Let’s say you’ve visited the bigger attractions in Northern Virginia and now want something out of the ordinary to do. Got it. Let’s go …
1. The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum in Alexandria is a quirky place straight out of 1796. As one of Alexandria’s oldest continually run businesses, the Apothecary has a remarkable collection of medical equipment, herbal botanicals, handblown glass, and archival materials (i.e. journals, diaries, prescription and formula books, etc.), many with famous names included. Certainly you’ve heard of Martha Washington, Nelly Custis and Robert E. Lee?
Beyond taking a 30-minute guided tour, sign up for the special Behind the Counter Tour that allows you to get up close and personal with the objects that aren’t typically displayed. The tour is 90 minutes for no more than eight people at $15 each. The standard 30-minute tour is $5 per adult and $3 for ages 5 to 12. $1 off coupon
2. Bugs are so cool to so many kids. Let them get a really good look at exotic insects, spiders, crustaceans, a pet snake, turtles, frogs, toads, salamanders, and more when they visit the quaint Bug Box in Fredericksburg. You’ll all have a story to tell when you join the “I Ate a Bug Club.” To join, just eat a chocolate covered cricket! Bug Box is a perfect day time activity for spring break, summer, or for families with preschoolers, as the public hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is $3 per person.
3. The pre-Revolutionary War Claude Moore Colonial Farm National Park in McLean is a delightful surprise. Once you’re on the grounds, consider yourself in 1771. Period interpreters perform the chores and work the farm as was conducted in the 18th century by the Thornton family.
Think your children would like to give the chores a try? The Farm Skills Program allows them to pound corn, card wool, dip candles, and more. Reservations are required, and the program is available select Thursdays throughout the year. Claude Moore Colonial Farm National Park opens for the season April 2, 2014. Admission is $3 per adult, $2 per child, and $2 per senior over age 60.
4. Beyond Virginia’s presidents, there are many other famous figures to learn about through their preserved Virginia homes. George Mason IV and his Gunston Hall Plantation is but one example. Mason was the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the document upon which the United States Bill of Rights was based. His home was constructed between 1755 and 1759 on 5,500 acres overlooking the Potomac River in Lorton. The corn and tobacco plantation now sits at 550 acres. Tour this grand estate daily, including the stately home, outbuildings and hiking trails. Admission is $10 per adult, $5 per child 6 to 18, and $8 per senior 60 and older. $1 off coupon
5. Little train lovers (and maybe big train lovers, too) will enjoy a Saturday morning visit to the Railway Workers’ Museum in Fredericksburg. Take a self-guided tour of the restored rail cars, the artifacts that lie within, and if crew is available, a ride on the Little Yellow Train! Rides are dependent upon weather and commercial rail activity, but offer a feel of how 1900’s rail workers commuted to their work site. Open mid-March through mid-November. No admission fee.
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