To squelch summer monotony, here’s a packet of destinations guaranteed to turn temperamental toddlers into cheerful cherubs and entice teens to put down their cell phones. With our Summer Survival Guide in hand, you can experience an enchanting world of Chesapeake treasures, ranging from historic forts to water parks, pirate ships to pony rides, and fearsome battleships to hidden islands.
FORT MCHENRY – BALTIMORE
After a short introductory film at the visitor’s center, explore the star-shaped fort that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem during the War of 1812. Battle reenactments, awe-inspiring fireworks and engaging guides make this a grand destination for young historians.
NATIONAL AQUARIUM – BALTIMORE
It’s easy to spend hours strolling through spectacular exhibits, coming face-to-face with schools of aquatic creatures ranging from jellyfish and sharks to dolphins and tiny seahorses. As you meander around displays of coral reefs and living seashores, you’re surrounded by tanks teeming with exotic fish.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH WATER PARK – CHESAPEAKE BEACH
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, your family can splash around in water activities designed for kids of all ages. Water slides, fountains, a lazy river, the little guppies’ activity pool and more provide unlimited fun.
CALVERT CLIFFS STATE PARK – LUSBY
Formed 10 to 20 million years ago, the massive cliffs are a timeless cache of remains of prehistoric sea creatures, sharks, whales, rays and seabirds. Fossil hunting, swimming, beachcombing, hiking trails and picnic areas make this an extraordinary summer destination.
C&D CANAL & MUSEUM – CHESAPEAKE CITY
To see a endless parade of all types and sizes of boats, head for the C&D Canal. This 14-mile man-made causeway between the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River is a sight to behold. The museum is located in an original pump house, and a nearby lighthouse offers visitors a glimpse into the past.
DELMARVA BALLOON RIDES – CHESTER
Leave the Earth’s terra firma below to get a bird’s eye view of the Eastern Shore. After ascending about 1,000 feet above the treetops, your children will be awestruck by defying gravity the oldfashioned way to see the landscape from a unique perspective.
CHESAPEAKE BAY MARITIME MUSEUM – ST. MICHAELS
Climb to the top of a 19th-century lighthouse, tong for oysters and help shipwrights build vessels in the boatyard. This interactive museum houses a floating fleet of historic ships and buildings with exhibits that preserve the water culture, history and recreation on the Chesapeake Bay.
DELMARVA DISCOVERY CENTER & MUSEUM – POCOMOKE CITY
This hidden-gem museum takes you on a timeless journey through the river ecology and human history of Pocomoke River and Delmarva. Interactive exhibits reveal info about wildlife in Cypress Swamp, watermen culture, Colonial times and Native American traditions dating back 12,000 years.
HISTORIC YORKTOWN – YORKTOWN
The location where George Washington’s troops defeated Cornwallis’ British army in 1781 is packed with historic sites, battlefield reenactments and museums. This charming waterfront town bustles with events and activities all summer long, and you will find family-friendly restaurants along the river walk and beach.
ALLIANCE TALL SHIP DAY SAILS – YORKTOWN
Sailing on-board the schooners Alliance and Serenity carry you away from the battlefields to glide along the York River in 18th-century style. Your kids will love to help set sail, steer the ship or watch for dolphins and osprey while developing a deeper understanding of maritime history.
COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG – WILLIAMSBURG
This epicenter of Colonial America takes kids who yawn over dull history books and converts them into 18th-century experts. The era comes alive when actors in period clothing portray tradespeople, shopkeepers, slaves and politicians all around the city. Restored buildings, museums, events and activities are geared for all ages.
BUSCH GARDENS & WATER COUNTRY USA – WILLIAMSBURG
Nestled amid a plethora of Colonial sites awaits a destination where children can goof off and have fun. With both an amusement park and water park, this destination’s got everything from roller coasters and water slides to bumper cars, playgrounds and shows to entertain the entire family.
HISTORIC JAMESTOWNE – JAMESTOWN
Some visitors say the archaeological dig where John Smith built a fort in 1607 is the best part of this destination. Others prefer presentations of life in America’s first permanent English settlement. But everyone agrees the wooded island along the James River where Pocahontas once roamed is ripe for family adventure.
FORT MONROE – HAMPTON
For 400 years, this piece of land at the mouth of the Bay has played a role in U.S. history. It’s been a fort, Civil War slave sanctuary, prison for Jefferson Davis, military base and more. Recently decommissioned and open to the public, its miles of beaches, historic sites and grand buildings make it a sweet summer getaway spot.
NEWPORT NEWS PARK DISCOVERY CENTER – NEWPORT NEWS
This 8,000 acre waterfront menagerie of fun is one of America’s biggest city parks. Its Discovery Center showcases displays of local wildlife creatures, as well as artifacts from the Civil War. On the grounds, you can enjoy hiking trails, picnic areas, model airplane flying field, disc golf course, archery range and more.
VIRGINIA WAR MUSEUM – NEWPORT NEWS
U.S. military history buffs salute this impressive collection of personal war mementos, guns and weaponry, tanks and vehicles, uniforms and artifacts from 1775 to the present. Must-see exhibits: Women at War and the propaganda poster gallery.
NAUTICUS – NORFOLK
The massive Battleship Wisconsin docked out front with gun barrels aimed at the sky proves your family is in for a boatload of nautical fun. Exhibits include military technology, vessels in this bustling port, U.S. naval history, shipwrecks and weather phenomena. The horseshoe crab cove and shark tank are new crowd hits.
VIRGINIA SPORTS HALL OF FAME & MUSEUM – PORTSMOUTH
This multimedia, interactive tribute to regional champions presents sports highlights from early baseball greats to a Redskins skybox experience. Kids can call plays like television announcers, celebrate college victories, explore sports medicine science, hone math skills through scorekeeping, kick soccer balls and lots more.