17 Spring Break Road Trip Ideas for DC-Area Families
This special week that parents know well is fast approaching. The one where school is closed, the office is open, and the weather has (hopefully) hit a reliable patch: spring break. If you’re lucky enough to be able to take time out and travel with your kids, this is a great time of year to do so. So where to go? Here are 17 spots for road trips within a five-hour drive of Arlington that are worth checking out.
For artistic and cultural immersion
Annapolis Book Festival
Start your spring break on an intellectual note. This annual literary event, scheduled for April 9, features authors who have written on a range of topics, including the criminal justice system, equity in higher education, and how to thrive despite chronic illness. Kids can attend one of the children’s author events, listen to live music, learn about biodiversity, and create a “bubbling concoction” with ClubSciKidz.
Virginia Arts Festival
East Coast of Virginia
As if beaches and waterfront parks weren’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 wide range of world-class artists, from classical orchestras and jazz trios to café concerts, ballet, musical theater and a steel drum festival. Catch the “Orchestra of Voices” Chanticleer, Motown Musical dream girlsBrazilian guitarist Yamandu Costa and more.
For the thrill of adventure
Kalahari Resort Water Park
Pocono Manor, Pennsylvania
Water parks are guaranteed fun for kids, and at 220,000 square feet, this sprawling African-themed wonderland (which is both indoors and outdoors, thanks to a retractable roof) is the largest from the country. Older kids can ride the vortex-shaped Tanzanian Twister waterslide and try FlowRider surfing, while toddlers can sample the splash 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 kids (and teens) entertained for hours. More details here.
Looking for other indoor water park options? Check out the Great Wolf Lodge water park in Williamsburg or the Massanutten Resort water park in McGaheysville, Virginia.
Sandy Spring Adventure Park
Sandy Spring, Maryland
Here, adults, teens, and kids ages 5 and up can test their balance, agility, and bravery on climbing courses that combine rope elements and zip lines. Nestled in the trees of the Sandy Spring Friends School campus, the park offers aerial courses of varying difficulty levels (the higher they are, the more technical they become). Day and night sessions are available, and equipment (harness, gloves, carabiners) is provided, along with a thorough pre-game orientation.
For other rock climbing and ziplining excursions, try the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center in Purcellville; Empower Adventures at Salamander Resort in Middleburg; Richmond Metro Zoo’s Treetop Zoofari Adventure Park; and, locally, Climb UPton in Arlington.
Cartoon Network Hotel
Immerse your kids in a world of animation in this Pennsylvania cartoon wonderland. Join them as they spend a few terms at the Omnicade, hang out in the Toon Room, or cool off in the zero-entry pool or splashpad. Need caffeine and snacks to keep going? Head to Bearista Cafe for a latte, macaron or stronger drink from the bar.
First dreamed up by chocolatier Milton S. Hershey for the enjoyment of his employees, Hersheypark now has more than 50 rides and other attractions to entertain just about any kid. During the Springtime in the Park event, Hersheypark will open for three weekends in April, offering experiences such as Candymonium, its tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster, and The Chocolatier restaurant, a full-service restaurant with terrace and bar.
For a history lesson
Jamestown Settlement and Museum of the American Revolution in Yorktown
Jamestown and Yorktown, Virginia
Going to the Williamsburg area? Be sure to visit the Jamestown Settlement & American Revolution Museum in Yorktown, two museums that explore the nation’s early chapters. Climb aboard replica ships, enter one of the many attractive galleries and explore life on a Revolutionary-era farmhouse. 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 apex in Virginia’s historic triangle, Colonial Williamsburg is said to be the nation’s largest outdoor living history museum. You’ll find a blacksmith’s shop, folk art, baby lambs, horse-drawn carriage rides, an arboretum and more. From April 7 to 30, attend a “garden-glow” light show at the Governor’s Palace. And discover a new offering to be launched in April, called Intersections, offering a glimpse into the daily life of the inhabitants of the 18th century.
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
Cass, West Virginia
The country’s only surviving logging 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 take a self-guided tour of the restored town of Cass, where you’ll find preserved structures including two-story logging houses, wooden walkways, a hotel, Masonic lodge, church, and jail. (And for another train adventure, head to West Virginia’s Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad.)
Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? You’ll find plenty of that, and much of America’s history, at Hollywood Cemetery, which in the spring turns into a picturesque display of flowering trees and shrubs. Hollywood is the final resting place of two US presidents, several former governors of Virginia, and countless other personalities. Learn more about Hollywood, as well as notable DMV burial sites (including Edgar Allen Poe’s grave in Baltimore) here.
Historic St. Mary’s
St. Mary’s County, Maryland
This area of Maryland’s east coast is brimming with colonial history, from an 1800s jail (now the Old Jail Museum); Historic St. Mary’s City, a 70-acre outdoor historical exhibit and archaeological site on the banks of the St. Mary’s River; and the St. Clement 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’s always plenty to discover at Monticello, the longtime home of chief architect and former President Thomas Jefferson. Take a tour that explores slave life on the 5,000-acre former plantation, as well as one that passes through the estate’s gardens and grounds. And check their website for special events—including a look at the history of mac and cheese on April 23.
Pennsylvania Railroad Museum
This Smithsonian-affiliated institution houses one of the largest collections of historic railroad artifacts in the world and is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the general impact of rail development on society. Visitors can see more than 100 locomotives and wagons from the mid-19th and 20th centuries, and learn about a steam locomotive, a caboose and a passenger car. Set on 18 acres, the museum includes a 100,000 square foot exhibit hall.
For outdoor fun
White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia
This historic resort (it’s on the National Register of Historic Places) not only offers a scenic place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Washington, but more than 55 indoor and outdoor activities. Choose to play paintball, kayak, horseback ride or climb the alpine climbing tower. And if you’re looking for a solid weekend of Easter activities for your kids during your stay, the resort also offers an Easter package.
Chincoteague and Assateague Islands
Virginia and Maryland
Some 1.5 million people visit the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge each year, but the 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 east coast, with special prizes for best sculpture display and best art display.
Fly fishing at Rose River Farm
Ever wanted to try fly fishing? At Rose River Farm, you can fly-fish trout for $95 per rod per day and rent one of three yurts, each offering four double beds, a full kitchen, two full bathrooms, a rig office of flies and the use of the pond and surrounding land, if one day is not enough. The farm also provides guides (for a fee) and half-day and full-day fishing trips that include fly fishing tackle and tethers. Other nearby activities in the area include horseback riding, hiking, kayaking and local wine tours. More details here.
Cornerstone Farm B&B
Red oak, Virginia
The whole family can help with household chores such as milking cows, collecting fresh eggs and feeding baby animals on this working farm. Other activities include goat milk soap and goat cheese making, as well as nature walks and horseback riding. A three-night minimum stay is required, and guests enjoy a full country breakfast, light lunch, and dinner.