On the water
Photo Credit: April Greer, Burke Lake Park
- Harpers Ferry Adventure Center – From tubing and whitewater rafting to aerial adventure courses to ziplining, everyone in the family can enjoy something for everyone in the family at this outdoor center just west of Loudoun. Located on the banks of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, this is the perfect place to spend a secluded and relaxing afternoon on the water.
- Penguin Paddling & Hamptons Landing Marina – Kayaking, paddling, and boating on the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers is the perfect way to soak up the sun on the water.
- Rent kayaks to explore Fairfax County’s lakes, bays, and waterways, from the scenic eagle-watching opportunities at Mason Neck State Park to the serene marine parks at Burke Lake or Lake Fairfax.
- Enjoy a family picnic (take away) at one of Alexandria’s vibrant water parks on the Potomac River.
Photo credit: Hailey Zurschmeide, Great Country Farms
- Great Country Farms – Take a scenic drive through the country and stop at Great Country Farms. On 400 hectares there is plenty of space to pick everything from fruit and vegetables yourself, to visit animals, to play mini golf or fish in the pond.
- The Small Lake Goat Farm – Located on beautiful Lake Manassas in Prince William County, Virginia, the farm offers guests healthy, sustainable food, as well as free range goat, alpaca, llama, bee, and egg products. Enjoy special events like goat yoga, open house days, private tours, newborn cuddling, and private parties. Reservations are required to visit.
- Schedule a volunteer day at Arcadia Farm in advance to build garden beds, tend, sow and / or weed chickens, and learn about life on the farm.
- Have a great time with the farm animals (and babies!) At Frying Pan Farm Park. The farm preserves and interprets rural life from the 1920s to 1950s, but also houses a country shop, an old carousel, an equestrian center and beautiful nature trails.
Hiking & cycling
Photo credit: Jake McGuire, Theodore Roosevelt Island
- Theodore Roosevelt Island – Escape nature in the midst of an urban setting with a trip to Theodore Roosevelt Island, a 91 acre wooded island reserve with miles of trails for hiking or running.
- Neabsco Creek Boardwalk – This ¾ mile boardwalk allows hikers access to wetlands, where the tall grasses and marshes filter pollution from the river and provide abundant habitat for native animals and birds. The walkway is also part of the Potomac Heritage National Trail, established by Congress in 1983, designating an 800-mile network of trails stretching from the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania to the Potomac River and through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia meanders.
- Gravelly Point – Take a walk or bike ride along the Mount Vernon Trail to Gravelly Point and watch planes fly to and from nearby Reagan National Airport. Its unique location just a few hundred feet from the north end of Reagan’s 1/19 runway makes it one of the best places to watch planes in the United States. Bring a picnic lunch, frisbee, and / or your bike, and explore beautiful views of Washington, DC and the Potomac River.
- Help local bike companies pick up a coffee or juice before hitting the Fairfax County’s bike paths. A couple of great ones located right on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail (a 45 mile paved trail through three counties) are Green Lizard Cycling in Herndon and The Bike Lane in Reston.
- Ride a bike to DC or along the riverside Mount Vernon Trail with Unlimited Biking or Pedego Electric Bikes rentals in Alexandria. As you cycle, scour the tidal swamp for creatures along the food chain, from arrowfish to sun-tanning turtles to stately bald eagles.
Photo credit: Nicole Warner, Leesylvania State Park
- Leesylvania State Park – This scenic park has five tent-only campsites. A large group campsite and four individual campsites for visitors arriving by canoe or kayak. The group campsite has several picnic tables, benches, running water and a large fireplace with a grill plate. There is also plenty of space for leisure activities in the large field next to the campsite. Each location is near a small boat launch and includes a picnic table, fire pit with grill plate, and lantern hook. Leesylvania State Park is known for great fishing, beaches with bathing areas, and historic hiking trails.
A universally accessible fishing pier, playground, boat launch, boat room, snack bar and shop, visitor center and gift shop are available. A 20-station fitness trail and canoe and kayak rentals are also available.
- Algonkian Regional Park – Rent one of 12 vacation homes on the Potomac River in this Loudoun regional park. With decks, grills, full kitchens, and multiple bedrooms, these cottages are perfect for a secluded getaway. While in the park, you can tee off on the 18-hole golf course, hike the trails, or use the boat launch to get out on the water.
- Prince William Forest Park – With 3 back country campsites, 1 back country campsite, and 5 cabin camps, Prince William Forest Park offers world-class tent and RV camping in the Northern Virginia / DC region.
The park offers visitors the unique opportunity to camp, hike, and explore in 15,000 acres of forest full of wildlife and more than 300 years of human history. Campers can enjoy a range of outdoor activities in the park, including 60 km of hiking trails, on and off-road biking, bird watching, a rough orienteering, and streams and ponds for fishing (Permit required and available from the park’s visitor center).
History, parks, and more
Photo credit: Kristian Summerer, Alexandria Old Town
- Explore self-guided great walks in Alexandria, with themes ranging from centuries-old architecture to photo-friendly artwork to expansive black history and much more. For every walk, check out our accompanying Google Map to help plan your route – although you’re tempted (and welcome) to take a detour.
- Air Force Memorial – Located on a beautiful hill, the Air Force Memorial honors the service and sacrifice of US aviators with three stainless steel towers that commemorate the flight of a jet and a spacecraft. The Air Force Memorial is open to the public, and entry and parking are free. The memorial is located next to Arlington National Cemetery and is approximately 1 mile from Pentagon City Station and Pentagon Station.
- Gulf Branch Nature Center & Park – The wooded, 38-acre Gulf Branch Nature Center & Park is a sensory experience for your little ones with a log cabin, interactive exhibits, and a blacksmith’s shop. If you’re short on time, train your energies in one of the urban playgrounds like Quincy Park near Virginia Square and Rocky Run Park in Clarendon.
- Snap! Zip Line & Treetop Adventure – Fly through the woods on one of the four courses on offer, for both adults and teenagers!
- Roer’s Zoofari – Waffles, giraffes, lemurs, zebras, kangaroos, cheetahs and much more live in this zoo. Would you rather not get out of your vehicle? Book a spot on the Self-Drive Safari Tour, where you get up close and personal with nine different species, including bison, llamas, fallow deer, and more.
- The Colvin Run Mill is an often overlooked 19th-century historic site that features a working water wheel, miller’s house and blacksmith’s shop, scenic walking areas, and a general store that sells locally made cornmeal and flour!
- George Masons Gunston Hall – Learn about the life of founding father George Mason, the father of the Bill of Rights, at his legendary home, Gunston Hall. Archeology and hiking opportunities are exciting additions to the villa tour.
For more ideas for your Northern Virginia vacation, visit www.NorthernVA.org.
Outdoor Family Adventures in Northern Virginia first appeared on Virginia’s travel blog.