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Spring Break (and Summer) Survival in Staunton

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With spring break ahead, summer travels, and impromptu days off here and there often leave parents looking for things to do. We’ve rounded up a list—worthy of a day trip or overnight stay—that won’t break the bank, making parents happy and keeping kids entertained. Pin, Facebook, bookmark, or print this for future reference; we’re sure you’ll look to it as a resource over the next few months.

 

Teenagers and Tweens

One of the coolest demonstrations you’ll ever see is glassblowing, and you can see it every day in Staunton at Sunspots Studios! Watch the masters seemingly turn glass into wax as they form big bubbles bound for a life of beauty. If you get inspired, try “Blowing Your Own Ornament” where you work alongside a trained artist to create a unique ornament which will provide a lifetime of memories.

Escape to Crack the Code where you must solve puzzles in order to escape the room. You have 60 minutes to find the clues, solve the puzzles and make your way to freedom. Choose from two different themed rooms: DaVinci’s Office and The Asylum. This group activity is perfect for large families or a group of friends (6 people max).

For parents of Pokémon Go fans, we’ve got the fix. Explore by foot using the free app, Traipse! Traipse takes you on an adventure that is half historic tour and half scavenger hunt. You can Traipse anytime, with whomever you want, in places like downtown Staunton or Gypsy Hill Park. And with the newest version of the app you can now build your own tour based on your interests, time and even level of difficulty.

Montgomery Hall Park is one of Staunton’s best kept secrets with its rolling hills and quiet woodlands. Its a perfect escape for those looking to get outdoors with 148 acres of nature hiking and mountain biking trails. The park is also equipped with a disc golf course, basketball courts, tennis courts and much more!

 

For history buffs visit the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Museum where you can discover the life and legacy of our 28th President or learn about the Valley’s earliest settlers at the Frontier Culture Museum. Theater enthusiasts will fall in love with the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse where selfies and Snapchat are encouraged as you can go behind, under, and even on stage!

The Younger Set

Discover Staunton by Trolley! Take a ride on the green trolley for just 25 cents per rider. Hop on and off as you visit area attractions like the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum and Gypsy Hill Park. Parents and Grand Parents can sit back and enjoy the architecture and scenery of several of Staunton’s historic districts. MUST SEE stops include Gypsy Hill Park to feed the ducks and stretch your legs; Split Banana for handmade gelato; and Pufferbellies to play with the latest toys. The Green route runs every 30 minutes from the Visitors Center located at 35 S. New Street.

Speaking of toys, did you know Staunton has a toy store that lets your kids play while you shop? “Don’t touch” is not a phrase you’ll hear at Pufferbellies. Pop in to play at the largest independently owned toy store in the Shenandoah Valley, and you can help your kids build their Christmas wish list while you’re at it!

Montgomery Hall Park is 148 acres and is home to the natural playground, Nature Ridge. Designed for imaginative play, Nature Ridge has a mud kitchen, rock quarry, pirate ship, ball drop, chimes, and an elevated sand pit accessible to children of all ages and abilities.

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For train obsessed kiddos we have the historic train station. Take a walk across Sears Hill Bridge for great City views and to explore the tracks from overhead. On the weekends, don’t miss the Gypsy Express Mini-Train running Saturdays and Sundays from May to October. Another kid hot spot is the Staunton Fire Station where you can see JUMBO, the oldest motorized fire engine in Virginia and the only remaining 1911 Robinson fire engine.

Pack a picnic and bring a stroller or rent a wagon for a day of exploration at the Frontier Culture Museum. Walking shoes recommended as you make your way from the Old World to the New, visiting farmsteads with costumed interpreters complete with farm animals.

 

Staunton has no shortage of music and art festivals during the warmer months and for other special events and weekly happenings check out Staunton On Tap, our schedule of events with all the latest happenings.

 

Written by Visit Staunton for Staunton.
Featured image provided by Staunton Tourism

The post Spring Break (and Summer) Survival in Staunton appeared first on Virginia's Travel Blog.


The Top Events & Festivals Happening Around Virginia in July

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Summer is in full swing here in Virginia, and there are so many ways to enjoy the month of July, from three-day festivals that bring together some of the biggest names in music to patriotic Fourth of July celebrations featuring massive fireworks displays. Mark your calendars and start making plans for an incredible July in Virginia this year!

 

Virginia is for Lovers 50 Years of LOVE Celebrations Continue—Various Locations Around Virginia

When: Throughout the monthMorais Vineyard

One of the most famous tourism slogans in the world, Virginia is for Lovers turns 50 in 2019, and to celebrate, there are countless special events happening around the Commonwealth! Dozens of breweries will be crafting limited-edition lagers this summer in honor of Virginia and serving them to visitors in commemorative glasses that you can take home. Many wineries will also have 50th anniversary glasses, as well as discounts on tastings during the 50 Years of Love summer celebrations. Participating restaurants around Virginia will offer special meal pricing and menus, and there are even giveaway contests to win free overnight stays and getaway packages to some of Virginia’s most spectacular hotels and resorts. Find dates and details at the Virginia is for Lovers 50 Years of Love page and join us in celebrating an historic milestone.

 

4th of July Celebrations—Various Locations Around Virginia

When: On and Around July 4, 2019Mount Vernon Fireworks

Celebrate America’s Independence this Fourth of July in Virginia, one of the most vital states when it came to the American Revolution. The Commonwealth will have all sorts of festivals, fireworks, and parades during the holiday, including monumental celebrations at historic sites like Colonial Williamsburg and Mount Vernon.

 

Red Wing Roots Music Festival—Mt. Solon

When: July 12-14, 2019

The 7th annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival, held over three days at the scenic Natural Chimneys Park in Mt. Solon, is a family-friendly event that blends bluegrass and folk music, the Great Outdoors, and some of the best food and drinks in Virginia. Multiple stages allow a wide array of regional and national bands to continuously play toe-tapping music during the festival, and if you want to take a break from the live performances, there are tons of organized outdoor events like bike rides, hiking, fun runs, and interactive kids activities to fill your schedule. This year’s lineup includes Lucinda Williams, The Wood Brothers, Mandolin Orange, and The Steel Wheels. Get Tickets

 

Virginia Lake Festival—Clarksville

When: July 18-20, 2019Fishing in Buggs Island Lake

Now in its 42nd year, Clarksville’s annual Virginia Lake Festival (or LakeFest, as the locals call it) is a free event that has repeatedly made the list of “One of the Top 20 Events” by the Southeast Tourism Society, attracting nearly 100,000 people each year. Kids can take tethered hot air balloon rides above Buggs Island Lake beginning on Thursday evening, and Friday morning kicks off the sand sculpture contest, followed by live music and a sampling of food vendors throughout the day. As dawn breaks on Saturday, watch as balloonists skim the pristine lake waters, then head over to downtown Clarksville and shop goods, foods, and handmade gifts from over 200 local artisans and businesses. Once night falls, boats gather all around Buggs Island Lake to witness the extravaganza fireworks show, one of the biggest annual fireworks shows in all of Southern Virginia.

