With school years coming to a close, it’s time to build an arsenal of activities that will keep your kids (and you) happy and entertained during the summer vacation. Whether it’s an overnight adventure or a routine-breaking day trip you’re looking for, the Fredericksburg region has many ways to keep the often hard-to-please preschool set on the go this summer. Here are three trip ideas to add to your family’s summer 2014 bucket list:
Fun in Fredericksburg
The Children’s Museum of Richmond opened a 12,000-square-foot satellite branch in Fredericksburg’s Eagle Village shopping center in May 2014. The bright, clean and colorful museum is filled with interactive, hands-on learning activities for kids, including a fully stocked arts and crafts center, a kid-sized grocery, diner, bank and dentist’s office, a 10-foot tire-climb with a rubber floor for safe landings, a special play area for babies and crawlers and more. The Children’s Museum of Richmond has been winning awards for years for its ability to create child-centered learning activities disguised as pure fun. This is a great place to get out of the sun and give your kids some enriching playtime this summer. If you have a membership to the Richmond branch, then your entry to the Fredericksburg museum is already covered!
What would any kids’ museum be without a good source of caffeine nearby? Get your java fix at Blackstone Coffee, also in the Eagle Village center. Blackstone roasts its own beans and its baristas are trained in artisan brewing techniques. The shop’s cheerful atmosphere and delicious menu of sandwiches and sweet treats make it a comfortable stop with kids in tow.
If you’d like to make the outing an overnight trip, the new Hyatt Place Hotel, also in Eagle Village, offers clean, comfortable lodging within walking distance of the museum and several family-friendly restaurants. From your room, you’ll also be able to walk to the pedestrian bridge that leads over U.S. 1 onto the University of Mary Washington campus. Young children and adults alike will enjoy the view, and between counting cars and identifying the colors of those that pass under the bridge, there’s no shortage of teaching opportunities. When you finally go back to your car, you’re just minutes from downtown Fredericksburg. Play like a local at Memorial Recreation Park, known to locals as “Kenmore Park” to get your kiddos tired enough to nap all the way home.
Back to nature in Spotsylvania County
If you’ve been looking for a place to take your young kids camping for the first time, Lake Anna State Park offers pleasant campgrounds, hikes that are manageable for shorter legs and many other kid-friendly options. The park’s newly renovated visitor center includes interactive games that teach kids about nature, such as “Feathered Feeders,” which explains how the shapes of birds’ beaks are specifically designed for what those birds eat. The park’s sandy beach will allow you to get your sandcastle fix without making a longer drive.
Head back to U.S. 1 via Courthouse Road and you’ll pass the Bug Box. This “live insect zoo” houses live specimens of insects, crustaceans and arachnids from around the world, along with turtles, frogs, toads, salamanders and a “pet” snake named Fred. It’s open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., with a $3 admission charge.
When you’ve had enough of the creepy-crawlies, consider driving over to Miller Farms Market, on Orange Plank Road near Spotsylvania’s border with Orange County. This family farm offers pick-your-own berries in season, a market filled with high-quality local and artisan food products and a chance for your kids to see chickens strut around and play in a giant sand pile. The peaceful surroundings at Miller Farms will give you a break from the constant noise that sometimes goes along with parenting young children.
Teachable moments in Stafford County
When you’re trying to fill your summer calendar, take a look at the events schedule at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont in Stafford County. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Young children plus historic home and art museum? Sounds like a recipe for disaster!” But the fine folks at Belmont have developed a program called Preschool Palette that is aimed specifically at the 2-5 set. Kids and parents will watch an educational video about the home and its former owner, will enjoy a story in Melchers’ preserved studio and will then get to work on an art project inspired by the book. The grounds are available for picnicking and exploring afterward. Check the schedule here, and be sure to follow the registration instructions on the website before you go to make sure there is room. These programs are very popular.
A visit to Stafford County is a great time to teach your little one about the formative years of our nation’s first president. At Ferry Farm, you can tour the grounds of George Washington’s boyhood home, learn about archaeology and even take an iPad tour that adds interactive features. To prepare for your trip, check out the “Kid Stuff” Ferry Farm offers on its website, including these coloring pages of George and his family members.
Whether you're planning to get out of town for a few days or looking for a good stopover to break up a longer trip along Interstate 95, make time to spend a few days with your kids in the Fredericksburg region this summer.