6 Things to Put on Your Virginia Bucket List This Spring

Courtesy of James River Park

By Aila Boyd
April 12, 2023

With the arrival of warm weather and vibrant blooms, there’s no denying that spring has sprung in Virginia.  

To make the most out of the season this year, add some of these six quintessential Virginia activities—like hiking on the Appalachian Trail and having fun on the James River—to your springtime bucket list. 

Visit a Botanical Garden

6 Things to Put on Your Virginia Bucket List This Spring
Courtesy of Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Spring is the perfect time to view beautiful blooms. If you’re looking to fill up your Instagram feed with some vibrant seasonal colors, be sure to visit one of the commonwealth’s botanical gardens.  

For a curated garden experience, look no further than the Norfolk Botanical Garden in Norfolk. The garden has seasonal tram tours that start at the top of every hour daily between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. There are also daily azalea tram tours between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.—that is, while the azaleas are in bloom. Those with little ones can explore the WOW Children’s Garden, which will host programs every Wednesday in April.

The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum on the campus of James Madison University in Harrisonburg is a great place to go to see some native plant species. The arboretum maintains a list of what’s currently flowering. Some of the blooms you should expect to see in April include saucer magnolia, large-flowered trillium, crown imperial, tree peony, and pinxter azalea. In May, bearded iris, green lavender cotton, and herbaceous peony will be on display. 

If you’re looking for an urban outing, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond and Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna are two more gardens you can add to your list.

Hike on the Appalachian Trail

Did you know that 544 miles of the Appalachian Trail pass through the commonwealth? 

“Whether hiking through a small section of untamed wilderness or conquering the entire Appalachian Trail, create your own perspective and discover the endless beauty that is Virginia,” the Virginia Tourism Corporation said on its website.

If you aren’t sure where to go to access the trail, the corporation has information on hiking the northern, central, and southern portions of the trail, as well as the 101 miles that wind through the Shenandoah National Park.

James River Water Sports

6 Things to Put on Your Virginia Bucket List This Spring
Courtesy of Virginia State Parks

For those who like to spend time on the water, kayaking or canoeing down the James River is a great springtime activity.

If you’re planning to kayak on the upper part of the James River and need help finding a good access point, check out this list from The Upper James River Water Trail. Buchanan, a quaint riverside town, not only offers a great place to access the river, but is also home to Twin River Outfitters, a business that provides rental opportunities and offers a variety of trips depending on the guest’s level of experience. 

The capital city is another excellent place to spend some time on the river. Good places to paddle in the James River Park System include Reedy Creek, Pony Pasture, and Belle Isle. If you need help with rentals or simply need a guide, Riverside Outfitters has you covered.

“There are few other cities—none, in fact—where you can kayak and raft on class III and IV rapids in an urban setting,” according to Visit Richmond VA. “Richmond is the only place in the country where you can run the rapids, then pull out and walk to a downtown brewery, bar, or restaurant.” 

Watch the Sun Rise and Set at the Beach

6 Things to Put on Your Virginia Bucket List This Spring
Courtesy of Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau 

While the commonwealth has plenty of coastline, an obvious place to watch the sun rise and set over water is Virginia Beach.

“To see the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean and set over the Chesapeake Bay, in the same day, is an experience that is uniquely Virginia Beach,” according to the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau.

For recommendations from the bureau about the best locations to capture an Instagram-worthy photo, check out this list. Both Chesapeake Bay Beach and Croatan Beach offer scenic views that are perfect for sunrises and sunsets. 

Picnic at a State Park

Spring is the perfect time to enjoy a nice picnic, since the weather is neither too hot nor cold. 

“Who doesn’t love eating in the great outdoors? Parks are great places for it,” according to Virginia State Parks.

Considering that more than 30 state parks are spread throughout every corner of the commonwealth, you’ll surely be able to find one where you can enjoy an outdoor meal. The agency maintains a list of parks that have picnic shelters if you need help deciding which one to explore.

Lake Anna State Park in Spotsylvania is a popular picnic location in NOVA, equipped with grills and restroom facilities. If you’re seeking salty air and ocean breezes, Kiptopeke State Park in Cape Charles is a great option. 

See a Movie at a Drive-In

6 Things to Put on Your Virginia Bucket List This Spring
Courtesy of Goochland Drive-In Theater

While it’s easy to stay in and stream a movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime, it can be nice to have a movie night out of the house. Luckily, warm spring nights are ideal for going to a drive-in theater.

Those looking for a good, old fashioned drive-in experience can find just that at Hull’s Drive-In Theatre, which opened in 1950 in Lexington. The drive-in offers double feature Fridays and single feature Sundays. The drive-in season starts in April and wraps up in October.

Other Virginia drive-ins that are open this spring include the Family Drive-In Theatre in Stephens City, Goochland Drive-In Theater in Hadensville, Starlite Drive-In in Christiansburg, and Central Drive-In in Norton.

  • Aila Boyd

    Aila Boyd is a Virginia-based educator and journalist. She received her MFA in writing from Lindenwood University.

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