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  • Writer's pictureThe West End Mom

A Summer Bucket List for Virginia Families

Updated: May 29, 2022

We've been looking forward to summer 2021 for a long time: the world is headed towards normalcy, safety guidelines have been relaxed & places are open! We have just over 70 days between the start of summer and Labor Day, and we need a lot of family fun along with beach trips and vacations. I've pulled together some of our favorite annual summer events from around Virginia & some of the best adventures we've had this year to make a summer vacation bucket list.

Here are 10 activities in Virginia to try with your kids this summer!

1. Splash Around: Water is the cure for anything: the heat, boredom & bad moods! And, my littles could play in water all day. Henrico County has 4 splash parks open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and they are free to visit! This is an easy, family friendly activity in Henrico County.

Dunncroft Castle Point Park

*Check here for my review of the park.

Eastern Henrico Recreation Center

Short Pump Park

*Check here for my review of the park.

Twin Hickory Park

*Check here for my review of the park.

*Kids too old for splash parks? Visit one of these local beaches for a fun day trip!

2. Visit a Lavender Farm: Lavender Fields Herb Farm is located in Glen Allen off Woodman Road. This family friendly farm has a greenhouse & a farm store that sells local honey, lavender, ice cream & lavender lemonade. You can cut your own lavender stems & have ice cream with a picnic area through July.

Want to make this a day trip? Try Sweethaven Lavender. This family owned lavender farm is located in #williamsburgva , about an hour from #RichmondVA . From May to July 4, you can cut lavender, eat lavender infused treats like cotton candy & brownies and explore the beautiful farm. Sweethaven Lavender is also the perfect spot for a picnic- there are picnic tables & large trees for shade. There are hammocks & a children's play area too. This is one of my children's favorite places to play, and the majority of it is in the shade!

3. Watch an Outdoor Movie: Richmond has so many fun spots to watch movies outside or you could set up an outdoor theater in your own backyard!

Goochland Drive In Theater: Located in Hadensville, this drive-in theater has been open since 2009. The venue is pet friendly, they have restrooms, and they have an affordable concessions stand. Movies are rain or shine, and most of the nights have double features. Gates typically open around 6/6:30 on movie nights with movies beginning around 8pm. Tickets cost between $18-$25 per vehicle, and all tickets must be purchased ahead of time from Goochland Drive-In Theater's website. I like this theater for families because it is not as expensive as a trip to the regular movie theaters, too!

Pactamere Farm's Movies on the Farm Summer Series: Located in Glen Allen, Pactamere Farm is a 15 acre working farm with 3 barns & 50 alpacas. They are hosting a family-friendly movie night series in their natural amphitheater all summer. You can meet the alpacas, play cornhole or ringo or make a pinecone nesting ball. They will be selling Bruster's ice cream, treats, wine, beer, soda & more. All you need to bring is a blanket or chairs to watch the movie. Gates open at 6 & movies start at 8:45. Tickets are $10 per adult and $5 for kids under 12.

The summer series kicks off on 6/18 with National Treasure, and Independence Day is playing on 7/2. The rest of the schedule has not been released yet.

Richmond City Parks & Rec's Movies in the Park: This summer series is back for 2021! Richmond City Parks and Recreation hosts free movies in parks around the city. The first one is The Goonies on Friday, June 25 at Byrd Park. Movies start as soon as it's dark, so you can expect a start time around 8:30. I'd recommend this movie series for families with older children.

West Broad Village: This local shopping center has a free summer movie series called Movies on the Pad. There are currently movies scheduled for June 4, June 18, July 2, and July 16. The next movies on the schedule are Wonder Woman (1894) and Dolittle.

4. Attend a Sunflower Festival: Most Richmond area sunflower farms open in July and August, and there are a couple local farms that host festivals each year.

Alvis Farms: This farm is located in Manakin Sabot, about 15 minutes from Short

Pump. This working dairy farm has been in Goochland since 1965, and it has 50 acres of

sunflowers. Follow @alvisfarm on Instagram for updates on their annual sunflower

festival in July.

