9 Ways to Spend a Family Weekend at Belle Isle State Park
The whir of cars passing by, the click of keyboards, the buzzing of text messages, and sounds of sirens–these are the sounds of the daily bustle of your city life. Whether you live in Washington DC, Fredricksburg, or Richmond, you may love these sounds most days. It might be time to replace them with new sounds, even for a weekend.
A visit to Belle Isle State Park will be filled with sounds of birds singing, kids laughing, paddles hitting the water, and fires crackling. The sounds of nature and family fun are all around at this gem located in Virginia’s River Realm, less than three hours away from DC and just an hour from Richmond. Belle Isle has seven miles of shoreline on the northern shore of the Rappahannock River. You and your family can explore a wide variety of tidal wetlands interspersed with farmland and upland forests. It’s also close but to other family favorites.
Here are nine ways to enjoy a weekend with your family at Belle Isle State Park:
At Belle Isle
Camp Out or Stay in the Bel Air House
Before you plan your trip, decide how you want to stay at Belle Isle State Park. The campground has an RV park, full service and primitive camping, and two houses for rent. The Bel Air Houses were built in 1942. These historical landmarks are fully furnished and perfect if your family doesn’t want to rough it, but still wants to get away. Learn more about how to stay at Belle Isle.
Take a Nature Tour by Canoe
One of the most peaceful ways to soak in the beauty of the area is by canoe or kayak. Belle Isle offers self-guided family canoe trips. Rent a canoe or kayak and borrow a “park pack,” which includes field guides and equipment to help you explore. Choose from Wetlands Exploration, Insects, and Nighttime self-guided tours. If you take your trip during the day, finish by bringing a picnic lunch and enjoying the cool river breezes at the picnic area while the kids play on the playground. If night time sounds more relaxing, glide along the smooth waters of Mulberry Creek as the sun sets low over the Rappahannock River.
Have your own boat? Bring it along and put it in the water at one the park’s boat ramps. Learn more about guided tours by water.
Geocache Your Way Around by Bike
Throw your bikes on the rack before you head to Belle Isle. You and your family can use million dollar satellites to find hidden treasures in the woods using geocache technology. You’ll unlock more treasures if you take on the 950-acre park by bike, which you can also rent at the park. Richmond Virginia’s ABC affiliate, Channel 8, reporter Morgan Dean took his family on a geocache adventure and shared his experience here. Visit the Belle Isle State Park office and pick up one of the GPS units. The cost to rent a GPS unit is just $10.00 for the day and $6.00 for half a day. Learn more.
Catch a Crab
Splash a hand line in the water and see if you pull up a jimmy or a sook! Not sure what all that means? Then this is the program for you. Belle Isle State Park offers a great intro to crabbing for just $2 per person, but be careful they can pinch! The park also offers lectures and demonstrations on watermen culture, oysters, insects and more. Preregistration is recommended, please call 804-462-5030 or stop by the Camp Store. See more offerings here.
Music by the River
Cuddle up on a blanket under the setting sun and listen to music as a part of the Music by the River Series. Enjoy rock, gospel, and bluegrass all summer long. While the band plays on the stage, parents can dance and relax while the kids enjoy the playground. Belle Isle will welcome bluegrass tunes by the White Top Mountain Band on August 12 and gospel music by Southern Grace on August 19. Learn more.
Kilmarnock Volunteer Fire Department’s Fireman’s Carnival (July 31 – August 9)
This annual festival has been running for 82 years, one of the longest running festivals in Virginia. The Kilmarnock Volunteer Fireman’s Carnival is held at the carnival grounds on Waverly Avenue. For nine days, your family will have the opportunity to enjoy amusement rides, games of chance, grilled burgers and hot dogs alongside some of the best homemade french fries around. Ride “Big Eli”, the ferris wheel, or the carousel or play bingo. It’s hometown charm at its finest. The carnival is open July 31-August 9, 7-10 p.m. nightly except Sunday. Learn more here.
Head to the Track
Virginia Motor Speedway is the place to go for something a little more dirty and loud. The Speedway offers wild nights of dirt track racing. From a weekly stock car racing series to world championships, there is always something new on the schedule. Watch your children’s eyes grow larger as cars collide on the track and mud splashes on the stands. The schedule is full of fun through November. Visit the website to plan out your trip.
Make a Splash at the New Kilmarnock Town Centre Park
One of the latest additions to Virginia’s River Realm is Kilmarnock Town Centre Park. The new venue will host music, performances, and festivals in the open air amphitheater. If you have younger children, they’ll love the Waterworks splash pad and River Play playground. If you have pups, bring them along! Scottie’s Yard Dog Park will be just as fun for them, too. Learn more about the new venue.
Get a Double Scoop at Stevie’s Ice Cream
There’s nothing better than ending a long summer’s day than with an ice cream cone or a milk shake! Stevie’s Soft Serve Ice Cream is located in Kilmarnock on N. Main St. (Route 3). Stevie’s is known for its fruit shakes–you won’t be able to pick a flavor! We recommend starting with strawberry. If you like to eat your ice cream on a cone, be sure to order a fresh made waffle cone. Visit their Facebook page for new flavors and specials.