48 Hours with the Family at Belle Isle State Park
The whir of cars passing by, the click of keyboards, the buzzing of text messages, and sounds of sirens--these are the sounds of the daily bustle of your city life. Whether you live in Washington DC, Fredericksburg, or Richmond, you may love these sounds most days. It might be time to replace them with new sounds, even for just a weekend.
A visit to Belle Isle State Park will be filled with sounds of birds singing, kids laughing, paddles hitting the water, and fires crackling. Belle Isle is nearly 900 acres and has seven miles of shoreline on the northern shore of the Rappahannock River. You and your family can explore a wide variety of tidal wetlands interspersed with farmland and upland forests. It’s also close to other family favorites.
Pull up and get settled at Belle Isle State park. There are a number of ways you can stay. The campground has an RV park, full service and primitive camping, and two houses for rent. The Bel Air Houses were built in 1942. These historical landmarks are fully furnished and perfect if your family doesn’t want to rough it, but still wants to get away.
Next up: hit the river. One of the most peaceful ways to soak in the beauty of the area is by canoe or kayak. Belle Isle offers self-guided family canoe trips. Rent a canoe or kayak and borrow a “park pack,” which includes field guides and equipment to help you explore. Choose from Wetlands Exploration, Insects, and Nighttime self-guided tours. If you take your trip during the day, finish by bringing a picnic lunch and enjoying the cool river breezes at the picnic area while the kids play on the playground. If night time sounds more relaxing, glide along the smooth waters of Mulberry Creek as the sun sets low over the Rappahannock River. Have your own boat? Bring it along and put it in the water at one the park’s boat ramps.
Wake up and smell the river! Enjoy breakfast on site before you head out on a unique adventure. Take your bikes off the rack and get ready for something totally different. You and your family can use million dollar satellites to find hidden treasures in the woods using Geocache technology. You’ll unlock more treasures if you take on the 950-acre park by bike, which you can also rent at the park. Richmond’s Channel 8 reporter Morgan Dean took his family on a geocache adventure and shared his experience here. Visit the Belle Isle State Park office and pick up one of the GPS units. The cost to rent a GPS unit is just $10.00 for the day and $6.00 for half a day.
After lunch back at the camp, send your explorers to splash a hand line in the water and see if they pull up a jimmy or a sook! Not sure what all that means? No problem! Belle Isle State Park offers a great intro to crabbing for just $2 per person, but be careful they can pinch! The park also offers lectures and demonstrations on watermen culture, oysters, insects and more. Preregistration is recommended, please call 804-462-5030 or stop by the Camp Store.
For night time fun, head to Virginia Motor Speedway is the place to go for something a little more dirty and loud. The Speedway offers wild nights of dirt track racing. From a weekly stock car racing series to world championships, there is always something new on the schedule. Watch your children’s eyes grow larger as cars collide on the track and mud splashes on the stands. The schedule is full of fun through November.
After you pack up and have one final river side breakfast, visit another local water friendly spot. One of the latest additions to Virginia’s River Realm is Kilmarnock Town Centre Park. If you have younger children, they’ll love the Waterworks splash pad and River Play playground. The new venue will host music, performances, and festivals in the open air amphitheater, the Half Shell Stage. If you have pups, bring them along! Scottie Yard dog park will be just as fun for them, too.
Grab a sweet snack before you head back to the city. We recommend an ice cream cone or a milk shake! Stevie's Ice Cream is located in Kilmarnock on N. Main St. (Route 3). Stevie’s is known for its fruit shakes--you won’t be able to pick a flavor! We recommend starting with strawberry. If you like to eat your ice cream on a cone, be sure to order a fresh made waffle cone. Visit the Facbeook page for new flavors and specials.