Stretching from the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Coast, Virginia is one of the most beautiful states in the country. It also offers a wealth of family-friendly activities and attractions, ranging from petting zoos and drive-through safaris to educational science museums. There are also several spectacular show caves, including the Shenandoah Caverns, the Natural Bridge Caverns, and the Luray Caverns. Kayaking on the Atlantic Ocean or one of Virginia's many rivers is another great family activity, but if your kids are more interested in history than in nature, you should consider paying a visit to Mount Vernon or Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.
© Amazement Square
Located in Central Virginia, Amazement Square is a hands-on museum designed specifically for children. The interactive exhibits cover topics like Native American culture and history, gravity and electricity, and life on a farm, and there's also an exciting climbing structure that connects all four floors of the museum. Most days of the week, the museum also hosts special programs that allow kids to explore various aspects of art, science, and engineering. There are several private spaces that can be booked for birthday parties, and the entire space can even be booked for an overnight slumber party with optional access to the planetarium.
27 9th St, Lynchburg, VA 24504, Phone: 434-845-1888
2.Bay Country Kayaking
© Bay Country Kayaking
A family owned and operated business that specializes in eco kayaking tours, Bay Country Kayaking offers trips in several different Virginia locations, including the Eastern Shore and the Historic Triangle. Both ocean and river tours are available, and the company is happy to personalize the trip to suit your preferences. Most tours last between 2.5 and 3 hours, but if you want a longer experience, the New Point Comfort Beach trips takes more than half a day. Customers of all ages and fitness levels are welcome, and tandem kayaks are available for kids under 12 who want to go with an adult.
1000 Lakeshead Dr Williamsburg, Virginia 23185, Phone: 804-695-4660
3.Children's Museum of Richmond
© Children's Museum of Richmond
Formerly located inside the Navy Hill School building, the Children's Museum of Richmond is one of the best kids' museums in the state. The museum is dedicated to inspiring learning through play, and highlights of the exhibits include an interactive hospital with a life-sized "operations" game, a sand box where kids can dig for dinos and treasures, and a farm-themed area designed for children under the age of three. There's also a cozy book nook where kids are encouraged to read. If you can't make it to the main museum in Richmond, there are also satellite locations in Fredericksburg, Chesterfield, and Short Pump.
2626 W Broad St, Richmond, VA 23220, Phone: 804-474-7000
4.Flying Flowers Butterfly House
Found at the Beagle Ridge Herb Farm, the Flying Flowers Butterfly House is home to more than 30 different species of native Vermont butterflies. All visitors can participate in a short educational program about the butterfly's life cycle and other fun facts, with plenty of time for questions. After the educational program, visitors can enter the butterfly house in small groups, where they'll have the chance to feed and pet a butterfly. The house is open between mid-May and the end of September, and at the end of the season, guests are invited to come participate in the monarch butterfly tagging event.
1934 Matney Flats Rd, Po 419, Wytheville, VA 24382, Phone: 276-621-4511
5.Fort Chiswell Animal Park
Home to animals from six of the world's seven continents, the Fort Chiswell Animal Park is an interactive zoo where visitors are encouraged to touch and feed many of the animals. The petting zoo is home to familiar animals like deer and llamas, but the real highlight of the park is the Safari Bus Tour, which takes visitors on an exciting adventure through the outback, where they'll spot animals like zebras, camels, and buffalo. The bus tour is included in the price of admission, and if you'd like to feed the animals, food can be purchased from the gift shop.
569 Red Hollow Rd, Max Meadows, VA 24360, Phone: 276-637-6754
6.Frontier Culture Museum
© Frontier Culture Museum
The perfect destination for history lovers of all ages, the Frontier Culture Museum is an outdoor living history museum that tells the story of what life was like for the area's first settlers. There are 11 permanent exhibits, each of which represents life in a different part of the Old World or America, including an English farm, an Eastern Woodland indigenous settlement, and an Irish forge. Costumed interpreters can be found all throughout the museum, answering questions and doing their best to bring history to life. Visitors are welcome to explore the museum on their own, but guided tours are available if arranged in advance.
