My family visited Prince William Forest Park on a warm Saturday in February.
First, we stopped at the visitor center. The enthusiastic rangers helped my kids identify items on a table where they could pick up at touch things. This activity was actually part of their extensive junior ranger booklet.
The rest the visitor center focuses primarily on the history of the park as it has been used by the government over the past 100 years or so.
Just a short walk from the visitor center is a new playground. The equipment is fun - but I imagine it can get very busy in the summer months. The playground area is not tiny - but not huge either. Probably just the right size for a class coming to visit the park on a field trip.
We hiked some trails near the visitor center. You'll want to make sure that you have a map as there is quite a network of trails to choose from. There is a creek and a suspension bridge. There are also lots of fallen trees that my kids enjoyed climbing around on in the wintertime.
There's four sites that make up the Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania National Battlefield - and I didn't really know where to begin. But, now that I've been to Chancellorsville, I think it was a good choice.
Why Visit Chancellorsville?
- It's the precursor to Gettysburg. If you've ever wondered exactly how Gettysburg happened, Chancellorsville is a good place to start. The Confederates won at Chancellorsville and Stonewall Jackson died.
- I can never follow the detailed battle diagrams and picture where everyone is moving. But, at Chancellorsville it all seemed to make a bit more sense. The Union gave up the high ground and the Confederates won - yes, overly simplified, but it's basically what happened.
- The video is pretty decent, does not show an excessive amount of blood and gore, and helped my first and second graders understand the importance of the site.
- The hike at Hazel Grove was a nice 1.5-2 mile walk for the kids - lots of hills to run up and down and plenty of canons to see. When I saw the hiking was a requirement of the junior ranger booklet here -- which seemed like a good fit for us. The hike was a great balance of nature and history.
Junior Ranger Program
For the junior ranger booklet we hiked at Hazel Grove, saw the video at the visitor center (which has a nominal fee), and carefully examined the memorial to Stonewall Jackson directly behind the visitor center.
If you are interested in going to the Wilderness Battlefield or the Spotsylvania site in the off season, junior ranger materials are likely available at Chancellorsville.
I remember this park so vividly from when I was a kid and I was kinda disappointed in what I saw. The park is definitely updated and has moved with the times so maybe I was hoping for more nostalgia then I got. This is another great park to park at with an easy walk to the entrance. Security is quick and gets you into the park at a good pace. I didn't really remember the first part of the park where you walk down the street with Hollywood type buildings around so that was cool, but also unimpressive especially to my young kids. They let us into the park about 10 minutes beforehand and the one thing I didn't like was they only let you get to the lake area until the park opened, that was a big cluster and annoying with small children.
So with my kids being under four we can here for Disney Jr, Toy Story Mania, and of course the Frozen Sing Along. My husband and Father-in-law love Star Wars so they wanted to see that stuff.
We ended up heading to Toy Story Mania first to see if we could get on there quick since we couldn't get a fastpass for it. That worked wonders and it only took about 20 minutes in line. The whole Toy Story area in the back is wonderful. The big decorations were a hit with my then 11 month old. He and I explore while the rest of our party went on the ride. He loved the Toy Soldiers who were marching outside the riding. They were really fun. They would pop into peoples photos and come up and be silly. My 11 month old kept following one around and he totally kept up a fun act for my little one. I really appreciated that. Now my son loves Toy Story. Unfortunately the meet and greet for Woody and Buzz was just too long for us to stay and wait.
Next while my husband and Father-in-law went and did the Star Wars ride, we went and saw The Voyage of the Little Mermaid. It was still great, just like I remembered and both of my kids were amazed. The boys really enjoyed the Star Wars ride and because my Mother-in-law is a Disney credit card holder they got to go to a special Star Wars meet and greet, which included seeing some cool movie memorabilia. The rest of us went to Disney Junior Live! Of course, any kids who like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse will enjoy this. You go on a little adventure and meet Sofia, Jake, and Doc McStuffins. It's very interactive and is great for kids. I do wish it was a little longer, but I understand why they went with the time length they did. After that we stood in some lines to meet Pluto, Doc McStuffins, Jake, and Sofia. Sofia and Pluto were by far the two favorites.
