Northern Virginia Bucket List: 50 Must-Do Activities for Kids

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We are grateful to feature our sponsor, LEGO® Discovery Center Washington, D.C., in the NoVA Bucket list for families!

There are so many year-round and seasonal fun things to do in NoVA, we created a Northern Virginia bucket list: 50 must-dos activities for kids and families! Make it a goal to check all of these (listed in no particular order) off your list! 

LEGO® Discovery Center Washington, D.C. is the ultimate indoor LEGO® playground where families are free to play, explore, craft, and laugh together. Inspire the imaginations of children ages 2-12 with 1.5 million LEGO bricks in one location in the Springfield Town Center in Springfield, VA! The 32,000 square foot indoor LEGO attraction features 12 zones, including a LEGO-themed ride, a 4D cinema where you can see all of your favorite LEGO characters come to life with special effects, and MINIWORLD™ (a LEGO re-creation of Washington, D.C.’s most popular landmarks and a fantastical city).

Kids can get tips and tricks from the Master Model Builder in the Creative Workshop, design their own LEGO car, and test it out in BUILD ADVENTURES, build, customize, and launch a spaceship in SPACESHIP BUILD AND SCAN, and learn while having fun in DUPLO PARK created for the littlest of builders! Create, build, and play with the whole family!

Follow LEGO® Discovery Center Washington, D.C. on Facebook and Instagram

1. Have Fun at Lego Discovery Center

Building a mini-figure at Lego Discovery Center.

If you won’t make it to Legoland anytime soon, Lego Discovery Center in Springfield is the next best thing! There are several places for kids to build with legos, including a mini-figure and a lego car to go down various chutes and slides. There’s even an interactive ride and an indoor play area (much like Scramble or other places on this list) for kids to run and play, and a Duplo play area is perfect for younger kids.

Lego monuments at “night”!

2. Dig your own peanuts! And other seasonal fruits and vegetables at Hollins Farm in Delaplane

There are lots of different farms in Virginia, but this is the only one we’ve seen that grows peanuts! Make sure to look at their website to see what fruits and vegetables are in season – and, of course, peanuts.

3. Waterfront Monument Tour from Alexandria to DC

In the spring/summer, a great way to see the city is by water! Check out City Experience Tours, which offers several tours from Alexandria to DC to see the monuments from the water. Plus, riding in a boat is super fun and exciting for kids!

4. Walk around Old Town Alexandria

Contempo Kids Photography

Alexandria is a charming city in its own right, and the area right by the Old Town Alexandria is beautiful in warmer months and peaceful in winter months. Located between two playgrounds – Jones Point Park and Potomac Yard Playground – Old Town boasts lots of cute boutiques, kid-friendly restaurants, the Torpedo Art Factory and plenty of neighborhood charm.

5. See an outdoor or indoor concert at Wolf Trap

Wolf Trap hosts great musical acts – bands for adults and kids alike! – and with an indoor/outdoor venue, this is one place you can see a concert all season long.

6. Wolf Trap also has Children’s Theatre

Check out Theatre-in-the-Woods for puppet shows and musical theater for all ages.

7. See a Concert at Lubber Run

Another great venue for summer concerts is Lubber Run (which also has a fantastic playground as well).

8. Feed Animals at NOVA Wild Zoo

NOVA Wild petting zoo.

D.C. may have its Smithsonian National Zoo, which is wonderful in its own right, but NOVA Wild is a zoo experience unlike any other! Once you pay for your ticket, you can purchase carrots to feed the animals in the zoo. Drive right up next to animals and roll down your window to feed them – just watch out for their slobber! There’s also a parking lot to park and go walk the petting zoo, where you can continue to feed carrots to goats, birds and other small animals.

9. Enjoy Animals on the Farm

Frying Pan Farm Park and Leesburg Animal Park both have petting zoos, as well as other attractions like picnic areas, playgrounds, and a carousel to ride (Frying Pan Farm). They both also offer summer camps for littles!

10. Tour Mount Vernon

George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon is a must-see! It also has great kid-friendly events for holidays like July 4th and Halloween.

11. Visit Heritage Farm Museum

Located in Sterling, this interactive farm museum is a great mix of education about a working farm as well as seeing farm animals!

12. Pop-Up Experiences in Tyson’s Corner Center

Inside the Hot Wheels Experience, one of many pop-up experiences at Tyson’s Corner Center.

