Northern Virginia is filled with fun and exciting summer activities for kids. With the nation’s capital in easy driving distance and historic battlefields surrounding the area, educational opportunities are always available. But learning isn’t the only activity Prince William County has to offer. The surrounding area is crammed with exhilarating ropes courses and trampoline parks, skating and hiking opportunities and a waterpark. The area also features a movie theater and a weekend BBQ with live music!
With so many things to do in and around Northern Virginia, Gainesville, VA, is an outstanding choice for a family summer vacation.
Educational Activities for Kids Around Gainesville
Virginia has no shortage of cultural experiences, especially educational activities, to do with kids. Between the historical sites, museums, and battlefields, visitors are always within driving distance of a fun and interactive learning opportunity. These kids activities in Virginia are not only educational, but they’re also exciting:
- Smithsonian Museums: With Washington D.C. nearby, it should be no surprise to find the Smithsonian museums near the top the list of educational experiences. With free admission to most attractions and a range of subjects including art, culture, history, and aerospace, the Smithsonian museums are an easy pick for an enriching experience. To help visitors avoid crowds, the museum staff recommends coming during a weekday, which usually has fewer visitors.
- Smithsonian National Zoo: While technically also a part of the Smithsonian Institute, the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C. gets a special mention as one of the top summer attractions for kids. Aside from the exotic animals and educational displays, the zoo offers a large selection of kid-friendly dining options that can also meet the needs of vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free diets.
- Mount Vernon: About 45 minutes east of Gainesville, Mount Vernon provides an entire day of interactive historical education. Home to the first president, his wife, and more than 20 family members, Mount Vernon has plenty of stories to learn and sites to see. Visitors can see the historically-restored buildings, Washington’s distillery and gristmill, the gardens and landscape as well as the inside of the Washington mansion. Visitors are also encouraged to see Washington’s family tomb, which he personally instructed to be built shortly before he died. Mount Vernon also has specially-selected activities that appeal to children, including live animal exhibits, story times, interactive crafts, and discovery time.
- National Battlefield Park in Manassas, VA: The stage for two key battles in the Civil War, the Manassas Battlefield holds historical and educational significance. In 1861, the First Battle of Bull Run — the first field battle in the American Civil War — set an important precedent for what would become America’s bloodiest war. The Confederate army held off Union troops, and their victory made clear that this would not be a short or clean conflict, forcing the Union to reevaluate its plans and methods. Then, a little more than a year later, the Union attack again in the Second Battle of Bull Run, which resulted in another Confederate victory. This time, the South solidified an invaluable attack position from which they could invade the North and also deeply penetrated the morale of the Union Army. National Battlefield Park, a site open to the public for free, has many educational activities for kids. The park features guided walking tours as well as hiking loops to help visitors get a better sense of the historic land. The area also has several historic buildings, including the Brawner Farm Interpretive Center and the historic Stone House.
- Cold War Museum: Though many of the area’s historical sites focus on preserving American Revolutionary and American Civil War-era artifacts, the Cold War Museum is less than 20 miles away in Warrenton, Virginia. The museum features articles from the end of World War II up through the collapse of the USSR in the early ’90s. Through the exhibits, visitors can expect to find artifacts, learn historical context, and view propaganda and art pieces that lend valuable insight to an escalating arms race and a series of wars around the globe.
- Ben Lomond Historic Site: The Ben Lomond estate — a plantation built before the Civil War — provides an excellent chance to step back in time and see the effect the war had on the surrounding area. Visitors can see the farmhouse that Confederates initially converted into a hospital after their victory in the First Battle of Bull Run, then overtaken and vandalized by Union forces a year later. Visitors can see the farmhouse along with a restored version of the slave quarters, smokehouse and rose garden.
Indoor Activities for Kids in and Around Gainesville
Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t always cooperate. Luckily, there are plenty of fun indoor activities in the area. In addition to the previously-mentioned Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., it’s always easy to find things to do with kids in and around Gainesville, Virginia. Northern Virginia has an assortment of indoor activities for thrill seekers, as well as some more leisurely activities like movie theaters and libraries.
Even if the weather is nice, consider stopping in some of the best indoor attractions around Gainesville, including:
- The Haymarket Gainesville Public Library: The Haymarket Gainesville Public Library is a beautiful and spacious branch of the Prince William Public Library System. Along with providing access to books, computers, and media, the complex hosts multiple groups such as toddler story time, craft sessions, and teen reading groups.
- SkyZone Trampoline Park: For kids with lots of pent up energy on those rainy days, consider the local trampoline park. A quick 10-minute drive down the road, the Manassas SkyZone offers trampolines in addition to glow-time jumping, basketball hoops, foam pits, and dodgeball. Participants will be expected to sign a waiver, and then they can engage in any number of trampoline-related activities.
- Summit Ropes Indoor Ropes Course: Another adventurous, indoor activity, the Summit Ropes indoor ropes course provides rock climbing walls, cargo nets, rope bridges, and an array of other challenges. Climbers wear a full-body harness that attaches to the belay system, ensuring visitor safety. Still, customers will be expected to sign a waiver before participating in the activities. The course is designed to accommodate all skill levels and experiences. One of the benefits of an enclosed, monitored climbing area is that staff is available to assist novice climbers. The challenges are also divided into a children’s area for kids ages 4 through 6 and an advanced course for ages 7 and up. Non-climbers can also enjoy a snack at the Summit Ropes coffee bar.
