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Natural Tunnel State Park – the 8th Wonder of the World

8 Mar

Chairlift at Natural Tunnel State Park

Natural Tunnel is a beautiful wonder of nature  that many in the Commonwealth have never even heard of.  William Jennings Bryan called Natural Tunnel the Eighth Wonder of the World.  Located in Duffield (Scott County), this park can easily fill your day with lots of fun and Kodak moments!

The are 2 ways to reach the tunnel from the parking lot.  You can walk…..or you can take a ride on the chair lift down into the gorge.  For those who need some extra help, a lot of thought was put into making this landmark accessible, visit the website for the details.

Once you reach the end of the chair lift, it’s a short walk to the tunnel.  I can’t even begin to describe what it looks like as breathtaking seems to0 weak a description.  The tunnel is 850 long and 100 feet high inside and it’s creation began more than a million years ago in the early glacial period.

Of course, with almost 1000 acres, Natural Tunnel State Park is much more than “just a tunnel”.  Cabins and campgrounds are available for overnight guests.  There is a 5400 sq ft pool with a water slide open to day and overnight guests.  For kids, the park offers guided nature walks, hayrides, campfires, cave tours and astronomy programs.   Special events and a calendar can be found here.

Click here for a great map of the park (.pdf file).

Tina’s tips:  if you have to bring a stroller, go with a lightweight one like an umbrella stroller.  There is a snack bar, but a few juice boxes and crackers would be a good idea just in case someone gets hungry or thirsty along the way.  There is a bathroom at the bottom station of the chairlift – but it would be wise to take bathroom breaks before embarking on the journey down into the gorge.  Bring some cash along as the chairlift and pool (for day visitors) are not free.  Call ahead or visit the website for exact rates and schedules.

Mosby Carter Cabin Built in 1784


Museum Day is Coming! Free Admission 9/25/2010!

23 Sep

Museum Day is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian Media in which participating museums across the country open their doors for free to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket.

Here are just a few of the museums in Virginia offering free admission Saturday, September 25, 2010:

Amazement Square, The Rightmire Children’s Museum


Children’s Museum of Virginia


National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum


Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum


Virginia Museum of Transportation


National Civil War Life Museum


Old Stone Jail Museum and Holland Page Place Log Cabin

The Museum Day Ticket provides free admission to one person, plus a guest.

  • • One ticket per household
  • • A ticket will gain entry in only one museum and only participating museums
  • • Only an official Museum Day ticket is eligible for free entry.

Get your FREE TICKET by clicking HERE.

Here is a list of the participating museums in Virginia.

FREE Admission to US National Parks This Weekend!

11 Aug

Time to put on some comfortable walking shoes and explore a few of our beautiful National Parks and Historic Sites this weekend!  August 14th and 15th, 2010, admission fees are waived for all National Parks.

In Virginia, we are very fortunate to have a great number of National Parks!  From the Appalachian Trail to the Yorktown National Cemetery, there is sure to be something for your family to explore and enjoy.

A few of our favorites that you might not be familiar with:

George Washington Birthplace National Monument – Westmoreland County, VA
Orignial birthsite with Memorial House in the background. George Washington, America’s first and greatest hero, was crucial to the establishment of the United States as a nation founded on the principles of liberty. George Washington Birthplace preserves the heart of the Washington lands and a memorial plantation. Here, in the peace and beauty of this place untouched by time, the staunch character of our hero comes to the imagination.DirectionsOperating Hours & Seasons
Green Springs – Louisa County, VA
??? house in Green Springs Green Springs National Historic Landmark District encompasses over 14,000 acres in the piedmont of central Virginia. The homes and farms are a continuum of Virginia rural vernacular architecture, reflective and respectful of their location, preserved in their original context with little alteration. Here the landscape has been enhanced, rather than despoiled, by the presence of civilization.DirectionsOperating Hours & Seasons
Claude Moore Colonial Farm – McLean, VA
Claude Moore Farmhouse Step back in time and experience life on a small farm in northern Virginia.  Living history programs and demonstrations offer a glimpse of what life was like for a poor farm family, just before the Revolutionary War.DirectionsOperating Hours & Seasons

Drive In Movie Theaters in Virginia

1 Jun

Vintage sign from the Keysville Drive-In

Believe it or not, the drive-in movie theater is still alive and well in many parts of Virginia. While many have been updated with new sound systems, radio frequencies and websites, the heart of the operation remains the same. An inexpensive, wholesome place to spend time with family and friends under the stars.

Many theaters are only open on certain dates/days so be sure to call ahead or visit their websites before going.  Also, be sure to bring cash as some theaters do not accept credit/debit cards.

The Moonlite Theatre in Abingdon (Washington County) was opened in 1949 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Starlite Drive-In in Christiansburg (Montgomery County) has been open since 1952.

The Fork Union Drive-In (Fluvanna County) is the smallest drive-in theater in Virginia and has a Facebook page.

Hull’s Drive-In in Lexington (Rockbridge County) was saved from closure by local residents and is pet friendly.

Keysville Drive-In (Charlotte County) has a new concessions menu for this year and a Facebook page.