 

Shenandoah Valley Music Festival—Orkney Springs

When: July 19-20, July 26-27, August 9-10, and August 31-September 1, 2019Shenandoah Valley Music Festival

Held over summer weekends at the beautiful historic retreat and conference center of Shrine Mont, the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival has brought countless talented musicians to the region, with past artists including LeAnn Rimes, Bruce Hornsby, and The Temptations. This year’s lineup is no exception, with The Beach Boys headlining the July 26th show. Tickets range in price from about $40 to $85, depending on location (lawn, pavilion, or preferred pavilion) and the weekend. Order Your Tickets Here

 

Annual Chincoteague Island Pony Swim & Auction—Chincoteague Island

When: July 24-25, 2019Chincoteague Pony Swim

Chincoteague Island’s Annual Pony Swim & Auction has become a Virginia tradition on the Eastern Shore, bringing thousands of people to the small waterfront community to see these gorgeous animals make the trek across the channel between Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Chincoteague Island. This July event raises money to support the town of Chincoteague while also keeping the wild pony population in check, which prevents damage to the fragile coastal ecosystem of the wildlife refuge. Attend this wondrous Eastern Shore event and get a rare up-close look at these wild beauties.

 

Floydfest—Floyd

When: July 24-28, 2019Floydfest

One of Virginia’s biggest and best music festivals, FloydFest is a five-day festival right off the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mountains of Floyd. Camp in the trees of the Blue Ridge Mountains during the festival, where you’ll discover outdoor adventure, local vendors offering everything from artisan-made goods and clothing to delicious food and beverages, and an inclusive sense of community, all within a few steps of your campsite. In addition to lots of live music (over 100 artists on eight stages), Floydfest includes workshops, healing arts seminars, and children’s activities. Get Tickets

 

Virginia Highlands Festival—Abingdon

When: July 26-August 4, 2019The Barter Theatre, the State Theatre of Virginia.

Held each year for the past seven decades in historic downtown Abingdon, The Virginia Highlands Festival has been named the “Best Art Event” in the region by readers of Virginia Living Magazine. The week-long festival features activities and entertainment that is suitable for kids and adults of all ages. Check out the antiques market and the award-winning juried arts and crafts show to shop local goods. Live music, historical re-enactments, art and photography competitions, guided nature hikes, creative writing workshops, and plenty of activities for the kids rounds out this Southwest Virginia festival, providing non-stop entertainment and fun.

 

The 400th Anniversary Commemorative Ceremony of the First Representative Legislative Assembly—Jamestown

When: July 30, 2019jamestown

Head to Jamestown, the birthplace of American democracy, to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the First Representative Assembly in the western hemisphere. Sponsored by the American Evolution series, the event will take place at both Historic Jamestowne and the Jamestown Settlement, and will include archaeological exhibits and special events, guided walking tours of the grounds, living history reenactments, lectures by knowledgeable historians, hands-on children’s activities, and a free concert featuring the Richmond Symphony.

 

Find even more July events to add to your calendar, and look ahead to August and September  to make your vacation plans!

The post The Top Events & Festivals Happening Around Virginia in July appeared first on Virginia's Travel Blog.

Waterparks, Splash Pads, Outdoor Pools & Water Adventures in Prince William

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Temperature rising? No worries. Just add water!

Situated along both the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers, Prince William, VA offers a wide variety of recreational water activities for everyone to enjoy. Looking to cool off poolside, float along a lazy river, run amuck through splash pads or paddle through open waters? You’ll find all these and more in DC’s Countryside.

 

WATERPARKS

 

1) Splashdown Waterpark –  7500 Ben Lomond Park Dr. Manassas, VA (703) 792-8200

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Prince William County

Zoom down one of the four-story-tall slides on Pipeline Tower , prepare for launch down the Cannonball Slide or challenge a friend to a race down the Twister Slides. Prefer to relax while soaking up the sun? Splashdown Waterpark has a 770-foot-long Lazy River for unwinding. Bubblers, fountains and a wading area are perfect for young visitors. Enjoy a variety of food from the onsite eateries at one of the picnic pavilions. Splashdown Waterpark has something for everyone.

 

2) Waterworks Waterpark – Andrew Leitch Park, 5301 Dale Blvd. Woodbridge, VA (703) 792-8415

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Prince William County

Have fun in the sun all day at Waterworks Waterpark! Blast down the Enclosed Speed Slide , twist and turn your way through the Circular Open Slide or test out your balancing skills on the 3 J ungle Walk Features. The new Children’s Play Structure and Splash Pad are sure to keep the fun going for the little one. Enjoy a yummy snack from the Snack Bar beneath the shaded pavilion. Thousands of laughs and tons of memories are sure to be made at Waterworks Waterpark.

 

OUTDOOR POOLS

 

1) Veterans Park – Pool & Waterslide –  14300 Veterans Dr. Woodbridge, VA (703) 792-8794

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Prince William County

The 50-meter outdoor pool at Veterans Park features 2 two-story slides, graduated entry with water features for the little ones, a bathhouse and concessions nearby.

2) Hammil Mill Pool – 1721 Carter Ln. Woodbridge, VA (703) 491-1074

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Prince William County

Fun water features and various small water slides can keep little ones entertained for hours at Hammil Mill Pool.

 

3) Birchdale Pool –  14730 Birchdale Ave Dale City, VA (703) 670-5178

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Prince William County

Birchdale pool features a full-service concessions area, a diving board and a gated baby pool for little swimmers.

 

4) Graham Park Pool – 3511 Graham Park Rd. Triangle, VA (703) 221-7550

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– Prince William County

Graham Park is a charming outdoor pool featuring zero-depth entry, water spray and dumping water bucket features.

 

SPLASH PADS

 

1) The Interactive Splash Fountain at Virginia Gateway – 7524 Iron Bar Lane Gainesville, VA

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Prince William County

Virginia Gateway’s interactive splash fountain is open 10 am – 10 pm daily. Check their Facebook page for special events & closure notifications.

 

2) The Splash Pad at Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center – 14900 Potomac Town Place Woodbridge, VA

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Prince William County

Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center’s splash pad is open 10 am – 10 pm daily. Check their Facebook page for special events & closure notifications.

 

WATER ADVENTURES

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Prince William County

Kayak along the Occoquan River, fish off the sandy shores of Leesylvania State Park or learn to sail on the Potomac. Prince William’s waterfront playground provides a variety of recreational activities for you to explore.

