As my daughter goes to school in Virginia and only had a few days reserved for fun over her Spring break, I came up with a fun little road trip loop in Virginia. As March can be hit or miss with the weather, we just planned accordingly with our packed wardrobe by including lots of layers. Thankfully the weather behaved for the most part and we enjoyed some beautiful nature walks, tasty food, and fun experiences.
If you are looking for a fun road trip loop from the coast, we traveled from Williamsburg, VA to Lynchburg, Natural Bridge, Charlottesville, and then back to Williamsburg. To preface my article, Williamsburg, VA is an exciting tourist attraction with its intact Colonial town to visit, but this was our departure point.
I absolutely recommend Williamsburg as a fun family trip, but if you have a few extra days to explore, this is the perfect add-on trip.
I recommend flying into the Richmond, VA airport as it’s easy to get around and a good access point to both the coast and a trip inland.
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Day 1 – Drive through Lynchburg, VA
We first stopped at the Lynchburg Farmer’s Market to grab some goodies and then drove to the Riverside Park to view the blossoming cherry trees. We went mid-March, so I think visiting later in March to early April may be the peak cherry blossom viewing time.
Day 2 – Natural Bridge, VA
As you pass through Lynchburg, the hills will start to get larger and you will be able to see the Blue Ridge mountains in the distance.
We stayed at the Wyndham hotel that is directly next to the Natural Bridge State park. This not only made it convenient to access the State Park, but they also had a restaurant on site so we were all set for dinner and breakfast. The staff were amazing and we had a comfortable stay with tasty food.
Visit the Caverns at Natural Bridge (approximately 1 hour)
I recommend going to the Caverns first because you’ll learn more about the area and some interesting geological tid-bits that make the Natural Bridge State Park even more interesting.
The Caverns tour is about an hour and not very strenuous, although there are stairs involved. If you’re not a fan of enclosed dark spaces, this may not be a good option for you. We did get to see a sleeping bat and some baby cave salamanders in addition to the cool cave formations.
Hike the Natural Bridge State Park (approximately 1 hour)
The hike is about a mile out to Lace Falls and back. There are more stairs involved with this hike, but you can take your time and there are many areas to take a rest which is helpful if you’re with older population that needs a break. The main Natural Bridge State Park building is very stately and beautiful. There’s a movie you can watch there to fill in more history of the area and probably the largest State Park Gift Shop I’ve ever seen in my life! The rangers are very friendly and welcoming, and I found myself chatting with them as if they were long lost family members.
Drive through the Drive Through Safari Park (2 hours+)
This is the largest drive-thru Safari animal park I’ve ever been through and it was a crazy ride! From their website, “You can interact with our animals safely from your vehicle while exploring our drive-thru safari, on foot walking through our village walk-thru, or up close during a special, behind-the-scenes encounter with sloths, rhinos, or penguins.”
Interact is an understatment. Once you enter the gates, the animals with interact with you and you have no choice! We were actually a little overwhelmed at first because all of the animals were snack motivated. I was driving a rental car and I was having a panic attack while looking at the adorable longhorn approaching the car. We had purchased animal feed in white buckets at the entrance, and all of the animals come up to the car windows and look in to see where it’s at! If they spot it, they will press their faces against the glass like children. We had to cover out buckets with a coat until we made way into the park. We finally felt brave enough to start feeding some animals after about 10 minutes. Warning – some of the llamas and other large animals know how to bite the edge of the white bucket and rip it from your hands. Those little smarties know that it’s much easier for them to have a buffet of snacks that way!
Thankfully we were able to hang on to our buckets and we had a lot of laughs! I would absolutely recommend doing this drive-through Safari. There’s a little Zoo to visit afterwards, but we weren’t as excited about that portion because we like seeing animals out in the open, free range style.
There was also a kitschy side-show stop called Dinosaur Kingdom II where they had large dinosaur replicas in battle with Confederate soldiers. I kid you not.
Sadly they were closed, but I would have absolutely loved to have gone there!
Day 3 – Charlottesville, VA
We stopped for lunch in downtown Charlottesville and had a hard time choosing a restaurant to eat at because there were so many great options! In the end we chose the Botanical Fare Cafe which had a creative vegan menu. We snacked on vegan wonton nachos and
No stop to Charlottesville, VA would be complete without a visit to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. Home of the author of the Declaration of Independence. A World Heritage Site, historic house and plantation, museum, research institute, presidential library, and private, non-profit organization. There’s plenty of parking and a shuttle will take you up the historic home itself after you purchase tickets. As we only had a little time, we chose the grounds tickets which also gave us access to the basement and some other exterior buildings. If you have time, make sure to make a lunch reservation at Mitchie Tavern.
Glass Workshop (you must make a reservation in advance) at the Glass Palette
The Glass Palette is a fun and friendly environment where creative people can explore limitless design possibilities. All materials are provided and after a quick tutorial, we were off and running. It takes about 2 weeks to get the finished product back, but thankfully they offer shipping!
After the fun and relaxing glass workshop, we walked next door to Firefly Cafe, Charlottesville and enjoyed some delicious vegan food. This family-friendly restaurant + bar + game room offers tons of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free options. They also offer non-alcoholic beers which was appreciated because it was St. Patrick’s Day and I didn’t want to miss out on a beer, yet I had a long drive back to Williamsburg.
If you have a few days to spare in this area, you’ll not run out of things to do in Charlottesville itself and the surrounding countryside is loaded with wineries!
Had we had more time, I would certainly have liked to visit some Virginia wineries, so that’s on my list to do for my next visit.