Virginia Travel on a Budget: 12 Affordable Family-Friendly Activities

by Patricia Keppel | Posted: Feb 14, 2020 | Updated: Apr 8, 2020

Comments: 1 Comment

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Photo Credit: Jay Sansone

From rainy-day activities to spring break vacations, there are tons of family-friendly activities to discover throughout Virginia. However, sometimes it can be a balancing act of sticking to a tight budget while keeping the kids entertained. To help you keep costs low and spirits high, we’ve put together a list of ideas that are both budget-friendly and family-friendly. Make plans to do a few of these kid-centric activities, all $25 per person or less! 

1. Learn About Animals at a Working Farm, Aquarium, or Zoo

Get an up-close look at wildlife, farm animals, and aquatic creatures when you visit a zoo, working farm, or aquarium

  • Fort Chiswell Animal Park in Wytheville: Adults $12, children 3-12 $10, children 2 & under free.
  • Metro Richmond Zoo: Adults $17.75, children 2-11 $11.75, children 1 & under free.
  • Virginia Zoo in Norfolk: Adults $17.95, children 2-11 $14.95, children 2 & under free.
  • Mill Mountain Zoo in Roanoke: Adults $10, children 3-11 $8, children 2 & under free.
  • Luray Zoo: Adults 13 and up $12, children ages 3-12 $6.
  • Caromont Farm in Scottsville: This working goat cheese farm hosts frequent goat snuggle sessions where you and your kids can cuddle adorable baby goats, learn about goat farms and the cheese-making process, and take home fresh goat cheese. Tickets are $13.93 each and children 4 & under are free; they tend to sell out fast, so buying well in advance is recommended!
  • Wilson’s Animal Park in Winchester:  General Admission $9, children 3 & under are free.
  • Virginia Aquarium: Adults $24.95, Kids 3-11 $19.95. Dolphins boat trip is $22.95 for adults and $16.95 for kids. 

2. Ride Along One of Virginia’s Family-Friendly Paved Bike Trails

 Take the bikes out on a trail day with your family. You can ride many trails for free if you bring your own bikes, but some parks may require a small entry or shuttle fee. 

  • Virginia Creeper Trail in Southwest Virginia: Stretches 34.3 miles through the trail town of Damascus and up to the North Carolina State Line near Whitetop. The trail itself is free, but shuttles from outfitters like The Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop cost $17.00 for adults and $13 for children ages 12 & under. 
  • Blackwater Creek Trail in Lynchburg: Eight miles of paved and dirt-packed hiking and biking trails along the Blackwater Creek. Entry is free, and you can rent bikes from Bikes Unlimited starting at just $12 an hour. 
  • Virginia Capital Trail: Paved trail runs 52 miles from Richmond to Williamsburg. Bike rentals from Bike the Burg in Williamsburg start at $25 per day and from Adventures in RVA in Richmond starting at $6 per hour for kids and $8 per hour for adults. 

3. Practice Your Putting at a Miniature Golf Course

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Photo Credit: Terry Hutchins

You don’t need to swing like the pros to enjoy a game of putt-putt with your family!

  • Harbortown Miniature Golf in Moneta: Wild West-themed miniature golf course overlooking Smith Mountain Lake. Adults are $9.50, children 12 & under are $7.50, and children under 3 are free. 
  • Bethpage Miniature Golf in Urbanna: Cow-themed miniature golf course with an ice cream shop next door. Contact the campsite for current prices. 
  • Wilderness Presidential Mini-Golf in Spotsylvania: Rates are $2 per person for non-members and $1 per person for members and resort guests. All kids 5 & under are free.
  • Pirates Paradise Mini Golf in Virginia Beach: 18-hole pirate-themed miniature golf course. Rates are $12 for adults, $10 for kids 5-12 years old, and free for children 4 & under playing with adults. 

4. Blend Education & Fun at a History, Science, or Art Museum

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There are dozens of kid-friendly museums around the Commonwealth, many with hands-on activities that allow kids to learn and play at the same time.

