These 10 Virginia attractions meet your kids on their level, making history fun and enjoyable.
Live like it’s 1607 when you visit Jamestown Settlement, America’s first permanent English colony, located in Williamsburg. The replicas of the three ships that sailed from England to Virginia in 1607 – the Godspeed, Discovery and Susan Constant – are on-site and ready for you to board! Other highlights include the colonial fort and galleries depicting the Powhatan, English and African cultures of the time. $16/adult and $7.50/ student aged 6 to 12. Buy Tickets
Write with quill pens, try on clothes, learn to weave and more at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville. The Griffin Discovery Room in the Smith Education Center is all hands-on for ages 6 to 12. In addition, family friendly tours are available through September 2, plus the first three weekends in October. They’re 35 mintues long and offer a hands-on opportunity in each room. $24/adult; $16/student aged 12 to 18; $8/student 6 to 11. Buy Tickets
At the Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton, children can toy with flight controls, consider wing walking, ride in a World War II bomber and become an air traffic controller. The Apollo 12 Command Capsule is on display along with historic planes, a Mars meteorite and a moon rock. $11.50/adult; $9.50 children 3 to 18. Buy Tickets
Take a tour of Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Estate and Gardens by way of the Kids’ Adventure Map, a sleuth’s tool to solve nine puzzles (free with each child admission). Children aged 3 to 8 will enjoy Hands-on History, a room dedicated to creative play with 18th century clothing and more. The paddock pen is a popular place for kids, too. Meet the Ossabaw Island hogs there. $17/adult; $8/student aged 6 to 11. Buy Tickets
More than 500 years of seafaring adventure awaits at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News. Kids love the cool figureheads and miniature ship models, and they can watch the conservation of real artifacts from the Civil War’s ironclad USS Monitor, brought to the surface from its watery grave in the Atlantic Ocean. The collection at The Mariners’ Museum is more than 35,000 pieces strong. $12/adult; $10 ages 13 to 18; $7 ages 6 to 12.
The Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton features life on five different farms — German, Scots-Irish, English, American, and the newest – West African. Meet the farm animals and homesteaders living life in their Old World tradition just as they would have prior to coming to America. $10/adult; $9/student aged 13 through 18; $6 per child aged 6 to 12.
Rent a costume and blend into 18th century Colonial Williamsburg, a 301-acre historic area comprised of orginal and reconstructed buildings, homes and shops. Children and adults can interact with a variety of characters in an informal, intimate setting all day long, plus fill up on 18th-century style meals at one of four taverns. $41.95/adult; $20.95/child; under age 6 is free (online rates). Buy Tickets
The National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly features several flight simulators as well as an observation tower to watch flights come in and out of Washington Dulles International Airport. Above and beyond the simulations and the thrill of huge birds coming in for a landing is the collection of planes and space objects.
- Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” – This bomber dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat – Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945.
- Lockheed Vega 5B – Dubbed “Little Red Bus” but its one-time owner (Amelia Earhart), this plane sent Earhart soaring into the history books as the first woman to fly nonstop and alone across the Atlantic Ocean (May 20-21, 1932).
- Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird – To cap off its 24 years of active U.S. Air Force service, this jet-propelled aircraft set a speed record on March 6, 1990 during its last flight – LA to DC in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 20 seconds.
- Space Shuttle Discovery – A vehicle of firsts, Discovery was flown by the first African-American, the first female spacecraft pilot, and ushered the first non-astronaut to space. Discovery was also the longest-serving orbiter with 39 flights, spending 365 days in space.
Called one of “Virginia’s Best Places to Visit” by the Travel Channel, Pamplin Historical Park in Petersburg is your destination to live the life of a Civil War soldier. Sign up for Civil War Adventure Camp to don the clothes and experience camp life, but be prepared to leave the iPods and other technologies behind. Today’s luxuries are unknown and unwelcome in the 1800s. General Admission is $12/adult and $7/student aged 6 to 12. Camp has additional fees; book now.
In Danville, find the American Armoured Foundation, Inc., also affectionately known as The Tank Museum. The most extensive collection of tank and cavalry artifacts in the world resides here. Dating from 1509 to present day with all nations represented, the Museum has more than 100 tanks and artillery pieces, 150 mid size weapons, 1500+ tank and cavalry uniforms, and 1300 pieces of headgear, pins, patches, and other military memorabilia. Spend plenty of time acquainting yourself with these rare pieces. $10/adult; $9.50/student aged 5 to 12.
Looking for a bigger list? We’ve got that. Check out Virginia’s Cool Places for Kids for even more inspiration.