Virginia Field Trips

Hands-on and on-site learning is one of the many blessings of homeschooling.

Virginia Is for Field Trips!​

Find all kinds of homeschool field trip ideas near you. Field trip listings, categorized by INTEREST, include science centers, museums, aquariums, planetariums, zoos, historic sites, and state and national parks–and more!

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by Joy Hayden

In the early years, field trips were a staple of our homeschool diet, but as time wore on and I wore out, the number of field trips we went on diminished. Recently the need to take school on the road and expand our horizons has been re-awakened in me.

Remember, a good field trip begins with an interest in the topic or activity. If the interest does not already exist, perhaps you could stir it up with a good unit study beforehand!

Some of the following field trips are long-standing favorites, and others are a little more off the beaten track. Hopefully, you will find some treasures among the list.

Virginia Creeper Trail

Ride your bike across trestles, over streams, and through the Jefferson National Forest on a 34.3 mile long rail-trail across Abingdon, Virginia, to the North Carolina border.

Sandy Bottom Nature Park

Discover 456 acres devoted to environmental and wildlife studies. The park has a nature facility, biking and hiking trails, and a horse trail. You can go fishing, picnicking, or the Wildlife Center gardens.

NATURE-LOVER FIELD TRIPS

Blue Ridge Parkway

After visiting the Natural Bridge, you may want to take in more beautiful scenery during your homeschool field trip by driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Natural Bridge

One of the seven natural wonders in the world is right in our backyard. Along the way, you will stop at the Monacan Village to watch and learn about the daily life of these Indians 300 years ago. 

Natural Bridge Zoo

Visit the Natural Bridge Zoo while in the area!  There is nothing like standing next to a giraffe, getting nuzzled by a llama, hugging a baby dromedary camel, or gazing into the eyes of a huge white tiger to make you feel and appreciate our wonderful world of animals.

Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Enjoy a 3-acre flower garden, the butterfly garden, the fish-feeding activities, walking tours, or  take a tram, shuttle, or boat tour (an additional $3). Partake your picnic lunch observing our beautiful gardens in Hampton.

Sandy Bottom Nature Park

Discover 456 acres devoted to environmental and wildlife studies. The park has a nature facility, biking and hiking trails, and a horse trail. You can go fishing, picnicking, or the Wildlife Center gardens.

Virginia Creeper Trail

Ride your bike across trestles, over streams, and through the Jefferson National Forest on a 34.3 mile long rail-trail across Abingdon, Virginia, to the North Carolina border.

Virginia State Parks

Virginia is For Lovers! Most all of our state parks have interpretive programs, hands-on activities, and kids programs.

SCIENCE FIELD TRIPS

Belvedere-farm-festival-fall

Belvedere Plantation

Programs are available for groups only. A minimum of nine people is needed for a group. In any season, there is something to be learned at Belvedere. In the spring, they offer strawberry picking; in the fall, pumpkins. Their corn maze opens on Labor Day weekend.

The Challenger Space Center 

Founded by the families of the tragic Challenger mission, they now have centers across the nation. They offer virtual, classroom, and Center missions. Contact the center nearest you for information on activities. Before attending the session, your group will receive an information packet. There will be some prep work on your part. At the Center, they will simulate a real mission.

Pocahontas Mine and Museum

Visit a coal mine where coal used to be hand-loaded into carts. Located in southwest Virginia, this mine opened in 1882 and operated for 73 years. Walk through the historic town of Pocahontas and see the old Silver Dollar Saloon, the Company Store, and the old log-cabin schoolhouse.

Science Museum of Western Virginia

Science at your fingertips. We are located right in the heart of Downtown Roanoke on the fourth floor of the Center in the Square building. The Science Museum offers exhibits, a planetarium, and MegaDome shows.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center 

Located in Chantilly, this is the companion site to the National Air and Space Museum, is easy to get to and gives you the Air-and-Space experience without going into D.C. Eventually, it will house over 200 aircraft, 135 spacecraft, and other space artifacts. Inside the hangar, you will see three levels of aircraft.

Virginia Fisheries 

Fisheries are located in many counties, including Campbell, King and Queen, Smyth, Warren, Nelson, Bath, Wythe, and Craig. Five of the hatcheries are cold-water and raise trout. Four hatcheries are warm-water, so you will see pike, bass, catfish, or other warm-water fish. The best time of year to visit the warmwater hatcheries is April through June or in the fall.

Virginia Marine Science Museum

Your kids will love the touch tanks where they can touch stingrays, crabs, and starfish. In addition to whales, sharks, and sea turtles in the aquarium, there is an estuary outside with native birds and bald eagles. The museum sponsors whale-watching trips in the winter and dolphin-sighting trips in the spring and summer.

“HOW-DO-THEY-DO-THAT?” FIELD TRIPS

Bergey’s Dairy Farm

Chesapeake. Got Milk? Or better yet, how do we get our milk? Bergey’s Dairy Farm is a real working farm with more than 200 cows, as well as chickens, goats, bunnies, and Old Tom Turkey. Watch the feeding and milking of the cows, and see the farmhands clean out the stalls. At the farm store you can buy some of that fresh milk in old-fashioned bottles or better yet, eat some homemade ice cream. Wear shoes and clothes that can get muddy and dirty.