 

WATER EVENTS

 

Fish Seining on the Potomac @Leesylvania State ParkJune 29, 2019 – July 27, 2019

Watch a park ranger catch different kinds of fish using one of the oldest primitive fishing methods. Come for a chance to learn…

 

Pond Play! at Leesylvania State Park – July 6, 2019 – July 27, 2019

Frogs, turtles, and fish, oh my! Explore the animals that live in our pond. A ranger will use nets to catch animals…

 

Canoe Tour @Leesylvania – June 30, 2019 – August 11, 2019

Our canoe tours are designed to help those that are new to canoeing to learn the basics of paddling…

 

Occoquan Sunset Paddling Tour @ Penguin Paddling – July 7, 2019 – September 1, 2019

Occoquan Sunset Penguin Paddling Tour This guided trip is approximately two hours in duration…

 

NEABSCO CREEK PADDLE TOUR @ Penguin PaddlingJune 30, 2019 – September 22, 2019

Our Neabsco tour is a gem. Wildlife is abundant. Eagles, beavers, herons and all sorts of waterfowl can be seen on this tour…

 

Kids Fishing Tournament at Leesylvania State Park – July 6, 2019 – September 7, 2019

Join our kids fishing tournament and see what you can catch. Ages 2-15 are welcome…

 

Potomac River Blockade Tour @ Leesylvania State Park & Prince William Historic Preservation – September 21, 2019 – October 19, 2019

Sponsored by the Prince William Historic Preservation. Cruise along the Potomac River shoreline and view sites…

 

Written by Deena Westenhofer for Prince William County and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Prince William County

The post Waterparks, Splash Pads, Outdoor Pools & Water Adventures in Prince William appeared first on Virginia's Travel Blog.

Virginia Hiking for Beginners: Trail Picks, Hiking Tips, & More

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Hiking in Virginia can take you from mile high Appalachian mountains to regal Piedmont rivers on to the Atlantic Ocean. While hiking in Virginia, you will discover the state’s diverse plant and animal life as well as fascinating human history.

With such precious natural resources, Virginia hikers want to get it right, and to protect these resources so future generations can enjoy them. You can help preserve these natural resources when you visit. To that end, here are ten great destinations that offer hiking for beginners, along with helpful hiking tips and green, environmentally-friendly advice to help you tread lightly while on a Virginia hiking trail.

Shot Tower

Hike Distance: 3.0-mile there-and-back

Nearest Town: Austinville

Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 36.883091, -80.858408

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Photo Credit: Bill Crabtree Jr.

The Beginner Hike: This hike traces a historic converted rail line that leads to a shot tower — used in making lead rifle shot back in the 1800s — one of only three such towers in the United States. Start at Foster Falls, a former milling community on the banks of the New River. Tour the assortment of old structures before walking the level New River Trail, astride the powerful river of the same name. Reach the shot tower, appreciating the 200-year plus year old structure before backtracking on the New River Trail to Foster Falls.

Hiking Tip: Stay on designated trails. Most hikers get truly lost when they leave the path. If you become disoriented, don’t panic––that may result in a bad decision and make your predicament worse. Retrace your steps if you can remember them or stay where you are. Rangers check the trails first when searching for lost or overdue hikers.

Green Tip: Load PDFs of park trail maps onto your smart phone, eliminating the necessity of paper maps. If you do use paper maps, please return them to where they were originally obtained so they can be reused by other hikers. This saves trees and taxpayer dollars.

Rowland Creek Falls

Hike Distance: 3.4-mile there-and-back

Nearest Town: Marion

Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 36.736028, -81.563250

The Beginner Hike: This pretty waterfall hike at Mount Rogers Recreation Area starts in the wide lower valley of Rowland Creek, which becomes pinched in by rocky Chestnut Ridge. The hike then steepens and comes to Rowland Creek Falls, a 50-foot stair step cascade. Numerous rock ledges lend a cascading effect to the falls. Use care scrambling around this long, tall cataract.  

Hiking Tip: Always carry food and water, whether you are going on a long or short hike. Food will give you energy, help keep you warm, and sustain you in an emergency situation until help arrives. And it is always important to stay hydrated.

Green Tip: Virginia trails are great for exercising the adage “Take only pictures, leave only footprints”.

Sky Meadows Views

Hike Distance: 2.3-mile loop

Nearest Town: Paris

Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 38.99216, -77.96642

The Beginner Hike: This hike at Sky Meadows State Park leads to fine views at a newer state park carved out of a scenic and historic Virginia farm in northern Virginia. These paths traverse a blend of woods and meadows. Moreover, the views are something to behold – vast panoramas of hills and lowlands to the east affirming your notion that Sky Meadows in not your average state park of yesteryear. Start at the visitor center, head up Piedmont Overlook Trail to North Ridge Trail to Gap Run Trail, finally joining historic Boston Mill Road back to the trailhead.  

Hiking Tip: When hiking in the cold, dress in layers. Remove layers of clothing as you warm up and store them in your daypack. A toboggan and gloves help greatly. I generally wear lesser clothes, starting out a little cool, then warm up, rather than having on excessive clothing then having to shed layers immediately.

Green Tip: Stay on established trails as much as possible. If there aren’t any, stay on surfaces that will be least affected, like rock, gravel, dry grasses, or snow.

Potomac Overlook

Hike Distance: 4.0-mile loop

Nearest Town: Berthaville

Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 38.332, -77.14472

The Beginner Hike: Hike to an overlook on the Potomac River at Caledon State Park, an underutilized Virginia hiking getaway that rewards those who make their way to this designated national natural landmark noted for its old growth oak and tulip trees. From the former plantation home trailhead, take the Boyds Hole Trail, then join the Potomac Overlook Trail to reach a bluff and panorama above the big waterway. Return via the Hampstead Road Trail, enjoying the big trees as well as marshes and wildflowers.

Hiking Tip: Take along your brain. A cool, calculating mind is the single most important piece of equipment you’ll ever need on the trail. Think before you act. Watch your step. Plan ahead. Avoiding accidents before they happen is the best recipe for a rewarding and relaxing trek.

Green Tip: For rest stops, get off the trail so others won’t have to hike around you. Head for resilient surfaces without vegetation if possible.

Big Schloss

Hike Distance: 4.2-mile there-and-back

Nearest Town: Woodstock

Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 38.92422, -78.68882

Photo Credit: Jonathan Kozowyk

The Beginner Hike: This exciting adventure in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest straddles the state line with West Virginia. The ridge-running Mill Mountain Trail takes you up to Big Schloss, a massive outcrop with multiple stellar panoramas — and a land bridge leading to the outermost outcrop, adding to the excitement.

Hiking Tip: Be careful at overlooks. Virginia’s mountains have numerous bluffs and outcrops. While these areas provide spectacular views, they are potentially hazardous. Stay back from the edge of outcrops and be absolutely sure of your footing.

Green Tip: Be a happy land steward. Pick up after others who have left trash behind so that those who come after you will enjoy a better hiking experience.

Corbin Cabin Loop

Hike Distance: 4.3-mile loop

Nearest Town: Luray

Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 38.61575, -78.35055

The Beginner Hike: Hike to one of the best preserved cabins at Shenandoah National Park. Leave Skyline Drive then take a pioneer-originated path down to the pretty Hughes River and the Corbin Cabin. You can even rent it for overnight lodging! Your return route makes a steady climb on the Nicholson Hollow Trail to meet the revered Appalachian Trail, of which Virginia has more miles than any other state. Roll a bit on the AT to complete the loop. 

