When we received orders to Virginia, my first feeling was relief.

After nine consecutive years overseas, I was ready for a break and some American amenities.  It was easy to think of certain things I missed, like one-stop grocery shopping, that big red bullseye store, and public libraries.  But I didn’t anticipate how much I would treasure our outside time here. 

The parks, playgrounds, trails, and outdoor adventure are abundant in Virginia. If you are moving to the Norfolk, Suffolk, Chesapeake, or Hampton area, you quickly get used to bridges, tunnels, and plotting your outings to miss the traffic. I still need my GPS on to understand where I’m going much of the time, but each week we hit the road to soak up the great facilities available. 

The five parks listed below are all wonderful spots for children and grown-ups alike!

Each one has the ability to access walking trails (some longer than others) as well as a nice playground, and clean bathrooms at all but Oak Grove Lake which still has less desirable porta-potties. Mornings are usually less busy than the afternoons if you want to avoid crowds.

deep creek playground overlook

Deep Creek Park

Address: 437 George Washington Hwy S, Chesapeake, VA 23323

Deep Creek Park is one of our favorites because of the soft, squishy playground floor, and it is fenced! You can close the gate upon entry and let your littles roam, knowing they can’t pass the fence. It is a great size for big kids and toddlers, with plenty of space, climbing obstacles, swings, and a nice grassy area to run. 

Right next to the fenced play area is the dog park. Across from that is another smaller playground, batting cages, baseball fields, and more. We still have hopes of hitting up the nearby Dismal Swamp Canal Trail on our bicycles, which connects to Deep Creek Park.

Image credit: Destination Playground at Deep Creek Park (visitchesapeake.com)

Oak Grove Lake

409 Byron St, Chesapeake, VA 23320

We use Oak Grove Lake as a treat for us as parents. Our kiddos walk the loop around the trail with us and enjoy the promise of the obstacle course playground after! It is a simple, flat trail that would be fun on bikes, and a jogging stroller makes the gravel easier to deal with. It would not be suitable for scooters. There are several spots to watch birds from, a picnic table with a view halfway around, and some exercise stations scattered around the loop. 

It always feels like this trail stays busy, but it is so big that it has never felt crowded to us. The playground has ninja-warrior-type obstacles that are more achievable for older kids, but our toddler has still enjoyed it. Right down the street are several take-out options that would be a great grab for a picnic lunch. 

Image credit: Oak Grove Lake Park: A Refreshing Loop Hike in Chesapeake (gohikevirginia.com)

covered picnic bench overlooking water
green and blue self-push merry-go-round

Bennett’s Creek Park

3000 Bennetts Creek Park Rd, Suffolk, VA 23435

Bennett’s Creek holds a special spot in our hearts, as we spent a lot of early pandemic days wandering the disc-golf forest trails and gazing out at the water from the fishing dock when the playground was off-limits. Thankfully, the play area is back up and available. This combined with the disc-golf trails, skate park, large open grassy fields, volleyball net, and tennis courts, this park makes for a great couple of active hours.

Image credit: Photos for Bennetts Creek Park – Yelp

Sleepy Hole Park

4616 Sleepy Hole Rd, Suffolk, VA 23435

The drive to Sleepy Hole is lovely in itself. There’s something about this stretch of Suffolk that has a good country feel to it. Sleepy Hole playground received an upgrade in our time here. It features an easy spot for little kiddos to climb on and a tremendous slide and tower for the bigger ones. This is another combo spot we enjoy because just up the road from the playground is a short hiking trail that walks through the woods, along the water, and past a small fishing pond. It has a children’s community garden area as well. 

Image credit: Suffolk Parks and Recreation added… – Suffolk Parks and Recreation (facebook.com)

green and brown playground with multiple slides
red barn with animals out front

Bluebird Gap Farm

60 Pine Chapel Rd, Hampton, VA 23669

Don’t you just love FREE gems? Bluebird Gap Farm is one of them! With a playground, back garden area to roam, a small forest loop to walk, and many farm friends to visit (think pigs, goats, a few fabulous peacocks!), you can spend a lovely couple of hours here and hopefully exhaust your children in the process. This is another area with lots of great picnic tables so bring lunch!

Image credit: Bluebird Gap Farm – Visit Hampton, VA : Visit Hampton, VA

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LINDSAY SWOBODA is a writer, editor, and military spouse. She is the mother of two and lives wherever the Marine Corps sends their family next. Her work has been featured in Legacy Magazine, Coffee + Crumbs, The Line Literary Review and Books Make a Difference Magazine. She is the former editor-in-chief for the U.S. Embassy Quito Newsletter. Lindsay hosts The Choosing Brave Podcast and welcomes connection on Instagram and on her personal blog. When she is not writing Lindsay is either seeking time in nature or pursuing her other favorite hobbies: reading and sewing. She tries not to miss having tea in the afternoon with a cookie.

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