Instructor Melody Scott guides Tyler Haab, 10, at one of Rockwood Park’s archery ranges. Photo by Jay Paul
Three Lakes Park & Nature Center 400 Sausiluta Dr., Henrico Three Lakes offers plenty of plant and animal life for nature-loving kids to explore. The center has a 50,000-gallon aquarium filled with lake fish — catfish, bluegills, carp, bass — as well as tanks with live reptiles, amphibians and fish. Three venomous Virginia snakes, a copper head, cottonmouth and a canebrake rattlesnake, also call the nature center home. Exhibits include mammal and bird taxidermy, skull and fossil displays, as well as insect models. For kids who want to venture outdoors, two lakes are stocked for fishing, and two miles of hiking and biking trails circle the three lakes. Outdoor amenities also include a large playground with rubberized flooring and picnic shelters. And, the center offers nature classes for kids of all ages.
Operation Hope Playground at Pole Green Park, 8996 Pole Green Park Lane, Hanover Pole Green opened Operation Hope Playground, a handicap-accessible playground for kids who have special needs, in 2008. The park also includes a skate park for in-line skates and skateboards, with ramps, rails and a half-pipe deck. The 217 acres also include softball fields, soccer fields, football field (where Mechanicsville Rebels Youth Football plays), sand volleyball courts and a multi-purpose field for lacrosse and rugby. During the summer the park hosted movie nights for kids, and there's a Halloween-themed movie night and event planned for Oct. 26 called Taylor's Spooky Fun Fest, with the park's chipmunk mascot, Taylor. Meadow Farm Museum at Crump Park 3400 Mountain Road, Henrico Tucked away in a far back corner of Crump Park's 150 acres is Meadow Farm Museum, an 1860 living-history farm and museum. Crump Park has a shaded playground, stocked fishing pond, open space for the kiddos to run wild, as well as wooded hiking and biking trails. Kids who visit the farm museum can scope out the barnyard animals — chickens, turkeys, sheep, cows, pigs and mules — and then tour the farmhouse with parents. Weekend programs include living-history demonstrations in blacksmithing, gardening and domestic activities. Annual events in the park include Glen Allen Day on Sept. 21, which includes a parade that will march down Mountain Road and end in the middle of Meadow Farm. "It's total Americana," says Anna Truong, the farm museum's site manager. Another big event on the park grounds, Harvest Festival on Oct. 19, includes a pumpkin run, straw maze, pony rides, cricket games, hand-pressed apple cider, arts and crafts, and candle-making. Rockwood Park Nature Center 3401 Courthouse Road, Chesterfield Chesterfield County's Rockwood Park, located off Courthouse and Hull Street roads, boasts a nature center that is home to an assortment of scaly reptiles, slimy frogs and busy honeybees, while also offering outdoor programs for kids of all ages. Nature programs include beekeeping, animal tracks and signs, knot tying, maps and compasses, fishing and even archery. In fact, the park has two archery ranges for students. "I'm very excited about the wide range of archery classes we have coming for the fall," says Bob Smet, director of the Rockwood Nature Center. "People are just crazy for them." The nature center has a number of preschool programs, too. On the park's 200-plus acres there are more than five miles of trails for hiking and biking, picnic shelters with grills, baseball and softball fields, basketball and tennis courts, as well as a playground.