Outdoor Activities in Virginia

There are lots of things to do in Virginia and thanks to a wide range of seasons and topography there are plenty of outdoor activities to do with friends and family while in the state. Here are just a few of the more popular ones to check out while you’re here.

Beaches
Virginia Beach is far and away the most popular and well-known beach in the state. That being said, all along the state’s coast line there are beaches available to visitors for recreation, and there are just as many along the state’s many rivers and lakes, making a day at the beach an option no matter what part of the state you happen to be in.

Historical Sites
Virginia was the site of numerous battles during the Civil War, which makes it perfect for history buffs looking for some outdoor time. Nearly all of the battlefields can be visited as National Parks, and while there are too many to list all of them here, they include locations like Manassas National Battlefield Park, several locations in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, and more out west towards Winchester.

If the Civil War isn’t your thing you can still spend a day outdoors exploring Colonial Williamsburg, seeing how some of the earliest colonists to America lived their day to day lives, or you can head up north and visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon and spend an afternoon walking around his old farm and seeing the home he and Martha lived in.

Skiing
While it’s true that Virginia is hot and humid in the summer months, in the cooler months of Fall and Winter it does get snow, in particular in the western part of the state which features a higher elevation. Wintergreen and Massanutten are two very popular spots to visit for fans of skiing and snowboarding and have all the amenities somebody looking to hit the slopes could ask for, with downhill areas for every level of skier or snowboarder.

Golf
If you like hitting the course, Virginia says hello. With more than 400 golf courses across the state to choose from, there’s a course that will suit your skill level and your pocketbook. While it can be argued that Virginia lacks the iconic courses that some other states boast, there are still plenty of excellent courses to make even the most discerning golf player happy to play a round before heading into the club house.

Amusement Parks
Virginia is home to two wildly popular amusement parks for families to enjoy. Both Busch Gardens and King’s Dominion offer an entire days worth of family fun with rollercoasters, water rides, and all of the classic amusement park attractions. If you’re looking to beat the heat, both parks offer their own water parks as well, Water Country USA and Waterworks, with water slides, wave pools, and lazy rivers.

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Outdoor Activities in the Lake

As a land of mountains, lakes and coast, the Lake District area is home to a great variety of outdoor activity centres. Many of them are happy to embrace all levels of experience and age and offer everything from short taster sessions to day-long adventures. Here is my pick of the best. There are several holiday cottages in the lake district which would make an ideal base from which to experience these fabulous activities.

Mountain Biking

Whinlatter Forest Park is the place to go if you’re a committed mountain-biker. The Altura Trail is one of two routes at Whinlatter, and this one is red-graded, 19km long, and described as suitable for experienced riders with good off-road skills and a high level of fitness. If you can take your eyes off the berms, jumps, rock features, skinnies and cork screws, you’ll see fabulous views of Bassenthwaite Lake, Derwentwater, Helvellyn and Skiddaw from your position 500m above Keswick.

The other mountain bike route at Whinlatter Forest Park is the Quercus Trail. This is a blue grade route suitable for moderately experienced riders, with a choice of 3.5 or 7.5km lengths. There are rolling jumps and gradual climbs, and trickier parts that are designed so you can choose them or not depending on your skill level. The route takes you through an oak forest and towering conifer glades.

Bikes can be hired at Whinlatter Forest Park’s on-site Cyclewise centre. If you want to record the experience for dull days and doubters, Cyclewise can also hire out head-cameras for the duration of your trip!

High Wires and Cable-assisted Routes

Do you want to ‘get in touch with your inner Tarzan’? If so, the two Go Ape courses at Whinlatter and Grizedale will be just your thing – have a go on their high-wire tree crossings, zip wires and ‘Tarzan drops’.

The Go Ape Centre at Whinlatter has the highest such course in the country at 360m above sea level, with a zip wire that roves through the forest, over water and clear blue skies (hopefully). The views on a good day can stretch all the way across the county to the Scottish border.

The Go Ape Course at Grizedale Forest travels the side of steep hill, 200m above Grizedale Beck.

The Newlands Adventure Centre has a high wire course, in addition to a wide choice of outdoor activities (see below).

Rookin House also has a zip wire course. They offer a wide range of other activities (see below).

The Lakes’ latest high-rise adventure is the Via Ferrata, or ‘iron road’ at Honister Slate Mines. The route, constructed of rungs and cables, allows you to climb 2,126 feet with relative ease. Combine the trip with a visit to the mine itself, or ramp up the adrenaline further with a trip on their zip wire.

All Things Horsey

If your normal hack takes you across a bit of scrubby ground on the edge of town, you’ll love the opportunities in the Lakes.

Low Farm Riding Centre takes riders of all levels out in the fells, or – bliss! – along the beach at Allonby. Short rides are available in the lovely countryside local to Aspatria, too.

Rookin House Activity Centre also offers riding for beginners and the more experienced.

If you used to make an annual appointment with the famous Lowther Show (now sadly defunct), you’ll know that carriage driving is popular amongst native Cumbrians… and the royal family. You can try the sport out for yourself at the Lakeland Heavy Horse Centre at Dearham near Maryport. You can also find out all about these traditional breeds and meet some miniature Shetland ponies.

Rough Terrain Driving

Rookin House Activity Centre at Troutbeck, Penrith, is a multi-activity site offering a lot of skill and bucketloads of invention. Here you can trek out on a quad bike or mini quad bikes for 6-11 year olds, try madtrax (rough terrain buggies), JCBs (yes!), an army truck or the 4×4 course.

Rookin House also offers riding, an assault course and zip wire.

Climbing, abseiling, scrambling and walking

Apparently Carol climbs, walks, paddles, scrambles, angles and dangles, or at least, that’s what it says on CarolClimb’s website! Carol and Richard are based in Wasdale, close to Scafell Pike and Wastwater. They offer guided mountain walks, scrambles up ghylls in full torrent, a spot of abseiling and rock climbing. They also kayak in many of the region’s lakes.

The Keswick Adventure Centre is a great one-stop shop for a myriad of outdoor activities. Beginners aged 7 to 70 can join ‘taster’ sessions or the more experienced can enjoy more challenging sessions. Choose from rock climbing (on the indoor climbing wall or outdoors), abseiling or walking.

The Newlands Adventure Centre in the Newlands Valley offers ghyll scrambling, climbing, abseiling and mountain walks.

Paragliding

If you’re a lover of the Lake District, you’d really enjoy a new perspective on this wonderful county. Take to the air in a paraglider!

Air Ventures operates from Keswick and flies over the northern Lake District. Kids can join in, too, in special tandem flights.

Eden Soaring takes advantage of the notoriously fierce thermals of the North Pennines in the Eden Valley.Within easy reach of the Ullswater and Penrith area.

Lakes and rivers

Many parts of the Lake District have outdoor activity providers with experienced instructors to teach you basic or more advanced skills. Try these for size…

Derwentwater Marina is a great place to go for all things watery – sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, and raft-building. You can learn the skills from scratch, or just hire a canoe, kayak, sailing dinghy, surfboard or rowing boat and set off across the lake. There are also plenty of Keswick cottages in the area as an added bonus.

The Glenridding Sailing Centre, at the pretty village of Glenridding on Ullswater, offers the opportunity to learn to sail dinghies and traditional boats, or more modest, but just as enjoyable, canoes and kayaks. You can also hire craft to take out on the lake yourself.

The nattily-named Platty Plus at Keswick offers something different on the boating scene. Ever fancied going out in a Viking long boat or a dragon boat? Well, here’s your opportunity. Platty Plus can also teach you to handle canoes, kayaks and power boats.

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