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Family activities in Virginia

Fabulous family fun

Virginia offers plenty of opportunities for family fun. Check out our top picks for family activities in Virginia.

Natural Bridge

Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center

Want to see a shark up close and personal, pet a sting ray, or generally just ogle hundreds of varieties of fish? Children of all ages (and adults too!) will love the Virginia Aquarium for its one-of-a-kind experiences. In addition to the typical aquarium exhibits, this one also offers several premium experiences. Behind the scenes tours, boat tours (including the very popular dolphin watching tour), and even the unique opportunity to play with harbor seals are all available for extra fees. The aquarium is also home to an IMAX theater, which shows both topical documentaries (some in 3D) and new-release movies.

Location: Virginia Beach

Rates: $21 for adults, $15 for children (price is for aquarium entrance, other experiences incur additional costs)

Website: virginiaaquarium.com

Carter Mountain Orchard

When fall rolls around, Virginians know it's time to head to Carter Mountain Orchard for a premium apple-picking experience. Along with apples aplenty, other fall staples are available for picking, and hayrides are offered. If you can't make it to Carter Mountain the fall, have no fear. The orchard offers peaches for picking in the summer, an apple blossom festival in the spring and a fresh-fruit market where you can purchase your own fruits and fruit products. The Orchard is closed from December through mid-April, though, so plan accordingly.

Location: Charlottesville

Website: cartermountainorchard.com

Busch Gardens and Water Country USA

These amusement parks offer fun for everyone, from thrill-seekers to those craving something a little calmer. Busch Gardens Williamsburg offers a handful of roller coasters, along with about a dozen or so rides designed just for its littlest guests and a multitude of options for everyone in between. The Sesame Street Forest of Fun is especially popular with families. In addition to the fun, families can also get up-close views of wildlife, take in a show or even take a leisurely train or boat ride. Right down the road is a water lover's paradise, Water Country USA. Set to a 1950s beach theme, the park also caters to all ages and interests, with attractions that range from wild to tame. Multi-day passes to both parks are available for purchase. Virginia residents can also purchase season-long passes for the same price as a day's admission ticket.

Location: Williamsburg

Rates: $66.99 for adults, $56.99 for children

Website: seaworldparks.com/buschgardens-williamsburg/

Jamestown Settlement

America's first settlement was located at Jamestown, Virginia. Today, visitors can experience what those first settlers and the Virginia Indians they met went through. Go on board replicas of the three ships that sailed from England to Jamestown in 1607, explore a recreated Powhatan Indian village complete with reed-covered houses, and see a replica of the original Jamestown fort. Jamestown offers a unique opportunity to step back in time and see what America was like in its earliest days. The Yorktown Victory Center is located nearby, and passes are sold that allow you to explore both areas if you wish.

Location: Williamsburg

Rates: $15.50 for adults, $7.25 for children ages 6-12

Website: historyisfun.org/Jamestown-Settlement.htm

Natural Bridge

One of Virginia's most unique attractions is the Natural Bridge, a 20-story solid rock that has been shaped into a bridge, all at the hands of Mother Nature herself. The sight is impressive and well worth exploring, but the Natural Bridge experience offers much more. Visitors can walk along trails, explore caverns and even encounter butterflies in an impressive garden.

Location: Natural Bridge

Rates: $19 for adults, $11 for children ages 5-12 (prices are bridge admission only)

Website: naturalbridgeva.com

Science Museum of Virginia

While the word "science," may conjure up some unpleasant high school memories, this museum makes science fun! Hands-on experiences, artifacts, live animals and technology abound in this unique museum that children are sure to enjoy. Live demonstrations take place throughout the day, so check the schedule to make sure you catch the things that interest you most. The museum is also home to a large IMAX screen, perfect for taking in a film if you are interested.

Location: Richmond

Rates: $11 for adults, $10 for children ages 4-12 (prices are for museum admission only; other experiences incur additional costs)

Website: smv.org

Virginia Zoo

With exhibits featuring giraffes, elephants, reptiles, monkeys and many more unique animals, the Virginia Zoo is a lot of fun to explore. The very popular Trail of the Tiger exhibit opened in 2011 and allows guests an up-close glimpse of tigers and other Asian animals. Aside from the animals, guests of all ages will also enjoy the petting zoo, train ride and even a splash in the fountains located at the entrance, which are turned on in the summer for a much-needed cool down.

Location: Norfolk

Rates: $11 for adults, $9 for children ages 2-11

Website: virginiazoo.org

Image courtesy of the Natural Bridge
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