If you have kids, you know how tricky it is to find something to do on a weekend that will keep the whole family happy. Parents may want to chill out at a winery, but the kids prefer a more energetic activity. All it takes is a little compromise.
These three day trips from D.C. offer something for everyone.
Caverns, Chips and Cream Ale
If you have a family of junk food aficionados, take an outing to the Route 11 Potato Chip Factory. Located in Mt. Jackson, Virginia (literally just up the road from what’s up next), the factory is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Though there isn’t an official factory tour, big windows in their retail store allow you to see the chip-making process for free--call in advance to see if they are in production that day. Even if they aren’t, bowls of samples galore will keep salt fiends at bay. Most popular are the dill pickle flavor; you’ll also find sour cream and chive, Old Bay, barbecue and Yukon Gold, and all are done in a super crunchy kettle style. Buy large and small bags to take home.
Afterwards, drive up the street to Shenandoah Caverns, which has been open for 90 years and is the only Virginia cavern with elevator service. We found it to be a lot more manageable and less crowded than Luray Caverns, and just as impressive. Tickets for the guided tour cost $24.00 for adults, $12.00 for children aged 6-12, and are free for children five and under, and they are open at 9 a.m. every day and close between 4 and 6 p.m. depending on the season. (You can also find deals on Certifikid and Groupon.) Cavern tours are a mile long and no strollers are permitted; the constant 56 degree temperature no matter the time of year means that you might want to bring a light jacket--not to mention comfortable shoes. Beyond the usual stalactites and stalagmites, we thought the coolest things were the formations that looked like bacon. The guide activates colored changing lights in some of the rooms including the Capitol Dome, Diamond Cascade and Rainbow Lake, which elicit oohs and aahs and photos ops aplenty. Admission also included a self-guided tour of Main Street of Yesteryear, where you can see procured parade floats and holiday window displays from department stores.
About fifteen minutes away in Luray, Hawksbill Brewery opened in 2017 and was inspired by the local farms of Page County, and many of the beers use local ingredients including honey and blueberries. There are several beers on regular rotation, which may include the dark and creamy Brown Cow Chocolate Milk Stout, Haymaker Cream Ale and Hooray for Luray IPA, their hoppiest offering with cascade, chinook and citra hops. And our kids liked the Boo Beer, a root beer crafted with local honey. Hawksbill is open Thursday 4 to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 12 to 8 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 6 p.m.
Climbing and Cabernet Franc
Want to climb, fly and zip through the trees? Start this day trip by soaring through the Shenandoah on a three hour ropes course at Virginia Canopy Tours. The $89 admission fee (which is cut to half price Monday through Friday for kids 10 to 15 accompanied by a full-paying adult) includes ground school, a UTV trail ride, eight zip lines, one sky bridge, one air stair bridge, two nature walks and a rappel. Speeds for the zip lines can exceed 40 miles per hour, and the course itself reaches 90 feet above the hardwood forest floor and offers views of the Massanutten Mountains, making it exciting for all ages. (The minimum age is 10, and all participants must weigh between 70 and 270 pounds.) Everyone receives training before tackling the course, are accompanied by two certified eco-trained guides and are attached to cables via lanyards at all times. For available times and to reserve a climb, check out their website. Note that admission does not including the Shenandoah River State Park parking fee, which ranges from $5-$9 depending on where you live and the season.
Next up, hit Glen Manor Vineyards, situated on a western flank of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which crafts stellar Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as St. Ruth and Hodder Hill, their Bordeaux Blends. Do a tasting for a small fee, then grab a bottle, your blanket and your picnic and head outside to have lunch amid the vineyards. (The winery doesn’t offer food, but let’s you bring in your own, which is perfect for families.) Children are welcome, but must be supervised by their parents at all times. The winery is open Monday, as well as Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.; they are closed on Tuesday.
Monsters, Mustangs and MOD
For a trip a little closer to D.C., drive the fam to Chantilly and play a round at Monster Mini Golf. Its indoor location means that it’s a perfect option no matter the temp or weather, and the black and neon lights bring to life a glow-in-the-dark world of whimsical creatures and monsters (don’t worry: they aren’t too scary for the littlest putter.) Kids cost $9.98 and adults are $10.98, and the location also boasts mini-bowling ($3 per 5 frames), a laser maze ($2.50 per entrant) and atomic rush ($2 per entrant), an LED-lit panel game that’s similar to Simon. Monster Mini Golf is open Monday through Thursday from 2 to 9 p.m., Friday from 2 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 12 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 8 p.m.
Tucked away in a nondescript industrial park nearby is Mustang Sally Brewing Company, one of the most fun microbreweries in the area. Head brewer Kenny Allen originally held the same position at Old Dominion Brewing Company and Old Ox Brewing Company, and general manager Dave Hennessey was previously head brewer at Old Dominion and a senior manager at Hop & Wine Beverage, so it’s safe to say they know a thing or two about suds. Do a flight of their Article One Amber Lager (named for George Mason), Marbury American Wheat Ale (named for chief justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall) and a variety of rotating and seasonal options. We challenged our kids to a game of cornhole; you can also visit on Friday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for live music, and watch a free movie in the brewery Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. (Fellow plane nerds like my husband, kids and I will love the fact that the brewery is right on a Dulles flight path, and it’s super fun to see those A-380s and 747s loudly soar directly overhead.) Mustang Sally’s is open Tuesday through Thursday from 3 to 9p.m., Friday from 3 to 10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
End the day by grabbing dinner in the Greenbriar Shopping Center at MOD Pizza. Basically the Subway or Chipotle of pizza shops, it lets you order as many toppings as you want on three sizes of dough, which are baked to order. (You can also do unlimited toppings along with lettuce as a salad, for a carb free option.) Everyone from the pickiest kid to the adventurous eater will love the selection of veggies, meats, herbs, cheeses and sauces. We were all in on roasted garlic, bacon, pepperoni, sausage and all the veggies.