Top tips for a great visit to a Virginia state park

There are about 40 state parks to visit in Virginia. Expect to pay about $10 for parking.
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 3:31 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A recent taste of summer has all of us enjoying the outdoors. If you’re looking for a fun way to spend the beautiful spring days ahead outside with your family, how about a state park?

The West End Mom - Megan Ariail - brought us a list of great tips for making the most of this local resource.

There are about 40 state parks to visit in Virginia for free. You will need to pay parking, which can be $7-$10. There are also a few “free days” for parking, and Ariail breaks those down on her blog.

“The first one is save your REI receipts, because at the bottom of everyone, there’s a free parking pass,” said Ariail. “All you have to do is give that to the park ranger or slip it into the parking envelope. If you homeschool your children and you have your Home Educators of Virginia Association card, just show that to your Park Ranger and you’re going to get in free.”

Ariail told us about a few of her favorite parks and why they’re a good fit for families, like Bear Creek Lake State Park in Cumberland County.

“It’s in Cumberland State Forest,” said Ariail. “You’re going to have horseback riding trails, biking trails, hiking trails. Tons of tree coverage in the summer.”

“So you’re going to be protected from the heat,” said Ariail. “We also love it because there’s campsites and archery ranges. But really that highlight for families is going to be the 40-acre lake in the center of the park. They have boat rentals. You can fish there and you can also swim. The layout of this park is great, too, because parking is right next to the beach front and there’s a large beach with a playground on it.”

First Landing State Park by the Chesapeake Bay is also on Ariail’s list.

“If you’re going to the beach, instead of paying $25 for parking it oceanfront, you can pay $7 to $10 at First Landing State Park and you’re still close to the restaurant and shopping in Virginia Beach or the aquarium. Fun fact about this park, if you’re a history buff, is our pirate lover. Legend has it that Blackbeard also visited this park.”

If your family loves the water, your kids may also love Lake Anna State Park. It’s an easy day trip from Richmond with nice, calm water.

“But this park is so much more than just the lake. They have horseback riding, biking and hiking trails. ... If you’re into camping, they also have a fabulous playground right off the beach,” Ariail said.

The West End Mom also put together great trips for a visit to Westmoreland State Park and York River State Park where you can visit Fossil Beach and look for shark’s teeth!

“Their visitor center, they have free pamphlets and they show you exactly what you want to look for. They give you tips on when to visit like visiting after a storm or during low tide are the best times to look for your fossils,” Ariail said.