There is a curious thing that happens to my children when summer starts: They turn into sloths. They rummage through the pantry for copious amounts of snacks and plop on the nearest comfortable seat to watch TV or play games. Luckily, there is a cure for this ailment: The outdoors!
First of all, a special thanks to the sponsor of this article, Virginia State Parks, who reminds us: Newbies have no fear—Virginia State Parks has great offerings for beginners and pro outdoors adventurers. From beach side primitive camping and ocean kayaking at False Cape to fully furnished six-bedroom lodges and how-to kayak programs at Kiptopeke, the Park Rangers at Virginia State Parks can get you acclimated, comfortable, and on your way to enjoying the outdoors.
To help families navigate their outdoor planning, there are legit groups who focus on leading our children to the great outdoors. No Child Left Inside is a super movement that really wants our kids to live in the real world! Imagine that … my sons can learn how to survive in the wild instead of in the world of Minecraft (thankfully!). Check out more about the movement here. You can also check out the Children & Nature Network as a great place to learn and connect. Another cool group is OutDoor Afro that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, birding, fishing, gardening, skiing and more. Here they are.
These groups are great ways to begin your planning, but we’d like to highlight a few favorite spots that all Coastal Virginians should know about.
Belle Isle State Park (top picture): For those of you who love to go crabbing and fishing, plan a trip to Belle Isle State Park in Lancaster. Located in the rural Northern Neck of Virginia, it features tidal and nontidal wetlands, lowland marshes, tidal coves, and upland forests. You can camp, fish, hop on a boat, canoe and kayak a while and more. It is the perfect place for a true outdoor adventure with the fam. For more, click here.
As an added bonus, this location offers Music by the River. A perfect family evening for a picnic and fun, the concerts offer free popcorn and soft drinks for 50 cents. Check out the schedule here.
First Landing State Park: If you need to kick those kids out of the house before you’re able to plan a road trip, head to First Landing State Park. Located in Virginia Beach where English colonists first landed in 1607, it is bursting with history. It includes 20 miles of trails and 1.5 miles of beachfront, swamps (for recreating your favorite Swamp Thing moments), lagoons, forests, rare plants and wildlife. It also offers cabins, campsites, picnic areas, boat ramps, and bicycle rentals. This park, as well as many of the bay beaches, is great for kids as the waves are smaller and riptides not as strong as the oceanfront. Check out their events on the web.
False Cape State Park (below): Do you enjoy archery? Hone your skills while biking, hiking, boating and more at False Cape State Park in Virginia Beach. There is even a tram operated by the Back Bay Restoration Foundation that travels through the wildlife refuge. Kayak trips, camping, and interpretive programs are just some of the cool things offered here.
Chippokes Plantation State Park (below): For all of those kids who love to live in the virtual world, perhaps they’ll enjoy living in another time in Surry. One of the oldest continually farmed plantations in the country, the Chippokes Plantation has been a working farm since 1619. This park offers modern recreational activities as well as a glimpse of life in a bygone era. There are many opportunities to play colonial-style games, hike, bike, ride on horseback and picnic. The 40th annual Pork, Pine, and Peanut festival is July 18-19, 2015, in the park. Grammy winning Kentucky Headhunters are taking the main stage on Saturday. For more on Chippokes, click here.
Newport News Park: If you’ve never been to Newport News Park, you don’t know what you’re missing. One of the largest municipal parks east of the Mississippi, this is a great place to take the kids for nature watching, boating, camping, fishing, archery, and so much more. Our family likes to bike this park. For more info, click here.
At the Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, you can take advantage of the Noland Trail or enjoy the lake. For more on them, click here.
Chesapeake offers the Northwest River Park and Campground for the perfect outdoor family adventure. For more, click here.
Don’t leave the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Suffolk out of your plans. It is perfect for canoeing, biking, hiking, kayaking, and viewing our wildlife. For more, click here.
The Eastern Shore also offers hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, education, and plenty of photo ops at the National Wildlife Refuge. Also on the Shore is Kiptopeke State Park (right), which was explored by Capt. John Smith in 1608, offers recreational access to the Chesapeake Bay, and is a great place to spot migratory birds..
Grandview Natural Preserve is a great place for photography as it is really meant for nature watchers. For more, click here.
Be a part of the No Child Left Inside movement and make a plan to kick your own kids off the sofa this summer. Let nature be their guide. They may complain today, but they’ll thank you tomorrow.
To make reservations at Virginia State Parks, call the Virginia State Parks Customer Service Center at 1-800-933-PARK. Be sure to follow Virginia State Parks on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for up-to-date events, discounts, and more. Be sure to tag your photos #vastateparks and #altdaily.