School will be out before you know it, so it’s time now to plan your family vacation to the Shenandoah Valley with the help of the Virginia Kids Trail.
In the Valley, recreation with your kids can be as simple as a walk, a hike or a bike ride. The Virginia State Parks offer lots of opportunities. Check out Sky Meadows State Park just outside of Winchester, VA. This 1,860-acre park has scenic views, woodlands and the rolling pastures of a historic farm that captures the colonial through post-Civil War life of the Crooked Run Valley. They have just opened up a Children’s Discovery Trail. Nature and history programs are offered year-round.
In fact, there are so many options for things to do with your kids, what you might need is help narrowing down your choices. That’s where the Virginia Kids Trail comes in. Covering the Valley roughly from Harpers Ferry to Harrisonburg, the Kids Trail has “mommy-tested” itineraries, suggestions for lodging (some with Kids Trail discounts), summer camp listings, and a Kids Trail Pocket Map keyed to five areas of kid-interest: Creativity, Action, Heritage, Wellness and Lodging. Each area is represented by a colorful mascot who helps “guide” you to those types of fun. The map alone presents over 65 ideas and destinations with itinerary packages based on interest including new trips designed for grandparents and children.
If your child is into Action, Wild GUYde provides guided beginner level outdoor adventures and competent instruction in activity fundamentals. They use various areas in the George Washington National Forest and Monongahela National Forest, and along Virginia’s Blue Ridge and Shenandoah National Park.
Massanutten Resort and Water Park
Located about 10 miles east of Harrisonburg, the 6,000-acre resort features a bike park plus miles of nearby mountain bike trails, ziplines, golf and a fantastic indoor/outdoor waterpark. It is open year-round and the water temperature stays at 84 degrees Fahrenheit. It is not a “pool.” It is a sophisticated network of tubes and body slides, pipelines, hot tubs, the Adventure River, kiddie area, and even indoor surfing. The Park also features several restaurants, a huge arcade area, and a surf shop. If you prefer to swim outside, the Outdoor WaterPark opens Memorial Day this year. If the kids wear you out, sneak off to the spa and relax with a massage.
BACK IN TIME RETRO EXPERIENCES
Capon Springs & Farms is a true old fashioned seasonal getaway – less than 40 minutes from Winchester, VA. Established originally as a 19th century resort on 4,700 acres, it is now third generation family-owned and operated, treating guests like personal friends visiting in their own home providing a variety of lodging options within the 115 room capacity. The Family Drive In is one of the most popular tourism draws in the Shenandoah Valley. Step back in time to the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s when drive-in theaters were the rage. This is great affordable family fun experiencing magical movie memories under the stars.
Among the many suggestions on where to go with your children are these classic Shenandoah Valley attractions. See the map and the website for a more complete listing.
Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays, the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum in Winchester offers interactive exhibits, programs like “Art in Leo’s Corner” and “Stories Alive,” as well as summer camps for kids from preschool to high school. Watch kids work together in the Apple Packing Shed or explore how the human body functions at the Health Works. Creative play options and programs that focus on science, math, the humanities, and the arts truly allow kids to “discover” a range of endeavors. All exhibits and programs meet Virginia Standards of Learning. Ideal for school groups, field trips, birthday parties, and out-of-town visitors.
Museum of the Shenandoah Valley
Do your children like cats? From May 2 to September 1, they can see “Steinlen: Cats” — a feline-themed exhibition presenting the work of Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859–1923), an artist whose career spanned the transition from Art Nouveau to Modernism. The multi-faceted museum also includes galleries, seven acres of gardens, the Glen Burnie House, a Museum Store, and a Makerspace Studio. Galleries display changing exhibitions and Shenandoah Valley decorative arts, 18th– and 19th-century European and American fine art, and a fascinating collection of miniature houses and rooms. The museum is also embarked on a Trails Project that will open 90 acres to the public as a free park with more than three miles of walking/biking trails.
Bringing some real truth to the phrase “educational and fun,” this unique playground, a few minutes north of Front Royal, boasts life-size recreations of prehistoric life—Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus, Megalosaurus, and Coelophysis are among the 50-plus dinosaurs your awe-struck children can learn about on while you visit the extensive Gift Shop.
The Strasburg Museum in Shenandoah County opened as a National Historic Landmark in 1970. Strasburg was well known for its pottery manufacturing, with the earliest examples dating back to 1761. Treasures on display in the museum include authentic pieces from the local area spanning the Colonial era through the mid twentieth century. These exhibits include: a genuine red caboose that can be toured, a large collection of original Strasburg pottery, Civil War artifacts, historic photos and Native American artifacts, plus a working model railroad depicting Strasburg and the Southern Railway in the 1930s. Of course you can visit the Gift Shop, too (no debit or credit cards, however). The museum opened for the season on May 1st.
Your kids will be blown away by the cave tour itself—but there is plenty more for them on the Cavern grounds. Included in the price of your ticket are: the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Luray Valley Museum, and Toy Town Junction (displaying what kids played with before video games). For a slight extra fee you can try navigating the Garden Maze—an exciting half mile route that twists and turns through 1500 evergreen hedges. And if that’s not enough, test yourself at the Rope Adventure Park. Two courses—one high and one low– consist of several poles connected by different acrobatic elements. Trained personnel supervise every climber to ensure safety.
Banner photo courtesy Massanutten Resort