If you're looking to escape to the beach but not battle the tourists and crowds, First Landing State Park may be your best bet. Offering access to the beach and waters of the Chesapeake Bay, along with biking trails, hiking trails, and camping, First Landing is one of Virginia's most visited state parks. Families can choose from a variety of options to utilize the park, ranging from a day pass to overnight tent spaces to weekly cabin rentals.
Location: Virginia Beach
This 105-mile stretch of park in central Virginia is well-known for its beauty. One of the best ways to see the park is by riding the infamous Skyline Drive. Park your car along the road to hike to a waterfall, have a picnic or just take in the amazing scenery. If you have time, it's worth it to check out the ranger program schedule. These guided tours offer extra insight into specific aspects of the park.
With multiple amphitheaters and stages, this park is the only national park in the country dedicated to the performing arts. The 7,000 seat Filene Center is the centerpiece of the park, but the Children's Theatre in the Woods also provides a major draw, especially for families. And while the shows may be the main attraction at this park, particularly in the summer months, nature also takes center stage, with more than 65 acres of wetlands, streams and woodland to explore.
Want to get up close to a zebra or feed a giraffe? Those experiences are not only possible, but likely, at the Virginia Safari Park, which offers two options for getting you in touch with some of nature's more exotic animals. The drive-through safari is a 3-mile stretch of gravel road along which the animals are free to roam and encouraged to come up to your car to be fed. For an even more intimate experience, try out the walk-through safari, with more than 10 acres of feeding stations, petting opportunities and observation areas.
Location: Natural Bridge
Just outside our nation's capital, this park offers some truly magnificent views of the Potomac River. While you can view the falls from a few different overlooks, there are also 15 miles of hiking trails that take you through the woods and along the falls. The trails have various difficulty levels, so novices and experts alike will enjoy the park. Many like to bring their pets along to take in the view, and the park can get crowded, particularly when the weather is nice, so expecting some company as you enjoy nature.
As the name implies, Three Lakes Park features trails that take visitors along three man-made lakes. But the park is much more than that, with a Nature Center and aquarium on site. Visitors can learn about the animals and plants through several hands-on experiences. The best part is that everything at the park, including special classes and programs for children and families, is free! A playground and fishing are also available on site.
Location: Henrico County
A 66-foot waterfall is the centerpiece of this scenic park, and a fairly easy hike perfect for novices and families will take you to the prize view. Along the way, the shaded trails will take you through the beautiful Jefferson National Forest. Pack a lunch and take advantage of the scenic views and picnic areas. Trout fishing is also available in the Little Stony Creek site.
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