The big parks get all of the glory, but there are quite a few smaller parks in Virginia that deserve your attention. Here are a handful to get you started.
AQUIA LANDING PARK | Stafford
Aquia Landing Park
Stafford County is home to much of Virginia’s history and it’s waiting to be shared. Aquia Landing Park is a public beach location that is perfect for relaxing fishing, picnicking with the family, and kayaking down the shore. With large picnic shelters to rent, this park is an ideal place for family and friends to meet, play, and see the beauty of Virginia.
What makes this park really special are the historic ties and significance it has in the state’s and nation’s history. As the end of the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad line, it was an essential transportation point for Washington, DC and was also the first place to see naval fire during the Civil War. In addition, Aquia Landing is a famous stop for the Underground Railroad where 10,000 enslaved people traveled through to find freedom. At Aquia Landing you can feel the peace of a getaway and the story of a nation.
COBBLESTONES | Glen Allen
Though not quite as huge as other Virginia parks, Cobblestones offers all of the fun and excitement needed for a great day with the family. This family recreational facility features fun and entertainment for all ages. With one of the largest pools on the east coast called Splash Zone and expansive beach areas complete with 20 foot umbrellas and picnic tables, they bring the beach to you. The kids can’t get enough of the swimming, water slides, volleyball, and fishing offered on site. Be sure to rent out the party deck and large pavilion for a gathering the family will never forget.
NORTHWEST RIVER PARK | Chesapeake
Northwest River Park and Campground is smaller in comparison to other Virginia parks but just as big in heart. Located on the banks of the Northwest River in Southeastern Chesapeake, this 763-acre park is the ideal spot for outdoor fun. Designated as part of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, it’ll get you back to nature with year-round boating, fishing, and hiking as just the beginning. Take the kids out to the park’s own putt-putt course, horse shoes, volleyball nets and so much more. Visitors rave about the newly designed disc golf course but we recommend the 40 acres of trout stocked lake for relaxation and paddling. With 66 campsites and two rental cabins, this is the perfect place for a vacation not too far from city life and not too far from the beach. As the four-time winner of “Best in Chesapeake” attractions, Northwest River Park is right in the middle of perfect.
BEAVERDAM PARK | Gloucester
A public freshwater fishing location can be hard to find, but that’s what Beaverdam Park is known for. Rent one of the Jon boats or canoes for a great day out on the water. You can even bring your own and feel free to use the boat ramps. Offering 635 acres of water, this is a great place to bring groups or the whole family for a day of fun. Need a place for friends to hang out? The park has two shelters, a lodge, and amphitheater perfect for any kind of reunion or gathering. Come and enjoy many miles of trail for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and running. Fishing licenses are available in the Ranger Station for first timers and events are held year round with programs like wildlife for the kids and night canoeing. Join in the fishing tournaments held May, June, September, and October.
LAKE ACCOTINK PARK | Springfield
The marshes of Virginia come to life at Lake Accotink Park where visitors can explore the park’s 493 acres and the 55 acres of lake. Besides the beautiful surrounding views and up close wildlife, activities and events are offered each season for the visitors of the park. Rent a canoe, rowboat, or pedal boat and take a trip down the lake. Bring your gear and relax fishing or taking a tour-boat ride.
The family will love the nine-green double holed miniature golf course, snack bar, and even a unique antique carousel! Bring friends for the day and take advantage of the pavilion shelters that can be reserved, or the many picnic areas offered perfect for a great time with family and food. For the outdoor lovers there is a 3.75-mile hiking and biking trail as well. Come to explore the wildlife of Virginia at Lake Accotink and make memories.
BELLE ISLE HISTORIC PARK | Richmond
Belle Isle Skills Area
Belle Isle Historic Park is a 54-acre island in the heart of Richmond where you can see how history changed and shaped the city. This beautiful oasis in the center of the hustle and bustle of Virginia is where you can find the cliffs, rapids, and ruins that make the east coast beautiful and take you back in time through the 300 years of change in Virginia. Take a break and sunbathe on some of the flat rocks that surround the island or sit in the water near the shore to cool down. Due to its location many other options are available to visitors including the canal walk, mountain bike trails, historical sites all along the river and even fishing and rock climbing. There is no end to the fun or the beauty found in this perfect park.
BULL RUN REGIONAL PARK | Centreville
Bull Run Regional Park
Bull Run Park is full of history and full of people. This beautiful park is the hot spot for picnics, camping, festivals, and other special events year round. The scenic view that surrounds Bull Run offers miles of hiking and peace with a chance to relax and get away from the world. With picturesque trees, fields, and wildflowers that bloom, it is the perfect place to explore with the family. An outdoor pool is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day but the disc golf is open year round. Sporting clays, skeet, trap, and indoor archery can be found at the public shooting center open year round as well. With Civil War reenactments and the park’s own marina it is an entire vacation just around the corner.
WASHINGTON COUNTY PARK | Abingdon
In the beautiful Blue Ridge is the beloved Washington County Park, perfect for all fun and activities on the water or in the trees. Of the 140 camp sites in the park, 132 sites are full hook-up. Bring the family out to enjoy a night under the stars. For the comfort of all visitors there are trailer sites with electric and water, sanitation facilities, picnic sites, and even snack bar. There is a swimming pool, but be sure to check out the lake where there is canoe access and a boat ramp. Take a relaxing break fishing out on the water. Kids will love the playground. Open April 1 through October 31.
BYRD PARK – CARILLON & DOGWOOD DELL | Richmond
Byrd Park offers fun for the whole family and is a popular location throughout the year for events and festivals. This nearly 269 acre park dates back to the 1880’s and is the perfect place to see the history of Richmond. With beautiful lawns, three man-made lakes, and ball fields there are endless possibilities to the adventures of the day.
Be sure to stop by The Carillon bell tower, a major attraction of the area as a 240 feet high World War I memorial. Dogwood Dell outdoor amphitheater is another well-loved location in the area and hosts free concerts and plays many evenings in the summer. The lakes offer beautiful views and opportunities for fishing and feeding the birds for the kids. The picnic shelters are perfect for gatherings with the friends and an exercise trail is available with a scenic and winding trail through the park. And rent a paddleboat on Fountain Lake to add your own history to Richmond’s.
GATEWOOD PARK CAMPGROUND AND RESERVOIR | Pulaski
Looking for 400 acres of scenic beautiful nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountain Region? Gatewood Park offers the getaway you’re looking for. Surrounded by the Jefferson National Forest, the active wildlife and emerald water offer a restful retreat. Boat and canoe rentals are available to take a trip on the lake and fishing is welcome along the 22 miles of shoreline where you can find many trophy size largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, blue gill, and more.
Camping meets comfort at one of the 42 level campsites along the shoreline, all equipped with water and electrical hook-ups; a perfect mix of ease and adventure reflecting the rustic wilderness surrounding. Reliable camping and picnicking supplies can be found in the Park store. Other activities are offered in the park during the season and hiking with amazing views of the Blue Ridge is a favorite pastime of visitors.
About the Author: Kemry Johnakin is an English Major at Brigham Young University-Idaho, hopes to write the next great American novel, and is greatly unsettled by the lack of oxford commas used in government paperwork.
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