Hiking Tip: Know the symptoms of hypothermia. Shivering and forgetfulness are two common indicators of this cold-weather threat. Hypothermia can occur at higher elevations even in the summer. If symptoms arise, get the victim shelter, hot liquids, and dry clothes or a dry sleeping bag.

Green Tip: Don’t pick wildflowers or try to transplant plant or animal life from parks and preserves. Natural preserves provide a place for plants and animals to thrive.

Grandview Nature Preserve

Hike Distance: 5.0-mile out-and-back

Nearest Town: Hampton

Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 37.082738, -76.275908

The Beginner Hike: Explore this preserved coastal marsh and beach, trekking along the shoreline of Chesapeake Bay. This is a wildlife rich area, especially for birders. The largest colony of least terns on the Atlantic coast nests here in spring. The walk is 2.5 miles one way out to a sand spit and former lighthouse site. Note: the end of the spit is off limits in summer due to nesting migratory birds.  

Hiking Tip: Use trekking poles while hiking. They aid balance, exercise your upper body, help you climb and descend, as well as absorb shock.

Green Tip: Hike on open trails only. Respect trail and road closures. Ask if you are not sure. There’s usually a valid reason if a trail is closed — storm damage, mudslides, wildlife breeding area, etc.  

High Bridge Trail

Hike Distance: 3.5-mile out-and-back including small loop

Nearest Town: Farmville

Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 37.32394, -78.33708

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Photo Credit: Big Orange Frame

The Beginner Hike: This cool hike on a rail-trail, part of High Bridge Trail State Park, starts near the town of Farmville, a Virginia must-visit. Leave River Road, then take the level rail-trail a mile to reach the High Bridge spanning the Appomattox River. Enjoy views from your high-up vantage point, then leave the rail trail to circle Camp Paradise earthworks, a defensive bastion during the Civil War. Backtrack to the trailhead, enjoying the High Bridge views one more time. Then head into downtown Farmville for refreshment.   

Hiking Tip: When sharing the trail with equestrians or mountain bikers, adhere to the following protocol: Hikers and bicyclers yield to equestrians and bicyclers yield to hikers. That way we can all enjoy Virginia’s pathways together.

Green Tip: Leave rocks in their natural state. Rock piles and man-made pyramids distract from the natural surroundings and can mislead other hikers into thinking the rock piles are for navigation.

Bark Camp Lake Loop

Hike Distance: 3.6-mile loop

Nearest Town: Coeburn

Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 36.867554, -82.522983

The Beginner Hike: Make a circuit around this 60-acre mountain impoundment that also offers fishing, paddling, camping, and picnicking in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest. Start at the main recreation area on the Lakeshore Trail, then hike along the water by Kitchen Rock to then use a long boardwalk to traverse the lake’s upper wetland. Meet and join the Chief Benge Scout Trail. Continue in deep woods, rhododendron and cross small creeks before hiking atop the lake dam to return to the trailhead. 

Hiking Tip: Be especially careful when crossing streams. If you have any doubt about maintaining your balance on a footlog, ford the stream instead. When fording, use trekking poles or a stout limb for balance and face upstream as you cross. If a stream seems too deep, turn back. Whatever is on the other side is not worth risking your life.

Green Tip: Honor leash laws. Think of your fellow hikers before setting your dog free. Unleashed dogs might also chase wildlife and perhaps become lost.

John J. Radcliffe Conservation Area

Hike Distance: 3.0-mile loop

Nearest Town: Petersburg

Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 36.867554, -82.522983

The Beginner Hike: This beautiful tract of land has a little bit of everything – river views, hills, pretty little streams, spring wildflowers and wetlands. Start just below the Lake Chesdin Dam along a state designated scenic section of the lower Appomattox River. Trek alongside the rocky, rapid-pocked river then take a 500-foot boardwalk as you circle a swamp backed by stony hills back to the trailhead.

Hiking Tip: As much as possible know your equipment, your ability, and the area where you are hiking — then prepare accordingly. Be self-sufficient at all times. Most hiking accidents/rescues start with ill-prepared walkers overestimating their abilities. In contrast, a well-executed trip is a satisfaction to you and to others. It builds your confidence and makes you want to hit the trail again.

Green Tip: Be weatherwise. Always check the forecast before your hike. Sometimes trails can be too muddy to hike. Thunderstorms can be downright dangerous for hikers and damaging to the land. Don’t be afraid to call off your hike for another day.

The post Virginia Hiking for Beginners: Trail Picks, Hiking Tips, & More appeared first on Virginia's Travel Blog.

Safe Summer Adventures: 30+ Outdoor Activities for Kids

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Every spring, summer, and even autumn, outdoor adventures in Virginia should be on your agenda. But with so many options, how do you find suitable activities for your family? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Kid-Friendly Hiking & Climbing

One of the best outdoor kid-friendly activities you can do during warmer months is spending time in nature.

Kids will love hiking the TRACK Trails at The Peaks of Otter and Mint Springs Valley Park. Plus, by registering their trail adventures, kids can earn a total of six prizes.

For easy access to forested wetlands, the 3.5-mile Greensprings Interpretative Trail in Williamsburg and the 0.8-mile Augusta Springs Wetlands Trail in Augusta County are two fabulous options. Both places are good for birdwatching and learning about the local habitat through kid-friendly educational signage.

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Photo Credit: Taryn White

If you’re looking for rugged scenery with incredible water views and various trails from easy to moderate, it’s hard to beat Great Falls National Park. Shenandoah National Park also has a variety of family-friendly trails, including Stony Man Trail and Blackrock Summit.

Related post: 5 Best Scenic Hikes in Virginia for Families

To participate in a more structured outdoor experience, plan a trip to a kid-friendly adventure or obstacle course. In Williamsburg’s historic Freedom Park, a park that dates from the 1650s, you can swing freely through the treetops at Go Ape, an exciting 38-obstacle treetop adventure. A similar experience is offered at Treetop Quest in Roanoke and Sandy River Adventure Course outside of Farmville.

Family Bike Trails

Located in southwestern Virginia near the North Carolina state line, the Virginia Creeper Trail is one of the best biking trails in Virginia. The 35-mile trail was a former railway converted to a multi-purpose trail for pedestrians, cyclists, and pets. The trail cuts across diverse terrain from mountains to rivers. For an easier ride, begin at Whitetop Mountain and take the one-way route for 17 miles downhill to Damascus.

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The Virginia Beach Boardwalk is another excellent place to go biking. The boardwalk has separate biking and walking paths, so both cyclists and pedestrians alike can enjoy the area without worrying about collisions or having to dodge each other. For an even more thrilling ride, rent a tandem surrey bike right off the beach.

Completed in 2015, the Virginia Capital Trail is a wonderful trail to bike for scenic water views. This 52-mile bicycle and pedestrian route links Virginia’s most formative cities, Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Richmond.

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Photo Credit: Beth Furgurson

With numerous bike-friendly trails within its vicinity, Williamsburg is also a great place for families to explore via bike.

Amusement Parks

What could be more fun than spending a warm day at an amusement park? Virginia boasts two amusement parks that offer fun for the whole family: Kings Dominion and Splash Park and Busch Gardens.

