Monday, June 9, 2014

Fun things to do with kids in Northern Virginia

If you live in or plan to visit the Northern Virginia area with kids, there are a lot of fun things to see and do. Northern Virginia is a very family-friendly oriented area and there are many various places and events you can take the kids throughout the year.

Here are a few perennial top picks:

Bull Run Park

Located close to the border of Fairfax/Prince William Counties, families can picnic, use the playgrounds and fields, and go swimming (the latter is seasonal). The pool is spacious and kids love the slides and other amenities. The park is also a popular camping facility as well. 

Throughout the year the park offers kid-friendly events/festivals and when the holidays arrive, there is a festival of lights that the children (and adults!) really enjoy. There are other county-run parks in the region as well, many are on my "to do" list.

Frying Pan Farm Park

Frying Pan Farm Park is located in Fairfax County and is also a part of the county's park system. There are lots of things to do in this park, but for kids, a recommended visit is to Kidwell Farm. Admission to the park is free. During a visit to Kidwell Farm you can get up close and personal with many farm animals such as cows, horses, sheep goats and pigs. In addition, kids see rabbits, chickens, ducks, turkeys and even a peacock. Every day at 4 p.m. kids can see how cows are milked.

Milking a cow
A child looks on a cow is being milked at Kidwell Farm

Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum

The Smithsonian Museum has a branch of the Air & Space Museum located in the western side of Fairfax County in Chantilly, Va. The museum is quite large and houses air and space craft. In addition to the exhibits, there is a gift shop, IMAX theatre, and simulators.  Also, the calendar of events often has kid-friendly activities scheduled throughout the year.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Va.
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Va.

Admission to the museum is free, but it does cost $15 to park (if you arrive after 4 p.m., parking is free, but you'll only get limited time since the museum closes about 1 to 2.5 hours later depending on the time of year. If you're local, this is a great option). The museum is conveniently located off Route 28, which is very close to the Dulles Airport. In addition, it's only about 5 miles off I-66 if you are coming from the Washington, D.C. area.

Mount Vernon

George Washington's estate is a great place to take the kids. In addition to the house tour (which older kids will likely be interested in), there is the pioneer farm, boat rides on the Potomac (this is an additional fee), wander George Washington's property, see the animals housed throughout the property or spend time in the museum or education center. There is a great room just for kids where they can play hands-on history.

Throughout the year Mount Vernon also offers many family-friendly events, such as September's annual craft fair and October's Fall Family Harvest Days.  

Kids can often participate in activities at Mount Vernon. Here a young girl separates wheat from its hull.

Leesburg Animal Park

In Loudoun County is the Leesburg Animal Park. At this park kids can get up close with the animals. There are fenced pens with a variety of animals (kids can feed and touch most of these animals), there is also an open fenced area where animals wander free and kids are welcomed to enter this area to feed and pet the animals (these are friendly animals, but some can be aggressive wanting food, so little ones might be intimidated or scared in this particular fenced-in area). The park offers other activities. Great place to spend a few hours or the day. Picnicking is welcomed.

Kids and adults alike love to feed the animals at Leesburg Animal Park
For a few other ideas, if you want to head a little bit away from D.C. you can head west to the Skyline Caverns (I will be doing a post on Skyline in the very near future as it's a great summer day trip), or south to Cows-n-Corn Farm or the Flying Circus Air Show for a day of family fun.

Also, there are always festivals and many seasonal events are held at the various parks, farms and museums throughout the area. 

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