Just because it’s spring break doesn’t mean a trip to Disney World is required.

Sometimes time and money do not permit a long-distance trip over spring break. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and adventure! In fact, some of our family’s favorite memories are those from the day trips we’ve taken.

Here are three suggestions that are off the beaten path and probably less-crowded than the obvious choices: Montpelier, Shenandoah Caverns, and Roer’s Zoo.

Montpelier

Montpelier James Madison 4th President United States Orange County Virginia History

Courtesy of Virginia.org

11350 Constitution Highway, Montpelier Station, VA 22957
Estate Hours: 
9 a.m.–5 p.m. | Tours: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

This is the family home of James Madison (1751-1836), the fourth president of the United States, “Father of the Constitution,” and “Architect of the Bill of Rights.” There is so much to do at Montperlier that an entire day can be planned without ever having to leave this amazing Georgian-style 2,650-acre estate!

Things to Do:

Tours: The wide selection of guided tours includes the Signature Tour, Madison & The Constitution, Discovering Montpelier: A Family-Friendly Tour, and so much more.

Trails: There are over eight acres of trails to explore. Also, I recommend exploring the Annie duPont Formal Garden. The massive garden is spectacular, and the children love running through it. 

Annie duPont Formal Garden Montpelier James Madison Virginia History duPont Family

Annie duPont Formal Garden (Courtesy of Fredlyfish4)

Galleries and Exhibits: There are galleries where artifacts of both James and Dolley Madison are on display. You'll also enjoy the pioneering exhibition on slavery, The Mere Distinction of Colour, which was a 20-year research effort that opened to the public in 2017.  

Dining: The Exchange Café offers an assortment of signature sandwiches and soups. You can also purchase assorted "grab and go" sandwiches to take with you on the trails while you're exploring the property.

Shenandoah Caverns

shenandoah

Breakfast Bacon Formations (Courtesy of Facebook)

261 Caverns Rd., Quicksburg, VA 22847    
Hours: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Upcoming Events: Easter Egg Hunt 2019 | Saturday, April 20 | 10–11 a.m. | Free event; however, prior registration is required.  

In 1844, two boys were playing in a quarry near where their father and other farmers were contributing to the building of the Southern Railway. The curious boys stumbled upon a hole in the ground with cool air rising from it. Too afraid to venture further, they retreated and enlisted their family to explore this anomaly, and that is how the Shenandoah Caverns were discovered.

The Caverns were purchased by Earl C. Hargrove in 1966, and it is evident by all of the exhibits and attractions he built (which go beyond the natural caverns) that Mr. Hargrove wanted to make sure that visitors of all ages would be given a memorable experience.

Things to Do:

Explore the Caverns: The Shenandoah Caverns are the only caverns in Virginia with a working elevator, which began operating in 1931. Since they're a constant 56 degrees year-round, I recommend you bring a sweater! Your hour-long guided tour will take you through 17 rooms and passageways, where you'll see the famous "Breakfast Bacon" formations, so unusual they appeared in National Geographic Magazine. You'll be delighted by soaring rooms like Long View Hall and the extraordinary crystalline formations of Diamond Cascade. You'll be amazed at the variety of unique, intricate, and unexpected formations like Capitol Dome and the brilliant colors of Rainbow Lake. There's a new wonder around every bend.

Behind the Veil Formations Shenandoah Caverns Virginia

Rainbow Lake, Behind the Veil (Courtesy Shenandoah Caverns)

After enjoying the tour of the Caverns, your visit isn’t done -- there is so much more to see!

American Celebration on Parade opened in 2000 to display retired parade floats and more. Since Mr. Hargrove's company, Hargrove Inc., is responsible for the creation of parade floats and props for every Inaugural parade since President Truman's in 1949 -- as well as parades for Thanksgiving Day and many other national celebrations -- it only seems fitting that some of these priceless treasures be displayed for all to enjoy at Mr. Hargrove’s property.

Main Street of Yesteryear: Renovated in 1996, Main Street gives you the opportunity to see department store window displays right out of the '40s and '50s.

Mainstreet of YesterYear Shenandoah Caverns Virginia Caves

Courtesy of Virginia.org

The Yellow Barn: Opened in 2007, this facility showcases a salute to America’s agricultural heritage, while displaying Mr. Hargrove’s antique carriages and farm equipment. The Yellow Barn has a little something for everyone, such as restored antique farm equipment, an educational kids section with a LIVE indoor beehive, and model trains in motion. For the adults, there is a country home decor and Virginia wine shop. The Yellow Barn is also a popular wedding and special events venue.

Yellow Barn Shenandoah Caverns Virginia Tourists Sites to See

Courtesy of Virginia.org

Dino Mining Gemstone Sluice: Pan for gems ... You can purchase bags of mining rough to find treasure through the sluice! There are six different options offered, including gemstones, emeralds, arrowheads, fossils, and the "Mother Lode," which includes it all!

Earl's Place Guest House: While you can't tour the inside of the 1800s farmhouse where the two boys who discovered the caverns lived with their family, it is still cool to see the outside. However, you can rent it through Airbnb.  

Roer’s Zoofari Park

giraffe

Waffles the Giraffe (Courtesy Roer's Zoofari)

1228 Hunter Mill Road, Vienna, VA 22182
Hours: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Events: Spring Fling! Easter Eggstravaganza | April 13, 14, 20 | Non-members must register in advance

The Roer’s Zoofari is a 30-acre property located in Vienna right on the cusp of Reston. The zoo houses many different species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids, including Waffles the Giraffe, the official zoo greeter. In 2016, Vanessa Stoffel and Jacob Roer purchased and renamed what was once the Reston Zoo. Their focus is on conservation, the health of the animals, education, and offering visitors an interactive experience with the animals.

I am so thrilled with this zoo, as I lived down the road from them. The new zoo keepers have done so much to update the zoo and add activities to draw in more visitiors. I sincerely encourage you to visit and support this healthy zoo. 

Things to Do:

Safari ToursTake a narrated tour on an open-air bus through a free-roaming safari. You can feed and learn about animals such as deer, zebra, buffalo, watusi, emu, and many more.

Roer's Zoofari Zoo Vienna Reston Virginia Open Air Bus Safari Tour

Courtesy of The Museum Mama

Feed & Pet Barnyard Animals: Enjoy feeding and petting sheep, goats, pigs, llamas, rabbits, and many more barnyard favorites! Animal feed is available for purchase at the admissions counter and in the gift shop.

Courtesy of Facebook

Parakeet Adventure Aviary: As you walk into the special free-flight aviary you will be amazed at the beautiful colors of the birds fluttering around you. You can purchase parakeet feed sticks and be delighted as the gentle birds land on the feed stick or even on your hand.

parakeet adventure aviary

Courtesy of Roer's Zoofari

Have you visited any of these destinations? If you have, please leave your experiences in the comments below! Have a wonderful spring break!

Love safaris? Then check out the Virginia Safari Park!