Field Trip Factory

Use this site to help schedule certain store field trips in your area, such as Petco, Sports Authority, and others. The tour of the Stafford Petco received very high marks from one family. These trips can be scheduled close to home and won’t cost a lot of money.

Historic Peace Hill Farm

A working family farm with home-raised meat, produce, and wool, chef-prepared meals and curated wines, quiet elegant rooms, and unique event spaces, all in Virginia’s oldest historic area.

Krispy Kreme Factory

Doughnuts are made twice a day—from 6 to 11 in the morning, and at night. The process and equipment are fascinating and there are hot, fresh doughnuts waiting for you at the end of the tour. Call 703-768-0300 to set up a field trip. Take an online field trip of a Krispy Kreme factory at their Web site. Unfortunately, the online tour does not smell or taste as good as the real thing! 6328 Richmond Highway, Alexandria.

Nauticus & Battleship USS Wisconsin

Norfolk. What is it like to live and work on the ultimate warship?  See a map of the ship’s tour route and find out about hours at the Web site. If you visit the USS Wisconsin, you will also want to visit the adjacent Nauticus National Maritime Center.

Nuclear Power Plant

Route 650 in Surry. Visit the Surry Nuclear Information Center and learn the truths vs. myths of nuclear power, generate your own electricity, and learn about the initial mining of uranium to the final stages of producing electricity. If you would like to bring a group on a field trip, call in advance and they will custom-make a field trip tailored to your interests. Best of all…it’s free!

Route 11 Potato Chips

Middletown, near Winchester. Have you ever wondered how this favorite snack is really made? Route 11 Potato Chips uses only natural ingredients to make their chips. Visitors can watch the “spudmasters” at work, and then sample the chips as soon as they’re done. Yummy, hot, and delicious! Open to the public on Fridays (10 a.m.–6 p.m.) and Saturdays (10 a.m.–5 p.m.) Located on Route 11 south of Winchester in Middletown; 540-869-0104.

Thistle Cove Farm

Tazwell. How do you turn the fleece from a sheep into a woolen blanket? At Thistle Cove Farm they raise Shetland, Romney, and Merino sheep, as well as a rare breed of American Curly horses. Sheep-shearing is always done on the third Saturday of April and is open to the public. Families or groups can arrange for a half-hour tour. You’ll see and participate in wool-carding and spinning. Contact Sandra Bennett at 276-988-4121 to arrange a tour.

HISTORY FIELD TRIPS

Agecroft Hall

Located in Richmond, this is an actual 15th century Tudor estate on the James River. When it fell into disrepair in England, it was sold at auction, dismantled, crated, shipped across the Atlantic, and then painstakingly reassembled. The museum and gardens are open year-round, Tuesday-Saturday, but are closed Mondays and national holidays. There is film and a self-guided tour of the museum. Agecroft Hall and Gardens are located in Windsor Farms, not far from downtown Richmond and interstate highways. HEAV sponsors a Homeschool Day for this field trip!

The American Civil War Museum and The Whitehouse of the Confederacy

The Museum of the Confederacy closed its doors in 2018 and moved to its new home at The American Civil War Museum at Tredegar. The museum’s multiple artifacts and collections were moved including: confederate flags, swords, paintings and more. The items were moved from the former White House of the Confederacy on East Clay Street to their new home at the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar Street.

Arlington National Cemetery

First, stop at the Visitors Center and get a map. You will want to see the Eternal Flame at Presidents Kennedy’s grave and visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Here you can watch the changing of the guard ceremony. Before you visit, read the information about ceremonies on their Web site so you’ll know the difference between a ruffle and a flourish, and the origin of the 21-gun salute. It’s also interesting to read about the training of the guards who stand at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Berkeley Plantation

Berkeley Homeschool Days
During the first week in October, Berkeley will offer a special rate to homeschool students and their families. Enjoy a guided house tour and learn about eighteenth-century life on a plantation. Explore the museum of paintings and artifacts, walk the five terraces of restored gardens leading to the James River, and make your way through Berkeley’s corn maze. Picnic tables are available or bring a blanket and enjoy a picnic by the river shore. The rate during this exclusive offer is $10 per adult and $6 per student (k-12). Admission tickets purchased upon arrival.
Reservations are only required for groups of 10 or more.

 

Booker T. Washington National Monument

Open year-round. Admission is free, and special 45-minute programs are available if you call in advance. You can also hike the area trails. Booker T. Washington was born a slave on this tobacco farm. Your visit will explain what life was like in the slave era. 

Colonial Williamsburg

Open year-round. This 18th-century city is the world’s largest living history museum, boasting over forty sites and trades, four historic taverns, and two world-class art museums. Check the calendar–special events are scheduled year-round, and they host an annual homeschool day in the fall.

Frontier Culture Museum

Located in Staunton. Learn about the cultures of four different 1800’s farms—German, Scotch-Irish, American, and English—and their traditions, their food, and their farming methods. Give yourself two and a half hours to see the exhibits. There are special educational tours and rates for groups. Call 540-332-7850 for reservations.

