Sure you can visit the famous mouse in Florida or take a bite out of the Big Apple this summer, but why not try a Virginia staycation this year? Virginia has a trove of travel opportunities from day trips and weekend getaways to week-long vacations. How many of these 20 destinations can you cross off this summer?
For the Beach Lovers
1. Virginia Beach. Enjoy the beach and famed 3-mile boardwalk with opportunities for walking, biking, rollerblading and stroller pushing. Grommet Island Beach Park and Playground at the southernmost part of the boardwalk offers various accessible activities and play structures.
2. Chincoteague Island. This island on the Eastern Shore offers beaches, wildlife and wild ponies. Climb nearby Assateague Island Lighthouse for an added adventure.
For the History Buffs
3. Historic Triangle. Dress up in revolutionary garb in Colonial Williamsburg. Climb aboard one of three ships in Jamestown after walking through a replica Powhatan Indian village. Shop along the riverfront in Yorktown.
4. Ferry Farm. George Washington’s boyhood home is situated along the Rappahannock. The 2014 archaeology dig season runs weekdays through July. Visitors are welcome to observe and ask questions.
5. Mount Vernon. Visit the plantation home of George Washington along the Potomac River. Guests can tour the mansion, Washington’s tomb and acres of the grounds.
For the Explorers
6. Nauticus. Contemporary museum in Norfolk’s harbor that is home to the Battleship Wisconsin.
7. Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center. See thousands of fish and marine life with two touching pools for curious kiddos.
8. Old Town Alexandria. Take a free trolley ride around town or walk through cobblestone streets en route to an ice cream parlor or bakery. Enjoy tasteful street performers at the riverfront while you watch boaters navigate the Potomac.
9. Virginia Safari Park. Enjoy Virginia’s only drive-through zoo featuring over 1,000 animals, many that you can feed and pet along the way.
10. Trump Winery. Scenic views and grounds perfect for a family picnic. Philip Carter Winery in Hume also offers acres of vineyards for kids to explore.
11. Dinosaur Land. While the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., works on its five-year renovation of its dinosaur exhibit, check out this roadside attraction near the Shenandoah Valley featuring more than 50 dinosaur replicas, all for a nominal fee.
For the Adventurers
12. Luray Caverns. Eastern America’s largest cavern system with easy walking tours for families.
13. Wintergreen Resort. This ski resort transforms into a summertime gem, offering golf, tennis, hiking and swimming all set to a mountain view backdrop. The Homestead in Hot Springs and Massanutten Resort in Massanutten offer activities of a similar nature.
14. Shenandoah National Park. Trek any amount of the 500 miles of hiking trails offering breathtaking views and bear sightings, if you are lucky (or not-so-lucky!). Part of the famed Appalachian Trail winds through the park. Camp or stay at Skyland Resort or Big Meadows Lodge along Skyline Drive.
15. The Natural Bridge of Virginia. Visit the landmark that dramatically sits over Cedar Creek. Explore trails that lead to waterfalls and lush foliage.
16. Mountain Lake Hotel. In addition to seeing where “Baby” and “Johnny” filmed Dirty Dancing, the resort (referred to as Kellerman’s in the movie) offers zip lining and outdoor recreation for all ages. Several packages are available, including special Dirty Dancing weekends.
For the Thrill Seekers
17. Busch Gardens. More than 50 rides along with shows and concerts make this a park for all ages.
18. Water Country USA. State-of-the art water park offering pools and a variety of slides.
19. Great Wolf Lodge. No need to plan around the rain! Check out this indoor family water park and resort which features other activities such as mini-golf and arcades.
20. Kings Dominion. Virginia’s only combined amusement and water park. Season passes available. Military discounts and select free admission days.
Kerry Pinto is a freelance writer and bucket list producer in Stafford.