*Check here for my full review of last year's event.

Fresh Branch Farm: Located in Chesterfield, this family-run farm has a gorgeous field of

sunflowers! Each summer Fresh Branch Farm hosts it’s annual Sunflower Festival in August. Besides cutting sunflowers, we also loved seeing the goats and tractors around the farm. 

*Check here for my full review of last year's event.

5. Get your Thrill on at Kings Dominion: Open since 1975, this theme park is located in Doswell, about 25 minutes from Richmond. Kings Dominion has 12 world-class coasters, a 20 acre water park, a 14 acre kids’ area, music festivals & seasonal events. You could easily spend a day here & you’d still need more time to explore the entire park.  This is a really fun adventure for the entire family!

6. Visit an Aquarium: We've visited three Virginia aquariums this year, and they make for a fun day trip!

SeaQuest: Seaquest in Lynchburg is a 20,000 square feet petting zoo aquarium that opened in 2019. There are about 1,500 animals - turtles, sting rays, sloths & more. You get to touch & feed animals from around the world! My children loved this day trip. Some of their favorites were using the vending machines to get animal food, feeding sting rays & touching a giant tortoise & wallaby. After our hour & half visit, we ate at Depot Grille with views of the river & the train tracks. It was family friendly with a huge green lawn next to it too.  

Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center: This aquarium features coastal habitats from around the world with animals representing over 300 species! It also has a 1/3 mile nature trail on Owls Creek, a protected salt marsh. The Adventure Park is by the marsh & it has low & high ropes courses plus zip lines! Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is about 2 hours from Richmond & only 5 minutes from Virginia Beach’s oceanfront.  

Virginia Living Museum: The museum features the animals & plants living in Virginia. The indoor exhibits feature the different regions of Virginia - there is a 30,000-gallon Noland Chesapeake Bay Aquarium! The outdoor exhibits are on Deer Park Lake & you use a boardwalk to see animals like foxes, deer & bald eagles. There is even a Dinosaur Discovery Trail!

7.Pick Peaches: PYO season is one of our favorite times of the year! Lucky for us, there are some amazing farms around central Virginia. Peach picking is between June and August.

Here are three peach orchards close to Richmond.

Hanover Peaches: Located in Mechanicsville, Hanover Peaches is about 30 minutes from Short Pump. This family-owned orchard is 20 acres. They grow peaches and nectarines in the summer and apples in the fall. You can find farm updates on their Facebook page.

*Chere here for my full review of last year's peach picking.

Carter's Mountain: Carter’s Mountain Orchard is about an hour from Richmond. While they are best known for their apples, they also have a peach orchard & special events throughout the year.

Throughout the summer, Cultivating Curiosity, a weekly children’s program, meets on Mondays & Tuesdays. The classes are for children 3-8 years old (but all ages are welcome) and the themes switch each week. Children can learn about apples, peaches, pumpkins, flowers, bees and more.   

Chiles Peach Orchard: Located in Crozet, Chiles Peach Orchard is about 1 hour and 30 minutes from Short Pump. There’s a restaurant, an outdoor patio and open air store. At the peach orchard, you can pick your own peaches, blueberries and strawberries. There are so many family friendly events, including Pancakes with Santa. The Chiles family also owns Carter's Mountain and Spring Valley Orchard.⁣

*Check here for my full review of last year's peach picking.

8. Watch Fireworks: We are thrilled that fireworks are back this year! Here are some of the spots around Richmond that have fireworks for Independence Day.

The Flying Squirrels' Baseball Game: Our local baseball team is hosting its annual Independence Day Celebration & Dueling Fireworks! Fireworks will be after the games on July 3 & 4.

