Sometimes the most fun you can have in Virginia is found off the main arteries. Hop off the highways and hit the byways for fun, quirky amusements the whole family will enjoy.
American Armoured Foundation, Inc., otherwise known as the Tank Museum, is located in Danville and boasts an impressive military fleet. More than 115 tanks and artillery pieces, 150 mid-size weapons and tons of memorabilia dating from 1509 can be seen here. Open Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Open Saturdays only for winter hours beginning January 1. $10 per adult; children 4 and under are free.
NASCAR fans? Wood Brothers Racing, one of the oldest continually operating teams in NASCAR, has a Racing Museum in Stuart.
Care to take a ride on my big green tractor? While you won’t really take any of them out to go slow or faster, the fine private collection of pre-1960 tractors you’ll find at Keystone Tractorworks Museum in Colonial Heights will surely delight all the menfolk in your family and maybe the ladies, too. $8 per adult; $5 per child aged 6 to 17. Open daily.
Find the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia, displaying more than 2,000 historic firearms from a 600-year period. Of note, see the oldest gun in America – a wheel lock musket from aboard the Mayflower, those of Dwight Eisenhower, Theodore Roosevelt, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody, Napoleon, Chuck Yeager, Jesse James and more. Hollywood guns like those from “No Country for Old Men” and “Dirty Harry” are on display, too. The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. and is free.
American Celebration on Parade is a must-see for parade enthusiasts. Just off I-81 in the Shenandoah Valley near Shenandoah Caverns, the huge facility is home to floats from the Rose Parade, Presidential Inaugurations and many more national celebrations.
The romantic steamboat period of the 1800-and early 1900s is captured at the Steamboat Era Museum in Irvington along the Chesapeake Bay. Models and artifacts bring the photographs to life. Open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For those who’d rather not shiver in the cold, planetariums are great places to explore the night sky during winter.
- In Radford, head to the Radford University Planetarium. Enjoy “‘Tis the Season” December 8, 11, 13, 18 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. Free.
- Chesapeake Plantetarium. “The Christmas Star” is now showing. Free but reservations are required.
- James Madison University Planetarium. Harrisonburg. “Mystery of the Christmas Star” is now showing. Free but seating is first come, first seated. Fridays and Saturdays in December at 7 p.m.
Another warm-up idea is the Harrisonburg Fire Department Museum. See uniforms, medals, photographs and of course, equipment. Open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Free.
In Big Stone Gap, deep in coal country, is the Harry W. Meador Coal Museum. A visit here provides a step back in time. See coal company items, equipment, photographs and more. Open Wednesday through Sunday. Free.
LOVE is at the heart of every Virginia vacation. Virginia is for Lovers.