Jefferson’s primary home and is the only U.S. presidential and private home on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Visit his other home, his Poplar Forest retreat, about 90 minutes away in Forest, and see his “Academical Village,” the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
In Northern Virginia, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens is a treasure with many kids’ activities, the gristmill, and trails. If you’re traveling between the two, also stop at James Madison’s Montpelier.
More Presidents Homes:
- James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland
- William Henry Harrison’s Berkeley Plantation
- John Tyler’s Sherwood Forest
- Woodrow Wilson’s Manse
THE MUD & WATER
photo credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos
Mud is fun and you should experience it outside of a spa. No, really! Get your feet wet (probably literally), by renting an ATV and hitting the Spearhead Trails (Mountain View or Original Pocahontas, for now). Pair your mud with some Clinch River rafting, fishing or kayaking, and that’s a great vacation.
Additional Mud & Water Pairings:
- Appalachian Adventures and the Shenandoah River, Luray
- Peters Mill Run/Taskers Gap and the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, Edinburgh
THE HISTORIC TRIANGLE
Photo Credit: Mark Atkinson, @markedwardatkinson
In Coastal Virginia there’s an imaginary triangle that connects some of the most historic sites in the United States of America. Within that triangle is Historic Jamestowne, the first colony, which was settled in 1607. There is also Colonial Williamsburg, the first capital of Virginia and the launching pad for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and their contemporaries to pursue public service. Lastly, Yorktown is where the last great battle of the American Revolution was waged and won in 1781. These three points are not only Virginia’s historic triangle, but America’s.