Summer is a great time to get outside in Virginia, whether four-wheeling on a rugged ATV trail, catching waves on a sandy stretch of coastline, or cooling off at a splashy water park. There are great indoor options, too, for when all you want is the chill of air conditioning. Think historic homes and new museum exhibitions, though it also stays cool inside Virginia’s spectacular caverns. Whether you’re looking for fun in the sun or a place to cool off, here are 15 Virginia bucket list ideas to check off this summer.

1. Rev It Up on an ATV Trail

ATV Riding on Spearhead Trails in the mountains of Southwest Virginia
Photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

Get your motor running and head out on an ATV this summer for adrenaline-packed four-wheeling fun across wide-open canyons, dense forests, and mountain streams. You can even ride an ATV down Main Street, or at least through town, in one of the ATV-friendly towns in Virginia’s Heart of Appalachia region, like Coeburn and St. Paul, which sit at either end of the Mountain View Trail. This is one of five rugged trails made for ATVs that make up the Spearhead Trails System in Southwest Virginia.

2. Walk or Bike on a Beach Boardwalk

Virginia Beach Boardwalk
Photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

Virginia Beach is home to a world-famous boardwalk, stretching nearly three miles and affording sensational views across the Atlantic Ocean. Go for a stroll, a run, or a bike ride, or simply settle into the sand to start the day with a vibrantly colored sunrise. Keep your eyes open for surfers catching gnarly waves and children building sandcastles. Stop at 31st Street for the 34-foot-tall King Neptune statue, which celebrates the city’s eternal connection with the sea.

3. Go Camping at a State Park

Camping and Stargazing in Sky Meadows State Park
Photo Credit: Rex Robichaux,

More than 30 of Virginia’s state parks have campgrounds, whether drive-in, paddle-in, or hike-in accessible. Some campgrounds, like Fairy Stone State Park in Stuart and Shenandoah River State Park in Bentonville, have plenty of sites for RVs and tents, as well as cabin and yurt rentals. At Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane and Belle Isle State Park in Lancaster, easy hikes of less than two miles lead to primitive campgrounds, making them just right for new backpackers.

4. Attend a 4th of July Celebration

Fireworks at George Washington's Mount Vernon

Check off a July 4th celebration, like the Firecracker 5K in Reedville or the Independence Day Parade in Leesburg. For fireworks, you’ve got options—lots of options. Set out on a fireworks dinner cruise in Norfolk or climb to the top of a mountain for fireworks at Wintergreen Resort. For seriously patriotic fireworks celebrations, head to George Washington’s Mount Vernon or Colonial Williamsburg, which set off dazzling displays of red, white, and blue.

5. Check out a Cool New Exhibit on a Hot Day

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Photo Credit: Chad Williams, @echadwilliams

Local museums are great places to spend hot days, and not just for the central air conditioning. Virginia’s museums welcome visitors with brand new exhibits, like “Julia Child: A Recipe for Life" at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture (March 16 – September 2, 2024) and "BODY WORLDS: The Anatomy of Happiness" at the Science Museum of Virginia (May 25 – September 2, 2024). The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts wows with multiple new and ongoing art exhibitions, as well as a brand-new tearoom called Floris at the VMFA.

6. Splash Around at a Water Park

Busch Gardens - Water Country USA
Photo Credit: Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Nothing says summer like cooling off at a water park or sprayground when school is out and the temperatures are on the up and up. In Virginia Beach, Ocean Breeze Waterpark delights with a colorful Caribbean-themed escape with giant slides, a wave pool, and a lazy river. For more laid-back fun, look to local spraygrounds like Our Special Harbor in Franconia and Green Leaf Spray Ground in Charlottesville, or go big at Water Country USA, Virginia’s largest family water park.

7. Visit a Theme Park

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Roller Coaster
Photo Credit: Jonathan Cabrera, @jonathan_w_cabrera

Virginia has two super-sized theme parks, including Kings Dominion in Doswell and Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. Both bring all the fun with roller coasters, carousels, bumper cars, and plenty of Midway-style carnival games. At Busch Gardens, get in line for the Loch Ness Monster, a classic roller coaster that has been entirely re-vamped for the 2024 season.