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Photo Credit: Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Due to the pandemic, both parks are operating with limited capacity, and face masks, health screenings, and temperature checks are required. The parks have also added hand sanitizing stations and contactless forms of payment.

Some rides and attractions will be closed because they don’t allow for social distancing. For those that are open, wait lines will be marked for social distancing, and seats and armrests will be sanitized frequently.

An alternative to the Splash Park at Kings Dominion, Massanutten Outdoor WaterPark has both indoor and outdoor parks, including a new “MASS Mayhem” experience in which participants experience zero weightlessness as they plunge 47 feet down a half pipe.

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To avoid peak crowds at these parks, visit during weekdays.

For the Plant & Animal Lovers

Virginia has so many beautiful botanical gardens. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, and Norfolk Botanical Garden are three of the best!

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Not only are these botanical gardens lovely places to take long walks with the family, but they are also lovely places to take family photos—entrance fees and photographer permits may apply.

Families will love virtually traveling around the world at the WOW Children’s Garden at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. The garden’s interactive exhibits include world-themed splash fountains, Passport Gardens, Discovery Peak, and the Plant Safari.

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Roaming around flower fields, such as Burnside Farms or White Oak Lavender Farm, is not only beautiful, it’s a relaxing way to slow down and literally stop and smell the flowers.

To see animals from around the world, take a trip to the Metro Richmond Zoo or the Mill Mountain Zoo, which is located in Mill Mountain Park and Discovery Center.

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Photo Credit: Nicole Franklin

One exciting way to get close to animals is a visit to the Virginia Wildlife Safari Park and Natural Bridge Zoo, which offer drive-through safaris where participants interact with animals from the convenience of their cars. You can also visit Natural Bridge State Park when you visit either of these two facilities.

On the Water

During warmer months, a visit to one of Virginia’s beaches will undoubtedly be a big hit with the kids. Though each of Virginia’s major beach areas—Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Sandbridge Beach, Cape Charles, and Chincoteague Island—offer something different, they all share one thing in common: sunny sandy shores.

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Photo Credit: Adam Lewis, IG account: @adamtlewis

Aside from sunbathing and going for a refreshing swim in the ocean, there are numerous other water activities to try across Virginia, such as kayaking. Popular spots for beginners to kayak are Pohick Bay Regional Park in Woodbridge, the James River in Lynchburg, and the Shenandoah River in Front Royal.

Another popular place to go kayaking is Smith Mountain Lake, the most popular and second largest lake in Virginia. Here, you can also go sailing, swimming, and fishing. There’s even a man-made beach at Smith Mountain Lake Community Park.

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Photo Credit: Taryn White

One of the most unique outdoor family-friendly activities in Virginia is crabbing at Belle Isle State Park, which also offers lectures and demonstrations related to the environment.

Stargazing

Even if you didn’t see the Christmas Star of 2020, you can still see the constellations in four of Virginia’s parks:

Big Meadows Stargazing

For additional locations, see the comprehensive list of Virginia’s premier stargazing destinations.

Have you done any of these family-friendly outdoor activities in Virginia? Tell us in the comments.

TARYN WHITE IS A travel writer AND FOUNDER OF THE TRIP WISH LIST. HAVING VISITED ALL 50 US STATES AND MORE THAN 75 COUNTRIES, SHE SEES TRAVEL AS TRANSFORMATIVE AND HAS A PASSION FOR FAMILY, wellness, and THE OUTDOORS. TO SEE MORE OF HER INCREDIBLE JOURNEYS, FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM!

The post Safe Summer Adventures: 30+ Outdoor Activities for Kids appeared first on Virginia's Travel Blog.

Your Guide to Visiting Virginia in May

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One of the most delightful months to travel in Virginia due to abundant spring blooms and excellent weather for outdoor activities like hiking and biking, May is also a great time to head to historic sites with magnificent gardens. 

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Photo Credit: Rich Grant, @richgrantdenver

Virginia is well known for its history, with dozens of notable historic destinations spread throughout the Commonwealth. A top choice for travelers is Colonial Williamsburg, a recreated 18th-century city reconstructed on over 300 acres, making it the largest living history museum in the United States. Many of the original buildings from the era remain, and visitors wandering the grounds will feel like they have stepped back into a 1776 colonial village. 

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Photo Credit: Rich Grant, @richgrantdenver

Along with the historic structures, Colonial Williamsburg’s Gardens are an impressive aspect of the tour. Don’t miss strolling the grounds of the Governor’s Palace, complete with a formal garden and nature park. The arboretum at Williamsburg, featuring over 100 species of trees and woody plants, is another prime spot for a relaxing walk within the grounds. Baby lambs roam fenced pastures in the spring, adding yet another charming touch to the bucolic scenery. With a total of 30 carefully manicured gardens, Colonial Williamsburg is a fantastic destination for visitors looking to take in a little history with a lot of natural beauty. 

Other historic sites with gorgeous gardens include three homes of American Presidents: George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and James Madison’s Montpelier

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Mount Vernon, located about 18 miles south of Washington, D.C., has a total of four separate gardens, as well as breathtaking views of the Potomac River. While some areas of the property are restricted to pets, guests are welcome to bring leashed pets along as they walk the grounds of America’s first President. 

If you’re visiting Charlottesville, both Monticello and Montpelier are just a short drive from the downtown area.

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Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s architectural marvel, is surrounded by immaculate gardens designed by this Virginian Founding Father. Combining ornamental flower beds, gardens and orchards utilized as a source of food for the residents, and an experimental laboratory for creating new botanic blooms, Jefferson’s gardens are considered an agricultural masterpiece.

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Photo Credit: Aaron Watson, @aaronwatsonphotography

Roughly 45 minutes from Monticello, Montpelier’s expansive grounds are more pastoral than either Mount Vernon or Monticello, but you’ll find plenty of flowers in bloom spread throughout the property. 

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Looking for more destinations that showcase the best spring flowers? Consider visiting one of Virginia’s botanical gardens, such as Norfolk Botanical Garden, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Northern Virginia, or Richmond’s Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where you can tour their Million Blooms exhibit throughout May. 

The Newest Attractions in Virginia

The Smithfield Arts Festival debuts in May 2022. This family-friendly festival includes an art show, local artisan crafts, food vendors, live music, and artist demonstrations. 

Opening in May 2022, Blevins Family Vineyard is located in Halifax and features a scenic vineyard, spacious tasting room, and an events space for weddings and other celebrations. 

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Photo Credit: Chad Williams, @echadwilliams

Richmond’s Virginia Museum of History & Culture completes a nearly $30 million renovation project, with a grand reopening date of May 14th. The 250,000-square-foot complex includes an interactive learning space for families, multiple new exhibition spaces, an immersive orientation theater, a research library, cafe, museum store, and many other new amenities. 

The Ballpark Loudoun opens in May as a unique and fun sports entertainment experience for all ages and skill levels. Combining cutting-edge technology, a full-service restaurant and bar, and top-of-the-line skill development opportunities, the Ballpark Loudoun has four interactive batting cages and gaming opportunities ranging from team competitions to home run challenges, all taking place on an array of virtual baseball stadium backdrops. 