Over the summer, when poor air quality days hit, there were a number of pop-up experiences in Tysons Corner Center mall to come to the rescue with unique, air-conditioned, indoor entertainment. They’re always rotating them, as well, and are great options for things to do when it’s frigid or rainy out, too. The Hot Wheels Experience, for example, runs through April, and boasts race car driving simulations, several Hot Wheels race car tracks, and other games like a target/aim game where kids threw soft dodgeballs and tried to hit monsters/aliens on a big screen.

13. Get Enchanted at Camp Store

Inside the Encanto experience at Camp.

This one is sort of like the pop ups Tyson’s Corner Center has – but this is a permanent Encanto experience combined with a toy/retail store.

14. Go Spelunking at Luray Caverns

If you’ve got not-so-little kids where you don’t need a stroller, Luray Caverns is a cool place to take them! These caverns speleothems such as columns, mud flows, stalactitesstalagmitesflowstone, and mirrored pools. Besides walking through the caverns, there are other fun things to do with kids here, like visit Toy Town Junction – a museum with vintage miniature trains, dolls, and collectible toys on display – or the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum to see old models of cars and even caravan wagons.

15. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

This place always has something going on year-round! Go see the holiday lights in the winter or picnic there spring through fall. This is a great place just to come and take a walk if you’re on maternity leave and need to get out with your baby, as well!

16. Udvar-Hazy National Air & Space Museum

Inside the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum.

Look at all the types of planes and even rockets at this Virginia Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Unlike its sister museum in DC, Udvar Hazy has a big parking lot. It also has lots of special outdoor exhibits in the summer because there’s space to showcase vintage planes on its lot!

17. See the Planes Takeoff from Gravelly Point

Parking is free here, across from DCA, and the big open field is perfect for picnics, throwing a frisbee or playing a little soccer in between takeoffs and landings. Warning: it does get crowded the later in the day you go, and if it’s rained the day before, expect mud. To avoid the crowds in the parking lot, try biking there via the bike path!

18. Bike the Washington and O&D trail

This former rail trail is a great trail to hike, bike or walk. It is a long trail, so choose how far you want to go on it, or how long your kids can handle. The best part of this trail? It extends so far that through several NoVa towns and there are several businesses directly off of it. For example, if you bike up to Vienna, take your kids to Bear Branch Tavern or Caboose Brewing for lunch. And there are three Lost Dog Cafes off of the trail but in different NoVa cities: one in South Arlington, one in Arlington near the Falls Church border, and one in Fairfax.

19. Visit a Splash Park or Water Park in the Summer…

There are so many splash parks to choose from! And if your kids are too old for splash parks or want to go down water slides, there are a few water parks in the area.

20…or a Playground

We’ve got a helpful guide – Clemynjontry is a fan favorite!

21. Rainy Day? Check out an Indoor Play Place

There are several to choose from!

22…or Even an Indoor Pool

This comprehensive guide includes indoor AND outdoor pools in northern Virginia, so save for your non-rainy summer months, too!

23. Visit a National Park

A few great options are Great Falls Park, Shenandoah National Park and Widewater State Park in Stafford. All are beautiful, and most have kid-friendly hiking trails. We also have a more expansive guide to help you explore nature in NoVa here.

24. Colvin Mill

Maisano Family, Contempo Kids Photography

Colvin Mill Run is a great place to explore with littles! It is a 200-year-old working mill with wide open places to learn and burn energy – pack a picnic, go on a hike and stop in at the general store. It’s also a great location for family photos.

25. Get Lost in a Corn Maze

We’ve rounded up the best here, and three are in NoVa!

26. Visit a Pumpkin Patch…

Many offer more to do than just pick a pumpkin, like goat-petting (Hidden Gems), hayrides and fall festivals (Cox Farms and Great Country Farms are the most well-known)!

27…or an Apple Orchard

There are some pumpkin patch/apple orchard combination farms, but there are some sole apple orchards in northern Virginia on this list!

28. Ice Skate Where the Capitals Practice

MedStar Capitals Iceplex holds an open skate for the public, and if skating isn’t your thing, you can always watch the Capitals practice and even try to get an autograph or two!

29. Go to the Arlington County Fair

The Arlington County Fair is a must-do to close out the summer! Every year it happens in August, so be on the lookout or check out their website for information on how to get there, tickets, rides, etc.

30. Get Some Ice Cream Made with Liquid Nitrogen

Summer, spring, winter – it’s never too cold for ice cream! Some of the best NoVa ice cream shops are listed here. But a true bucket list item is visiting NICE Cream in Arlington – this ice cream is made instantaneously using liquid nitrogen! Watching it being made is pretty cool, and it tastes delicious, too.

