Your baby isn’t a baby anymore, but she’s not a teen (or a ‘tween) either. What to do, what to do … Believe it or not, we have suggestions sure to spark your child’s creativity and pique her curiosity while serving up heavy doses of fun. Print, highlight and share this list for a memorable summer in Virginia.
Do you have a budding pilot or astronaut in your midst? Virginia’s two hottest destinations for those who love wings and heights are the Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton and the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly.
The Virginia Air & Space Center is the official visitor center for the NASA Langley Research Center, the home of America’s space program. The Apollo 12 Command Capsule is on display, a perfect highlight for the moongazer in your house.
~ Wing Walk at Jenny bi-plane
~ Ride in a WWII bomber
~ Pilot an F/A-22 fighter jet
~ Explore the AirTran Airways DC-9
~ Simulate a lunar landing
~ Riverside IMAX 3D Theater (the first museum IMAX theater in the world to go 3D)
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is an extension of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, but do not read that as “small, off-site gallery.” In fact, the Udvar-Hazy Center is an enormous Boeing hangar filled with important icons of aviation and space history. You’ll want to have your camera ready for this trip.
~ Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (the fastest jet in the world)
~ Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay (the bomber that dropped the atomic bomb)
~ Space Shuttle Discovery
~ Donald D. Engen Observation Tower (go up and watch air traffic in and out of Dulles Airport)
~ Airbus IMAX Theater
If your child has a love for animals, head to a destination with plenty of mouths to feed. A trip to the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News may help to develop your animal lover into a veterinarian, marine biologist or park ranger.
~ Frogs, salamanders (endangered and the largest of each in Virginia)
~ Fish a’plenty (prehistoric paddlefish, longnose gar, moon jelly, eels …)
~ Many mammals (beavers, otters, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, red wolves, deer …)
~ A variety of birds (vultures, owls, songbirds, raptors, turkeys …)
~ Spine-tingling reptiles (venomous cottonmouths, copperheads and timber rattlers, as well as alligators, loggerhead sea turtles, and lizards)
Twelve hundred animals roam free at the 180-acre Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge as you drive through in your own vehicle or climb aboard a tractor-drawn wagon for a narrated tour. We recommend the wagon tour for its educational value as well as for the sake of your car’s cleanliness. Your three-mile meander rewards with camels, zebras, elk, bison, watusi, yaks, antelopes and more. Of course, they’re looking for a reward, too: your bucket of grain.
In addition to the drive-thru portion of the park, a Safari Village walk-thru is full of interactive habitats.
~ Giraffes (feed them at their height!)
~ Bengal tigers and cheetahs (don’t feed them)
~ Budgies in the aviary (those are safe to feed)
~ Kangaroos, reptiles, monkeys, warthogs, giant tortoises, flamingos and more
The Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond lets your child get hands-on with circuits, machines and in labs of all kinds. Learn about the human body, weather, gravity, how rats play basketball and if a rainbow can be created in a tube.
~ Virginia’s largest IMAX screen (the IMAX®DOME) wraps around you
~ Overnight adventures (yes, “Night at the Museum” is possible!)
~ Summer camps
This is part 2 of a 4 part series, but if you can’t wait, go see dozens more places for your kids to learn, have fun and thrive in Virginia at Virginia.org/CoolPlacesforKids. See part 1 – Your Teen is Going to LOVE Virginia.