I recently took a trip to James River State Park for the day with my two girls: an eight-month-old and a three-year-old (see my video at the end). The trip was much better than this first picture implies.
My daughter – completely over pictures
Normally I would have done this trip by myself, but my wonderful sister-in-law tagged along for the day, and another set of hands is always good.
I live about two hours away from Virginia State Park.
We loaded up the van and traveled down the road for about two hours until we reached James River State Park. I always try and time my trips around nap time – it seems to be easier on the eight-month-old when traveling in the car for a long distance if she sleeps most of the way – if not the whole way.
We arrived at parking fee ($3 during the weekday or $4 on the weekend) to get into the park for the day, but that is the only cost for the day. What a bargain, and the cost is per car!
Pulling up to the contact station
We went straight to the Visitor Center because after a long trip with kids a potty break was our first stop. The Visitor Center does have a bathroom inside, but it’s only one stall and with three of us and a diaper to change, we opted to use the restroom facility right beside the Visitor Center because there was simply more room, and it does have a changing table (always a plus).
The Visitor Center was a huge hit with my three-year-old. She was really in to looking for the fish in the aquarium, checking out the animals, and the “hands on” exhibits were fun. James River has live snakes in their displays, but they were all hiding for us. James River also has a replica bateauoutside their Visitor Center, one that you can actually walk on.
The deer antlers were a big hit
We decided lunch was calling our name and loaded back into the van and headed to find a spot to picnic. With me, I wanted a spot in the shade and that was a little cooler, so we headed down toward the river where all the picnic tables are in the shade. That was the perfect spot for lunch.
Now, if I were by myself I would have already made lunch so there would have been no preparation, because with an eight month old, she becomes quite impatient to being placed on a blanket on the ground – she wants you down there with her, interacting with her. But good news for me, I had my sister-in-law for the day so she became my babysitter while I fixed lunch. It was neat to picnic by the river and we even saw some people float by on inner tubes.
After lunch we headed to my favorite spot at James River State Park – the Discovery Area! This is the best place for kids of all ages. Everything is hands-on and interactive. James River doesn’t have a traditional playground made out of metal, but has something so much better. Everything in the Discovery Area is made from natural elements. There’s a kitchen set made entirely out of tree stumps, a caveman wall to draw on made out of rocks, and even a drum set.
My daughter's favorite station – the kitchen
It was a hot day, so to play out in the sun would have been unbearable, but this Discovery Area is entirely in the shade under a tree canopy! My youngest daughter decided to take her afternoon nap while my three-year-old played.
I did have my double stroller in the Discovery Area – which was nice, but a little big for the path. Also, FYI if you have a double stroller or any stroller for that matter, make sure it can go off-road on a dirt path and that it is manageable to push up hill. A simple umbrella stroller would have been hard to take in the Discovery Area.
The big double stroller I use that is good for off-roading
After we left the Discovery Area our last stop for the day was back at the river. It was so hot that day so, we let the girls get in the water – clothes and all! I brought their bathing suits to swim, but we were so hot and sticky I thought, “Just let them jump on in.” That was a nice treat to end the day.
Yes, clothes and all in the river! It was a hot day
James River is definitely kid friendly for all ages! I know my kids enjoyed visiting the park and playing outside. There’s still so much to do at James River State Park. We’ll have to go back to enjoy the trails and all of their ponds around the park. We might even adventure into an overnight camping trip.
Check out this video I created while we were there:
I encourage you to take your kids to the park and tell us what you did while you were there.
Buckingham County. From U.S. 60 West, turn right onto Route 605 (Riverside Dr.) at the James River Bridge. Travel seven miles, then turn left onto Route 606.Its address is 104 Green Hill Drive, Gladstone, VA 24553 Ph:434-933-4355 or visit the park's website here.