Make your weekend getaways or family vacations a field trip. No pencils will be required, nor tests (we hope!); just a bit of knowledge delivered in fun, interactive ways.
Family travel in the Shenandoah Valley means learning a new outdoor skill, growing an appreciation for the arts, and seeing firsthand what life was like “in the olden days.” Whether you’re eager to recoup some of what was lost during the pandemic or simply want to present new challenges and information to your kiddos, we think you’ll dig these ideas.
Rocks are all the rage. Many collect them, some paint them, and others study them. Favorite Shenandoah Valley places to learn from rocks are our caverns. We are home to the deepest on the East Coast, the largest in Eastern America, the oldest show cave in the country, and the only one in Virginia with an elevator. In all of them your children will learn about cave formation like stalactites and stalagmites; underground water; minerals and crystals; fossils; and a bit of area history, including the Civil War.
Parent Cheat Code: Teacher Resources for Luray Caverns
For one big rock with a big, historic story, see the 215-foot natural limestone arch at the center of Natural Bridge State Park. Learn how it was formed and its significance to the Monacan Indian Nation and its history with United States presidents. Don’t miss the Children’s Discovery Area at the park. It’s part of the Kids in Parks Track Trail and a Nature Explore Outdoor Play Area.
The Shenandoah Valley was the American frontier settled by immigrants from a variety of places, including England, Ireland, Germany, and West Africa. Their architectural and cultural tendencies came with them, of course, and are represented at The Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton. Walk through the living history interpretive center to see homes representative of the communities and villages those settlers left behind, and to see examples of what they created here.
Save the Date: 9th Igbo World Festival of Arts & Culture, July 29-31
Black history is front and center at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park as the site of John Brown’s October 1859 raid to free the enslaved and wage a war against the institution of slavery. In fact, that raid was a spark that helped ignite Civil War. The battle between the Union and the Confederacy came to Harpers Ferry, and control of the town changed hands eight times between 1861 and 1865. During Reconstruction an African American primary school rose where soldiers previously camped – Camp Hill – and it grew to become the influential Storer College (1867). The Brown v. The Board of Education Supreme Court ruling in 1954 abolishing segregation in education closed Storer’s doors in 1955.
Get the Lay of the Land: The Story Behind the Scenery is a 30-minute overview offered every Sunday at 2 p.m.
Car lovers can see rare, antique vehicles from wagons through modern day at the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum at Luray Caverns in Luray. Among them are a still-operable 1897 Mercedes Benz, an 1899 Peugeot, and a 1932 Rolls Royce Shooting Brake. The neighboring Shenandoah Heritage Village is included with admission and features Shenandoah Valley artifacts from the 1750s to the 1920s as well as endangered historic buildings saved from ruin.
Learn a new trick during your visit. Perhaps a merit badge could be earned?
Take a day to familiarize yourself with a mountain bike and then take some guided laps around Bryce Mountain. Offered by TakeAim Cycling at Bryce Resort, the Intro to Mountain Biking group class is open to ages 10 and older (yes, parents can go!).
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Consider horseback riding with Star B Stables in Staunton (ages six and up), Jordan Hollow Stables in Stanley (ages seven and up), or Fort Valley Ranch in Fort Valley (ages six and up).
How about paddle sports? Several outfitters and guides can help your family get on the water, whether you’re experienced or not.
Brush up on your outdoorsmanship with Shenandoah Mountain Guides. As a family you can learn shelter basics, get an introduction to outdoor survival, go rock climbing, or cool off with mountain swimming.
What will you learn on your Shenandoah Valley family adventure? Show us what you choose by tagging us on Instagram (@VisitShenandoahValley).