Richmond Family Reunions
Rapids rush east past the rolling hills lining the James River, right through Richmond, an attractive location for a family reunion. American history pulsates from the cobblestones of the oldest streets, which, after hundreds of years of inhabitance, continue to beat with life.
Before checking out the fantastic museums and historical sites that Richmond dangles in front of its visitors, explore the Shockoe Bottom neighborhood and experience the oldest marketplace in the country. The Farmer’s Market provides an excellent opportunity to taste local foods from nearby farms. Let the children sample the homemade fudge while the grandparents explore stalls advertising everything from organic produce to pastel artwork.
Head over to the James River to watch the countless daredevils attempt the Class III rapids gushing through the city. While there, many Richmond family reunions like to visit Belle Isle, a pedestrian and bicycle island planted in the middle of the James River. Belle Isle, where movies such as Hannibal and The Jackal were filmed, also offers Civil War history (it served as a prison for Union soldiers) and outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking and bird watching. Its acres of parkland make it an excellent destination for a family picnic.
Take the kids to Kings Dominion, the Richmond-area amusement park where they will drag you on to coasters such as Anaconda or the Intimidator 305, which is the tallest and fastest roller coaster on the East Coast. Make sure to bring swimsuits if you plan on visiting the WaterWorks area, which has a 650,000-gallon wave pool and the world’s tallest fully enclosed water slide. Book tickets online and save $10 on admission.
Agecroft Hall, a Tudor estate built during the 15th century in Lancashire, England, was dismantled in the mid-1900s and shipped to Richmond, where it was rebuilt. With a majestic great hall, furniture from the Tudor and early Stewart periods, lush lawns and Elizabethan gardens, it provides a window into the Tudor lifestyle.
Bring the family to Capitol Square, where the 60-foot-high Washington Monument stands. The Executive Mansion has been the official residence of Virginia’s governors since 1813 and the home of four U.S. presidents, including Thomas Jefferson. The Virginia State Capitol building, where the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, is free to enter. If you’re looking for an impressive view, stop at the new City Hall, which has a wonderful observation deck.
Visit the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar. Guests at the museum are treated to an innovative interpretation of the Civil War from the Union, Confederate, and African American perspectives through the use of films, artifacts and interactive exhibits. At the Museum of the Confederacy you can see over 15,000 Confederate artifacts including clothes worn by Robert E. Lee.
Hampton Roads Family Reunions
Hampton Roads family reunions will find the area area full of historical and natural wonders, will allow for a relaxed family reunion. Williamsburg, Virginia Beach and Norfolk are only a few options that provide an excellent balance of fun activities and downtime.
Colonial Williamsburg recreates the everyday life of Williamsburg during the American Revolution, containing 88 buildings built in the 18th century as well as hundreds of reconstructions. Rent costumes for the children, who can participate alongside interpreters dressed as tradesmen, soldiers and housewives, or simply wander through the town, which serves as an outdoor theater. A Historic Triangle Shuttle, which links Williamsburg with Jamestown and Yorktown, will bring your family to Historic Jamestown, where ruins of America’s first permanent colony can be seen, or Yorktown, where Yorktown Battlefield, site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War, can be explored. Meanwhile, Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center are excellent living history attractions.
Spend a day at Busch Gardens, a massive European-themed amusement park with over 50 rides and attractions. Brave rides such as Griffon and Apollo’s Chariot, which hit top speeds of 75 mph, or take the young children to the Sesame Street-themed section of the park. Stop at Water Country USA, one of the largest water parks on the East Coast, where parents can float down the 700-foot lazy river while kids shoot down waterslides like Jet Scream and Rampage.
Virginia Beach is a family-friendly town with a 300-foot-wide beach. Those looking to relax can spend the afternoon tanning or strolling along the three-mile boardwalk, while others can kayak through First Landing State Park. Bring your fishing poles and golf clubs if you’re planning on holding your reunion in Virginia Beach; there are eight golf courses in the town alone, and the fish in Chesapeake Bay are plentiful. If the clouds come out, take refuge at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. Kids can enjoy hands-on exhibits, while the whole family can marvel at the marine life on display. Dolphin-watching excursions are available.
In Norfolk fathers and sons can attend a baseball game at Harbor Park, the home stadium of the Norfolk Tides AAA team, while other family members can explore some of the wonderful shopping magnets. Don’t miss the Chrysler Museum of Art and Norfolk Botanical Garden, both of which are excellent places to spend an afternoon. Parents and children alike will be awed by a visit to Nauticus, a naval museum where you can board Battleship Wisconsin, and to Naval Station Norfolk, where tours feature aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships and an airfield. Admission to Nauticus is free, but call ahead for group bookings at the Naval Station Norfolk.
Both Virginia Beach and Norfolk provide free reunion-planning services through their Convention & Visitors Bureau websites.
Shenandoah Valley Family Reunions
Nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains is the peaceful haven of Shenandoah. Two hundred thousand acres of rising and falling terrain make up Shenandoah National Park, so no matter how big your family is, you’ll be able to find room for the whole lot if you choose this natural wonder for your reunion.
Hundreds of miles of hiking trails wind through the park. Your group can also go horseback riding and rock climbing, take a tour of the many Civil War sites or try to catch a glimpse of one of the 50 species of mammals or 200 species of birds that make Shenandoah their home. Hawksbill Peak and Stony Man, two of the highest points in the area, warrant a visit. Guided tours (some free) are available from the various lodges.
Skyline Drive is compulsory for anyone who is spending time in the park. Take a family caravan along the 105-mile scenic highway that weaves in and out of hollows, around mountains and over streams. It’s the quintessential Shenandoah Valley family reunions activity.
Stalactites and stalagmites, underground lakes and many fault lines are visible in the area’s caverns. Luray Caverns, with massive inner chambers and crystal-clear pools, is the most visited cavern in Eastern America. Shenandoah Caverns offer an elevator and level walkways without stairs, so even elderly family members can enjoy the visit. The Heritage Museum in Dayton chronicles the history of the Shenandoah Valley and includes an audiovisual presentation of Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign, Civil War artifacts and a folk art collection of the Shenandoah region.
There are many lodging options that can accommodate family reunions in Shenandoah National Park; book lodge rooms and cabins in advance, as they tend to fill up, especially during the summer and fall. Towns in the Shenandoah Valley also provide a variety of places to stay.
Northern Virginia Family Reunions
Those who visit Northern Virginia during family reunions find themselves within easy access of Washington D.C., and are likely to spend at least one day exploring our nation’s capital. The city of Alexandria, located directly across the Potomac River from Washington makes a wonderful destination for a family reunion. Because it is away from hustle of the city, your family will be able to explore less crowded attractions such as George Washington Masonic Memorial, which houses a massive bronze statue of George Washington; the Alexandria Black History Museum; and Christ Church, where George Washington regularly attended services.
Take George Washington Memorial Parkway to Mount Vernon, the plantation home of America’s first president. Tour the mansion, museum and working farm, including the slaves’ quarters. And don’t forget to visit the tombs of Washington and his wife Martha.
Arlington National Cemetery is a stone’s throw away from Alexandria. Established in 1864, the cemetery contains rows of headstones stretching in every direction across the vast lawns. Witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Tourmobiles, which cover all the important sites on the grounds, including JFK’s grave, are an efficient way to see the whole cemetery.