Park Place Drive-In in Marion (Smyth County) is a newer facility built after the old theater was replaced with a Walmart.

Central Drive-In in Norton (Wise County) opened in 1952 and borders the Jefferson National Forest.

Family Drive-In in Stephens City (Frederick County) is the closest drive-in in Virginia to Washington DC.

Mayberry Drive-In in Moneta (Bedford County) opened in June of 2008 and is adjoined by a diner.

Goochland Drive-In in Hadensville (Goochland County) is the newest drive-in in Virginia; opening in August of 2009.

Abingdon, Virginia and a Few Steps Back in Time

15 Feb

Abingdon is one of Virginia’s best kept secrets.  Unfortunately, our most recent trip didn’t last nearly long enough to fully enjoy all Abingdon has to offer.

First of all, I recommend splurging and staying at “The Martha” aka The Martha Washington Inn.  This historic inn was built in 1832 and has been a private residence, a women’s college and a civil war-era hospital as well as it’s present use as an inn.  The inn’s library, with it’s fireplace and overstuffed leather couches and chairs, is a perfect place to curl up and read one of the many wonderful volumes available.   The staff was very attentive and kid-friendly.

One of the highlights of Abingdon is the Barter Theatre, established in 1933.  The Barter Theater is the State Theater of Virginia and puts on many performances for children.  Reserve your tickets in advance as many shows sell out.  If you are not able to get tickets in advance, I was told by a local that if you show up at the box office 15 minutes before the show starts, they will release tickets for those who have not shown up.

We had a wonderful dinner at The Tavern.  Again, reservations are recommended.  The Tavern is the oldest building in Abingdon and well worth a peek inside.  They do not have a children’s menu, but are happy to accommodate children with smaller portions of menu items or chicken fingers.  The owner’s attentiveness was most impressive.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to see all that Abingdon has to offer.  We look forward to going back and checking out the museums, festivals and more of the hidden gems here.

Historic Lexington Virginia

21 Sep

A great video featuring one of my favorite places to visit in Virginia.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Historic Lexington Virginia“, posted with vodpod

Thomas Jefferson in Virginia

3 Jul

The Virginia is for Lovers site is featuring travel in honor of Presidents – one of my favorite topics.  Turns out, there are many places in Virginia to learn about Thomas Jefferson besides Monticello!

Thomas Jefferson in Virginia

Virginia Family Road Trip!

4 Jun

Over the next couple of months, we will highlight a few inexpensive, yet fun-filled road trips for families to take throughout Virginia.  The first in the series begins here:

Virginia is for Kids Road Trip #1

West Central and Shenandoah Valley

montpelier1.  Montpelier – the home of James Madison

Come visit the newly restored home of the Father of the Constitution, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Montpelier was the lifelong home of James Madison.  Madison was raised at Montpelier, lived here after his marriage to Dolley, returned here after his presidency, and died here in his study surrounded by the books and papers that marked so much of his life’s work.  It was at Montpelier where Madison researched past democracies and conceived of the system of government that became our republic.

The Montpelier estate features the Madison mansion, historic buildings, exhibits, archaeological sites, gardens, forests, hands-on activities, a new Visitor Center, and a freedman’s cabin and farm.  Learn about the man whose contemporaries called “Father of the Constitution,” and the woman who was the first to be called First Lady.

Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the beautiful scenery from the grounds of this historical masterpiece.

2.  Monticello – the Home of Thomas Jeffersonmonticello

After lunch, head over to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.  Be one of the first to visit the new visitor center and be sure to take the Famiy-Friendly Tour offered here.   These special guided tours of Thomas Jefferson’s house are designed for children ages 6 to 11.  The 30-minute tours feature hands-on opportunities in every room and provide a glimpse of what life was like for the children who lived at Monticello in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

I wrote a post about visiting Monticello with kids.  Click here to access the post.

english inn3.  The English Inn of Charlottesville

Spend the night at the beautiful and affordable English Inn in Charlottesville.  Rooms start at just $110 and include a full hot breakfast in the morning.  In addition, the English Inn offers free wireless internet access, an indoor pool, sauna, and free cribs if needed.

4.  Frontier Culture Museum in StauntonFrontier Culture Museum

The Frontier Culture Museum tells the story of the thousands of people who migrated to colonial America, and of the life they created here for themselves and their descendants.

These first pioneers came to America during the 1600s and 1700s from communities in the hinterlands of England, Germany, Ireland, and West Africa.  Many were farmers and rural craftsmen set in motion by changing conditions in their homelands, and drawn to the American colonies by opportunities for a better life.  Others came as unwilling captives to work on farms and plantations.  Regardless of how they arrived, all became Americans, and all contributed to the success of the colonies, and of the United States.

To tell the story of these early immigrants and their American descendents, the Museum has moved or reproduced examples of traditional rural buildings from England, Germany, Ireland, West Africa, and America.  The Museum engages the public at these exhibits with a combination of interpretive signage and living history demonstrations.  The outdoor exhibits are located in two separate areas:  the Old World and America.

