A Things to Do and Places to Go Around the Commonwealth Series – Part 1

Eastern Virginia by Michelle Crooker


One of the great things about homeschooling is that homeschoolers can plan to take trips when other kids are back in school.  Lines are shorter and prices tend to be lower. But, what to do during the summer? In this four-part series, we will cover some ideas for summertime fun all across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Of course, since it is summertime, be sure to take it a little easy and enjoy the time spent together, have a backyard barbeque, go fishing, or take a walk and listen to the crickets.

Throughout the post (and this series) we will talk about ways to make a field trip–any field trip–a learning experience.


Rowena’s: We will start with a factory tour.  Did you know that you can schedule a free tour of Rowena’s Cake Factory in Norfolk? Rowena’s Kitchen has been making cakes, curds, and jams for more than 30 years. Not only will the kids get to see a business being run and cakes being made, but you can also pick up something sweet to take home. You can schedule a free tour of Rowena’s Cake Factory online through their website or via email – info@rowena’s.com.


Field Trip Tip – Mapping – Print out a map before your next trip, have the older kids figure out the three best routes, including mileage and if there are tolls.  The younger kids can trace along a pre-planned route and draw pictures of what they think they might see.



Cape Henry Lighthouse: Located at 583 Atlantic Avenue in Fort Story, the Cape Henry Lighthouse is located within Fort Story military base. Authorized by George Washington and overseen by Alexander Hamilton, the building of the Cape Henry Lighthouse was one of the first acts of the newly formed Federal Government.  Lighthouses are a significant part of our country’s history. You can discuss how whole families would live and work at a lighthouse and how lighthouses are not only painted differently but they have different blink patterns so sailors could figure out where they were and if they were off course. Photo ID for those 16 and older is required to enter the military base. 


Field Trip Tip: Scavenger Hunt – Scavenger Hunts can be fun whether you are going down the street or across the country. The younger ones can be put on the hunt for numbers and letters.  Find the letters in the alphabet, or have them find the letters in their name and then see how many times they can spot their age.  For the older ones you can do a license plate game and see how many different states you can find.  Once you arrive at your destination, the opportunities abound. At a park, look for bees working, a bird’s nest, and an ant hill; in the city, look for three different kinds of birds, a person who is dressed up (either for an evening out, or in costume), and a police car. Watch for the printouts in my coming blog posts.



Nauticus: One of my favorite places to visit with the kids is Nauticus.  If you haven’t been before it really is worth the trip.  Be sure to watch the HEAV Homeschool Day Events page for the homeschool days at Nauticus. During Homeschool Day there is discounted admission, special programming for no additional fee, coupons,and more. Whether you are reaching into the touch tank to pet sea creatures or touring the Battleship Wisconsin, Nauticus is a very cool place to visit. In addition to everything else, this year Nauticus is celebrating its 20th birthday with different discounts and opportunities each month.


Depending on where you live or where you want to visit, here are a few more options:

    • Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum – Virginia Beach
      • The mission of the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum is to preserve, perpetuate and exhibit historic waterfowl artifacts and wildfowling history.



    • The Chesapeake Bay Center – Virginia Beach
      • The Chesapeake Bay Center is an environmentally focused visitor center at First Landing State Park.  The center boasts several aquariums, exhibits, classroom space, and a touch tank.


  • Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge – Chincoteague Island
    • Summer hours for the refuge are 5am to 10 pm, with the visitors center being open from 9am to 5pm – both are open 7 days a week.  If you have never been, this is a beautiful place to visit.  You can drive up to the visitors center and collect all kinds of amazing information, plus you can take walks on the lovely nature trails,many of which are handicapped-accessible.


    • Colonial Williamsburg – Williamsburg, VA
      • Whether you want to stay strictly in the historic area or venture out into the “modern” section, it doesn’t matter because Colonial Williamsburg has you covered.  You can wander through the historic area and visit most of the shops for free, however if you wish to see the inside of the historic buildings and visit with the interpreters you need a pass.  The passes can be expensive which is why I would recommend saving this trip for the fall or spring during the Homeschool Days at Colonial Williamsburg.  Colonial Williamsburg does amazing homeschool events.  Homeschool Days this fall are September 6 – 21, 2014. There are also a variety of exclusive homeschool experiences that you can participate in, such as becoming a Printer’s Apprentice or a Tinsmith’s Apprentice.


    • Isle of Wight County Museum – Smithfield, VA
      • A fun visit for history buffs, the Isle of Wight County museum features fossils, native American and colonial artifacts, and a turn-of-the-century country store.  Of course, while you are there be sure not to miss the museum’s most notable artifact: the world’s oldest edible cured ham!



    • Mariner’s Museum – Newport News, VA
      • With over 60,000 square feet of gallery space, the Mariner’s Museum is one of the largest maritime history museums. Exhibits include rare figureheads, handcrafted ship models, Civil War ironclad artifacts, paintings, and much, much more.


    • Norfolk Botanical Garden – Norfolk, VA
      • When we went here with my sister and her kids, it was amazing.  There are so many flowers and things to see! In the summer, they have the butterfly exhibit open, which is amazing, and to top it all off they have a three-acre children’s garden offering interactive lessons and a splash park.


    • Norfolk Zoo – Norfolk, VA
      • Education * Recreation * Conservation


    • Virginia Air and Space Center, Hampton, VA
      • If air and space is your passion, then this is where you need to land. Located in Hampton, VA, the Virginia Air and Space Center offers interactive aviation exhibits, historic aircrafts, a hands-on space gallery, space flight artifacts, and more. Bring your teacher ID on select Tuesdays and you and three guests get free admission – go online to find out more information about select Teacher Tuesdays!


    • Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center – Virginia Beach, VA
      • With over 800,000 gallons, hands-on exhibits, outdoor aviary, nature trail, and marshlands, this is one of the best aquariums and animal habitats in the country.


    • Virginia Living Museum – Newport News, VA
      • With indoor and outdoor exhibits, a boardwalk trail, and an aviary, there is sure to be something for everyone to see.  Their summer exhibit is all about dinosaurs, with roaring, stomping, robotic creatures, although–depending on your views–you may want to do a bit of research into this exhibit.


If you want more ideas be sure to check out local Parks and Recreation departments and summer reading programs at your local library.


If you have places that you would like to share, please feel free to share them here in the comments or on my website – Homeschooler on the Edge.  Have fun at the beach and be sure to watch the HEAV blog in two weeks for the next part in this series – Summertime Schooling in Central Virginia.


Michelle, a Virginia native, currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children. Active in Scouts, area homeschool groups, and with her family, she can be found on her blog, “Homeschooler on the Edge,” as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


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  1. […] blog was the first part in a four part series about summertime schooling. The first post titled Summertime Schooling In Eastern Virginia is up right now, the next post Summertime Schooling in Central Virginia will be posted on August […]