Fourth of July Celebration at Chesterfield Fair Grounds: Chesterfield Parks and Recreation is hosting a free Fourth of July event at the Chesterfield Fairgrounds. With gates opening at 5, you can grab food at the concessions & listen to live music. The fireworks start at dark. Make sure you bring chairs or blanket to sit on!

Independence Day in Yorktown: Historic Yorktown is celebrating Independence Day from 8am to 10pm! You can participate in the 8K run, watch the patriotic parade, listen to live music, explore the local historical sites or lounge at the beach! In the evening, there will be a patriotic concert & a fireworks display over the York River.

Libbie Mill Midtown's July 4th Fireworks: Libbie Mill Midtown is hosting a free 4th of July event from 6-10 on Independence Day. There will be food and drink for purchase. Also, bring your picnic blankets or chairs to enjoy the music & fireworks! You can register for free, but registration is required to enter the event area around Libbie Lake. Click here to register.

9. Visit a Virginia State Park: We have over 40 state parks in Virginia with over 500 miles of trails through forests, mountains, marsh and more. Our parks also host free nature programs for families like gold panning, feeding the turtles & obstacle courses. These programs are free, too!

Here are two we love:

Bike the High Bridge Trail: This state park is a 31 mile trail perfect for hiking, biking & horseback riding. It is located in Cumberland, Nottoway & Prince Edward Counties, about an hour & 30 minutes from Richmond, and it has 9 different entrances. The highlight of this state park is the High Bridge itself, standing 125 feet over the Appomattox River.

With my little ones, we will walk, scoot or stroll across it this summer!

Look for fossils at York River State River: This park is 2,531 acres & has more than 30 miles of trails along the marsh, river shoreline and through the woods. Located in Williamsburg, this state park has two playgrounds, an amphitheater, observation decks, boat rentals, and more. The biggest draw for us is the beautiful shoreline, especially Fossil Beach.   

10. Take a Day Trip to the Historic Triangle: We love visiting the Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown & Jamestown. This area is rich with history, plus there are so many free things to do around the area with children. Here are a few highlights that are less than an hour & 20 minutes away:

Freedom Park: This 600 acre park offers so much for families from trails & a playground to an adventure park & historical sites. Freedom Park was home to one of the earliest Free Black Settlements in America. This park is also where a Revolutionary War battle was fought & its home to an 18th century cemetery. Go Ape is also located in the park. Go Ape is a treetop adventure course with zip lines, axe throwing & a monkey drop! There are height & weight requirements for children. Check Go Ape Williamsburg for details.  It’s in James City, less than an hour from Richmond & you could easily spend a day here!   

Jamestown Beach: This beach is just over an hour from Richmond in Jamestown, Virginia. Jamestown Beach is ADA accessible, family & dog-friendly. This is a much closer option than Virginia Beach, and it’s a really easy day trip. It's also next to VDOT's Jamestown-Scotland ferry, so you could extend your adventure by adding on a ferry ride to Chippokes Plantation State Park.

Historic Yorktown: This is one of our favorite family-friendly places in Virginia. Historic Yorktown has a quaint town atmosphere, a free trolley, lots of historical adventures, and restaurants along the Riverwalk. When we visit, we enjoy eating at Yorktown Pub. The outdoor patio is tented & overlooks the beach. The food portions are generous & my children loved the grilled cheese & chicken tender meals. We also never miss visiting Ben & Jerry's; it's just a short walk from the beach.

It is also home to Yorktown Beach! This local beach has 2 acres of beachfront on the York River. This beach is incredibly family friendly with lots of room to play in the sand and shallow water. The only waves come from boats leaving the docks - these are so much fun to watch! Next to the beach are public bathrooms and outdoor showers to rinse off sand. There is a new Mobi-Mat that accommodates strollers, wagons and wheelchairs, making this beach accessible for everyone. It is free to park, and the walk from the different parking lots is stroller/wagon friendly.

*Check here for my guide to Virginia's Historic Triangle.

Don't forget to tag @thewestendmom and #thewestendmom in your adventures! I love seeing all the fun your family has!

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