Fun Things to Do in Virginia with Kids for a Vacation They Won’t Forget

Kimberly Miles Avatar
Woman looking out over Shenandoah National Park view.
Drive slowly so you don’t miss any of the glorious Shenandoah Park views. Photo credit: Greg Holder

If you’re planning a trip to the east coast and looking for fun things to do in Virginia with the kids, you’ve come to the right place. As a native of this beautiful state, I can confidently say that it is one of the best places to spend a weekend getaway with the family. The state slogan, “Virginia is for Lovers” couldn’t be more accurate, as there is something there for visitors of all ages to fall in love with!

It wasn’t until I was in my teenage years that I took a trip outside of the country for the first time. Up until then, my family spent a lot of time making road trips and exploring all of the incredible things that Virginia had to offer. Many of my favorite sites as a kid later became places that my son and I could enjoy together and create brand new family memories!

From beautiful state parks and beaches to action-packed adventure parks and historical sites that have shaped the country, you’ll have no problem finding kid-friendly ways to entertain the little ones. Here are nine of my recommendations for fun things to do in Virginia with kids on your next family vacation:

A child reading an exhibit sign at an historic site, one of the things to do in Virginia with kids.
Virginia has many historical sites and parks to visit and learn with the kids. Photo credit: Kimberly Miles

Take a Trip to Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach was our summer destination of choice when I was growing up, and for good reason– there is plenty for kids to do! Whether it’s for a short weekend getaway or a longer-term vacation, there are tons of fun things for the whole family to do.

Visiting the sandy shores and strolling the three-mile boardwalk is one of the most popular things to do in Virginia with kids. There are amusement parks, water parks, restaurants, shopping, and arcades to pass the day. Don’t forget to stop and take a photo in front of the massive Neptune Statue, where you’ll also find a fun playground for kids to play!

But the beach isn’t the only thing to do. Kayak Nature Tours is a fun way to explore the local outdoors with the family through guided kayaking trips. The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is a popular attraction and place to learn about the Chesapeake Bay marine life as well as other coastal habitats in the world. Attached to the 800,000 gallon aquarium is an adventure park with zip lines and aerial ropes courses for beginners and experts ages 5 and up.

Virginia Beach is also home to the Children’s Museum of Virginia, the largest in the state. Kids will have a ball with two floors of exhibits, a planetarium, and the largest antique toy and model train collection on the east coast!

Kid-friendly places to stay near Virginia Beach: Coastal Hotel & Suites Virginia Beach – Oceanfront, Holiday Inn & Suites North Beach, The Founders Inn & Spa

Visit Colonial Williamsburg

Show the kids what it feels like to live in the 18th century with a trip to Colonial Williamsburg! There you will find a living history museum with plenty of fun activities for children to do while learning about what life was like during that century. Ditch the walking and hop aboard a horse-drawn carriage to explore the area’s historic sights and sounds.

The Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum of Yorktown are two living history museums where you’ll learn all about the early history of the United States and the key events that helped build the country. Kids will have the opportunity to climb aboard a recreation of one of the three ships that sailed from England to Virginia in the 1600s as well as explore immersive environments and artifacts with a 180-degree surround sound screen with incredible special effects.

Once you’ve gotten your history fix, head to Busch Gardens & Water Country Amusement Park where you can hop on family-friendly roller coasters and water rides and enjoy award-winning shows and seasonal events.

Kid-friendly places to stay near Colonial Williamsburg: Williamsburg Inn, Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg, Williamsburg Lodge 

Explore the Luray Caverns

If you are in or near Northern Virginia, Luray Caverns is an absolute must-do. Not only is it one of the best things to do in Virginia with kids, but also a super fun thing to do for adults! Originally called Luray Cave, Luray Caverns is the largest caverns in the eastern part of the country.

With a guided tour, you’ll be amazed by the sights of towering natural stone formations, stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, and mirrored pools. If you’ve ever wondered what the world’s largest musical instrument is, you’ll find it underground at Luray Caverns. The Great Stalacpipe Organ is unlike anything you’ll ever see or hear. A visit to the caverns also includes the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Shenandoah Heritage Village, and the Toy Town Junction, where the adults can bring out their inner child!

The Garden Maze brings an extra cost, but is totally worth it (in fact, it is one of my favorite parts)! This family-friendly maze takes you through beautiful 8-foot tall green hedges with fountains and tunnels and a lookout tower as you search for the exit. It’s a great activity for the whole family and a fun activity to add to the visit. There is also a ropes adventure course for the kids and families who want an extra challenge!

