Spring and summer are typically road trip seasons for my family, but you won’t find us driving cross-country. We rarely leave Virginia! In fact, there is so much to do in the Commonwealth, that you can find something for every member of your family – history lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and even those just wanting a little R & R. As a bonus, these trips are affordable. No need to spend money on lodging, as you can make the trip back home that same day.
As a college town overflowing with history and outdoor recreation, Charlottesville is a must visit for RVA families.
My family particularly loves the unique hiking trails at Ivy Creek Natural Area, Walnut Creek Park, and the Blue Ridge Tunnel (in Crozet, just outside Charlottesville). Additional free fun awaits at IX Art Park, where children and adults are invited to color and create in a large enclosed space.
You simply cannot visit Charlottesville without checking out a vineyard (or two!). Eastwood Winery offers a patio with mountain views, where you can sip wine while sharing a cheeseboard. My children particularly love the juice flights and open space to run.
History buffs – don’t miss Monticello. The 45 minute family-friendly tours offer hands-on learning, geared to children ages 5-11, so your entire family can take in the history and beauty of Monticello.
Less than 2 hours away, Fairfax has plenty for families.
My children absolutely love Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which features thousands of space and aviation artifacts.The museum offers scavenger hunts for children to complete during their visit. And, the Observation Tower allows patrons to watch planes take off and land from Dulles International Airport. While there is a parking fee, there is no admission fee.
Frying Pan Farm Park offers a playground, carousel, wagon rides and farm animals to visit. Pack a picnic to enjoy in one of the large picnic pavilions, and you could spend hours exploring at this expansive park. While the park is free to the public, there are fees for wagon and carousel rides.
Another exciting experience in Fairfax is a trip to Tyson’s Corner. If you have a LEGO enthusiast in the family, the LEGO store is an absolute must. Building minifigures, and access to the Pick & Build Wall are highlights for any LEGO lover.
Also in Tyson’s Corner, American Girl Doll hosts tea parties, birthday celebrations, personalized shopping and so much more.
Heading East from RVA, Norfolk is about a 1 hour and 45 minute drive. Norfolk has so many unique attractions, you will need to plan multiple visits!
The Virginia Zoo is a beautifully landscaped zoo with two playgrounds, a train and live animal presentations. The entire zoo is stroller-friendly, and in the summer the Fountain Plaza turns into a splash pad. Perfect for cooling down after walking around the zoo on a hot, summer day!
As Virginia’s largest botanical garden, Norfolk Botanical Garden is a place where you could spend your entire day. Highlights for my family include: NATO Tower, where you can watch planes, The Japanese Garden, which has a stream to cross, and you can watch the koi swimming in the pond. My children, of course, loved the splash pad, sand pile and the scavenger hunt within the Children’s Garden.
No trip to Norfolk is complete without a visit to Doumar’s Cones & Barbeque. This 1950’s style drive-in is home to the first waffle cone, and you can see the original four iron waffle machine, built in 1904 displayed in front of the restaurant.
Be sure to check out these fun and affordable road trips as you plan your family’s summer vacation!