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15 Historical Adventures For Kids This Summer

Virginia history

With the 4th of July holiday upon us, perhaps you’re looking for fun, historical sites to visit with your kids this summer. We’ve asked local resident and historical fiction author, Libby McNamee, to share her picks for family-friendly places to visit that share our (mostly) local history, including a day trip to our nation’s capital. With her guidance, we’ve put together a list of fifteen favorites for you and your family to explore together.

1) Parson’s Cause at Historic Hanover Courthouse offers engaging performances from different historical figures on Saturday mornings (9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) throughout the summer. Performances are 45 minutes long and feature prominent figures such as Teddy Roosevelt, Francis Scott Key, and Martha Washington. Find more information here.

2)  The Virginia State Capitol offers not-to-miss tours of the impressive building designed by Thomas Jefferson in 1785. Tours are offered daily and are free to the public. Visitors should enter at the Main Entrance at 10th and Bank Streets and be sure to ask for the knowledgeable Mr. Greenough! Learn more here.

3) Explore Richmond’s history from a segway! Check out the Richmond Landmark Segway Tour from RVA on Wheels and hear the stories and see the sites of RVA’s past. Booking for one and two-hour tours is available online at rvaonwheels.com.

4)  Hollywood Cemetery, a beautiful garden cemetery with incredible views of the James River, makes for a great outing on summer days. Visit the graves of Presidents Monroe and Tyler and check out the ninety-foot pyramid monument to the 18,000 Confederate War Dead buried in the cemetery. A paved road winds through the grounds and creates a three mile loop that can either be driven or walked. The massive oaks create a lot of shade, so it’s never too hot or humid. Read more at here.

5)  Virginia Museum of History & Culture is a fixture of Arthur Ashe Boulevard, and their signature exhibit, The Story of Virginia, features more than 500 artifacts and spans 16,000 years of Virginia history. Highlights for kids include interactive displays and a historical streetcar. Be sure to visit their newest exhibition, “Determined, the 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality,” which includes a special family gallery guide. Admission to the museum’s many exhibits is $10 for adults, $5 for children, and free for members. Learn more at here.

6) Interpreters portray Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington at Historic St. John’s Churchas they debate the Second Virginia Convention, ending with Patrick Henry’s immortal “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” speech. This special performance takes place July 4, but you can also see the Liberty or Death reenactment every Sunday afternoon. Tickets are required and can be found here.

7) While you’re at St. John’s, travel a few blocks further on Broad Street to find Chimborazo Park, which was once the site of the largest Confederate hospital during the Civil War. The park boasts stunning views of the city and a National Parks museum.

8) For a day trip an hour’s drive outside RVA, Berkeley, Shirley, and the James River Plantations are manor homes steeped in history. Located in Charles City, these plantations have served as the scene for America’s first Thanksgiving, the births of Presidents William Henry Harrsion and John Tyler, and the writing of the song “Taps,” among many other notable happenings. Upper Shirley Vineyards features a nice restaurant without chicken nuggets on the menu, but the sprawling backyard backs up the James and is an ideal spot for a family picnic! There’s even a sweet retro camper which sells snacks and wine to round out your experience. More information is available at here.

9) Travel back to the year 1611 by visiting Henricus Historical Park, an outdoor living history museum that is a recreation of the Citie of Henricus. There are twelve colonial structures, perfect for “hands-on” encounters with historical interpreters. They may ask kids to help with cooking, blacksmithing, planting, harvesting, or even joining the militia! Admission is $9 for adults and $7 for children, and more information can be found here.

10) The Valentine Museum’s Walking Tours. Join one of many family-friendly tours offered by the Valentine including The History of Jackson Ward Walking Tour where you’ll explore the neighborhood that Maggie L. Walker, hails from. Be sure to check out all of the exhibits at the Valentine to learn about our capital city’s rich history.

11) Top off a historical adventure with some fun in the sun! In addition to the two world-class museums in Jamestown, there’s also the fantastic Jamestown Beach Event Park, a shallow-entry beach that is perfect for little and big ones. There is a small parking fee, as well as a snack bar, restrooms, and kayak rentals. Learn more here.

12) The new American Civil War Museum includes both the White House of the Confederacy and Historic Tredegar adjoining the Richmond National Battlefield Park Visitor Center. The museum offers tours and is committed to telling the story of the Civil War from a diversity of perspectives. After the museum, hike or bike the trails on the nearby Belle Isle - hard to believe it was once the site of a Confederate prisoner of war camp. Also nearby is the T.Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, a favorite spot for walkers and bikers and a fun way to cross the river. More information is available here.

13) During the Siege of Petersburg, Union soldiers devised a plan to break through the Confederate lines: dig a tunnel underneath the enemy trenches and then use explosives to blow it up. In the present day, the site of “The Battle of the Crater” at the Petersburg National Battlefield is a sprawling area for kids to explore. There’s plenty to check out at the National Battlefield, and delicious options for a break line Old Town Petersburg. Demolition Coffee, Saucy’s BBQ, Trapezium Brewery, and Buttermilk Bake Shop are highlights, but you can’t go wrong! More information about the Petersburg National Battlefield can be found here.

14) On the banks of the Appomattox River, Weston Plantation in Hopewell is a step back into the 1860s. Legend has it that the house is haunted and that ghosts of Civil War soldiers and “the Lady in Blue” roam through the second floor at night. In 1973, a live cannonball from the Civil War actually fell through the ceiling! There’s also a dock, fishing pier, and a fashion boutique. Tours are available, learn more here.

15) Take a road trip to our nation’s capital this summer and plan to visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture . Admission is free. Passes may be required. Walk-up to the museum without a pass on weekdays after 1pm. Timed entry passes are required every Saturday and Sunday and for groups of 10 or more. Explore all eight levels of the Museum on your visit, from Heritage Hall, to the galleries, theaters, café, interactive spaces, and more. Children may especially enjoy exploring the exhibits that focus on African American contributions to sports, music and stage. Learn more here.


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