Virginia is for lovers of adventure and new experiences and travelers don’t have to go far to find fun destinations for the whole family
Every corner of Virginia has attractions that satisfy the craving for adventure many have been feeling after a year of being cooped up at home.
With numerous attractions being just off of the state’s three main interstates (I-95, I-81, and I-64), many are just a short car ride away. When traveling north or south on 95, one can find a variety of museums that provide a fun and knowledge-filled outing. Northern Virginia’s Fort Belvoir is home to the National Museum of the United States Army, where galleries, learning centers and audio tours offer an engaging way to learn about our nation’s soldiers. The museum provides a comprehensive portrayal of life in the army with history and traditions being presented through the eyes of a soldier.
A bit farther south, Triangle brings more military artifacts and education with the National Museum of the Marine Corps. In close proximity to the Quantico base, innovative technology allows visitors to immerse themselves into the lives of Marines. Notable exhibits include the Combat Art Gallery, the Leatherneck Gallery, and war exhibits which include the American Revolution, both World Wars, the Korean War and Vietnam War.
Farther down I-95 brings travelers to Richmond, which is home to the Science Museum of Virginia. This museum has hours of interactive exhibits for guests of all ages which tackle a wide range of STEM subjects including climate change, mental health, memory, dinosaurs, and many more. At 76 feet, SMV’s The Dome is the largest screen in Virginia and makes viewers feel like they are really traveling through the rainforest, in the ocean, or outer space. Then, take a short trip to Colonial Heights where you can find Keystone Truck & Tractor Museum and learn about the last century of agricultural heritage and machines. Covering more than 125,000 square feet, the collection has grown from two road trucks to now containing hundreds of farm vehicles and road trucks.
From the eastern shore to the Shenandoah mountains, I-64 has plenty of historic sites, museums, and more located just off of the highway for anyone looking for new experiences without the desire to travel far. The Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton has the goal of educating the public on American folk culture from all perspectives. Exhibits include recreations of farms and schoolhouses from the 17th and 18th centuries in colonial America as well as a 1700s west African farm and an American Indian exhibit that educate visitors on European colonization, suppression, and the impact they’ve had on present day America.
Close to the site of the original settlement, the first permanent English colony in America is the perfect place for field trips and weekend outings. The Jamestown Settlement is a place where guests can learn about the experiences of real people who lived in the settlement and through the cultural convergence of Europeans, Powhatan natives, and enslaved peoples from West Africa. Films, the recreated James Fort, and recreated ships that make up the “Official fleet of the Commonwealth’’ provide for an in depth and fun learning experience. After a morning in Jamestown, travel further east towards the coast for a day cruise on the Victory Rover for a relaxing and informative ride to see the sights of Norfolk Harbor and the destroyers and submarines of the U.S. naval fleet.
Looking to be swept away by the natural beauty of marine life and to learn more about ocean conservation? Then look no further than Virginia Beach’s Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. Through educational programs, research, and sustainable practices, the center is inspiring the public to take steps toward conserving the world’s oceans. Outside, guests can enjoy a short walk through the woods and marshes before observing animals such as sea turtles, harbor seals, zebra sharks, and Komodo dragons inside the aquarium.
In the state’s western region, I-81 stretches across the beautiful mountains and valleys of western Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley area. At the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center and Marketplace, every visit is different with over 180 artisans creating one-of-a-kind and traditional artwork available for purchase. The center is also a music venue that showcases unique and traditional instruments and is home to The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. Guests can sit back and listen to bluegrass and gospel music from local artists and even join in during Thursday night open jams. Further north in gorgeous Natural Bridge is where visitors can get a view from their vehicle not found anywhere else in the state. With a passion for wildlife conservation, Virginia Safari Park is home to hundreds of animals typically seen on the African savannah. Guests can get up close and personal and even feed animals from their car during the three-mile drive through safari. Giraffes, zebras, tigers and cheetahs are just a handful of the beautiful creatures to look out for.
Only 25 minutes apart via I-81, Quicksburg and Luray provide magnificent underground cavern tours with marvelous geological spectacles. Known as geology’s hall of fame, Luray Caverns is a destination rich with natural pools, stone columns, and huge stalactites that sound almost as cool as they look. Shenandoah Caverns, just a short drive northwest from Luray, is home to underground wonders and hour long personally guided tours of 17 rooms and passageways below the earth’s surface.
After an eventful day of exploring the caverns, a pit stop at Route 11 Potato Chips is a no-brainer. Making delicious potato chips since 1992, the Route 11 team uses high quality ingredients to satisfy their customers and keep them ordering more. The store front brings visitors up close to the chip-making procedure where they can watch the full process of the chips being made, try samples, and then bring some home to enjoy.
By Jill Pillow