Fall is a busy season and the whole family counts down the hours until the weekend. At least, that’s true in my house. What to do and where to go with little ones in tow? Here are 15 ideas to set your wheels in motion for beautiful outdoor explorations.
BRYCE MOUNTAIN BIKE PARK – BASYE
Bryce Mountain Bike Park. photo credit: Andrew DeVier-Scott
Bryce Mountain Bike Park offers a learning center to teach mountain biking, as well as a multitude of trails designed for every level of rider. Extreme trick features are available for the experts or daredevils in your midst, while others may stick to the more forgiving trails.
Parents Will Like: The Quad Lift takes you back uphill – perfect for foliage peeping
WATERFALLS IN SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
Dark Hollow Falls. photo credit: Jeff Greenough
Have a little explorer on your hands? The promise of a waterfall is enough motivation for anyone to get up, get moving, and keep going. Head to Shenandoah National Park and ask about the Junior Ranger Program (ages 7 to 12; download notebook) to keep them engaged.
Parents Will Like: Rent an equipped Explorer Backpack for each kid for the day ($5); available at the Byrd or Dickey Ridge Visitor Centers.
ROPE ADVENTURE PARK – Luray
Rope Adventure Course
This fun obstacle course is comprised of both high and low routes – High Ropes, Low Ropes, and Little Adventurer.
Parents Will Like: Additional on-site fun, like the Garden Maze, gem sluice, and Luray Caverns itself.
VIRGINIA LIVING MUSEUM – NEWPORT NEWS
Virginia Living Museum.
The Virginia Living Museum offers a nature playground with a seasonally-appropriate spider web to climb. The favorite highlight, however, is the Hobbit House! It’s perfect for imaginative play. Additionally, the 3/4-mile Boardwalk Trail has a walk-through aviary with pelicans, herons, and other coastal fowl. Keep an eye out for the sweet, fun-loving otters, too!
Parents Will Like: Overnight Camp-In
THE ADVENTURE PARK AT VIRGINIA AQUARIUM – VIRGINIA BEACH
The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium
New to Virginia Beach is The Adventure Park, a ropes course that’s perfect for the big kids. They’re sure to love the rope bridges, zip lines, and sheer exhilaration of being Tarzan and Jane.
Parents Will Like: Rope courses challenging enough for adults!
GEORGE WASHINGTON’S MOUNT VERNON – MOUNT VERNON
Pick up a kids adventure map at George Washington’s Mount Vernon to become more immersed in the tour. Those who solve the puzzle win a prize!
Parents Will Like: National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets Tour
HOGBACK MOUNTAIN PAINTBALL – LEESBURG
Paintballers (ages 10 to 17), check out Hogback Mountain Paintball. Ten scenarios are open to walk-ons Saturdays and Sundays.
Parents Will Like: Equipment rental available.
EASTERN SHORE HANG GLIDING CENTER – WEIRWOOD
Hang glide! The Eastern Shore Hang Gliding Center offers hang gliding for ages four and up. This is one awesome way to enjoy Virginia’s fall foliage, for sure!
Parents Will Like: Chatham Vineyards will calm your nerves.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
If you haven’t visited the Children’s Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, you’re missing out on a big, beautiful treehouse built for, oh, I don’t know … 20?! It’s amazing and the view from up there is equally amazing. A long, winding ramp helps you “climb up” to the treehouse, so friends of all abilities can enjoy it. Lewis Ginter was voted one of the “Best Public Gardens in North America” by USA Today readers.
Parents Will Like: Robins Tea House, on-site, with a children’s menu
Adventure Park at Sandy River Retreat
Sixty-one obstacles, including 17 zip lines, await ages 7 and up. Cargo nets, rope bridges, logs, and more challenge you as you make your way through the fabulous foliage.
Parents Will Like: The ability to stay overnight, should the whole family be tired or want to go again the next day
WINTERFROST FARMS – RADFORD
Saddle up with a rescue horse at Winterfrost Farms. This program rehabilitates equines and makes them available to you for trail riding (ages 7 and up), and also places them in new homes. Trail rides last from one hour to three and shows off the beauty of open pastures, wooded trails, and gentle streams.
Parents Will Like: Contributing to the cause of saving neglected horses and ponies.
CALEDON STATE PARK – KING GEORGE
Caledon State Park. photo credit: Bill Crabtree, Jr.
Caledon State Park is is a National Landmark, thanks to its old-growth forest and high concentration of American Bald Eagles. Grab the binoculars and take to the trails to seek out this treasured bird as a family.
Parents Will Like: Caledon State Park Trail Guide | Hike-in tent-only camping sites available for $11; primitive
SPEARHEAD TRAILS – SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA
Spearhead Trails. photo credit: Randy Rose
Take the scenic drive that the majority does not – the Spearhead Trail System in Saint Paul! Presently, there are now more than 90 miles of trails blazed from easy (green) to expert (black), so there’s something for every style of ATV, side-by-side, and dirt bike rider. PLUS, check out the brand new Original Pocahontas Trail in the Town of Pocahontas!
Parents Will Like: No need to buy equipment; everything you need can be rented.
CORN MAZES AND PUMPKIN PATCHES – STATEWIDE
The Corn Maze In The Plains
Corn mazes and pumpkin patches are where it’s at! Search for the perfect jack-o-lantern candidate and then conquer the corn mazes, bounce in the inflatables, pet the farm animals, and fill up on country fair-inspired delights! MAP