1290 Richmond Ave, Staunton, VA 24401, Phone: 540-332-7850
© Grand Caverns
One of the oldest show caves in the country, Grand Caverns has been offering tours to the public since 1806. The standard tour is suitable for visitors of all ages, and it leads visitors on a mile-long stroll through a beautiful cave decorated with natural stalactites and stalagmites. On select days, there's also an exciting Adventure Tour that takes visitors deep into an unlit cave that hasn't been open to the public since the 1800s. Above ground, the property offers a mini golf course, a swimming pool, a picnic area, and several beautiful walking trails.
5 Grand Cavern Rd, Grottoes, VA 24441, Phone: 540-249-5705
8.Infinity Acres Petting Ranch
© Infinity Acres Petting Ranch
Home to both domestic and exotic animals, Infinity Acres Petting Ranch is an educational petting zoo where visitors are encouraged to learn about animals in a fun, interactive way. It specializes in group tours, and visitors will have the chance to participate in activities like bottle feeding baby goats, walking llamas, and feeding animals. The ranch is open year-round, but visits are by appointment only. During the summer, kids can be enrolled in a week-long day camp program where they'll learn how to groom animals, create wool art, and play catch and release fishing games.
136 Joppa Rd #4242, Ridgeway, VA 24148, Phone: 276-358-2378
9.Kayak Nature Tours
© New Africa/stock.adobe.com
Established in 1996, Kayak Nature Tours offers guided kayaking trips in both Virginia and North Carolina. Half and full day tours are available on a variety of inland waterways, and between May and October, there are also dolphin watching tours in the Atlantic Ocean. No experience is required to join the tours, but if you'd like to practice your paddling skills before embarking on an all-day adventure, the company also offers one- and two-day paddling courses. If you already have some kayaking experience and would like to head out on your own, you can even rent kayaks by the day.
110 W Randall Ave, Norfolk, VA 23503, Phone: 757-480-1999
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10.Leesburg Animal Park
© Leesburg Animal Park
Occupying more than 20 acres, the Leesburg Animal Park is a family-owned and operated petting zoo where visitors can meet animals from all over the world. The petting zoo area is home to barnyard animals like donkeys, bunnies, and llamas, and the exotic animal exhibits boast creatures like zebras, squirrel monkeys, and sloths. Aside from the animals, there's also a three-level kids' play area with a trampoline and a giant slide. Wagon rides are offered between mid-March and the end of December, and special holiday activities and festivals are held during the Easter, Halloween, and Christmas seasons.
19246 James Monroe Hwy, Leesburg, VA 20175, Phone: 703-433-0002
11.Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum
© Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum
Loudoun County has a rich history of farming, and the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum brings this part of history to life in an exciting, family-friendly way. The exhibits cover 250 years of farming heritage, and many of them include interactive areas where kids can milk play cows, use historical farm kitchen tools, and pretend to be students in a 1909 one-room schoolhouse. In addition to the farming exhibits, there's also a section dedicated to the history area's indigenous inhabitants, including a display of arrowheads and other tools. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, and the last admission is always at 4 p.m.
21668 Heritage Farm Ln, Sterling, VA 20164, Phone: 571-258-3800
Discovered in 1878, the Luray Caverns is the largest and most impressive show cave in the Eastern United States. The rooms boast ceilings as high as ten stories, and they're full of wondrous rock formations like flowstones, towering columns, and an enormous natural organ that can be tapped to create musical sounds. A special machine plays a song on the organ during every tour. The 1.25-mile-long walkway is completely paved and step-free, and guided tours leave every 20 minutes and take approximately one hour. The admission fee also gives guests access to three small museums, including the kid-friendly Toy Town Junction.
101 Cave Hill Rd, Luray, VA 22835, Phone: 540-743-6551
13.Metro Richmond Zoo
Boasting a diverse collection of exotic animals, the Metro Richmond Zoo is home to approximately 2,000 animals representing 180 species from across the globe. Admiring the animals is a fun way to spend the day in and of itself, but the zoo also offers all sorts of interactive experiences and exciting rides. Visitors can feed giraffes by hand, take a Safari Sky Ride over the zoo grounds, or attend one of the educational Zookeeper Talks held throughout the day. Just outside the zoo, there's also a zipline and high ropes course with some ziplines that give guests a birds-eye view of the zoo animals.
