Southern Shenandoah Valley & Blue Ridge Parkway

Southern Shenandoah Valley & Blue Ridge Parkway

Fun For Families

It’s time to get away and make some memories with the kids. The good ones. Not the ones where everyone is cranky, angry, and crying – parents included. Let’s set our sights on the southern Shenandoah Valley for some fresh air, activity, and strategically placed downtime. 



Hit the road to the Blue Ridge Parkway and plan your first stop at Humpback Rocks Visitor Center. Then, give everyone some snacks and water and head up to the famous rocks, a safe but very vertical mile that will feel like rock climbing for you and your little adventurer. If your climber is more used to scaling people and clinging, try Mountain Farm Trail, a leisurely quarter-mile stroll through an outdoor museum dedicated to Appalachian farm life in the 1890s.


A perfect power-nap drive away sits Lexington, VA, a charming southern city alive with art and music. Grab a solid sandwich at Legendary Eats, and take a short excursion to Virginia Military Institute’s Museum where you might see a parade of Cadets some Friday afternoons. The first public museum in Virginia exhibits the story of the first state-sponsored military college and boasts artifacts like the mounted hide of “Little Sorrel,” “Stonewall” Jackson’s favorite horse, to seven Medals of Honor awarded to VMI alumni.


Continue historic discovery with your lodging for the night. We love the Hampton Inn’s Col Alto Mansion, a historic hotel with the charm of a southern manor but the comfort of a national chain. After getting situated in your rooms, consider using the evening as an educational opportunity to teach the kids which fine dining forks to use. Lexington has great places for a decadent and delicious dinner like The Palms, The Red Hen, or Southern Inn. If you’re more worried your toddler will toss a fork across the dining room instead of using it on the wrong course, grab some BBQ and Hot Dogs from BeameupBBQ and Cafe and head to Hull’s Drive-In where the kids may fall asleep in the back seat. You and your significant other might get to watch an entire movie uninterrupted.



Grab a quick cup of coffee at Roadmap Coffee Works or Lexington Coffee Shop and head out for another hike. If those little feet can only pitter-patter down one path this whole trip, let it be the 1.6-mile total Cedar Creek Trail at Natural Bridge Park. Within a few moments on this easy trail, you’ll see the limestone wonder bridge. Pause for a picture break before reaching the Monacan Village where kids can learn about the Virginia natives that called this area home. The hike ends at Lace Falls, a 30-foot cascading waterfall. For extra fun, check out the Kids in Parks site for four self-guided downloadable brochures.


Refuel after your hike at one of the area’s experiential dining spots: Natural Bridge General Store and Natty B Cafe, Red Fox Tavern, or the Pink Cadillac Diner. After feeding your brood, get ready to feed another herd at Virginia Safari Park, a not-to-be-missed drive-through safari with free-roaming elk, gazelle, zebra, and other exotic fauna. Purchase a bucket of feed for the drive and prepare for hungry herbivores to assert themselves in your car windows for a morsel.


Arrive at your hotel somewhat early to enjoy the views at dusk atop the mountain (and empty the car of safari park feed). The Natural Bridge Hotel has incredible views in an ideal location. For true luxury amidst the mountains try the Inn at Forest Oaks or the slightly out-of-the-area but well-worth-it Peaks of Otter Lodge, located high up on the Blue Ridge Parkway.



If the family didn’t get enough time to feed animals on Day 2, don’t worry, you’ll get another chance today at Natural Bridge Zoo. This quaint and manageable zoo has a nice variety of animals, elephant rides, giraffe feedings, and an aviary where motionless kids with budgie sticks may have a winged friend land on their heads. Travel the Blue Ridge Parkway toward Raphine, stopping along the way for those Instagram-worthy lookouts. In Raphine, pause to smell the grapes and let the kids run around at Rockbridge Vineyards. As you gaze out at the mountains, kick up your feet and toast your glass for pulling off the perfect weekend of memorable family fun.

There’s so much to see!

So,  what should I do first?

We know there is a lot to see and do in the Park.  So we decided to create a seasonal top 10 lists for those who have only limited time. We asked park rangers to give us their best recommendations. Learn more about what they suggested: the Top 10 Things to Do in Shenandoah National Park.