17 Kid-Friendly Spring Break Road Trips
Looking for a break from the norm that the kids will love? These vacation spots are all within driving distance and promise a memorable experience.
That special week parents know well is quickly approaching. The one where school is closed, the office is open and the weather has (hopefully) hit a reliably warm patch: spring break. If you’re lucky enough to be able to take the time off and travel with your kids, it’s a great time of year to do it. So where to go? Here are 17 spots for road trips within a five-hour drive of Arlington that are worth the journey.
For an Arts and Culture Immersion
Start your spring break on an intellectual note. This annual literary event, scheduled for April 9, features authors who have written on an array of subjects, including the criminal justice system, equity in higher education, and how to thrive despite chronic illness. Kids can pop by one of the children’s author events, enjoy live music, learn about biodiversity and create a “bubbling concoction” with ClubSciKidz.
Virginia’s Eastern Shore
As if beaches and waterfront parks aren’t enough, this annual arts takeover—which runs from March to June and spans venues in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News and Williamsburg—features a diverse array of world-class performing artists, from classical orchestras and jazz trios to coffeehouse gigs, ballet, musical theater and a steelpan drum fest. Catch “orchestra of voices” Chanticleer, Motown musical Dreamgirls, Brazilian guitarist Yamandu Costa and much more.
For the Thrill of Adventure
Pocono Manor, Pennsylvania
Water parks are a guaranteed kid-pleaser, and at 220,000 square feet, this sprawling, Africa-themed wonderland (which is both indoor and outdoor, thanks to a retractable roof) is the nation’s largest. Older kids can whip through the vortex-shaped Tanzanian Twister waterslide and try surfing on FlowRider, while toddlers can sample the spray fountains and tamer slides at Tiko’s Watering Hole. With its seemingly endless supply of tipping buckets, slides, hot tubs and wave pools, this park will keep the kiddos (and teens) entertained for hours. More details here.
Sandy Spring, Maryland
Here adults, teens and kids 5 and up can test their balance, agility and bravery on climbing courses that combine rope elements and zip lines. Tucked into the trees on the campus of Sandy Spring Friends School, the park offers aerial courses with varying levels of difficulty (the higher they are off the ground, the more technical they become). Day and nighttime sessions are available, and the equipment (harnesses, gloves, carabiner clips) is provided, along with a thorough pre-game orientation.
For additional climbing and zip line excursions, try the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center in Purcellville; Empower Adventures at Salamander Resort in Middleburg; the Treetop Zoofari Adventure Park in Richmond’s Metro Zoo; and, locally, Climb UPton in Arlington.
Immerse your kids in an world of animation at this Pennsylvania cartoon wonderland. Accompany them as they spend a few quarters at the Omnicade, hang out in the Toon Room, or cool off in the zero-entry pool or splashpad. Need some caffeine and snacks to keep you going? Drop in the Bearista Cafe for a latte, macaron or a more potent beverage from the bar.
First dreamed up by chocolatier Milton S. Hershey for his employees to enjoy, Hersheypark now boasts 50-plus rides and other attractions to entertain just about any kid. During the Springtime in the Park event, Hersheypark will open its doors for three weekends in April, offering experiences such as Candymonium—its tallest, fastest and lengthiest roller coaster—and The Chocolatier restaurant, a full-service eatery with a patio and bar.
For a History Lesson
Jamestown and Yorktown, Virginia
Heading down to the Williamsburg area? Be sure to check out the Jamestown Settlement & American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, two museums that explore the nation’s earliest chapters. Climb aboard ship replicas, pop into any of several engaging galleries, and explore life on a Revolution-era farm. And if you’re short on time, both museums can be visited in one day; they are about 20 miles apart and offer a discounted ticket for a two-museum pass.
The third vertex in Virginia’s Historic Triangle, Colonial Williamsburg is said to be the biggest outdoor living-history museum in the country. There, find a blacksmith shop, folk art, baby lambs, carriage rides, an arboretum and plenty more. From April 7-30, catch a “garden-glow” light show at the Governor’s Palace. And check out a new offering that launches in April called Intersections, providing a peek into the everyday lives of 18th-century residents.
Cass, West Virginia
The nation’s only surviving lumber company town has been a park since 1961. You can take an 11-mile train ride; eat a simple lunch at the Last Run Restaurant, which is located in what was the 1902 Cass Company Store; then do a self-guided tour of the restored company town of Cass, where you’ll find preserved structures including two-story logging company houses, wooden walkways, a hotel, a Masonic lodge, a church and a jail. (And for another train adventure, check out West Virginia’s Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad.)
Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? You’ll find plenty of them—plus a heavy helping of U.S. history—at Hollywood Cemetery, which in spring transforms into a picturesque display of blooming trees and shrubs. Hollywood is the final resting place of two U.S. presidents, several former Virginia governors and countless other notable individuals. Read more about Hollywood, as well as noteworthy grave sites in the DMV (including Edgar Allen Poe’s tomb in Baltimore) here.
St. Mary’s County, Maryland
This area on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is chock-full of Colonial history, from an 1800s jail (now the Old Jail Museum); Historic St. Mary’s City, a 70-acre outdoor history exhibit and archaeological site on the banks of the St. Mary’s River; and the St. Clement’s Island Museum, which explains the English political and religious climate that motivated the Calverts to cross the Atlantic in search of a new home.
There is always much to discover at Monticello, the longtime home of chief architect and former president Thomas Jefferson. Take a tour that explores the lives of enslaved people at the onetime 5,000-acre plantation, as well as one that traverses the gardens and grounds of the property. And check their website for special events—including a look at the history of macaroni and cheese on April 23.
This Smithsonian-affiliated institution houses one of the most significant collections of historical railroad artifacts in the world and is devoted to preserving and interpreting the broad impact of railroad development on society. Visitors can see more than 100 locomotives and rail cars from the mid-19th and 20th centuries and check out a steam locomotive, a caboose and a passenger car. Housed on 18 acres, the museum includes a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall.
For Fun in the Great Outdoors
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
This historic resort (it makes the National Register of Historic Places) offers not only a scenic place to get away from the bustle of Washington, but some 55-plus indoor and outdoor activities. Choose to play paintball, kayak, go horseback riding or scale the alpine climbing tower. And if you’re looking for a robust weekend of Easter activities for your kids while there, the resort also offers an Easter package.
Virginia and Maryland
Some 1.5 million people visit the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge every year, but wild ponies aren’t the only attraction on these rustic and relatively undeveloped barrier islands. The folksy Chincoteague Easter Decoy & Art Festival, held at the Chincoteague Combined School, is a traditional rite of spring on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, with special awards for best carving display and best art display.
Always wanted to give fly-fishing a try? At Rose River Farm, you can fly-fish for trout for $95 per rod, per day, and rent one of three yurts—each offering four double beds, a full kitchen, two full baths, a fly-tying desk and use of the pond and surrounding land—if one day isn’t enough. The farm also supplies guides (for a fee), and half- and full-day fishing trips that include fly-fishing equipment and ties. Other nearby activities in the area include horseback riding, hiking, kayaking and tours of local vineyards. More details here.
Red Oak, Virginia
The whole family can help with chores such as milking cows, gathering fresh eggs and feeding baby animals at this working farm. Other activities include making goat-milk soap and goat cheese, as well as going on nature walks and riding horses. A minimum three-night stay is required, and guests get a full country breakfast, a light lunch and dinner.