- Regal Cinemas Movie Theatre: For a more relaxed activity, Regal Cinemas Virginia Gateway 14 and RPX Theater offers a premium movie experience. Viewers can expect comfortable seating and an impressive sound system, along with the usual movie concessions.
- Skating and Laser Tag: For a multi-option approach, consider Skate N Fun Zone in Manassas, VA. Visitors can choose to skate in the full-sized rink, participating fun games and skating along to the music. Guests can also choose to play laser tag, placing them in a futuristic and interactive world where they must strategically outlast their opponents. Skate N Fun Zone also allows educational STEM field trips in which students participate in hands-on activities that reveal how science, technology, engineering, and math are relevant in every aspect of our lives before the teachers reinforce the lessons through a skating session. These interactive lessons help students build applicable knowledge that they can see affect the world around them
- Ice Skating: Another skating opportunity, the Haymarket Ice Complex provides two possible skating surfaces depending on the need and availability. In addition to skating lessons and classes, parents can host a child’s birthday party at the rink. Public skating available on most days, but be sure to check their schedule for specific times.
Outdoor Activities for Kids Around Gainesville
With so many great indoor activities in the Gainesville, VA, area, it can be easy to forget that Northern Virginia has a vast selection of outdoor summer activities for preschoolers, children, teens, and adults. Hiking trails and water parks, not to mention live entertainment and smoked BBQ make it easy to get outside and do something fun with the family. Still, the mild weather and rolling hills make the Virginia area a perfect place for outdoor adventures.
Some of the best spring and summer outdoor features in the area include:
- Conway Robinson Memorial State Park: State parks are always fun free summer activities for kids. Conway Robinson State Park serves as a nature reserve and environmental education center, making it a prime outdoor educational activity for kids. Hikers enjoy the four interconnected hiking and biking routes, which hold unique treasures for geocachers. Visitors can also use the covered picnic shelter to enjoy a shady lunch on a hot summer day. There is currently no camping available on the state park grounds.
- SplashDown Water Park: One of the most popular summer activities for kids in Prince William County is a visit to SplashDown Water Park. Teens and fun-loving adults will enjoy the Pipeline Tower and Cannonball waterslides, and younger sliders also have their pick of smaller slides and activities. For a change of pace, visitors can soak in the sun lounging in the lazy river. The park also includes playgrounds, volleyball courts, and tennis courts, along with enough restaurants to fit any family’s needs.
- Cox Farms: Visitors to Cox Farms can expect a different experience depending on the time of year. During the spring and summer, Cox Farms Corner Market sells seasonal produce and greenhouse plants. Kids love to play with the oversized checkers and visit the animals. Smoking Saturdays brings in live music and smoked BBQ to complement the other available concessions. In the colder months, the farm hosts an annual fall festival, the Haunted Field of Fear and a variety of Christmas activities, like Christmas tree shopping and visits from Santa Claus.
Visit Camp Blue Ridge in Gainesville
With so many educational and enriching opportunities nearby, Gainesville, VA, makes an ideal location for summer camp. Haymarket Children’s Academy’s Camp Blue Ridge utilizes many of these kids activities in Northern Virginia. The all-inclusive, 10-week camp combines a unique blend of field trips, sports, crafts, and staff involvement to provide a one-of-a-kind experience.
Though there are plenty of activities over the summer, and it can be challenging to select the best option for your child, there are three key benefits to attending summer camp.
1. Experiential Learning
One of the reasons summer camp is such a valuable experience for kids is that they engage in experiential learning activities.
As campers tackle problems through crafts, gardening, science projects, and cooking, they don’t just learn the hands-on skills themselves. Experiential learning promotes essential soft skills such as communicative teamwork and reflective habits that encourage children to consider not only what they have done but the process they utilized. Moreover, they often undertake tasks that result in a tangible product, which is helpful not only for reflection and evaluation but developing a sense of pride in the accomplishment itself.
2. Physical Activity
Another reason summer camp is such an essential event for kids is that, on the whole, kids are not getting enough physical activity. Studies have shown that only 80 percent of 6-year-old children get the required hour of physical activity per day. Even more alarmingly, that number falls to just 20 percent by age 11, often showing little action during their downtime. This makes summer a critical time for children to get the exercise and physical activity their bodies need.
At HCA summer camp, children spend time at the playground, participate in archery, play in sports mini-camps, go on walking field trips, and stay physically engaged throughout the day. Because the physical activity is an integrated feature of the fun, getting active doesn’t feel like a chore that pulls them away from their screens, but an exciting opportunity to play with friends.
3. Child Autonomy
For some kids, summer camp is also a critical step in forming relationships away from parents. While it can be extremely difficult for both adults and kids, parents can make this an incredible independence-building activity. By showing enthusiasm about time at camp and having kids participate in selecting the events, adults can help kids learn that new adventures are fun and exciting, helping to develop a child’s autonomy.
Being so close to so many great attractions for kids makes Camp Blue Ridge’s Gainesville, VA, location a premier summer camp due to our ability to visit so many attractions. Our campers get a chance to visit Washington, D.C., and Splashdown Waterpark, as well as receive regular outdoor playtime and supportive encouragement for staff.
More than the location, though, children have the opportunity to engage with positive, encouraging staff who help with the process of building critical social skills and self-confidence.
Contact Us for More Information
If you have any questions about our summer camps or other services, be sure to contact us so we can discuss any specific thoughts you may have.