I know we're still deep in the middle of winter, but this milder weather we've had over the last few weeks has me dreaming of Spring Break! Richmond is a great city in its own right, but it's also within short driving distance to many popular family-friendly destinations like Washington D.C., Baltimore, Charlotte, the Outer Banks and Myrtle Beach. Believe it or not, there are even more great places that you might not have thought of, and they can all be reached in four hours or less. Check out our ideas below and start planning your next adventure today!
1.Yorktown, VA- I've heard great things about Yorktown Beach, and you can get there without the traffic of Virginia Beach and OBX. Yorktown also has many historical attractions including the American Revolution Museum and Yorktown Battlefield. After you've taken in some sun and some history, take a stroll along Riverwalk Landing or take a boat tour or even set sail on a pirate cruise. Distance: Just over an hour
2. Small Towns of the Shenandoah Valley- Staunton, Natural Bridge, Lexington, Hot Springs- I love a small town and these are some of my favorite due to all of the wonderful restaurants, breweries and specialty shops they have to offer. Make one of them your home base and then enjoy driving around and exploring all of the many local attractions. Some of my favorites include: The Frontier Culture Museum, SunSpot Glass Blowing demonstrations and The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, The Route 11 Chip Factory in Mount Jackson, Natural Bridge State Park, Dinosaur Kingdom II and Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge and all of the numerous parks and hiking trails in the area. Distance: Anywhere from 1 hour, 45 minutes-2 hours, 45 minutes
3. Raleigh/Durham, NC- These two nearby cities are both university towns so they are chock-full of great museums, parks, and other family-friendly activities. Check out Pullen Park, Marbles Kids Museum or North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh and The Sarah P. Duke Gardens, The Museum of Life and Science or the Duke Lemur Center in Durham. Distance: 2 1/2 hours
4. Roanoke, VA- My family visited Roanoke for the first time last December and we had a blast. We stayed here at this tiny horse farm. I highly recommend it. Our favorite attraction was the Taubman Museum of Art. The museum itself is free, but we paid $5 to enter Art Venture, the museum’s interactive children’s learning space. The kids had a blast making all sorts of things. We also loved the Mill Mountain Star and Park, The Virginia Museum of Transportation, The main Roanoke Public library (with an indoor twisty slide in the children's area) and the Carilion Peter Pan playground in Elmood Park. If you get some adult time, Roanoke is also home to some great breweries, like Deschutes and Parkway, and Black Dog Salvage, the home of the show Salvage Dawgs on the DIY Network. Distance: Just under 3 hours
5. Berkely Springs, WV- Ok, I've never actually been here, but I've driven through the town many times on my way home from Ohio and I just think it has to be one of the cutest small towns ever! One day I will visit, and, I'll be sure to take a walk around Prospect Peak, snuggle with a cat at Give Purrs A Chance and check out the stars at the Morgan County Observatory. This small town is also home to many artists, art galleries and antique shops. Just 10 miles south of town is Cacapon Resort State Park, which features a challenging golf course, miles of trails and a sand swimming beach. Distance: Just over 3 hours
6. Hershey, PA- Chocolate, anyone? My in-laws took my 7 year old here last summer. He loved the Hershey's Chocolate World factory tour so much that they didn't even make it to the Hershey Park Amusement Park. His favorite part was going into the kitchen and designing his own chocolate bar. In addition to these two main attractions, Hershey is also known for the ZooAmerican North American Wildlife Park, The Antique Automobile Club of America Museum and The Pennsylvania State Police Museum. Distance: 3 hours and 45 minutes
7. Wilmington, NC- This beach town has a lot to offer. Our kids loved Battleship North Carolina, the most decorated US Battleship of WWII! You can explore nine decks, crew's quarters, gun turrets, and much more. We all loved the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, full of interactive exhibits. The ferry to Southport was exciting for the kids, as they'd never been on a ferry that they could drive onto before. Sourthport itself was a very sweet town full of speciality souvenir shops, ice cream and seafood restaurants. If the weather is warm enough you have to check out Wrightsville Beach and grab a late lunch/early dinner at Oceanic to watch the sunset. Distance: 4 hours
8. Bethany Beach, DE- Bethany Beach is a great destination for young families because it calmer than Rehoboth and Ocean City, but it still offers a small boardwalk with shops and restaurants and a great beach. There are definitely not as many things to do as there are on the bigger beach boardwalks, but for small children, not to mention their already exhausted parents, content to play in the sand, this might be fore the best. The Bethany Beach Nature Center has some small animal exhibits and a playground for kids. Rent some bikes at the Bethany Bike Shop, take a reading break at the South Coastal Library or compete for best score at Captain Jack's Pirate Golf. If you run out of things to do you can always make the short 20 minute drive to the theme parks, boardwalks and outlet shopping in Rehoboth Beach. Distance: 4 hours
Traveling tip: Have you ever tried sharing a hotel room with young children? Do you and your spouse go to bed at eight o'clock with the kids, or just sit whispering in the dark? That is not a vacation!
I've solved this problem in two ways:
- Extended Stay Hotels- For not much more than an average room, you can book a one or even a two bedroom suite. We always check the rates at extended stay hotels like Marriott's SpringHill Suites and Residence Inns and Hilton's Homewood Suites. These hotels also have free breakfast buffets and small kitchens, which can help you save money on vacation.
- Vacation Rentals- I've had a lot of success using Airbnb and Vrbo on family vacations. You lose out on some of the amenities that a hotel has to offer, but you can a lot more space, free parking and privacy. If you book far enough ahead you can find a great deal. I just got back from a trip to NYC with six ladies. We stayed in an apartment with three queen sized beds and one bathroom in the middle of Midtown Manhattan and we only paid $115/person for three nights. No hotel could've beat that!