I would be stretching the truth if I said that I didn't consider photo opportunities at least a little when planning outings with my family. There are times when I don't bring my camera (though I almost always wish I had!), but most days I have it with me just in case. There are so many wonderful family places to go in Northern Virginia and, as I sit here greatly anticipating the return of warm weather, I thought I'd share some of our family's favorites.
Udvar-Hazy Center National Air & Space Museum | Chantilly, Virginia
This place is amazing and though I love the Air & Space Museum in D.C., the Udvar-Hazy Center is so much better. Admission is free, though there is a $15 parking fee (and no other parking options that I'm aware of). This place is expansive, which is great for energetic children and there is just so much to look at - from the Space Shuttle Discovery to historic aircraft like an SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde, and the Enola Gay. There's also an Observation Tower and an IMAX theater. You can easily spend an entire day here. It's great for super hot, cold, or bad weather days.
Jones Point Park - Old Town Alexandria
Jones Point Park is located right at the edge of Old Town Alexandria. There's usually plenty of parking, though it can get busy on the weekends. We love it because there's so much to do and so much free space, which is great for energetic kids (notice a theme here?). There are two playground areas - a large one for all ages and a smaller one on the other side of the bridge with some great climbing structures for older or more adventurous kids.
There are some great views of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the river, as well as a couple of fishing piers. There's also a lighthouse a short walk from there and some pretty garden plots back towards the entrance.
It's a perfect place for a picnic or a great tack-on to a trip to Old Town.
Rocky Run Park - Arlington, Virginia
We happily discovered Rocky Run last year. It is a climbing kid's dream, but there are also great areas for smaller kids too, including toddler swings and climbing structures, as well as a sand pit. There are also basketball courts and a soccer field. But the massive climbing structure is the highlight for us.
We're usually able to find street parking here, though this park definitely gets busy on the weekends. There are lots of places nearby to grab breakfast or lunch, including the Whole Foods (which has easy parking) hot bar.
Mason Neck State Park - Lorton, Virginia
Mason Neck is great for short family hikes. Our favorite is the Bay View trail which goes right along the Potomac River, with some beach access, and also winds its way through some marsh areas, with some great bird viewing. Mason Neck is dog-friendly, so we love bringing our lab for a hike too.
There are several other trails, lots of picnic areas, and a playground too. There's a small entrance fee to the park, though there is one trail that is accessible (with parking) outside the park.
Are you in Northern Virginia or nearby? Are there any places you would add to this list?
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