8300 Beaver Bridge Rd, Moseley, VA 23120, Phone: 804-739-5666
14.Mill Mountain Zoo
© Thorsten Spoerlein/stock.adobe.com
Perched on top of Mill Mountain, the Mill Mountain Zoo is a great stop to make if you're driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The zoo's mountaintop location has required it to stay fairly small, but it's still home to animals from more than 30 different species, including the endangered snow leopard and red panda. It's easy to see all the animals while walking through the zoo, and animal feedings and zookeeper talks are offered every day. During the summer, visitors can also hop aboard a miniature train known as the Zoo Coo, which laps around the entire zoo.
Mill Mountain Spur, Roanoke, VA 24014, Phone: 540-343-3241
Sitting on the banks of the Potomac River, Mount Vernon is the former plantation home of George Washington. The 500-acre property has approximately 30 historic outbuildings in addition to the elegant mansion, and visitors are welcome to explore the grounds and gardens at their leisure. A guided tour of the mansion is included in the price of admission, and for an additional fee, there's also a family-friendly tour that explains what daily life was like during the 18th century. Kids will also particularly like watching farming demonstrations at the Pioneer Farm, doing crafts in the Hands-on-History Center, and participating in the I Spy Scavenger Hunt.
3200 Mount Vernon Hwy, Mt Vernon, VA 22121, Phone: 703-780-2000
16.Natural Bridge Caverns
Conveniently located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Natural Bridge Caverns are a beautiful natural attraction hidden away more than 34 stories beneath the surface of the Earth. Guided walking tours take approximately 45 minutes and lead visitors past an underground lake and through a number of different cave rooms, including a massive dome-shaped room and the stalactite-filled Canyon Room. Tours are offered every day between mid-March and the end of November, and on Fridays and weekends during the rest of the year. An admission discount is offered if you also purchase a ticket to the Natural Bridge.
6313 S Lee Hwy, Natural Bridge, VA 24578, Phone: 540-291-2482
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17.Science Museum of Western Virginia
© Science Museum of Western Virginia
The Science Museum of Western Virginia was the first museum of its kind in the state, and it offers hands-on learning opportunities for visitors of all ages. There are a dozen fascinating exhibits, each of which explores a different topic in the STEM field. Kids with an interest in the nature world will love the Fungi Kingdom and the underwater Touch Tank, while those who lean more towards engineering and technology will be drawn to the WonderLab and the How It Works exhibit. All exhibits feature plenty of interactive elements to facilitate learning and keep guests engaged.
1 Market Square SE, Roanoke, VA 24011, Phone: 540-342-5710
Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, the Shenandoah Caverns are an underground wonderland with seventeen breathtaking cave rooms for visitors to explore. Guided tours take approximately one hour and include one mile of walking, and visitors will see fascinating rock formations and natural features like the crystalline Diamond Cascade, the shimmering Rainbow Lake, and the unique, ruffled Breakfast Bacon rocks. However, you don't need to leave as soon as the cave tour is over; the property also boasts a gemstone mining activity, a display of colorful parade floats, and a collection of elaborate department store displays from the 1940s and 1950s.
261 Caverns Rd, Quicksburg, VA 22847, Phone: 540-477-3115
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19.Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum
© Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum
Created to inspire creativity and a love of learning, the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum is a hands-on kids' museum with exhibits covering various topics related to the arts, sciences, and humanities. Children are encouraged to participate at whatever level they can, and highlights of the exhibits include a musical rooftop garden, a play ambulance, and an indoor/outdoor beehive where you can try to spot the queen bee. Daily afternoon programs are included in the admission fee as well, including storytelling and art sessions. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, and admission is free for visitors under the age of two.
19 W Cork St, Winchester, VA 22601, Phone: 540-722-2020
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20.Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
© Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
Proudly designed by the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello is a former plantation that holds an incredible amount of historic significance. A tour of the Main House is typically the highlight of any visit, but there are plenty of other tours to choose from as well, including a tour with a focus on slavery, a tour of the beautiful grounds and gardens, and a hands-on tour geared towards kids aged 6-11. There's also a hands-on activity center where children can peer through a telescope, write with a quill pen, and play games from the time of Thomas Jefferson.
