Virginia Discovery Museum delights kids with interactive exhibits. For example, at a miniature Panera Bread stocked with toy food, tots can don real Panera aprons and take orders. They also pick fruit in an interactive play orchard, and go back in time and play in a log cabin from the 1700?s. For a brush with real nature, they can even observe bee behavior at the museum's enclosed hive.
As the sun rises over Fancy Hill Farm, LLC, a European–style barn casts its shadow across a meadow filled with grazing horses. This rustic scene suits the farm’s owner, Mandy Patchen, who has seen enough equestrian pomp in her career on the Maryland show circuit. In the past two decades, Mandy earned respect as a highly decorated rider—she even rode a horse that was ranked third in the entire country. She draws on this experience as she introduces new riders to her lifelong passion during lessons on the farm’s historic property.
Mandy and her fellow instructors believe that riding must begin with an appreciation for the fundamentals of horsemanship. They help students as young as 4 develop basic skills in the hunter-jumper style, teaching them how to saddle up, trot, and change the horse’s oil. Youngsters aged 8–14 can participate in one of the farm’s camps, which include lessons as well as guest speakers and an end-of-session riding demonstration.
Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, evolved with him as he followed his storied career path, from author of the Declaration of Independence to third president of the United States. The home's evolution was quite literal: Jefferson had it constantly redesigned and rebuilt over the course of more than four decades. Today, the neoclassical mansion and its lush gardens, situated on 2,500 acres of Jefferson's plantation, remain perfectly preserved and open to the public. As they tour the premises, visitors learn about Jefferson's role in history, from his early days in Virginia's government to his key role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Along the way, they pick up fun historical factoids, too, such as Jefferson's preferred dinnertime?3 p.m.
Autumn Olive Farm’s slogan is “Knowledge with a Sense of Humor,” which makes sense when you consider that the farm, run by a CHA-certified instructor in English and Western and an experienced farrier, was named after the favorite snack of a runaway horse named Ben. Owners Syndi Pickney-Blunk and Scott Blunk apply this good-natured attitude to the services they provide, including boarding and showing horses and instructing students across 50 acres of wooded trails and a 120’x240’ ring. For a closer peak at the farm’s four-legged residents, check out Autumn Olive’s horse bios, which include each equine’s stats, awards, and favorite cast member of Cheers.
Sheridan Stables’s encouraging instructors school fledgling equestrians in the way of the horse during hunter- and Western–style riding lessons, which prepare students to navigate miles of green pastures and trails. A 90- to 120-minute session atop one of the stable’s easygoing horses breaks down the fundamentals of steed steering and spares riders the hassle of converting their mopeds to run on oats. Lights flood the 250'x175' riding arena after dark, allowing nighttime riders to practice jumps or basic riding techniques. Sheridan Stables’ trail rides strengthen horse-and-rider companionship, interweaving with public dirt paths, open fields, ponds, and woods. Trail rides can last as little as one hour or as long as half a day, depending on the rider’s comfort level and whether the horse agrees to pay for lunch.