If planning a trip to Southwest Virginia, consider staying at the newly opened Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards in Bristol. A 28-room luxury boutique inn, Nicewonder sits on over 400 acres of countryside, with world-class culinary and wine programs, and beautifully appointed rooms overlooking the lavish property.

Where to Stay

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Colonial Williamsburg has a variety of on-site accommodations, from family-friendly cabins to upscale resort rooms. Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel and Suites is suited for those traveling with children, while the Williamsburg Inn offers luxurious, five-star accommodations. Maintain the 18th-century atmosphere of Colonial Williamsburg when you stay in their uniquely-decorated Colonial Houses

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Photo Credit: The Detour Duo, @thedetour_duo

Another choice for an overnight stay in Williamsburg is the Great Wolf Lodge, a family-friendly resort with a cavernous indoor water park, themed suites, laser tag, a Build-A-Bear Workshop, and an outdoor ropes course. 

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Photo Courtesy of Morrison House

Near George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Morrison House is only a block away from King Street, where you’ll find countless options for excellent dining and shopping. The rooms are elegant yet approachable, enveloping guests in comfortable luxury. 

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Charlottesville has a wide array of accommodations that range from the most basic hotels to upscale resorts suited for even the most discerning traveler. The Draftsman Hotel is conveniently located on Main Street and is within walking distance of several of Charlottesville’s finest restaurants as well as the University of Virginia campus. 

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Photo Credit: Kate Thompson

A second luxury lodging option on Main Street is the Quirk Hotel Charlottesville, where a rooftop bar welcomes visitors to grab a drink and enjoy prime views of the city. 

Where to Eat

There are many on-site restaurants in Colonial Williamsburg, such as King’s Arms Tavern, Chowning’s Tavern, and other historic taverns. You can also sample more modern fare at restaurants like Traditions, the Rockefeller Room, and Sweet Tea & Barley. 

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Additionally, you’ll find fine dining right around the corner from Colonial Williamsburg at Fat Canary, Amber Ox Public House, and Cochon on 2nd

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Photo Courtesy of Morrison House

If visiting Mount Vernon and staying at Alexandria’s Morrison House, dine on Modern American cuisine at The Study, the inn’s on-site restaurant. Chef Tomas Chavarria serves up regionally sourced plates like Korobuta Pork Belly and Seven Hills Farms Dry-Aged Strip Loin, which pair well with the classic cocktails made by the experienced bartenders. There is no shortage of award-winning restaurants in downtown Alexandria, however. No matter what type of cuisine you’re craving, this historic Northern Virginia city will hit the spot. 

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Photo Credit: Bill Crabtree Jr.

Check out Michie Tavern, just .5 miles from Monticello, to get a taste of the 18th-century. Built in 1784, this historic restaurant features servers in period attire and southern foods traditionally eaten by colonists in Virginia.

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Photo Credit: Kate Thompson

Dine at the Pink Grouse, located within Charlottesville’s Quirk Hotel, for rustic yet refined fare. There is also a rooftop bar and restaurant that has both indoor and outdoor seating options, and on chilly evenings, firepits allow guests to take in the views while staying cozy and warm. 

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Many other fantastic restaurants are within walking distance of the Draftsman and Quirk Hotel, including Little Star, a Mexican/Spanish fusion restaurant serving up delicious small plates, and Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar, where classic Mediterranean recipes from Italy, Spain, Greece, and the South of France are on the menu.

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After touring Montpelier, head to the Market at Grelen, a farm-to-table cafe, European-style boutique, garden nursery, and pick-your-own farm, all within a sprawling 1,000-acre landscape surrounded by the rolling hills of Virginia’s Piedmont region. Miles of walking trails run throughout the property, and guests are welcome to explore at their leisure, setting down a picnic at their favorite spot.

What to Do

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The first thing to do when visiting Virginia’s Presidential estates? Explore the historic homes and exhibits, of course. As with many early American historic sites, these properties have had to grapple with the horrifying truth of slavery and how these massive estates were run off slave labor. In addition to touring the spaces where these early American Presidents lived, worked, and dreamed of our country’s future, be sure to check out the exhibits that share the untold stories of the enslaved peoples that once did the same. 

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At Montpelier, “The Mere Distinction of Colour” exhibit opened in 2017 after years of archaeological and historical research. The moving displays tell a more complete American story, highlighting the economic, ideological, and political factors that cemented slavery into the newly founded country. While the general history of slavery is covered, there are also personal stories of enslaved people who once lived on the Montpelier estate and the heartbreaking tales of their tribulations. 

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Monticello’s “The Life of Sally Hemings” exhibit is just one of the showcases that sheds light on the enslaved people of the estate. Like many enslaved women, Sally Hemings bore children fathered by her owner, but unlike most, she was able to negotiate with Jefferson to arrange for the emancipation of her children. This unique story sheds light on the unequal balance of power that prevented any real relationship between the enslaved women and their owners, as well as the fundamental paradox of the Founding Fathers, who fought for the freedom of a nation, yet would not grant the same for the people they owned. 

George Washington’s Mount Vernon was not just the home of the first American President and his family, but also over 600 enslaved men, women, and children. After the Revolutionary War, Washington began rethinking his stance on slavery in private but avoided the topic in public, as he felt it would break the shaky foundation upon which the country was recently built. It wasn’t until his death that he freed the enslaved people he owned at Mount Vernon, although this was less than half the enslaved population on the estate, as Martha owned the rest and did not free them after her husband’s death. While touring Mount Vernon, you’ll learn about the meals, housing, and family life of the enslaved people who worked the grounds. 

These iconic American history destinations have become synonymous with Virginia, but the lesser-known stories of the enslaved communities are just as important in understanding the founding of our country, completing the incredible narrative of how these early Americans forever changed the world. 

More Virginia Vacation Ideas for May

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Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival, Photo Credit: Ryan Guite

There are many music festivals and live concerts at local venues happening throughout Virginia in May. Grab tickets to these May music performances and festivals see some of the biggest bands in the nation perform!

Get tickets to the Virginia Gold Cup (the last day to purchase tickets is April 20th!), happening Saturday, May 7th at Great Meadows in the Plains. The oldest and largest steeplechase event celebrates its 97th anniversary in 2022, spectators come out to socialize and entertain, as well as participate in the competitive hat contest, where celebrity judges will choose their favorites (this is also a fun spectator sport, as the over-the-top hats tend to be extremely entertaining!). This year, tailgate packages and hospitality tents are available to rent, but general admission passes will not be offered for this year’s event. 

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Photo Credit: Anola Douglas, @anolaloveswine

Head to Norfolk on May 7th-8th for the Spring Town Point Virginia Wine Festival or on May 20th-22nd for the Bayou Bon Vivant: Cajun Music & Food Festival, which has moved to an earlier date in the year to better align with the Gulf’s crawfish season. 

