Here’s a plan for a lovely weekend with kids to Winchester,  VA. 

OK, maybe you haven’t heard of Winchester.  But,  if you live in the DC metro area,  this would be a great weekend destination for your family. First,  this is a great place to discover history. There are nearby battlefields,  Washington’s headquarters,  a civil war museum,  etc.  But,  Winchester is also home to two really great kid-friendly museums. 

The first is the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum. My family had a membership to this museum last year.  So,  we’ve been here dozens of times.  My kids love it.  It’s a 3 story building (plus roof garden) packed with engaging activities.  There’s an ambulance parked on the first floor,  a model of the digestive track that kids can crawl through, and touch screen monitors that will teach you all about the human body. 

Another level has a native American long house and canoe for imaginative play.  There are craft supplies, water tables, and lots of unique building materials like giant wooden planks to build a full size play house or magnetic shapes to build a model. Customize a race track, then test it out withrubber ball racers.

Another favorite activity at Shenandoah Discovery museum is something unique;  an apple factory. Winchester is full of apple orchards and this play area pays homage to that tradition. There are buckets, bins,  and crates. There are colorful plastic varieties to sort.  There are even hand-cranked conveyer belts,  a pulley,  and a scale. Watch little ones sort,  weigh,  and ship their produce out to a hungry world.

 Then,  head to the roof of the building. Museum staff grow real produce and even trees here in the sun. Write water messages on the hot cement and watch them disappear to learn about evaporation. Or head into the little indoor area to dance to classical music. 

Within walking distance of the museum is a splash pad,  great restaurants (we like Union Jack), and a really fun toy store-Thinker toys. 

The other museum to explore is very different but,  has a similar name. It’s the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. This isn’t a children’s museum.  But,  my kids really like it.  Currently, there is a special exhibit showcasing Alex Ross. He does comic book illustrations and superhero art. The museum also has exhibits about local history, very interesting miniatures display,  does special classes for kids (and adults), and there are sprawling gardens.  Oh my goodness,  the gardens! Now,  I know what you’re probably thinking, boring right? These gardens are so impressive. There are several styles represented. There’s a Japanese garden,  a formal English garden,  etc.  It is absolutely beautiful. Plus,  you’re allowed to bring a picnic and enjoy it among the flowers. It is so nice. Do your picnic “Virginia style” and pack country ham,  peanuts,  and apple pie. Pick up some Route. 11 chips while you are in town as well. They are are regional favorite.

So,  here are some details to remember:

The Shenandoah Discovery museum admission is $8 for everyone,  they are closed on Mondays,  and you’ll need quarters for parking. 

Museum of the Shenandoah Valley:

The Alex Ross exhibit is on display now through May 14, 2017. The gardens close in the winter but will re-open in April. This museum is also closed on Mondays.  Admission is free on Wednesdays.  Other days,  adults are $10, teens and seniors are $8, under 12 are free.

Thinker Toys toystore

Union Jack Restaurant 

Discovery Museum 

Museum of the Shenandoah Valley

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