Gunston Hall

Home of George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Tour the mansion and the beautiful gardens. Contact Gunston Hall prior to visiting, and they will send you tons of information. A highly recommended field trip. You will find more information, programs and admission at their Web site. 

 

The Old Coast Guard Station

Learn about shipwrecks, rescues, and the Coast Guard and coastal Virginia history. The museum is housed in a 1903 Life-Saving Station located on the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Small groups are welcome and can adapt the tour to any age group. Also, offer Story Time and Family Fun Days. For more information or to book a tour, please contact the Education Department at ocgsedu@macs.net or (757) 422-1587.

Mount Vernon homeschool day

Presidents’ Homes

Virginia is the birth state of eight presidents. Seven of them have homes in Virginia. (Zachary Taylor was born in Orange County, but there is no house to visit.) The homes include George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Mount Vernon; George Washington’s birthplace, Popes Creek, in Westmoreland County; Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville; Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest near Lynchburg; James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange County; James Monroe’s Highland in Charlottesville; William Henry Harrison’s Berkeley Plantation in Charles City; John Tyler’s Sherwood Forest in Charles City; and Woodrow Wilson’s Manse in Staunton.

FINE-ARTS FIELD TRIPS

Belmont Estate

The Gari Melchers Estate and Memorial Gallery, Stafford County.  The estate of the American figure painter Gari Melchers (1860-1932). The museum consists of the artist’s home, studio, and gardens. The stone studio and galleries are home to the largest collection of Melchers’ works anywhere. 

Millionaire’s Row

If you appreciate architecture, you will want to drive or walk down Millionaire’s Row, where you can enjoy eight blocks of Victorian and Edwardian architecture. Included are five churches, giving Danville the nickname “The City of Churches.” Contact the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce for more information about the Old West End Historic District and Millionaires Row.

Shenandoah Shakespeare’s Education Center

Located in Staunton, this experience takes the fear out of Shakespeare’s plays. Actor-led show tours combine lecture and performance in an educational but entertaining look at Shakespearean theatre. Enjoy a lesson about England’s first indoor theatre, do a little performing, and understand how staging conditions of 17th-century London influenced the works of Shakespeare. HEAV sponsors a Homeschool Day for this field trip!

Torpedo Factory Art Center

The largest and most successful visual arts center in the country, the Torpedo Factory has 84 working studios and six galleries. The building really was a torpedo factory at one time but has been renovated and is visited by over 800,000 people each year. During your visit, you can meet some of the artists and watch them work. You can view different media being used: pottery, stained glass, photography, printmaking, to name a few.

Winston Link Museum

Winston Link was a renowned photographer who documented the last mainline steam railroad in America, the Norfolk and Western, from 1955 to 1960. It is appropriate that the museum is housed in a restored Norfolk- and Western passenger station. The Museum houses 190 of Link’s signed prints and 85 estate prints. Notice that there are some joint-ticket offers with the History Museum and the Virginia Museum of Transportation. HEAV sponsors a Homeschool Day for this field trip!

EVENTS FOR HOMESCHOOLERS AND OTHERS

These homeschool field trip events are available on a recurring schedule. You won’t want to miss these!

Museum of the Bible

Join us for Homeschool Day at Museum of the Bible! Enjoy a fun-filled day engaging with the Bible with our museum educators. Learn about Bible illumination and about how Gutenberg printed the first Bible, make your own oil lamp, and discover what Nazareth was like during the life of Jesus. Bring your curiosity and get ready to dive into the Bible!

The Pony Swim at Chincoteague

This annual event is held on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July on Chincoteague Island. Read Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry before going!

Science Museum of Virginia

Experience the The Dome theater, interesting exhibits, hands-on activities in The Forge, explore The Green, a 6 acre park on campus, and up-close experiences for all. From virtual presentations featuring STEM experts to fun videos on social media, and from in-person experiential exhibitions to in-depth lab demos, the Science Museum of Virginia looks for all opportunities to encourage Virginians to enrich their lives through science. The Science Museum is a catalyst for inspiration, a place that sparks curiosity, encourages discovery and generates ideas in science, technology, engineering and math. 

Virginia State Fair

What better way to get the “big picture” of our great state? There are many school tours available; see for programs. HEAV has partnered with the State Fair so that one day each year is set aside for homeschoolers. Check special rates for the HEAV sponsored Homeschool Day at the Fair listed on the HEAV Homeschool Day Page, usually listed in August of each year!

craft-fair

Waterford Fair

This fair is held the first week of October every year. During this three-day festival, you can learn traditional crafts, tour historic homes, and watch military reenactments while enjoying music, dance, and good food. Call the Waterford Foundation office (540-882-3018) to purchase your tickets.

This article originally appeared in the Virginia Home Educator Magazine. A big thanks goes to friends and “strangers” who contributed ideas for this article. Special thanks to Helen Johnson and Darlene Levy for their abundant lists. Also, some ideas were obtained from Virginia—Off the Beaten Path by Judy Colbert.