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Best Local Parks in Hampton Roads (updated!)

Perfect for a Picnic!

Perfect for a Picnic!

Norfolk

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Norfolk Botanical Gardens
Visitors will discover one of the largest collections of azaleas, camellias, roses and rhododendrons on the East Coast. Other features at the botanical garden include the three-acre World of Wonders, a children’s garden full of sprinklers, trails, habitats from around the world and even a section called “The Dirt Factory.” There are more than 20 other themed gardens, including the Bristow Butterfly Garden, Bicentennial Rose Garden, Virginia Native Plant Garden and Annette Kagan Kagan Healing Garden.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Weyanoke Sanctuary
A well-kept secret among birdwatchers, this seven-acre sanctuary nestled in West Ghent also is home to more than 150 species of flowers, shrubs and trees. The sanctuary also features pine-needled trails that zigzag through the woods and meadows.

Virginia Beach

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Grommet Island Park
JT’s Grommet Island Beach Park and Playground For EveryBODY is the first of its kind in America. The idea was born when Josh Thompson’s family wanted to go to the beach, but he stayed behind because of the difficulty of getting his wheelchair to the beach, across the sand and down to the surf. They wondered how many more people never got to the beach for the same reason. The park idea was born. Bruce Thompson, Josh’s dad, took the idea of a 100% handicap accessible oceanfront park to the City of Virginia Beach where it was embraced with enthusiasm. Land was allocated and plans submitted to the City of Virginia Beach. The park’s grand opening took place May 22, 2010.

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Mount Trashmore Park
World-renowned Mount Trashmore Park encompasses 165 acres and is comprised of two man-made mountains, two lakes, two playgrounds, a skate park and vert ramp, and multi-use paths. The main mountain, Mount Trashmore, now 60 feet in height and 800 feet long, was created by compacting layers of solid waste and clean soil. Recognized for its environmental feat, this former land fill features a water-wise garden that boasts xeriscaping which requires minimal water.

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First Landing State Park
The park has a beach, cabins, campsites and hiking and biking trails. The first mile of the Bald Cypress Trail crosses dunes and ponds and is handicapped accessible. The park has the highest natural points in Southeast Virginia – massive dunes that reach up to 75 feet, according to the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries.

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Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
A birdwatcher’s delight, the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, south of Sandbridge, is a temporary home for about 10,000 snow geese and a wide variety of ducks during fall migrations. The refuge includes more than 9,000 acres of beach, dunes, woodlands, farm fields and marsh, and is home to a plethora of wildlife, including loggerhead sea turtles, piping plovers, peregrine falcons and bald eagles. Fishing, boating and bicycling are allowed, with some restrictions, and the refuge includes a visitor contact station and two boardwalks leading to the beach as well as other areas open for hiking.

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False Cape State Park
The 4,321-acre park is a mile-wide barrier spit between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean in the southeast corner of Virginia Beach. There’s no vehicular access to the park, but visitors can hike, bike or paddle their way in or take the Terra Gator, a specially designed vehicle that has minimal impact on the environment. Visitors can see an abundance of wildlife. The Back Bay Restoration Foundation also operates a tram that leaves from Little Island City Park, drives through the wildlife refuge and lets visitors explore the park. Some fees apply, depending on parking, touring or camping arrangements.

Chesapeake

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Chesapeake City Park
This 90-acre site has 60 acres of open space with the remainder rows of reforested pine trees. City Park is the site of the annual Chesapeake Jubilee and other Major Events.

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Chesapeake Arboretum
This 47-acre combination of gardens and natural areas is sandwiched between Battlefield Boulevard and Kempsville Road. The arboretum includes a 43-acre stretch of mature hardwood forest and a top-notch trail system.

Portsmouth

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City Park of Portsmouth
Portsmouth City Park is open year round from dawn to dusk. The Park offers a 3-pier boat ramp, sailboat launch area, and small watercraft beach, ‘The Links’, a 9-hole golf learning center with lighted driving range and natural putting course (757-465-1500), state of the art playgrounds, lighted tennis courts, Friendship Gardens, shelters with picnic tables and grills and a priceless waterfront view.

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Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve
Housing five distinct habitats – tidal wetlands, riparian forest, creek and bay, wildflower meadow and brackish lake – the wildlife preserve is home to white-tailed deer, river otters, bullfrogs, copperheads and oysters. Bald eagles are sometimes seen here. Hoffler Creek, open to the public on Saturdays, has interpretive trails. Golf carts are available for the disabled.

Suffolk

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Bennett’s Creek Park and Boat Landing
Includes playground, open space, skate park,  Frisbee golf/trails, boat launch, fishing pier, shelters, and concert stage

Newport News

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Newport News City Park
One of the largest municipal parks east of the Mississippi, this magnificent 7,711 acre-oasis is home to an incredible variety of native wildlife – deer, foxes, otter, raccoon and beaver, to name a few – all found in a natural setting of lush woodlands, flowering meadows and shimmering lakes. Its unique natural beauty makes Newport News Park a favorite destination for campers who love the great outdoors – and the convenience of being just moments away from the multitude of activities and attractions the surrounding area provides.

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Huntington Park
Designed to be 70% accessible for children with disabilities is the Boundless Playground at Deer Park; the 30,000 square foot community playground at Riverview Farm Park is Fantasy Farm Playground and 4 large structure playgrounds are located in Newport News Park. For more information, call 926-1400 or 886-7912.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Riverview Farm Park
Riverview Farm Park is home to the Fantasy Farm Playground, a 30,000 square foot community playground in an open area. Picnic areas and restrooms are conveniently located near the playground and soccer field. Riverview Farm Park is the home of the City’s first Dog Park- Fido Field. Use of the family sized picnic shelters is first come-first served. The large barn shaped shelter, which is situated in the middle of the playground, is for general public use. The three large shelters on the side of the parking lot can be reserved: call (757) 888-3333 or reserve this picnic shelter on-line. A concession stand is open Saturdays (10am-5pm) and Sundays (Noon – 5pm) April through October.

Hampton

Arthur Luce, top, and Nathan Deininger, below, put a cover on a new play area at Bluebird Gap Farm on Thursday, January 9, 2013.

Arthur Luce, top, and Nathan Deininger, below, put a cover on a new play area at Bluebird Gap Farm on Thursday, January 9, 2013.

Bluebird Gap Farm
Bluebird Gap Farm offers an exciting, family-oriented adventure and educational experience rarely see in an urban environment. The 60-acre farm has about 150 domestic and wild animals, including everything from the usual array of farm animals to a raccoon, birds of prey, whitetail deer, tortoises, and peacocks. View a map of the farm.

Williamsburg

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Mid County Park
This 19-acre park is home to the newly renovated Kidsburg, a 30,000 square-foot lighted playground.  Other amenities include an ADA-accessible multiuse trail, volleyball courts, Pétanque/Bocce Court, lighted basketball courts and tennis courts, and lots of open space.  Picnic shelters and meeting room space are available to rent (see below). The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. from April through October, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from November through March

About Tidewater Parent Staff

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