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Photo Credit: Caroline Martin, @carolinemartinphoto

Richmond hosts the annual Dominion Riverrock festival on May 20th-22nd, the nation’s premier outdoor sports and music festival held on and around Brown’s Island along the James River. Sign up for events like the Mountain Bike Time Trial, Trail Takedown, or enter water-loving pups in the Ultimate Air Dogs competition. You’ll also have the chance to try out outdoor gear such as kayaks, SUPs, slacklines, and even bouldering courses. 

Now that you’ve got a few ideas for a May vacation to Virginia, it’s time to start planning! Experience all there is to LOVE about Virginia when you explore a few of the historic sites and gardens across the Commonwealth.

The post Your Guide to Visiting Virginia in May appeared first on Virginia's Travel Blog.

Virginia is for Adventurers: Kid-Friendly Scavenger Hunts Around Virginia

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Do you want to go on a scavenger hunt across the state of Virginia? This summer, travelers can replicate the outdoor adventures outlined in the book “Virginia is for Adventurers”, or participate in mini scavenger hunts inspired by the story (during the summer of 2022, there will even be real prizes hidden around Virginia!).

Photo Credit: Tara Fisher, @virginiaisforadventurers

The story follows 10-year-old Meg and her friends as they compete in a ten-day
scavenger hunt across Virginia. The chapters are organized by region and the
characters complete three adventures each day. The itineraries in the book are easy to
replicate and travelers can modify them to best fit their interests.

Adventure lovers will also have the opportunity to compete for real prizes by
participating in mini scavenger hunts across the state! These will occur in every
region at various locations mentioned in the book during the summer of 2022. Details can be found at virginiaisforadventurers.com/2022-scavenger-hunt.

On the first page of the book, readers learn that Meg and her family are from
Wytheville. This Southwest Virginia town provides the perfect backdrop for an adventure, and is known for its giant pencil, world-famous Skeeterdogs, and a 100-foot lookout tower.

Photo Credit: Tara Fisher, @virginiaisforadventurers

Let’s start with the giant pencil; it is 30 feet long and hangs above the Wytheville
Office Supply
store on West Main Street. It’s not the world’s biggest pencil, but
the jokes about making it a point to stop in Wytheville are, well, on point. The
yellow pencil and pink eraser command your attention as you drive through the
town’s historic district.

Inside the office supply store, another surprise awaits. A giant pair of scissors
with moving blades is plugged into a wall above the shelves of paper. It’s not as big
as the giant pencil, but it’s definitely cutting edge!

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Photo Credit: Tara Fisher, @virginiaisforadventurers

After you take a photo of the giant pencil and scissors, walk across the street to
Skeeter’s. This is Meg’s favorite place. The local eatery has been around since
1925, and you can get a Skeeterdog for less than $4.00 any day of the week.

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Photo Credit: Emily Miller

What comes on a Skeeterdog, you ask? The short answer is mustard, onions, and
chili. But the winning combo has something to do with the fact that the hotdog is
steamed, the mustard is minimal, the onions are diced, and the chili has just the
right amount of spice.

For the optimal dining experience, order a side of crinkle fries. They’re served up
crispy and hot in a red plastic basket. While you’re waiting for your food to arrive,
you can spin on the stools at the lunch counter and take in the vintage
décor.

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photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

When your stomach is satisfied, enjoy a 20-minute drive to Big Walker Lookout.
The 100-foot tower has 360-degree views and on a clear day, you can see West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. The journey up the tower may make you weak in the knees, but it rewards you with breathtaking views.

For some travelers, the views at the top of the tower are the best part. For Meg,
it’s the old country store below the tower that makes the trip worthwhile. This is
where you will discover mystery boxes and F.R.O.G. jelly.

In the book (and at the Big Walker Store), mystery boxes are wrapped in plain white paper with only two things written on the outside—the cost and category. Unwrapping these boxes is the best surprise because you never know what you’ll find inside. As for F.R.O.G. jelly, it stands for fig, raspberry, orange, and ginger. It may not sound like a winning combo, but just like mystery boxes, you could be surprised by what you find inside.

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photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

When your day of exploration draws to a close, you can rest your head on a pillow
at the Bolling Wilson Hotel. This boutique building has 30 beautifully restored
rooms and a rooftop view of Skeeter’s. When it was established in 1927, you could
rent a single room for $1.50 and a double for $2.50.

The hotel is named after Wytheville’s most notable citizen, Edith Bolling Wilson.
She was President Woodrow Wilson’s second wife, and she’s often referred to as
“The Secret President” because of the role she played in the White House during
World War I. You can learn more at the Edith Bolling Wilson Museum, which is
right across the street.

Before you drive out of town, there are two more things Meg would want you to
explore. Both will provide a colorful conclusion to your trip. One is the water tower
and the other is the LOVEwork.

The tower is designed to look like a huge hot air balloon, and you can see it when
you’re driving on I-81. It’s tied to the Chautauqua Festival, a week-long music and arts festival featuring colorful hot air balloons. The festival takes place in Wytheville
over the summer.

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photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

The image of a hot air balloon is one that’s commonly associated with Wytheville,
and it’s woven into the town’s LOVE sign too. The O in the word LOVE matches the
colorful balloon on the water tower, while the V showcases Wytheville’s location at
the intersection of I-77 and I-81. As for the L and the E, they are tied to the
town’s railroad and baseball history.

So, if you’re in search of an adventure that includes big balloons, a giant pencil,
world-famous hotdogs, and a 100-foot lookout tower, look no further than
Wytheville!

And if you want to go on a real-life scavenger hunt this summer for mystery boxes in Wytheville or any other region of the state, you can find details at www.virginiaisforadventurers.com. Like Meg’s mystery boxes, these will be wrapped in plain white paper and will hold an array of fun prizes.

Miss out on finding one of these special mystery boxes? You can still win a big prize! Anyone who participates in one of the mini scavenger hunts this summer and turns in their completed clue sheets will be eligible for the grand prize–$250 cash and a $2,500 donation to the winner’s elementary school of choice. The fun is free for everyone and no registration is required.

May your journeys be filled with blue mountains, green valleys, and sweet Virginia
breezes. Hope to see you out there!

This post is written by Tara Z. Fisher, author of the kid’s book, “Virginia is for Adventurers”

The post Virginia is for Adventurers: Kid-Friendly Scavenger Hunts Around Virginia appeared first on Virginia's Travel Blog.

Your Guide to Visiting Virginia in July

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Summer may have arrived in June, but by the time July in Virginia comes around, the season is in full swing. Many people opt for a beach, lake, or bayfront vacation during the summertime, but an underrated destination is Virginia’s mountains. With temps often about ten degrees cooler than in the lower elevations, you’ll discover the peaks of the Commonwealth a refreshing alternative to the sandy shores in the summer months. 

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Photo Credit: Kristina Love, @kristinalovephotography

There are many charming mountain towns and cities worth a visit, providing everything from quiet rural retreats to action-packed adventure getaways that the whole family will love. One such outdoor destination is Roanoke, often called the “Star City of the South”. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and right off the famed Blue Ridge Parkway, Roanoke combines the urban advantages like a wide array of incredible restaurants and several bustling neighborhoods with impressive outdoor recreation and scenic beauty. 

