The age-old idiom about adventure is that “the journey matters more than the destination.” But we think that’s a bunch of baloney. These destinations are so packed with adventure that the journey there and back will feel like a bore in comparison.
From world-famous amusement parks to hidden gems, this list includes the best summer thrills Virginia has to offer.
When: Open Monday through Friday until September 4; Kings Dominion: 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Soak City: Noon–7 p.m.,
Cost: Daily passes from $39.99
No list of Virginia adventure parks would be complete without the famed Kings Dominion and its adjoining water park, Soak City. More than 22,400 Google reviewers have given this amusement park an average of 4.5 stars, and it’s easy to see why.
The main draw is the array of roller coasters—13 of them, to be exact. Thrill seekers will jump at the chance to ride Intimidator 305, one of the fastest and tallest coasters on the East Coast. However, Soak City, the 20-acre water portion of the park, is worth a trip of its own—and the best part is that entry is included in park admission!
There’s a splash pad for the little ones, a lazy river for the lackadaisical, a 65-tall slide tower for the adventurous, and so much more. Cabanas are also available to rent for whenever you need to escape the sun and relax in the shade.
When: Hours of operation vary by season (see the full schedule here)
Cost: From $13
Although the stunning Wintergreen Resort offers accommodations, a spa, and six different restaurants, its main attraction is the Discovery Ridge Adventure Center. Purchasing the Discover Pass will get you the most bang for your buck, as the $44 ticket includes two hours of unlimited disc and mini golf, access to the climbing tower, and a 3-pound bag for gem mining.
However, the pass excludes both the Ninja Warrior course (which costs $29 for 30 minutes) and The Plunge (which is the largest tubing park in the state and costs $29 for 45 minutes). They’re worth the splurge, though!
Where: White Post
When: Open every day from 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. through Labor Day
Cost: Ages 2–10: $6; ages 11 and older: $8
This 50-year-old roadside attraction is simply dino-mite. See what we did there? With more than 50 life-size dinosaur sculptures, Dinosaur Land is as educational as it is enjoyable. You and your tribe can see each one while moseying around the outdoor path (which is wheelchair- and stroller-accessible).
For the price of a fancy latte, you can get into the park and stay as long as you’d like. Don’t forget to save some time for the gift shop! Hot tip: Dinosaur Land doesn’t allow outside food, but we recommend packing a picnic and reading to the beautiful Sherando Park nearby after your visit.
When: Tour times vary throughout the summer, running from Thursday to Tuesday
Cost: From $85
You can’t make a list of the best adventure parks without zip lines, and Buffalo Mountain is one of Virginia’s best and most beautiful places to experience the thrill. In fact, it houses the highest and longest zip lines in the state!
People 3 years old and up are welcome to take part in the daytime, but the minimum age for the nighttime tours is 8. On that note, if you’re looking for a unique date night idea, we recommend the Full Moon Zip and S’mores tour. A bit scary, but mostly sweet!
Don’t forget to book ahead of time, as walk-in availability is limited.
When: Open all week long until September 4, usually opening at 10 a.m. and closing between 8–10 p.m.
Cost: From $89.99
When you search for the best water and amusement parks in Virginia on Tripadvisor, Williamsburg’s Busch Gardens holds the no. 1 slot, while its accompanying water park comes in second place. Suffice it to say, this place is beloved by Virginians far and wide.
In addition to the many rides available throughout the year, this summer contains extra special fun, including the Summer Nights concert series, free beer for members and annual pass holders, and the all-new DarKoaster (North America’s very first indoor straddle coaster).
If you don’t want to worry about packing snacks but also don’t want to get hangry, one reviewer made the following recommendation: “The BEST option to add is to pay the extra for the eat all day pass. We paid $30 each, we got to eat & drink every 90 minutes!” Take it from an experienced pro!
Where: Virginia Beach
When: Open from 10 a.m.–11 p.m. until September 3 (then it’s open until dark)
Cost: From $11
If your need for speed is reaching an all-time high this summer, Motor World is where you should head. Featuring 11 go-kart tracks with 250 karts in 16 different styles, it’s far from your average race track.
There’s something for everyone, including a brand-new European-style track that’s for adults only. They give you a printout of your lap times and ranking, so come with a competitive spirit.
When: Open 11 a.m.–6 p.m. on (most) weekdays and 11 a.m.–7 p.m. on weekends until August 20 (see the full schedule here)
Cost: Starting at $6
We couldn’t come up with a better theme for a water park if we tried (and we did!). At Pirate’s Cove Waterpark in Pohick Bay Regional Park, you and your kids can cool off all summer long. Although it’s smaller than many of the other parks on our list, it features multiple waterslides, splash pads, play areas, and a 300-gallon dumping bucket. Plus, it stands out from the pack with its designated sand area, Buccaneer Beach.
If you want to celebrate a birthday or pack a lunch to enjoy after you dry off, you can reserve one of the facility’s picnic areas.
Where: Virginia Beach
When: Open all week long from between 9–10 a.m. to 6–10 p.m. (see the full schedule here)
Cost: From $39
The Virginia Aquarium is cool and all, but unless you have a distinct fear of sea creatures, it won’t get your heart racing like the adventure park right outside. At “Virginia Beach’s largest and most exciting adventure park,” you can maneuver your way through high and low ropes courses and take zip lines from tree to tree. Just minutes away from the boardwalk, the location couldn’t be more perfect for a day trip.
If you’re interested in taking the adventure up a notch, consider going to Glow in the Park. After the sun sets, the whole place transforms with colorful LED lights and loud music. It’s a party! No matter what time you choose, gloves are highly recommended. Don’t worry—if you don’t have your own leather-palmed gloves, you can purchase a pair at the onsite store.
When: Open 11:30 a.m.–7 p.m. most days this summer (see the full schedule here)
The famed Massanutten Resort has an indoor and outdoor water park, so the weather will never get in the way of your fun. Kept at a balmy 84 degrees, the indoor portion includes a water fortress, inflatable adventures, body slides, lazy rivers, hot tubs, and more. You can also learn to surf on the Flowrider Endless Wave.
The outdoor portion, which is open until Labor Day weekend, includes three brand-new slides as well as a 300-foot mat racer, wave pool, arcade, surf shop, and grill. You can also rent a cabana for $190+.
If you’re a parent to a teen (or are one yourself!), Thursday evenings at the park are just for you. For just $15, you can dance and/or ride the outdoor slides while a DJ plays music. It’s the perfect setting for a TikTok or two.
Where: Colonial Heights
When: Open Monday–Saturday from 10 a.m.–10 p.m. and Sunday from noon–10 p.m. through Labor Day
Cost: Attractions are $9 each; the arcade, batting cage, and bowling require a loaded play card; driving range prices depend on the number of balls
At Swaders Sports Park, “sports” is a loose term. The indoor/outdoor venue has some of the expected pastimes, like a driving range (which Golf Range Magazine ranked among the top 100 in the country three years in a row), bowling alley, batting cages, go-kart track, and two 18-hole mini-golf courses.
However, there’s also a 5,800-square-foot, multi-level laser tag arena; an arcade that houses more than 60 state-of-the-art games; and a supervised Kidzone playground for the littles. Oh, and have you ever heard of a little thing called VR? If not, we’ll enlighten you.
At Swaders, there are two distinct virtual reality experiences. First, imagine that instead of watching King Kong, you’re inside the movie. With motion-seat action and 360-degree 3-D effects, this is the experience King Kong of Skull Island gives you. Then, there’s Hologate, which offers a range of virtual reality games. You won’t want to take the headset off!