For even more breathtaking natural cavern formations, you can visit Shenandoah Caverns, less than 30 minutes away. There you will find 17 more natural rooms and passageways with famous formations. It is also the only Virginia caverns with elevator access.

Kid-friendly places to stay near Luray Caverns: The Mimslyn Inn, Skyland, Quality Inn Luray

Get to Know the State Capital

The state capital of Richmond packs plenty of family-friendly things to do. It is a great place to spend a weekend getaway with kids and visitors of all ages.

Make exploring and learning about the city fun with the Amazing Scavenger Hunt Adventure. In this three-hour city tour, you’ll be taken through some of the city’s historical monuments and sites as you solve challenges and solve clues to get to your next location. This is a fun activity for the whole family.

The Children’s Museum of Richmond is also at the top of the list of things to do in Virginia’s capital with kids. There, the whole family can have a blast as they not only play but learn together. It is ideal for kids up to age 8, with fun exhibits such as an Amtrak train exhibit, living tree house, little farm, art gallery and Moon to Mars exhibit.

And just 40 minutes outside of Richmond is the Metro Richmond Zoo, where you can feed giraffes or cruise over the zoo grounds on a Safari Sky Ride, and see approximately 2,000 animals and 180 species from around the world. Just outside of the zoo is a zipline and high ropes course, giving you another way to see the animals from a birds-eye view!

And if you want to visit one of the state’s best family amusement parks (well, at least in my opinion), take the 25 minute drive to Kings Dominion & Soak City. There you’ll find roller coasters and water slides for all ages and thrill levels, entertainment, and delicious funnel cake that you’ll be craving for days later!

Kid-friendly places to stay near Richmond: Embassy Suites by Hilton Richmond, The Westin Richmond, Candlewood Suites Richmond Airport

A child and adult watching an airplane arrive at Graveley Point Park, one of the best things to do in Virginia with kids.
Gravelly Point Park is a fun place to set up a picnic, play soccer, and watch planes fly in with the family. Photo credit: Kimberly Miles

Spend a Weekend in Northern Virginia

Just minutes from the nation’s capital, there is no limit to the things you can do when you visit Northern Virginia. As a native, I can positively say that a weekend spent there is at the top of the list of things to do in Virginia with kids.

One of my favorite (and free) things to do with my son is visiting Gravelly Point Park in Arlington. One of the biggest draws is its location and proximity to the airport, which allows you to watch airplanes flying in directly overhead. There is also plenty of space to set up a picnic, a soccer field, and biking and walking trails alongside the park. Arlington is also home to many historical sites and parks. Upton Hill Regional Park is a favorite among locals and includes hiking trails, mini golf, batting cages and a beach-themed water park.

Leesburg Animal Park is a fun family-owned petting zoo where little ones can get up close and personal with animals such as donkeys, llamas, bunnies, and other exotic animals from around the world. There’s also a three-level play area for the kids with a giant slide and trampoline. Wagon rides are offered seasonally, as well as special events and festivals for the holidays.

Old Town Alexandria is a must visit and packed with family-friendly restaurants and shops. Its waterfront location along the Potomac River is a beautiful place to take a stroll, or set up a picnic with the little ones. Active families can grab one of the electric bike rentals and take the hour-long ride to Mount Vernon, the historic home of George Washington. There you’ll find plenty of tours and activities suitable for every age group.

Kid-friendly places to stay in Northern Virginia: DoubleTree by Hilton McLean Tysons, Residence Inn by Marriott Alexandria Old Town/Duke Street, Lansdowne Resort and Spa

Experience a Natural Wonder at Natural Bridge

Located off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Natural Bridge is a beautiful area that certainly earns its place among the best things to do in Virginia with kids. It is home to two of Virginia’s biggest tourist attractions as well as plenty for kids and adults of all ages to enjoy a day of family fun.

The Natural Bridge State Park is the biggest draw and one of the oldest tourist destinations in the country. The bridge that gives the park and the community its name has often been included in the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World” lists. In addition to the stunning 215-foot high natural limestone bridge, there are also seven miles of hiking trails, one of which leads from the visitor center under the bridge to a 30-foot cascading waterfall. The nearby Caverns at Natural Bridge is where you descend more than 30 feet underground to view stunning cavern structures, stalactites, stalagmites, and a mirror lake.

The drive-through  Virginia Safari Park is a big draw for families with kids, offering 180-acres of grounds with free-roaming exotic animals including elk, zebras and gazelle. There’s also a village walk-through with animal encounters with a petting zoo. Natural Bridge is also home to an interactive zoo with experiences that include a petting zoo, African elephant rides, and animal feedings.

