5 Quick Getaways With Kids
Get outta dodge and enjoy fishing, a working farm, historic sites, amusement rides or cartoons galore.
Spring break last year was a bust. Travel this year remains a little iffy, depending on your comfort level, but you don’t have to crowd onto a plane or draw a 6-foot perimeter around your spot on the beach to enjoy a change of scenery. You’ve got options within driving distance.
Are you usually a city slicker? Take a couple days off to dabble as a farmhand. Looking to please both history buffs and theme park fans in one trip? There’s a place for that. Ready to succumb to screens (if you haven’t already)? Do it at a hotel devoted to cartoons.
Whatever adventure you choose, just remember to pack the masks and hand sanitizer.
Red Oak, Virginia
Drive time from Arlington: 3.5 hours
CornerStone Farm’s most popular package—The Farmer—is also the most kid-friendly. It gives children and adults the chance to experience a working farm through hands-on activities like milking goats, feeding livestock and collecting eggs. The experience isn’t all work and no play, though. Other options include hourlong guided nature walks or bird-watching hikes, yard games, pony rides, fishing, and making goat’s milk cheese.
The two-night package ($875 for double occupancy; $695 for single; and $90 per extra child 5 years and older) includes country breakfasts (think biscuits and gravy and pork rolls), lunches and three-course evening meals, plus snacks and drinks. Children get a junior farmer diploma on completion of their farm chores.
The inn has two guest suites, each with a full private bath, but because of Covid-19, the farm is currently booking only one family at a time. The inn is centrally heated and air-conditioned, with free Wi-Fi access. A 34-foot camper cottage that sleeps up to six is also available. Note that children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. The innkeepers may ask a child not to participate in activities they feel could endanger the child or animals.
Drive time from Arlington: About 2.5 hours
Virtual schooling got you worried about brain drain? Make learning fun by disguising it as a vacation. Situated in Colonial Williamsburg, the Woodlands Hotel and Suites offers easy access (via shuttle) to the historic area, where visitors can learn what life was like in America’s first colony through programs such as carpentry and weaving demonstrations, a walking tour on slavery, and historic reenactments. Jamestown, the first colonial settlement, is 8 miles away. Yorktown, where the final battle of the American Revolution was fought, is a mere 12 miles down the road.
For thrill-seekers, Busch Gardens, with its rollercoasters, is also nearby, as is Great Wolf Lodge, a hotel with an indoor waterpark, arcade and mini bowling alley that sells day passes for about $60 per person (rates apply to guests 2 and older).
The Woodlands has a kids’ check-in area with arts and crafts, a playground, a seasonally available heated outdoor pool, a splash park, shuffleboard and mini golf. Check the hotel’s website for pricing. It’s offering Colonial Williamsburg packages, a Virginia resident discount and a Spring Getaway package (available March 19-May 29), in which kids eat free and the fourth night is free.
Drive time from Arlington: About 2.25 hours
Kids have been getting so much screen time, why not go all in? At the Cartoon Network Hotel, your little characters can feel like they’re living in their favorite TV shows. The experience extends to the Cartoon Kitchen, where they can watch as Ben 10, Gumball and Darwin, or the Bear Brothers prepare their meals—or eat in a reservable, cartoon-themed Dream Cube.
Burn off some energy in the Omnicade, an arcade that’s open around the clock; catch an outdoor movie on a 20-foot screen (indoor when the weather doesn’t cooperate); join characters onscreen in the Toon Room (crafts and scavenger hunts are also available); or take a swim in the outdoor or indoor pools.
In case that’s not enough to stay busy, the hotel is situated near Amish Country and the Dutch Wonderland theme park, which is slated to reopen on May 15. Hotel guests get $10 off each ticket. Although there are no spring break specials, the hotel is offering 10% off on stays of at least two nights.
Drive time from Arlington: About 1.5 hours
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Rose River Farm has three 1,100-square-foot yurt-style cabins, each of which has two bedrooms with two double beds per room and two full bathrooms. The cabins are spaced about 100 yards apart for privacy—or as we call it these days, social distancing—and provide views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Rose River Valley. If fully disconnecting isn’t on the agenda, each cabin has a flat-screen, Netflix-capable television with satellite, an iPod docking stereo, unlimited Wi-Fi and a full kitchen. Cabins go for $250 per night or $1,500 for a week for one to four people.
Owned by an avid fisherman, the farm features four types of trout: wild rose rainbow, wild brook, wild brown and stocked jumbo rainbow. The shallow water makes it a great spot for children and beginner anglers. The bucolic property is also home to black angus cattle, peach orchards and other wildlife. Be sure to pack outdoor clothing and hiking shoes for a trek to Old Rag Mountain or the waterfalls on the White Oak Canyon Trail.
Besides fishing, Circle B Stable, about 2 miles away, provides horses for trail rides. The nearby Rapidan River Kayak Co. usually offers family kayak tours, but plans to remain closed this year because of Covid. Need a quick dose of small-town quaintness? Charlottesville is about 30 minutes away, and old town Culpeper is a 20 minute drive.
Fort Washington, Maryland
Drive time from Arlington: About 20-30 minutes
Practically in our backyard, this Marriott property has almost 2,000 rooms and plenty of play spaces. There’s the Junior Olympic-size indoor pool, for one, complete with a splash zone outside in warmer months. The nightly fountain show in the atrium, with its 60-foot fountains, music and lights, is a fan favorite, as is the Potomac Playzone arcade. Plus, the hotel’s dining options include special kids’ menus with dishes that cater to wee palates.
Should you wish to venture off of the resort property, the Capital Wheel is basically right outside the door. Its climate-controlled gondolas soar 180 feet above the harbor, offering views of the Washington Monument and Alexandria’s Masonic Temple. The littlest guests might like to take a spin on the carousel, while older ones can practice their swing at Topgolf.
A water taxi travels between National Harbor and Old Town Alexandria throughout the day, and nearby Fort Washington Park is worth the 20-minute drive. A National Park Service-maintained fort, it has stood watch for more than 200 years.