I was not sure where to put Chippokes Plantation State Park in the lineup for the cluster, since we spent three days there. But finally I chose second because in truth it was the second park we went this weekend.
When we finally left Kiptopeke we headed through Norfolk and off to Surry. Looking at the map this park appears to be right off a highway, but as we twisted and turned through Smithfield, VA (it took all my will power not to make my husband stop and let me buy a ham) and then into the very rural Surry, VA. After the GPS told us to turn on a very questionable narrow road we found the park. We got our cabin code and a map, which the park staff highlighted to make sure we got there.
When I heard cabin, I had visions of rustic wood walls and deer head instead it was a doll house! Chippokes has refurbished the old tenant buildings into cottages. Our cabin was a two story, two bedroom house built I believe in the 1800s. The interior had hardwood floors, and was decorated in a country shabby chic which was adorable. For a small house it was surprisingly roomy with a full size bed in one room and a trundle bed in another. There were also two roll away beds in the living room. The cabin had everything you needed from plates and cups to TV and DVD player. Looking out of the windows, you got a look at what the tenant farmers of the past saw with rolling fields of wheat. My kids laughed and played with the games that were left at the cabin. There were also movies and books there as well.
The next day we had dedicated to two other parks. So we got up early in the morning and headed out. We returned to Chippokes around 5 in the afternoon. Since the sun was still up we headed out to find our geo-cache. The main trail there was paved and took you from the visitor center to the working farm portion. As we walked, my kids found the animals and I now have about 10 pictures of the same cow. We also saw many of the historic buildings that are still used for farming. The kids took off to see the other animals and started the kid chant to feed the chickens. We promised them “tomorrow” and headed back to the cabin to get dinner.
The third day after we had packed up we decided to really experience Chippokes. Since the farm areas were not quite open yet we headed down to another trail that took you behind the farm fields to an overlook of James River, except for the bugs it was a nice stroll. We then went to walk through the gardens and looked at the Mansion. It was fun to see the look on my daughter face as she tried to figure out why the kitchen was not attached to the house. My son’s question was why there were so many other houses. When I tried to explain to him that was where the servants lived, he asked me "Mommy, what is a servant?"I told him, "A servant is someone who you pay that cooks, cleans, and takes care of you."
In pure kid fashion, "Are you are my servant mommy?"
Not knowing that my son had engaged his radar ears, I shook my head and leaned over to whisper to daddy, "I don't get paid, I think that makes me a slave."
"Mommy, what's a slave?"
To which I replied, "Look, a pine cone." He darted off to look at the pine cone.
We finally made it to the animal section and let the kids feed the chickens and headed across the street to see the tractors and a bunny. While there we met one of the outstanding volunteers. Since we were there so early he asked if the kids would like to pet the baby lamb and potbelly pigs. Of course my kids thought that was a great idea and off we went. The volunteer let us into a small enclosure and returned with the baby lamb. A pig strolled in when he opened the gate. Both animals were sweet and gentle and my kids absolutely loved petting them. The other animals came up to the fence to be petted and the volunteer explained where each of the animals came from. Once we were done with that we headed back to the tractors. As daddy chatted with the volunteer, my kids took turns having their pictures taken on the tractors.
As we left the park, my husband and I decided we definitely want to return and spend a weekend there, probably in June during their antique steam engine show. Other than the park, there is a ferry run by Virginia Department of Transportation (which is free) to cross from Surry over to Jamestown. There are also multiple historic sites located just minutes away from the park. The cabin had a notebook with all the information about the area. The park also has tours of the Mansion, the farm area puts on demonstrations, and the area has a couple of festivals. Just up the road is a berry picking farm and Surry itself is a quaint little town to explore. I really enjoyed this place and it quickly became a favorite.