Kid-friendly places to stay near Natural Bridge: Natural Bridge Hotel, Inn at Forest Oaks, Herring Hall Bed and Breakfast

Get Adventurous in Roanoke

Located west of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke is home to super fun hands-on museums and outdoor activities for families. Active little ones who will certainly get their days worth of activities in this small southwestern town.

In downtown Roanoke, the Science Museum of Western Virginia is an interactive museum where kids can dig for dinosaur fossils, build structures and mazes, play with huge oversized toys and games, and feed and interact with parakeets. Video game lovers like my nine-year-old son will be fascinated by the Roanoke Pinball Museum, an interactive science and history museum dedicated to the fun game of pinball. There they’ll find pinball games dating back to the 1930’s and all of them are completely playable!

Just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway is Explore Park, with hundreds of acres of beautiful scenery, rivers, and hiking trails. The biggest attraction in the park for families with kids ages four and up is Treetop Quest, an aerial adventure course with ziplines and various obstacles and challenges.

And just a little over an hour away in the town of Lynchburg is where you’ll find Amazement Square, an award-winning hands-on and educational children’s museum. In addition to its several hands-on activities, exhibits, and special events, there’s also a towering indoor play structure that extends through all four floors of the museum. There’s even a zipline for the adventurous little ones!

Kid-friendly places to stay in Roanoke: Springhill Suites by Marriott Roanoke, Holiday Inn Express and Suites Salem, Hampton Inn & Suites Roanoke-Downtown

See Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

A guided tour of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is one of the top things to do in Virginia with kids for a fun and interactive history lesson. Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, Monticello is an ideal activity for older kids and teenagers, although there is plenty to do for younger visitors as well.

At Monticello, visitors learn all about the plantation and life of Thomas Jefferson, one of the nation’s Founding Fathers and its third president. The Griffin Discovery Room is a hands-on way for children to learn about the past, while the Mountaintop Activity Center includes fun activities such as writing with a quill pen, exploring mystery objects and artifacts, and using a wheel cipher to crack a code. The mobile scavenger hunt is a fun and unique way to explore and learn about the grounds.

There are many guided tours, those that dive into the history of slavery at Monticello and the lives of the enslaved people who lived and worked on the plantation. While some tours are best saved for teens and adults, other special family-friendly tours are available for families with children ages 5-11.

Kid-friendly places to stay near Monticello: Comfort Inn Monticello, Holiday Inn CharlottesvilleMonticello, Hilton Garden Inn Charlottesville

Get Outdoorsy at Shenandoah National Park

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Shenandoah National Park is one of the most beautiful parts of Virginia and a great place for a family weekend getaway. It is also one of the best outdoorsy things to do in Virginia with kids.

This beautiful forested park features cascading waterfalls, wetlands, and a vast network of hiking trails that includes part of the 2,000+ mile long Appalachian Trail. It’s a great place to look for and observe wildlife as a home to several different bird species, deer, and even the black bear. If you’ve ever wanted to try hiking with your little ones, it’s the perfect place to do so. The park has several easy kid-friendly hiking trails that can be done in just 1-2 hours. Some self-guided hikes even include a hiking brochure designed just for kids.

During the spring, summer, and fall months, kids can participate in ranger-guided programs to learn all about the park’s history, explore the grounds, and learn all about the animals and plants that live there. The Junior Ranger program gives kids ages 7-12 the opportunity to learn what it’s like to be a park ranger through fun hands-on activities. They can even earn a Junior Ranger badge!

To add more excitement to your park trip outside of the park itself, head to the Frontier Culture Museum. Located less than 45 minutes away in Staunton, this outdoor living history museum dives into the life of the area’s first settlers. Each of the museum’s 11 exhibits represent what life was like in a different part of the Old World with costumed interpreters to guide you in a fun way and answer questions.

Kid-friendly places to stay near Shenandoah National Park: Big Meadow Lodge, Skyland, Lydia Mountain Lodge and Log Cabins

Kimberly Miles is a mother of one and an experienced solo and single mom traveler. So far, she has traveled to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Dubai, Bahamas, Aruba, Mexico, and several places in the U.S. Kimberly was born and raised in Alexandria, Virginia, but in 2018 she took a leap of faith and made the beautiful beach town of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico her home with her young son. In addition to writing for SheBuysTravel, Kimberly ghostwrites blogs on a variety of topics. She also provides marketing consulting services and business guidance to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and corporations via her independent business KNM Virtual Solutions. When she’s not traveling or writing, you can find Kimberly working out, eating tacos, dancing the night away, or spending time at the beach with her son. You can read more of her work at Travel Unapologetically.
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