Summer is right around the corner, so it’s not too early to find cool stuff for kids to do at Virginia State Parks.
In part 1 of our series we’ll explore fun stuff for our Little Angels, age 7 and under, to do. Here are 10 activities to help get you started with your summer plans:
1. | BEACH DAY
First Landing State Park has 20 miles of trails and 1.5 miles of sandy Chesapeake Bay beach frontage. Swim at your risk in the Chesapeake Bay; no lifeguards. There are no designated swimming areas at the Narrows or boat launch. The beach is used for swimming, fishing, crabbing, and you’ll could see boating, kiteboarding, and kayaking. Pets are allowed if kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
2. | WATER PARK
Pocahontas State Park’s Aquatic Recreation Center is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 7p.m. on weekends and holidays from the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Click here for park fees. During summer months, enjoy a day of free swimming for each night of overnight camping for registered guests.
3. | DISCOVERY AREA
The Children’s Discovery Area at Sky Meadows State Park is conveniently located next to the picnic area and surrounded by the Virginia Master Naturalist’s “Outdoor Laboratory.” The Children’s Discovery Area offers a safe space where you and your kids can explore, play, and hike together. Create your own fun at different play stations or grab a TRACK Trail brochure to start your hiking adventure. The trail is designed so that each time you pick up a different brochure, you experience something new along its .7 mile length.
4. | SPEND A DAY ON THE FARM
Kids love the hands on activities at the Farm and Forestry Museum at Chippokes Plantation State Park. The museum explores the lives of Virginia farmers at one of the oldest continuously used farms in the country. See how tools, techniques and even crops themselves changed over time in five exhibit halls. Museum staffers care for donkeys, pigs, goats, chickens and a rabbit. Learn more about them and help with their care at one of our ranger-led Pasture Pals programs.
5. | KIDS EXPLORATION BACKPACK
Pick up a 24 hour park exploration backpack at the Visitor’s Center at James River State Park, and enjoy an entire day of adventure. We offer three fun-filled packs including: Pond, Birding, and Field and Forest Explorer. Each pack is full of books, maps, nature logs, and tools to explore and identify the flora and fauna in the area of your interest. Learn about the unique Wetland plants, the fish at Green Hill pond, or the birds of prey who live near the river. Checkouts are on a first come first serve basis. Free.
6. | BENEATH THE SURFACE
A light glows beneath the surface of Holliday Lake. Watch as insects are first drawn from the darkness to the bright light, followed by minnows, then bigger fish, and eventually turtles. This evening program illuminates what lies in the depths below and sheds light on the active nightlife under the water at Holliday Lake State Park. Participants are encouraged to bring a flashlight, bug spray, and a light jacket for the cooler nights. The underwater lights will stay on for the entire hour.
7. | FOSSIL FRENZY
Long before there was a York River State Park, or even a York River, 6,000 plus years ago, marine creatures swam here in a shallow sea. Early whales, porpoises, sharks, clams, scallops, and snails all left traces of their existence which we now find as fossils. Join us in discovering relics of these very old creatures as we hike to a fossil beach. Please call to make reservations.
8. | GET ‘EM HOOKED
Teach a kid to fish and they will…make you bait the hook! Join the rangers at Claytor Lake State Park for a morning of fishing as we learn about local aquatic life. We’ll learn how to cast, catch fish, different ways to rig bait, and common fish species. Fishing rods and bait, such as worms and corn, will be available for use.
9. | SNAKES 101
While the eagles in the park are the celebrities of the sky, the snakes commonly found along the trails and in the marsh are one of the most talked about animals at Mason Neck State Park. Join a ranger for a guided walk along the Bay View Trail to learn more about why these animals have developed a bad reputation, and how they actually play an important role in our ecosystem. This is a short quarter mile walk down to the marsh.
10. | GOLD PANNING
Get ready to catch gold fever at Lake Anna State Park. Mosey on over and join our interpretive rangers on a quest for this elusive mineral. You’ll discover the history of gold in Virginia and learn the finer points of placer mining and how to work a pan. Then we’ll head down to the edge of Old Pond and see what washes up. Space is limited, so please pre-register.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO?
If you’re interested in a specific program listed above, please go to the park’s webpage or give them a call for the details. Reservations may be required for a program, so they’ll know how many to anticipate.Be sure to follow us on Facebook here so you won’t miss Part 2: Tweens, and Part 3: Teens.
To find a place to escape the heat, click here to search swimming at Virginia State Parks.
SPEND A FEW NIGHTS
Call 800-933-7275 to reserve your family getaway today.
Written by Shellie Anne for Virginia State Parks.
Featured image provided by Courtesy of Virginia State Parks
Virginia’s 37 state parks are as diverse as the state itself, with parks along the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, on historic sites, in the Blue Ridge Mountains and just outside of major cities. The parks have thousands of campsites, hundreds of cabins, more than 600 miles of trails and convenient access to Virginia’s major waterways.