by Mary Becelia
With summer vacation soon approaching, stay-at-home parents in the Fredericksburg area may be starting to feel a touch of anxiety, maybe even of panic. How, oh how to keep the kids entertained and happy or, at a bare minimum, how to keep them from killing each other during the long hot days ahead? A few day trips might be just the solution. Pack a picnic, herd the kids in to the car, gas up the vehicle (averting your eyes from the price), and hit the road!
Starting in the city, and keeping your mileage down, bring hats and water shoes and head to Alum Spring Park. Located in the heart of Fredericksburg, this hidden jewel features a shady playground, stream for wading and stone throwing, picnic area and decent restrooms. One feels far away from all the hubbub of daily life, despite being just a stone's throw from Rt 3. Also close at hand is Mott's Run Reservoir, (featuring picnic table, canoes, boats, fishing, nature trails and hiking) and The Bug Box, in Spotsylvania. This Bug Box won't take up the entire day, but a could be combined with a stop at Loriella Park (includes hiking trails with abundant wildlife and a shady playground) nearby for a fun and educational outing.
Another great site just over the Falmouth Bridge is Gari Melcher's Home and Studio, Belmont, a lovely historic home and gardens--a great site for a picnic and a hike afterwards. In addition, this summer Belmont will be offering daily "Family Fun & Learning Tours" June 16-September 1.
For those willing to go farther afield, recommendations abound. Below are some of my favorites, as well as those endorsed in an informal query of area parents.
Children's Museum of Richmond: After a recent visit, my daughter described this hands-on facility as "Better than King's Dominion and almost as good as Disney World!" At $7.00 a head, considerably less pricey than either of those sites as well! An easy hour's drive from Fredericksburg, the museum includes an outdoor play area, an arts & crafts room, a mock James River, and numerous other kid-friendly exhibits. One note: there is no on-site restaurant, so be sure to pack snacks and/or lunch.
Colonial Beach: If you feel like a day at the beach without the drive to the coast, this is the place.
Cows and Corn: As Janet Skerry, of Falmouth, VA and a mother of three, put it, " An excellent day trip Besides receiving tour of the farm via hay ride and playing on the wonderful wooden train set and peddling your way around the raceway and working your way through the corn maze, you also get to bring you own hotdogs or marshmallows and sit around individual campfires for a wonderfully relaxing evening.
Double B Farm: Laura Szadvari, mother of a toddler, describes it as having "a petting zoo, a barrel train ride and a play area featuring a straw fort, haunted school bus and half-acre sorghum maze, geared toward young children."
Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia: Also recommended by Janet Skerry , this living museum shows how farming was done in Germany, Ireland and the American Frontier in the 1700 and 1800's.
Kings Dominion: For thrills suitable for all ages, you cannot beat this area amusement park, located about a half hour's drive from Fredericksburg. Buy a season pass if you expect to go more than a couple of times.
Lake Anna: According to Mary Shaffer, mother of four boys, "My boys beg for a trip to Lake Anna (State Park). The fishing pond there is very children friendly and even includes a few places for mom to sit down. If the weather is nice enough, they want to get wet in the lake after fishing."
Luray Caverns: According to the website, Luray Caverns is the largest in North America, with a year-round temperature of 54 degrees--perfect for a hot summer day!
National Aquarium in Baltimore: You'll need to get up early in order to fit this all in one day, but it is well worth the trip, according to both Diane Allen, of Fredericksburg and Suzanne Logan of Stafford. Diane suggests, "Parents should be sure to get a picture of their kids inside the huge shark's jaws at the beginning of the exhibit and then go up to the 4th floor to wind around and around and then down a circular ramp through all the exhibits."
Prince William Forest Park. Edy Kemp, mother of seven says, "We love Prince William Park. The Visitors Center has touch boxes as well as loaner compasses and topographical maps for orienteering. We also love to go to parking lot G beside the typically 1' deep creek and let the kids wade in the stream for an hour or so....Mom and Dad take some lawn chairs, the kids take aquarium nets and buckets. The event is strictly catch and release...minnows and crayfish mostly."
Westmoreland Berry Farm: A favorite of Lisa Chinn, "We'll drive out there just to get one of their ice cream Sundays with fresh fruit (strawberries or blackberries) and pet and feed the goats. Plus, the scenery is beautiful." The website includes a handy grid showing which produce is in-season each month.
Alum Spring Park
At the end of Greenbriar Drive extended
372-1086, ext. 201
224 Washington Street
The Bug Box
10822A Courthouse Rd.
18 North Irving Avenue
Colonial Beach, VA
Children's Museum of Richmond
2626 West Broad Street
Richmond VA 23220
Cows and Corn
5225 Catlett Road
Double B Farm
28200 Constitution Hwy
Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia
1290 Richmond Road
Off exit 98 on I-95
Lake Anna State Park
6800 Lawyers Road
Shenandoah Valley, 10 minutes from Skyline Drive's central entrance
10910 Leavells Road
Mott's Run Reservoir
6600 River Rd.
National Aquarium in Baltimore
501 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, Maryland
Prince William Forest Park
18100 Park Headquarters Road
Westmoreland Berry Farm
1235 Berry Farm Lane
Oak Grove, VA
Bear Creek State Park
One hour west of Richmond
Caledon State Park
James Madison's Montpelier
National Museum of the Marine Corps
Richmond Aviation Museum
Science Museum of Richmond
Spotsylvania Civil War Life Museum
Virginia Aquarium (Virginia Beach)
Mary Becelia is the mother of two from Stafford. You may run into her at the above sites this summer…if gas prices don't go any higher!