931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902, Phone: 434-984-9800
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21.Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center
© Arkady Chubykin/stock.adobe.com
With more than 800,000 gallons of fresh and saltwater aquarium displays, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center is a wonderful place to learn about the world's diverse range of marine life. Exhibits are housed in two main buildings; the Bay and Ocean Pavilion features aquatic animals that live in Chesapeake Bay, in the waters off the coast of Virginia, and in various other coastal habitats around the world, while the Marsh Pavilion is primarily home to marsh creatures. In addition to the marine exhibits, there's also an aerial adventure park where visitors can walk and zipline through the treetops near the Marsh Pavilion.
717 General Booth Blvd, Virginia Beach, VA 23451, Phone: 757-385-3474
22.Virginia Living Museum
© Virginia Living Museum
If you want to learn about the plants and animals that are native to Virginia, the Virginia Living Museum is the perfect place to do so. It features both indoor and outdoor exhibits, which depict everything from the valleys of the Appalachian Mountains to the waters of Chesapeake Bay, and it's home to approximately 250 different species of animals. A 3/4-mile interpretive boardwalk leads across the lake and through the wetlands, and the outdoor aviary features a boardwalk that takes visitors right into the treetops. There's also a planetarium, which offers live sky shows as well as laser shows.
524 J Clyde Morris Blvd, Newport News, VA 23601, Phone: 757-595-1900
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23.Virginia Museum of Natural History
© Virginia Museum of Natural History
As the principal natural history museum in the state, the Virginia Museum of Natural History boasts award-winning exhibits and educational programs for people of all ages. Visitors can learn about how the Earth was created, peer into working laboratories, and marvel at ancient dinosaur skeletons, and there are often games, crafts, and other activities for children. If your kids are under the age of 8, they're also welcome to play in the Discovery Reef play center. There are private party spaces that can be booked for birthdays and other special events, and during the summer, the museum hosts Adventure Camps for kids.
21 Starling Ave, Martinsville, VA 24112, Phone: 276-634-4141
24.Virginia Safari Park
© Virginia Safari Park
Set on 180 beautiful acres in the community of Natural Bridge, the Virginia Safari Park is home to more than 1,000 animals. Ten acres are dedicated to a walk-through area where visitors can see cheetahs, feed giraffes, and pet baby llamas, and close-up animal encounters are held here several time a day. The rest of the property consists of a drive-through safari full of free-roaming animals like camels, bison, zebras, ostriches, and more. Outside food is not permitted in the park, but if you want to feed the animals, several different types of animal feed are available for purchase on site.
229 Safari Ln, Natural Bridge, VA 24578, Phone: 540-291-3205
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24 Best Things to Do in Virginia with Kids of All Ages
- Amazement Square, Photo: Amazement Square
- Bay Country Kayaking, Photo: Bay Country Kayaking
- Children's Museum of Richmond, Photo: Children's Museum of Richmond
- Flying Flowers Butterfly House, Photo: blackdiamond67/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Chiswell Animal Park, Photo: Wirestock/stock.adobe.com
- Frontier Culture Museum, Photo: Frontier Culture Museum
- Grand Caverns, Photo: Grand Caverns
- Infinity Acres Petting Ranch, Photo: Infinity Acres Petting Ranch
- Kayak Nature Tours, Photo: New Africa/stock.adobe.com
- Leesburg Animal Park, Photo: Leesburg Animal Park
- Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum, Photo: Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum
- Luray Caverns, Photo: jgorzynik/stock.adobe.com
- Metro Richmond Zoo, Photo: Blake/stock.adobe.com
- Mill Mountain Zoo, Photo: Thorsten Spoerlein/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Vernon, Photo: Hotspur/stock.adobe.com
- Natural Bridge Caverns, Photo: Diane/stock.adobe.com
- Science Museum of Western Virginia, Photo: Science Museum of Western Virginia
- Shenandoah Caverns, Photo: oldmn/stock.adobe.com
- Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum, Photo: Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum
- Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, Photo: Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
- Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, Photo: Arkady Chubykin/stock.adobe.com
- Virginia Living Museum, Photo: Virginia Living Museum
- Virginia Museum of Natural History, Photo: Virginia Museum of Natural History
- Virginia Safari Park, Photo: Virginia Safari Park
- Cover Photo: Ritu Jethani/stock.adobe.com