31. See the Fall Foliage

There are several scenic routes in Virginia for a leaf-peeping drive, that vary from driving along George Washington Parkway to driving to Shenandoah National Park.

32. Grab a Coffee While Your Child Plays

Visit the amazing Ridgetop Coffee and Tea in Sterling, which has an indoor play place to occupy your child while you can relax and drink your beverage while still hot!

33. Visit a Kid-Friendly Winery

If you can’t make it to Napa, NoVa is the next best place to be, and several wineries are kid-friendly! Check out our guide here.

34. Go Skiing

There are two places to ski in northern Virginia: Wintergreen and Massanutten. At both places, kids under 5 ski free, and boast other winter activities besides skiing, like snow tubing, curling and ice skating.

35. Check Out a Holiday Train

Buy a ticket to Alexandria’s Santa Train, a VRE train ride through northern Virginia (stops include Burke and Woodbridge) with the big guy himself.

36. Go Sledding

There are some popular Virginia sledding hills on this list, and for what it’s worth, a few others: Mount Reston (1625 Wiehle Ave in Reston), Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, Westgate Park (7500 Magarity Rd in Mclean), Mason District Park in Annandale and Jefferson Manor Park in Alexandria.

37. Go Skating at the Largest Outdoor Rink

The recently completed Westport Ice Rink in Arlington is a great place to enjoy the winter weather! Know before you go: it gets super crowded, so reservations are highly recommended, and ticket prices are higher for walk-ins vs reservations, too.

38. Visit Manassas Battlefield National Park

Cannons at Manassas Battlefield.

If you’re looking for a wide open field for kids to run amongst historical battlefield artifacts where the Battle of Bull Run took place, Manassas Battlefield Park is the place for you.

39. Go on a Leisurely Nature Walk

A hidden gem is in Woodbridge with miles and miles of bird- and animal-watching: Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Walk as far or as few miles as your kids can!

40. Learn Who Invented Your Favorite Inventions

The National Inventors Hall of Fame museum is in Alexandria. This is a great place to go to learn about the people who invented common machines we use daily, and even more technological inventions – from a permanent wave machine to reCAPTCHA (someone invented those bot tests).

41. Visit a Nature Center

Playing with toy dinosaurs at the interactive Hidden Oaks Nature Center.

Virginia is home to several interactive nature centers – Hidden Oaks Nature Center, Long Branch Nature Center, Gulf Branch Nature Center and Hidden Pond Nature Center are some great ones to visit.

42. Visit a Year-Round Farmer’s Market

Virginia has generally mild winter with the exception of maybe one or two snow days a year (if that – there have been years with no snow at all), so year-round farmer’s markets are plentiful! Be sure to check one out from this list before your area’s farmer’s market resumes in the spring.

43. Celebrate Spring with a Spring Festival…

When spring finally is sprung, it’s time for celebration! Head to Lorton for their spring festival.

44. …or Go Fly a Kite

Signal Hill’s Kite Festival in Manassas is a Virginian alternative to the kite festival in the National Mall.

45. See a Concert at Jiffy Lube Ampitheater

There are several family-friendly shows at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, including the Barbie Move in Concert this summer, where they’ll play the Barbie movie with accompaniment from a live orchestra.

46. …or a kid-friendly show at Eagle Bank Arena

Paw Patrol Live! and many a monster truck event have been at this Fairfax theater.

47. Check Out Family Friendly events at Shipgarten and The Perch

Right across from Dolley Madison from each other, Shipgarten is a biergarten with family-friendly events each Sunday with different themes (Frozen, Encanto) and often include face-painting, live music and petting zoos. Across the street at Capital One Center is The Perch at Starr Hill Biergarten, which has kid-friendly events for various holidays like Easter (they hold their own Easter egg hunt) as well as their signature Perchfest event in the fall, which often has a bounce house and live music.

48. Go to a kid-friendly bowling alley/arcade

Bowlero is a popular chain with locations all across northern Virginia. Play arcade games, bowl and eat pizza. It’s also a great birthday party location.

49. Arlington National Cemetery

Walk amongst Arlington National Cemetery and visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Toddlers can burn off energy walking, but there are also themed walking tours (March had tours among prominent female soldiers’ graves). Paved paths make it a great place to walk with strollers, as well.

50. Visit an Amusement/Water Park

There are two great options for summertime fun – Kings Dominion Park, which has Soak City right next door. Whether your family is into rollercoasters or water slides, check both off your list by taking a day trip here.

What would you add to this Northern Virginia Bucket List for families? Share in the comments below!

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