The Newest Attractions for Virginia’s Mountains

The Liberty Trust, originally constructed as a bank headquarters in 1910 in downtown Roanoke, reopened in early 2022 after undergoing a full historic restoration. The 54-room luxury lifestyle hotel offers awe-inspiring views of the city and the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Where to Stay

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Photo Credit: Rich Grant, @richgrantdenver

Luxury lodging can be found at the newly renovated Liberty Trust, mentioned above, or at the historic Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, both in downtown Roanoke. Built in 1882, the Tudor-style Hotel Roanoke blends historic elements with modern comforts. 

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Photo Credit: Shannon Terry 

Outdoor enthusiasts can stay at Explore Park, where lodging options range from primitive campsites and RV sites to yurts and pod cabins. Rates for the campsites start at just $25 per night while pod cabins start at $60 per night and $75 per night for yurts. 

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Photo Credit: Shannon Terry 

The property features hundreds of acres of peaceful woodlands and rolling hills, with activities like mountain biking, zip lines, treetop obstacle courses, hiking trails, disc golf, and waterfront sports like canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, tubing, and fishing.  

Where to Eat

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Photo Credit: John Park, @hungryasianrke

For breakfast, we recommend visiting Scratch Biscuit Company. As the name implies, the biscuits are made fresh daily “from scratch”, and with more-than-generous portion sizes, you’ll start the day with a full stomach and possibly even some leftovers.

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Photo Credit: John Park, @hungryasianrke

Enjoy southern fare at The River & Rail, a favorite spot for locals that focuses on seasonably available, sustainably raised, and organic ingredients. 

An excellent option for dinner is Fortunato Restaurant, known for the traditional Italian fare with a twist, as well as the Neapolitan-style pizzas. Pair your meal with one of their signature cocktails or pick from the extensive wine selection. And don’t miss ending the meal with a decadent Italian dessert such as a cannoli, tiramisu, or the zeppole–a serving of ricotta doughnuts topped with honey, powdered sugar, chocolate, anisette, and orange sauce. Before leaving, peep into the dining room at the far end of the restaurant, where half of a van has been painted and mounted on the wall as a one-of-a-kind mural. 

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Stop into Pop’s Ice Cream & Soda Bar in Roanoke’s Grandin Village neighborhood with the kids for sweet treats and retro vibes. The old-fashioned soda shop also serves over a dozen wild takes on the grilled cheese sandwich, such as the “Hold the Cheese”, a grilled peanut butter and banana version, and the “Sharply Sweet”, made with cinnamon cream cheese, sharp cheddar, and fresh apple slices. 

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Photo Credit: Shannon Terry

In addition to an array of dining options, Roanoke is known for its craft brewery scene. With over a half dozen breweries within city limits and another half dozen only a short distance away, you could spend an entire day visiting the breweries in the Roanoke area and still not sample all the brews (we don’t recommend trying this–pace yourself!). 

What to Do

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

If you’re looking to add a little adrenaline to your vacation, don’t miss out on the region’s mountain biking, designated the only Silver-Level Ride Center on the East Coast by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). In addition to mountain biking trails, the Roanoke Valley Greenway winds through downtown Roanoke, offering about 26 miles of biking trails, with much of that paved.

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

Another way to enjoy the beauty of Virginia’s outdoors is to take a scenic road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Make sure you’ve got plenty of extra time to stop along the way and explore the pristine trails along this winding mountain route, as the rhododendrons reach their peak of blooming in July. One such hike is Humpback Rocks, a four-mile loop that includes part of the Appalachian Trail, but there are trails for every age and skill level along the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

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Infuse a bit of history and culture into your vacation at one of Roanoke’s museums, such as the Taubman Museum of Art, the Harrison Museum of African American Culture, or the Roanoke Pinball Museum, which will delight both kids and adults. Another family-friendly museum is the Kid’s Square Children’s Museum, where kids will have the opportunity for hands-on learning and fun. 

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

The Historic Roanoke City Market is open seven days a week, but you’ll find the most vendors, farmers, and artisans lining the streets on Saturdays. There are also numerous boutiques and locally-owned shops in the downtown Roanoke area where you can peruse everything from handmade chocolates to vintage vinyl records.

Catch a Minor League Baseball game when you get tickets to the Salem Red Sox. The finest minor league field in the United States, the arena is set against the picturesque backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

And of course, no visit to Roanoke is complete without a stop at the Roanoke Star. In addition to getting an up-close look at the monument, the attraction also affords wide-open views of the city below. 

More Virginia Vacation Ideas for July

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Plan a trip to the Commonwealth during the first weekend in July to attend some of Virginia’s 4th of July celebrations. Brilliant fireworks displays are happening in practically every city or town, as well as parades, historic events, and live music performances. Notable locations for 4th of July events include Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon’s “An American Celebration”, Richmond’s Fireworks at the Diamond, and Wintergreen Resort’s July 4th Jubilee

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

If a more rural retreat in the Commonwealth’s quiet countryside is on the agenda, you may want to plan a summer road trip through Southwest Virginia. With hundreds of miles of trails available for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, and ATV off-roading, this region’s indescribable beauty is on full display in July. Start in Roanoke and follow the less-traveled route to Abingdon to enjoy the journey as well as the destination. 

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Image Courtesy of the Tides Inn

Got a big birthday, anniversary, or notable milestone to celebrate this summer? Book a special weekend trip to the Tides Inn on Virginia’s Northern Neck during the weekend of July 16th for a once-in-a-lifetime experience–a Whiskey Run across the water followed by an extravagant dinner at the Tides Inn’s on-site restaurant, the Chesapeake Restaurant & Terrace.

Commemorating the 75th anniversary of this coastal property, the event starts with cocktails by the water, followed by a scenic boat ride across the Rappahannock River to get a signature bottle of Virginia whiskey. This trip replicates what a guest would have to do in 1947 to get alcohol while staying at the inn, as Lancaster was a dry county. After boarding the 127-foot “Miss Ann” boat docked at the Tides, guests traveled across the water to purchase alcohol, then returned to the inn and store their spirits in a designated liquor locker. While the “Miss Ann” has been retired, the handcrafted wood lockers still adorn the walls of the restaurant today, adding a historic element to the luxurious inn. 

Attend Richmond’s 5th Annual HeART & Soul Fest, part of the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience, to sample Soul & African cuisine, sip on local craft brews, peruse urban art, and listen to hip-hop and soul music. Founded by Richmond’s own social entrepreneur Kelli Lemon, the event raises funds for local makers, entertainers, and artists. Bring the kids and pups, as the HeArt & Soul Fest is both pet- and family-friendly. 

Now that you’ve got a few ideas for a July vacation to Virginia, it’s time to start planning! Experience all there is to LOVE about Virginia when you explore the wondrous mountains of the Commonwealth.

The post Your Guide to Visiting Virginia in July appeared first on Virginia's Travel Blog.