  • The Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News: Museum about the ocean and the people that have traveled it. Sits on a 550-acre park that is free and open to the public. Admission to the museum is only $1 per person and free for children 3 and under. Add a 3D movie to the visit for just $6 ($2 for children 3 & under).  
  • Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond: Contains experiential exhibits, interactive technologies, hands-on makerspace projects, and lab demonstrations. Exhibits Only: Adults $15.50, children  ages 6-12 $13.50, ages 3-5 $10. For Exhibits+Dome Theater Entry: Adults $19.50, children ages 6-12 $17,50, ages 3-5 $14.
  • Children’s Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth: Largest children’s museum in Virginia with fun, interactive, and hands-on things to keep kids entertained for hours. Adults $11, children and youth 2-17 $10, children 2 & under are free. 
  • National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly: Companion facility of the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum. Free admission, parking $15
  • Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville: Adults $10, children and youth 3-17 $5, free for children 3 & under. 

5. Get Outdoors at a Virginia State Park or National Park

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In addition to gorgeous natural scenery, many state and national parks contain beginner-level hiking trails suitable for the whole family.

6. Pick Your Own Produce at a Berry Farm or Orchard

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Photo Credit: Jumping Rocks Photography

Bring the kids to a you-pick farm or orchard, where they can learn about farming practices while gathering fresh fruits and veggies. Bonus points if you bring it home and teach them how to turn delicious Virginia produce into a home-cooked meal or dessert!

  • Swover Creek Farms in Edinburg: Has an indoor children’s play area and an outdoor dog park. Free admission, pay per pound for seasonally picked fruit, including blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. 
  • Great Country Farms in Bluemont: Pick your own strawberries, cherries, raspberries, peaches, blackberries, plums, apples, and pumpkins (check seasonal calendar for current availability). Farm also has mazes, giant slides, farm animals, rope swings, and more. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children. 
  • Liberty Mills Farm in Somerset: Farm that grows sunflowers, strawberries, and pumpkins. In the fall, they also have the largest corn maze in Virginia. Hay rides are $2 per person. 
  • Chesterfield Berry Farm in Chesterfield: Grows over 50 different varieties of fruits and vegetables that are sold in their on-site Farm Market. Pick-your-own produce includes strawberries (mid-April through May), blackberries (mid-June through July), and pumpkins (mid-September through October). $2 entry fee for pick-your-own. 

7. Explore Virginia’s Caverns

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There are eight different caverns in Virginia, all found within the Southwest and Shenandoah Valley regions of the Commonwealth. 

  • Gap Caverns in Ewing: Adults $8, children 5-12 are $4. No children under 5 are admitted.
  • Dixie Caverns in Salem: Adults 13 and over $14, children 5-12 $6, children 5 & under are free.
  • Endless Caverns in New Market: Adults 13 and over $20/tour, children 4-12 $9, ages 3 & under are free.
  • Luray Caverns in Luray: While adult admission is $30, admission for children 6-12 is only $15, and children under 6 are free. 

8. Soar Through the Treetops on a Zipline at an Outdoor Adventure Park

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Conquer great heights and speeds on the ziplines at a Virginia Outdoor Adventure Park

  • Bear Mountain Zipline in Luray: The Baby Bear High Ropes Course at Bear Mountain Ziplines is only $20 for two trips and is for ages 5 and up, at least 36” tall, and 40-250 pounds. They also have a rock climbing wall that is $15 per half hour. 
  • Massanutten Resort Zip Line in McGaheysville: At Massanutten, the zip line is $15 per ride and the Kid’s Adventure Course is $15 for two trips. 
  • Danville Zip Line in Danville: Danville Zip Line offers summer programs and most are only $12 per person.
  • The Rope Adventure Park in Luray: $7 for kids under 48” and $11 for 48” and taller. 

9. Play a Round of Disc Golf

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Disc golf combines the precision of golf with the easygoing sport of Frisbee, resulting in an affordable and fun sport that players of any age can enjoy. 

  • The Tides Inn in Irvington: Disc golf course on the resort grounds with nine holes. Free to guests.
  • Jim Barnett Park Disc Golf Course in Winchester: 18-hole course that is free to play, with disc rentals for $2 each rented at the War Memorial Building near the first hole. 
  • Westover Park Disc Golf Course in Harrisonburg: 21-hole disc golf course that is free to play. Discs can be checked out from the front desk of the park. 
  • Munden Point Park in Virginia Beach: 18-hole course that is free to play. The park also has playgrounds, horseshoe pits, volleyball and basketball courts, and a fishing area. 

