NCMCThings to Do and Places to Go around the Commonwealth Series – Part 3 – Northern VA

Welcome back to Summertime Schooling Series. As the end of summer approaches, many people are thinking and planning for back to homeschool, and the same goes for us – but we’re not done yet with summertime. This is part three in a four-part series of schooling across the Commonwealth, in which we focus on things to do for fun and education.


Field Trip Tip – Have fun, and remember it’s okay to take a break and relax. You don’t have to read every sign at every exhibit for the kids to learn things. In fact, if you go to the zoo and see all of the animals and don’t even read any of the signs, they will have still learned something.


Part 1 – Summertime Schooling in Eastern Virginia
Part 2 – Summertime Schooling in Central Virginia


The next and final part will be Summertime Schooling in Southwest Virginia, and with that will come a giveaway. What do you think it will be?


National Museum of the Marine Corps – Located in Triangle, VA, the US Marine Corp Museum is an awe-inspiring place to visit. The museum is open every day except Christmas, from 9am until 5pm, and admission is free. Part of the mission of the National Museum of the Marine Corps is to preserve and exhibit the material history of the US Marine Corps and honor the commitment, accomplishments, and sacrifices of Marines. To that end, some of the scenes of combat and combat casualties are highly realistic. This is done in order to help visitors recognize the hardship and sacrifice made by each and every marine. Visitors with children are encouraged to speak with a museum docent at the information desk if they are concerned about exhibits that may not be age appropriate. We have visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps as a family. There are exhibits that we did not have the children walk through. Instead, my husband and I took turns going through these parts of the museum on our own while the other stayed with the kids in another part of the museum. It is quite a moving experience and definitely worth the visit.


Frontier Culture Museum – The Frontier Culture Museum tells the story of early immigrants and their American descendants. Twice yearly homeschool days offer students the opportunity to participate in cooking, gardening, wool and flax processing, and animal care. The next homeschool day will be on October 3rd, 2014. Be sure to keep an eye on HEAV’s Homeschool Day Events Page for more details about this and other homeschool day events.


George Washington’s Mount Vernon – Our first president, George Washington, and his wife, Martha, called Mount Vernon home for more than 40 years. Guests can visit the mansion, more than a dozen original structures, Washington’s tomb, and his extensive plantation. Their website does not list homeschool day dates for 2014 at the time of this writing, but there is plenty to check out on your own or with a group. Saturdays throughout August visitors can watch ice cream demonstrations as Mount Vernon’s team explains the fascinating process while using reproduction period equipment.


Manassas: The Battle of Bull Run was the first major land battle of the armies in Virginia and it was fought in Manassas. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk and has a visitor center, an interpretive center, and more. When visiting the park, you can join a park ranger for a walking tour, take the self-guided driving tour, or go hiking.


National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: This museum is a companion facility to the Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC, but this one is located in Chantilly, Virginia. If you want to visit both museums, the Metrorail’s Silver Line, combined with bus service, provides public transportation between the museum in Chantilly and the museum in DC.


Luray Caverns: Do the names Dream Lake, Totem High, Stalacpipe Organ, or Giant’s Hall mean anything to you? After a trip to Luray, they certainly will. These are just a few of the amazing sites that you will see on a trip to Luray Caverns. Regardless of the weather outside, the caves are a constant 54°F inside, so you might want to bring a sweater. Be sure to check out the Teacher’s Resources before your trip.


Looking for more ideas? Check out the following places:

    • Claude Moore Colonial Farm – McLean
      • A living history museum portrays family life on a small, low-income farm in 1771, just prior to the Revolutionary War. There are numerous workshops that teach skills from the 18th Century.
    • Leesburg Animal Park – Leesburg
      • This 21-acre animal park is home to a variety of animals including llamas, cows, lambs, lemurs, zebras, and more. On those hot summer days, you can even visit their indoor play zone.
    • Great Falls Park – McLean
      • Great Falls Park has 800 acres of opportunities to explore history and nature.
    • Hidden Oaks Nature Center – Annandale
      • Featuring a pond and interactive exhibits ideas for children 2 years and up, this 52-acre park is nestled among woodland trails and creeks with gardens and a nearby playground.
    • Reston Zoo – Vienna
      • Whether you hop on the Zoofari Wagon Ride through a free roaming safari; stop by the petting barn; spot snakes, frogs, turtles, and baby alligators in the reptile house; or feed birds in the Budgiery Adventure Aviary, Reston Zoo is 30 acres of family-friendly fun!
    • Cherry Hill Historic House & Farm – Falls Church
      • Guided tours of the mid-19th century farm house provide a variety of educational experiences, including programs for homeschoolers.
    • Fairfax Station Railroad Museum – Fairfax Station
      • If you are looking a great place to experience history, then take some time and discover the Fairfax Station Museum and the role it played in the history of Northern Virginia.

While spending time in Northern Virginia, you are quite close to Washington DC. If you want to see some things to do in DC head on over to Homeschooler On The Edge and read Field Trip Opportunities in Washington, DC.

If you want more ideas, be sure to check out local Parks and Recreation departments and summer reading programs at your local library. Also, bear in mind that the activities don’t stop at the end of summer. Most libraries and Parks and Recreations departments have year-round activities, and many museums will just be gearing up into back-to-school mode, offering all sorts of educational programs by September.

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 spending time in Northern Virginia and be sure to keep an eye on the HEAV blog for the last post in this series–”Summertime Schooling in Southwest Virginia”. Remember there is going to be a giveaway–and it’s a good one for those who love travel.

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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