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Four Itineraries for a Family Weekend in Virginia

Steven McBride

The following story is a paid advertisement from Virginia Tourism.

When it comes to natural beauty, Virginia is the crowning jewel of the eastern seaboard. There’s plenty to explore for the outdoorsy type of family. Home to long stretches of sandy beach, Appalachian mountain trails, and a ton of American history — Virginia offers a variety of fun and adventure, whether your group is into beaches and watersports, hiking and camping, or hands-on attractions.

Northern Virginia: Cobblestone Streets and Wide-Open Space

Old Town Alexandria is a charming neighborhood to wander through with the family. (Photo by Bram Reusen)

Northern Virginia combines the urban atmosphere of Washington, D.C., with historic sites and horse country landscapes. Even George Washington took up residence here.

The National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly will thrill budding aviators and space enthusiasts. There are two hangars with thousands of aviation wonders, including the Space Shuttle Discovery, a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and a variety of rockets, missiles, and satellites.

Old Town Alexandria, on the Potomac River waterfront, blends the brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets with boat tours, dining, and boutique shopping. Bugsy’s Pizza Restaurant and Sports Bar makes a tasty stop for kids of all ages.

Located in Hume, the Marriott Ranch Bed and Breakfast is a trip into Virginia horse country. It sits on 4,200 acres of rolling green meadows near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Fly-fishing and guided horseback tours are just a few of the fun activities that will make staying here a true experience.

Shenandoah Valley: Mountains, Caverns, and Camping

Adventurous little ones will have plenty of room to explore in the Shenandoah Valley. (Photo by Kelly J Mihalcoe)

From the Allegheny to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the stunning Shenandoah Valley is home to farmers’ markets, apple orchards, and the Shenandoah River.

Spend a day or two visiting the waterfalls, forests, and trails of Shenandoah National Park. You can put your family’s adventurous spirit to the test by hiking up Hawksbill and Old Rag Mountains. Alternatively, Skyline Drive is an easygoing way to take in the beautiful views.

Get your hands messy with the slow-smoked Virginia BBQ at Triple Crown BBQ. You can get it to go or relax at on-site picnic tables with umbrellas.

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort Luray is a destination all its own. In addition to cabins and campsites, just a few of the many amenities include water slides, a pool, a café, mini golf, and an outdoor movie theater.

Central Virginia: Bikes, Bridges, and Urban Skylines

The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is a hot-spot for families seeking to reconnect with nature. (Photo by Michael Simon)

Richmond hums with the bustle of train trestles amid a background of cobblestone streets, brick buildings, wrought iron, and the James River. With kayaking, hiking, biking, and whitewater rafting, Richmond is an urban playground for outdoor family-friendly activities.

Keep the train trend rolling at Bottoms Up Pizza, where you can sit on the upstairs deck, enjoy a huge slice of pizza, and look up at passing trains. Hold onto your pizza — and maybe your ears — when they chug through.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is routinely named one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in North America. This sprawling 50-acre attraction boasts plenty of opportunities for fine dining, shopping, butterfly sightings, and of course, stopping to smell the roses. For another dose of flora and fauna, be sure to stop by Maymont: a historic estate whose grounds house wildlife exhibits, gardens, and a nature center.

Located right in the heart of downtown, the historic and opulent Jefferson Hotel makes a convenient anchor for all of the attractions you might want to visit.

Coastal Virginia: Seaside Eats and Attractions

Virginia Beach is the most famous seaside destination in the state. (Photo by Virginia Beach CVB)

From the Virginia Beach Boardwalk to the Chesapeake Bay, families will find military history, marine habitats, and maritime attractions all within easy access to beaches and watersports.

Virginia Beach offers Atlantic waves, playgrounds, restaurants, a fishing pier, and a paved three-mile boardwalk for walking, bicycling, or in-line skating. While on the boardwalk, stop in for a bite and a famous Orange Crush at Waterman’s Surfside Grille. This local favorite serves fresh-caught seafood and often features live music from local bands.

The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center makes for a fun break from the sun and surf. Visit tanks and habitats with sharks, sea turtles, river otters, and Komodo dragons, as well as many more ocean, marsh, and bay wildlife creatures. You can even touch the slippery back of a ray at the aquarium’s touch tank.

Docked in nearby Norfolk, the USS Wisconsin is among the largest WWII battleships the U.S. Navy ever built. Your crew can learn about Navy flags and projectiles, participate in workshops, see artwork and model ships, and take a guided or self-guided tour of the battleship (which even includes an escape room!).

Can’t decide between tents and hotels? No problem. You can find both at Kiptopeke State Park Lodges, RVs and Yurt. For a unique family experience, go “glamping” and stay in a yurt, which is a cross between a cabin and a tent.

Whether your family is a crew of six or a duo of two, Virginia offers plenty of options to help you plan an itinerary for the most discerning of tiny travelers. From delicious food to natural wonders and unique historical experiences, this diverse state has something for everyone.