10. Float Down a River on a Tubing Excursion

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Photo Credit: Jumping Rocks Photography

Spend an afternoon with the family leisurely floating down a Virginia waterway. Pro Tip: In addition to being relaxing and affordable, this option also forces the kids to leave the phones behind! 

  • Reeling & Rafting in Scottsville: A 4-mile tubing trip on the James River is $25 per person and includes transportation to the river’s entrance point. Must be 6 years and older. 
  • Shenandoah River Outfitters in Luray: 4-5 hour tubing trip down the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. $22 per person and includes transportation to the river’s entrance point. Must be 5 years and older. 
  • Roanoke Mountain Adventures in Roanoke: A 3-4 hour tubing trip down the Roanoke River. Half day tube rentals are $15 for adults and $12 for under 14 years old; Full day is $20 for adults and $15 for under 14 years old. Shuttle rate is $15 per group (2-12 people).
  • Riverside Outfitters in Richmond: A 3-4 hour tubing trip down the James River. Costs $41 per person for tube and shuttle, but you can bring your own tube and pay just $9 for the shuttle. 

11. Bond Over a Family Camping Trip

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Create beautiful memories with an overnight family camping trip. Don’t forget the s’mores! 

  • Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Luray: While campsites at this camping resort tend to run $50 & up, that includes a campsite that fits the whole family (including your four-legged family members!). And your camping fee doesn’t just cover the campsite; it also includes a wide array of on-site activities, including a playground, basketball court, soccer field, fishing pond, pedal boats, petting zoo, nature trails, mini golf course, outdoor movie theater, and a water park complete with swimming pools, water slides, and a spray fun zone. Plus, they currently have a deal to add a Thursday or Sunday to your weekend stay during non-peak season for just $25 extra.
  • Cherrystone Family Camping Resort in Cape Charles: Summer rates begin at $40 per night, but like Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, your entry fee covers much more than just your campsite; it includes five swimming pools, games like cornhole, horseshoes, and shuffleboard, a game lounge, mini golf, and three playgrounds. 
  • Misty Mountain Camp Resort in Greenwood: Campsites start at just $28 per night and are pet-friendly. Camp resort amenities include a jump pad, two playgrounds, a stocked fishing pond, games like cornhole and horseshoes, a splash park, and a pool.

12. Experience Hands-On History at an Iconic Virginia Site

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Photo Credit: Steven McBride

Put the history books away and instead visit some of Virginia’s most incredible historic sites, where the kids can learn through interactive exhibits and activities. 

  • Mount Vernon: Adults $20, ages 6-11 are $12, children 5 & under are free. Stop by the Pioneer Farm, where you can watch 18th-century demonstrations like wheat harvesting, sheep shearing, and cooking over and open fire. 
  • Monticello: Gardens and Grounds are free to tour, house tours start at $29 for adults, $10 for children ages 12-18, and are free for children under $12. Monticello’s Griffin Discovery Room has activities like writing on a polygraph machine, creating secret codes on a wheel cipher that is based off of Jefferson’s own design, and playing games that were popular during Jefferson’s lifetime. 
  • Jamestown Settlement: Adults 13 and up are $17.50,  ages 6-12 are $8.25, children 5 & under are free. Kids can participate in navigation and piloting demonstrations aboard the Jamestown Settlement Ships, where they will learn what life was like aboard a 17th century ocean voyage. 
  • American Revolution Museum at Yorktown: Adults 13 and up $15.25, ages 6-12 $7.75 children 5 & under are free. The Continental Army encampment offers vivid portrayals of a soldier’s life during the Revolutionary War, such as musket and artillery firing, daily routines, and 18th century surgical and medical practices. 

 

Need more suggestions for affordable family activities? We’ve got ideas for the $10 & under budget, $15 & under budget, or $20 & under budget, too! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Avatar Nancy Sottosanti says:

Thank your for the great list of things to do outside with the kids. Noticed that 6 of them are in Luray Page county and the Shenandoah National Park! Great area to spend time…