What was your childhood like? Mud pies, imaginative play in the woods, and general rough and tumble antics were highlights of mine. Those were the days before video games and cell phones.
If your children are overly immersed in indoor entertainment, get them outside. In fact, that’s what National Kids to Parks Day is all about, and it’s held annually the third Saturday in May.
Use these 10 ideas to show your kids how glorious and fun Virginia’s nature is.
1. TRAIL TREKKING
Sure, you can walk or hike a trail as a family, but up the fun with something like geocaching, horseback riding, cycling, or a scavenger hunt.
Virginia’s 36 state parks offer more than 600 miles of trails. Shannon Johnson of Virginia State Parks suggests you, “go to the park visitor center to pick up a trails map that lists all the trails available. Stop along the way to look at the different types of trees and plants, and listen for different birds and wildlife sounds.”
Additionally, every Virginia State Park has at least one cache and rents GPS units for a small fee. Coordinates for the Geocache Adventure are available here. Prizes are available when participants reach various milestones. Geocache Adventure can be experienced in tandem with Trail Quest, a separate challenge that rewards commemorative pins for accomplishments. Double up!
- A Walk for Sunshine with award-winning author Jeff Alt. Alt’s new book is entitled Get Your Kids Hiking: How to Start Them Young and Keep It Fun
- Twilight Hikes – less than two miles and great for families
The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has a Kids in Parks TRACK Trail program:
- Virginia Blue Ridge TRACK Trail in Nellysford – Seven miles of flat, gravel trail following the Piney and Tye Rivers.
- Crystal Springs TRACK Trail in Wytheville – Centered around the Crystal Springs Recreation Area, this trail is actually multiple trails of various lengths and difficulty.
Each TRACK Trail includes a kiosk with a map and information, and some also have TRACK Sacks with things you might need to explore the area (nets, magnifying lenses and more). Register your children to receive prizes for their efforts.
2. FISHING, EVEN FOR FIRST-TIMERS
Virginia is riddled with streams, rivers and lakes, so casting a line is no problem at all for the experienced fisherman. If this sport is new to your family, however, you might consider catching a 101 program at Staunton River or Twin Lakes. Choose from stocked trout waters at Grayson Highlands or Douthat, or go for a big catfish at Buggs Island from the banks of Occoneechee or Staunton River. Try pier fishing at Kiptopeke or join in a kids fishing tournament at Leesylvania. There are various types of fishing available at Virginia State Parks.
3. WATER FUN!
Which kid doesn’t love to splash around? Claim your spot on one of 11 state park beaches.
- Bear Creek Lake
- Claytor Lake
- Fairy Stone
- False Cape
- Holliday Lake
- Hungry Mother
- First Landing
- Lake Anna
- Smith Mountain Lake
- Twin Lakes
Our friend Shannon has suggestions for boating, too, writing, “Most parks are located on a body of water and offer boat rentals from canoes and kayaks to paddleboats and jon boats. Depending on the age of the child, this is a great way to learn how to paddle, while enjoying the park from the water. ”
With family in mind, here are a few parks and their boating options.
- For kayaking, canoeing, jon boats, and paddle boats:
- For pontoons:
Most of the 36 state parks offer campsites, and there are also yurts and cabins for those without camping equipment. Keep the Great American Backyard Campout on your radar, too. It’s always the last Saturday in June, and Virginia State Parks have special offerings with that nationwide event in mind.
KIDS TO PARKS RESOURCES
© Casey for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2015. |