Summer is coming, people. In a hurry…a huge hurry. And that means hours of entertaining kids who complained about school all year, but are now bored out of their minds. It also means out-of-town guests and long holiday weekends that need to be filled. On the bright side, it also means nice weather and an incredible outdoor world that is just begging to be taken advantage of.
We can all agree that Virginia is full of spectacular things to do – attractions and parks and museums. But put a price tag on these things and the numbers add up pretty quickly. So we’ve found some free – yes, I said FREE – things to do in Virginia this summer to keep the kids happy, the out-of-town guests entertained and you on budget.
1. Mt. Trashmore, Virginia Beach
Built on the site of an old landfill, Mt. Trashmore has turned trash into treasure with 165-acres of park space that has something for everyone. The park features picnic shelters, trails, 2 fishing lakes, a skate park, the “Kids’ Cove” playground, basketball courts and more. As a Virginia Beach City Park, it is free to the public.
2. Virginia Beachfront and Boardwalk
Who doesn’t love sand, sun and ocean? But Virginia Beach is much more than that. The beach offers year-round activities along the beachfront and boardwalk, including street performers, live music, kite festivals, sports, hot rod and classic car shows and…well, this goes on and on. The best part is that many of these events are absolutely free. Just pack a picnic and enjoy the fun.
3. Maymont, Richmond
With over 100-acres of manicured gardens, a farm, petting zoo, nature center and an historic mansion, Maymont is a Richmond treasure. Stroll the grounds, see wildlife, visit the Japanese Gardens and simply enjoy the beauty of this park. The Dooley Mansion and children’s Petting Zoo have $5 suggested donations and the nature center has a nominal fee, but the rest of this amazing park is yours to enjoy for free.
4. Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, Harrisonburg
Located on the beautiful James Madison University campus, this stunning oasis offers forested walking trails, botanic gardens and a wide variety of educataional resources. The arboretum is the only one of its on a college campus and is open to the public at no charge 365 days a year.
5. Colonial Williamsburg
Virginia’s largest living history museum is located at Colonial Williamsburg. While there are fees for some attractions, it is easy to spend a day, or days, walking through the masterfully recreated streets of Williamsburg for a look at life in colonial Virginia without spending a cent. Many reenactments, gardens and countless exhibits are open at no cost to the public.
6. Frying Pan Farm Park, Herndon
This Fairfax County park shows a beautifully preserved glimpse into farm life in the mid-1900s and is the last working farm in the county. See the blacksmith shop, smoke house and barns along with pigs, goats, cows, sheep, rabbits and horses on this real-life dairy farm. Special events include cow and goat milking, wagon rides, educational tours, interactive camps and equestrian events.
7. Bluebird Gap Farm, Hampton
In the heart of urban Hampton, Bluebird Gap Farm has over 150 species of domestic and wild animals, including farm animals, llamas, birds of prey, alpacas, tortoises and peacocks. Picnic shelters and playgrounds, along with an antique barn showcasing farm and home antiques from the past several centuries, ensure that there is truly something for everyone.
8. Virginia Creeper Trail, Abingdon
For 34 miles, the Virginia Creeper Trail takes you through some of the most beautiful landscape Virginia has to offer. The trail is considered Virginia’s premier mountain biking trail, but there are sections that will fit any skill level. Bike rentals and shuttle services are available, or bring your own bike, pack a picnic and enjoy the ride.
9. Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, Smyth County
Featuring the highest peak in Virginia at 5,729-feet, Mt Rogers National Recreation Area covers 200,000 acres and offers 500 miles of trails, beautiful forests, rock formations and herds of wild ponies. Activities include hiking, fishing, swimming, picnicking, camping, hunting, biking, bird watching and much, much more.
10. Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge, Woodbridge
Only 18 miles out of Washington D.C., the Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge on the Potomac River was the first national refuge purposed specifically for protecting bald eagles. This free refuge hosts eagles, herons, deer and many other species of wildlife on 2,227-acres of forest, marsh and Potomac shoreline.
11. Great Dismal Swamp, Suffolk
This beautiful refuge features Lake Drummond and offers over 200 species of birds and wildlife including deer, black bear, bobcats, river otters and more. Encompassing 112,000 acres, it is truly an escape into another world with trails through pristine forest and marshlands.
12. Foamhenge, Natural Bridge
An exact replica of Stonehenge made entirely from Styrofoam? I’d pay for that, but thanks to the generosity of Foamhenge artist and local artists, Mark Cline, Foamhenge is free for all to enjoy and love.
13. Luray Singing Tower, Luray
This bell tower near Luray Caverns was built in 1937 as a memorial to Colonel T.C. Northcott’s wife and is officially known as the Belle Brown Northcott Memorial. It houses a carillon of 47 bells, the largest weighing in over 7,600 lbs. You can imagine the incredible sounds these bells make – or you can hear them for yourself, free of charge, with regularly scheduled 45-minute concerts throughout the spring, summer and fall.
14. McCormick Observatory, Charlottesville
Take a closer look at the stars in the McCormick Observatory at University of Virginia. On the first and third Friday of each month, the Observatory is open to the public for tours, education and solar observation through the astronomy department’s high-powered telescopes. The events are weather dependent so call (434) 243-1885 for the Public Night Information Line.
15. Udvar-Hazy Center, Dulles
As the a companion site to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the Udvar-Hazy Center is an remarkable collection of air and space artifacts. The two massive hangars contain an I-Max theater, a Concorde, the space shuttle Discovery and countless other examples of aeronautics throughout the decades. An observation tower allows you watch planes coming in out of Dulles International Airport, one of the world’s busiest hubs, ensuring that kids will love this site almost as much as the adults.
I am going to have to give you a spoiler alert now, too. There were so many things that we found, that we will be featuring a Part 2 for even more free things to do in Virginia. In the meantime, please be sure to tell us about any hidden treasures you know of that can help everyone have an amazing summer without breaking the bank! Comment below….