One thing I was disappointed in was the lack of dining options. We ended up at the ABC Commissary because we needed something quick with two kids and while they had a good selection of food, seating was a nightmare. You could tell they definitely didn't have enough quick service places in this area to handle the crowds.
The Frozen Sing Along was so much fun and hilarious. The two people who narrated were great. The guy was hilarious and had some really great adult humor that easily went over the kids heads. I liked that it was just kinda of a quick run through of what happened in the movie. The best part was definitely the sing along especially Let It Go when snow came down. My kids loved that.
I had wished we would have been able to do Beauty and the Beast Live, but I didn't think my kids would sit through that. Indiana Jones was also on our list, but the kids were restless and ready to go back to our hotel by that point. Also The Great Movie Ride was closed for refurbishment so we missed that one. I do hope they add more Disney Junior and Toy Story things into this park for young kids.
With have two kids under four, they love the zoo so we thought they would really enjoy Animal Kingdom and we were right. First off, parking is awesome. It's a really easy walk to the entrance, which is great to not mess with any of the trams. They also have tons of security stations so it's really easy to get through.
Walking into the park is a beautiful experience. You enter down a lush green, path with trails and animal exhibits on the sides. Once you enter the heart of the park, you see the gorgeous Tree of Life. If you arrive at opening, they have a great show with beautiful birds that fly back and forth between two posts before settling onto a tree nearby. There are also ample opportunities for photos and it's great especially if you have the memory maker. The photographers have some many fun props to use and take great photos.
Depending on what you want to see it is recommended you get a fastpass for The Lion King show, Finding Nemo Musical, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids, Dinosaur, and Expedition Everest. You only get three to start with so we opted for The Lion King Show, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Kali River Rapids. How it is set up, The Lion King show and Finding Nemo Musical are in the same tier so we couldn't choose both, which we would have.
Kilimanjaro Safari's is amazing and both my kids loved it. It is a rough ride and without belts, I had to put my legs in front of my four year to keep her from falling forward when the tram was stopped quickly. We saw tons of animals and besides the Cheetah's who were lounging in the grass, my four year old could see everything as well. The driver we had was wonderful and really held our interest and told us interesting facts.
The Lion King show is spectacular. I've seen the Broadway version and while it's not as long as that or the same, this is just as good. I found they did a great job of keeping my kids entertained and interested in the story. All of the aerobic that was happening was great. The costumes were great. The dancing was also top of the line. Disney really did a wonderful job with this especially getting the crowd involved during the whole processes.
We ended up not using our fastpass for Kali River Rapids because when we happened to walk by the line was short. The ride is a lot less scary then I remember from a child, but still a lot of fun. I also remember getting soaked more, but I didn't this time. Even though my four year old could have rode it, she would have been terrified so I am glad she stayed with Grandma.
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail was beautiful and full of amazing animals. There were such a wide variety of animals that I didn't expect that it was a great surprised. My kids loved walking the trails and seeing all the animals. I also didn't realize how many Gorilla's Disney has and I was surprised at how active they were that morning.
TriceraTop Spin is basically the Dumbo ride, which my kids really liked. We rode it a few times because there was no wait and my four year old loved it every time. The Boneyard is a really fun play area that made for a nice break when my youngest was napping in the stroller. The four year old and I had a lot of fun climbing, sliding, and exploring.
When we were there in October the DINOSAUR ride and Discovery Trail were closed, which was a bummer. Unfortunately, the morning we were in AK the Discovery Train derailed and they ended up closing the island because of it. Overall, it was great day and well worth our time. The only thing I wish Disney would change in this park is the lack of bathrooms. My almost four year was only a few months into being fulling trained so a few times were almost problematic with the bathrooms being so spread apart.
Breakfast place with amazing Benedict's, pancakes, sandwiches and some healthy dish's too. Attached to Union station in downtown Denver, you can people watch and explore the area while you wait for a table. Our whole family loved this place!