The Old World exhibits show rural life and culture in four homelands of early migrants to the American colonies.  The American exhibits show the life these colonists and their descendants created in the colonial back country, how this life changed over more than a century, and how life in the United States today is shaped by its frontier past.

route115.  Route 11 Potato Chip Factory in Mount Jackson

What’s more American than the best potato chips in the world crafted right here in Virginia? Not too long ago, about 10 years to be exact, with lots of potatoes, good oil, salt, serendipity, and a little luck, Route 11 Potato Chips sprouted in an old feed store in Middletown, Virginia.

Their goal?  Produce the best potato chips on the planet.  Chips to be proud of.  Chips, that with every potatoey crunch, make you feel like you were experiencing something very special.  Everything they make is hand-cooked.  This is much more labor intensive than the continuous frying methods of the big boys, and if you visit the factory, you will have the opportunity to view the production process.

Oh yeah…you can also taste and buy some potato chips while there.

The inn at narrow passage6.  The Inn at Narrow Passage – Woodstock

Enjoy a comfortable and restful night’s sleep in this historic inn.  This 1740 Shenandoah Valley bed and breakfast is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the beauty and history of the Valley.  Once a haven against Indian attacks on the Virginia frontier and later Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters during the Valley Campaign of 1862, the Inn now welcomes travelers looking for comfortable lodging and friendly hospitality.

Enjoy the beautiful setting over looking the Shenandoah River and allow yourself to be taken away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  Play a quiet game of checkers in the main lodge and take in a cool drink on the deck.  Leave plenty of time to indulge in the delicious homemade breakfast lovingly prepared each morning by the Inn’s owners, Ed and Ellen Markel.

new market battlefield park7.  New Market Battlefield State Historical Park

Where 257 Cadets from the Virginia Military Institute made the difference between victory and defeat.

Explore the Civil War in Virginia here in this 300 acre park, 19th Century Bushong Farm and Hall of Valor Civil War Museum.  Commemorate a unique moment in American history, when Cadets from VMI engaged in pitched battle and helped win a victory for the Confederate Army.

Spend the day at the New Market State Historical Park and enjoy the museum, explore the historical farm, scenic Shenandoah River overlooks, picnic spots and walking trails.

Cyrus McCormick Farm

31 Mar
Cyrus McCormick

Cyrus McCormick

Who was Cyrus McCormick?

“Cyrus Hall McCormick invented the first successful reaper and founded the harvesting machine industry.  In July 1831, at 22 years of age, McCormick first demonstrated his invention publicly.  This, the world’s first successful mechanical reaper, opened a new era in agriculture, an age of mechanization that changed life on the farm, altered American advertizing, and made it possible for millions of people to leave the land and enter an industrial society.”

Located in Steele’s Tavern, the McCormick Farm is conveniently located off I-81 exit 205.  The park is open daily from 8:30am – 5pm and admission is free.  There are picnic tables on site and plenty of room for the kids to run.  They will particularly enjoy seeing the real working grist mill.

The Farm features a grist mill dating back to the 1800’s, blacksmith shop and museum, school room, smoke house and other items of interest from the period.

Grist Mill at the McCormick Farm

Grist Mill at the McCormick Farm

Blacksmith shop and museum

Blacksmith shop and museum

Map of McCormick Farm

Map of McCormick Farm

Duck pond at the McCormick Farm

Duck pond at the McCormick Farm

The Inn at Narrow Passage

31 Mar

Inn at Narrow PassageFinding a place to spend the night  in western Virginia can be challenging; especially for a family with children.  Most of the chain hotels are located in the larger towns and are of the discounted variety that lack amenities such as breakfast.  The smaller inns and bed & breakfasts can be hard to find and/or not kid friendly.

The Inn at Narrow Passage, in Woodstock, Virginia is both easy to find and kid-friendly!  This restored Inn located on the Shenandoah River was built in 1740 and is a comfortable place to stay as well as a great history lesson.  Once a haven against Indian attacks on the Virginia frontier, during the Valley Campaign of 1862 it was Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters.

Ellen and Ed Markel, the Inn’s owners welcome visitors with open arms and treat you like a valued member of their family.  The Inn’s rooms are spacious, charming, updated and affordable.  We called the Inn as we traveled down I-81 and our accommodations were secured in a matter of minutes.  Our 2nd floor residence featured a queen size poster bed with comfy bedding along with a twin size bed, spacious sitting area, clean private bathroom and a warm fireplace.

The Inn sits on 5 acres overlooking the river allowing for lots of “running room” for children who have been in a car for a while.  The included hot breakfast is delicious and served with the same warm hospitality.

Here is a link to the Inn’s brochure.  You can also call them at:  800-459-8002 or reach by email:

Tina’s tips:  there are so many places in this area that are kid-friendly.  Give yourself plenty of time to relax and explore.  Luray and Shenandoah Caverns are within a 20 minute drive, along with the Route 11 Potato Chip Factory, American Celebration on Parade and many other attractions.

Even on a cloudy day it is beautiful

Even on a cloudy day it is beautiful

Playing checkers in the main building by the fire

Playing checkers in the main building by the fire

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