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  • Writer's pictureThe West End Mom

The Best Virginia State Parks to Visit with Kids

Updated: Feb 7

With warmer weather sneaking up on us, our Virginia State Parks are the perfect family getaway because many of them offer water activities, hiking and exploring opportunities, and they are budget friendly!

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Most state parks cost between $7-10 to visit (this cost covers parking). If you've visited REI recently, save your receipt. There's a free parking pass for any VA State Park at the bottom. If you homeschool your kiddos, make sure you bring your HEAV or HSLDA membership card - you get free parking, too!

If you visit on a Fee Free Day, all entrance fees are covered. The 2023 Fee Free Days are: April 22 (the first day of National Park Week), August 4 (Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act), September 23 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day).

I've rounded up 5 of our favorite Virginia State Parks that we've loved visiting with little kids. We've visited each one while they were 5 years old and younger, but they are fun to visit with children of all ages. These state parks are perfect for spring and summer visits because of their location near water -- they have beaches on the river or on the bay.

The Best Virginia State Parks to Try with Kids this Spring and Summer:

1. Bear Creek Lake State Park: Located in Cumberland County, this Virginia State Park is less than an hour from Richmond, next to Cumberland State Forest! It has trails for hiking, biking & horseback riding trails, archery ranges & two playgrounds. Bear Creek Lake State Park also has cabins & camping sites.

Why I like this park for kids: The highlight of this park, especially in the summer, is the 40-acre lake with a boat launch, fishing pier, boat rentals & swimming! It also has playgrounds on the beach. This makes playing at both the playground and in the water really easy with kids.

Driving Distance: 1 hour

Cost: Parking costs $7. If you have a REI receipt you can park for free!

When to Visit: all year

2. First Landing State Park: Located in Virginia Beach, First Landing State Park is the most visited state park in Virginia! It has over 20 miles of trails & 1.5 miles of beach front. This state park also has a lot of history - it’s the location where the first English colonist landed in 1607. Legend also has it that Blackbeard (the pirate) hid in the Narrows area of the park. The park was built in part by an all African American Conservation Corps between 1933-1940.

Why I like this park for kids: It has really easy beach access, and with parking costing $7 on weekdays and $10 on weekends, it’s cheaper than most VB oceanfront day parking options. The waves are very small, making it kid friendly (it’s on the Chesapeake Bay). We used a stroller from the car to the beach (just leaving it on the boardwalk).

Driving Distance: 2h, 22m (a little more than 2 hours, but it's worth it!)

Cost: $7 parking

When to Visit: all year

3. Lake Anna State Park: Located in Louisa County, this 3,127 acre state park has 10 miles of lake frontage, and it's just an hour & 5 minutes from Richmond. This is one of Virginia's most popular beaches, and this is a great spot for families! Lake Anna State Park also has trails for biking, hiking & horses plus yurts & cabins.  

Why I like this park for kids: It has shallow water & no waves - it's perfect for children of all ages. It also has two play areas, and one is located on the beach. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day the concessions are open - it's right by the beach too!

Driving Distance: 1 hour

Cost: Parking costs $7 in off season & $10 April through October.

When to Visit: all year

4. Westmoreland State Park: Located in Montross, this Virginia State Park covers 1,321 acres on the Potomac River. Westmoreland State Park has 6 miles of trails, a playground overlooking the river, boat ramps & rentals, a fishing pier & campsites. With so many amenities, this park is great for children. It’s also close to George Washington’s birthplace & James Monroe’s birthplace, and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. The biggest draw for families is Fossil Beach. Ancient shark teeth (from 5-25 million years ago!!) can be found along this hiking beach.

Why I like this park for kids: Looking for fossil is such a unique experience - it's for people of all ages. Fossil Beach is about a .6 mile hike, and an all-terrain stroller can make this journey. The playground has views of the river, and it has partial to full sun (great for summer days!).

Driving Distance: 1 hour & 20 min

Cost: Parking costs $7

When to Visit: all year

5. York River State Park: Located in Williamsburg, this park is 2,531 acres. It has more than 30 miles of trails along the marsh, river shoreline and through the woods. This Virginia 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.     

Why I like this park for kids: While most of the trails are not stroller friendly, there are so many unique terrains to explore -- the marsh, the river shoreline, and the forest. My children love all the activities near the water, especially Fossil Beach. Seasonal boat and recreational equipment are available too.

Heads up: The walk to Fossil Beach is about .5 from the playground & bathroom closest to the Rental Office. It is not stroller friendly - bring the baby carrier.

Driving Distance: 1 hour

Cost: Parking costs $7.

When to Visit: all year

Looking for more day trip ideas? Check out my guide The Best Day Trips from RVA.

Looking for more things to do with kids in Richmond? Follow along on our weekly adventures on @thewestendmom !

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1 Comment

Sarah Kh
Sarah Kh
Apr 26, 2023

Bearcreek lake is been our favorite park to ho to the past year! Its great for toddler as the water is not deep and they enjoy it every time we go! :)

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