8. Go Fruit Picking

Chiles Peach Orchard

Grab a basket and head out to a farm or orchard to pick some of Virginia’s sweetest, most delicious sun-ripened summer fruits, like peaches, cherries, blueberries, and blackberries. This is a fun family activity that combines fresh air, exercise, and the tastiest summer fruits of the season. Carter Mountain Orchard in Charlottesville is known for its juicy peaches and scenic panoramas, while Great Country Farms in Bluemont wows with its sweet and tart cherries.

9. Enjoy an Outdoor Concert or Music Festival

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
Photo Credit: Cameron Davidson

Spread out a picnic blanket and spend an afternoon or evening tapping your toes to rock music or symphonic melodies at outdoor concerts and music festivals across Virginia. Wolf Trap in Vienna and Dr. Pepper Park in Roanoke host full schedules of outdoor concerts and performances all summer long. There are plenty of outdoor music festivals too, like the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival in Orkney Springs and FloydFest in Floyd. Summer is also a great time to take a road trip on The Crooked Road, which is known as Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.

10. Cool Off in a Cave

Luray Caverns
Photo Credit: Luray Caverns

Visiting Virginia’s caves and caverns is not only a fun summer adventure, but it’s a perfect escape from the heat. Luray Caverns, the largest cavern system on the east coast, is always a cool 54 degrees, regardless of the outside temperature. You may even want to bring a sweater! Shenandoah Caverns in Quicksburg is quick to impress with its curious “breakfast bacon” formations. Take time for the limestone formations and natural geological beauty of these walk-through experiences.

11. Wander a Colorful Flower Field

White Oak Lavender Farm
Photo Credit: Mulbah Media, @mulbahmedia

Virginia bursts with color across its breathtaking flower fields in summer, whether it’s the cheery sunflowers at Burnside Farms in Nokesville or the fragrant lavender at White Oak Lavender Farm in Harrisonburg. The flower fields are perfect for a scenic stroll or a picturesque pick-your-own-bouquet adventure. Bring a picnic blanket and settle in for an afternoon amongst the blooms.

12. Hit the Beach for the Day or the Week

Cape Charles
Photo Credit: Adam Lewis, @adamtlewis

There’s a beach for everyone in Virginia. It’s certainly one of the state’s unique charms. You’ll find toddler-friendly beaches with gentle waves in Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore, but also surfing-caliber swells at Croatan Beach in the coastal community of Virginia Beach. The town of Colonial Beach, which has a stretch of sandy beach on the Potomac River, has a quaint vibe all its own. It is also home to a fun, colorful tiki bar right on the sand called Dockside Restaurant and Tiki Bar.

13. Tour a Historic Home

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Charlottesville
Photo Credit: The Detour Duo, @thedetour_duo

Virginia’s historic presidential homes, including Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville and James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange, offer a captivating look into America’s past, even sharing insights into the life and leadership styles of these former leaders of our country. As a bonus, these historic homes today have central air conditioning, allowing for a cool and comfortable look back at presidential history and the stories that shaped America.

14. Go River Tubing

James River Tubing
Photo Credit: John Henley

River tubing is a quintessential summer activity, especially in Virginia, which has plenty of destinations for a leisurely float, like the James River and the New River. Adventure outfitters like James River Runners in Richmond will shuttle you upriver to allow you to float at your own pace back to the starting point. You can even rent a tube for your cooler to bring along cold drinks and snacks for your day on the river.  

15. Check Off a Marquee Hike

Man hops the rocks atop Old Rag Mountain
Photo Credit: Cliford Mervil, @cliford.mervil

Summer hiking in Virginia is a must, and not just along the 500+ miles of iconic Appalachian Trail that zigzags across the state. Miles and miles of trails crisscross Shenandoah National Park, exposing visitors to tumbling waterfalls and scenic panoramas. Check off a bucket list hike, like Old Rag, which boasts rock scrambles and summit vistas, or Cascades Falls, a five-star kid-friendly hike in Pembroke that leads to a refreshing waterfall and a swimming hole.


Looking for more summer in Virginia activities and events? Whether you’re searching for family-friendly destinations, waterfront fun, or outdoor activities to fill your days, you’ll find everything you need to make this your best summer yet!