Nestled in the beautiful countryside of northern Virginia lies a hidden gem. Lake Anna is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the state, and its size and convenient location make it an excellent vacation destination. Whether you prefer a lazy beach vacation or a high-energy adventure, these Lake Anna vacation rentals and activities have something for everyone in your family.

1. Go Prospecting

children playing
Source: Flickr / Virginia State Parks

Prospectors once flocked to this part of Virginia in search of the precious metals and gems hidden in these hills. While you’re not likely to strike it rich, Lake Anna State Park offers plenty of opportunities for prospecting. The visitor’s center has an authentic, old-fashioned sluice where you can search for flakes of gold hidden in the silt and water during a quick visit. During the summer months, longer gold panning and prospecting classes are held regularly. These classes offer a fun opportunity for older kids to learn about history and geology.

2. Cast a Line

father and son fishing
Source: Flickr / Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing – Northern VA

As a thriving freshwater lake, Lake Anna and the surrounding waterways are home to plentiful bass, bream, catfish, and more. Anyone with a valid Virginia fishing license can cast a line from the shore or a boat. If you can’t bring your own rods, several local businesses offer them for rent. Choose a daily rental if your schedule is otherwise full, or consider renting them by the week and storing them in your vacation rental garage to save money. There is also a small, accessible two-acre pond located near the park’s visitor center for young anglers or people with disabilities.

3. Hit the Trail

mountain trekkers
Source: Flickr / Virginia State Parks

See nature up close by exploring Lake Anna State Park’s network of trails. The system includes 11 trails covering more than 15 miles, and most of them are suitable for kids of all ages. Keep your eyes peeled for deer, river otters, turtles, and beavers as you hike. These trails are also a haven for birdwatchers, with blue herons, ospreys, and numerous other species populating the park. If you want a more strenuous workout, choose the Pigeon Run, Big Woods, or Gold Hill routes.

4. Relax on the Beach

people near the beach
Source: Flickr / Virginia State Parks

Lake Anna State Park is home to one of the area’s most beautiful beaches. Build a sandcastle up close to the water, or set up a portable shelter further back on the grassy meadow surrounding the beach. Lifeguards are posted from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend so your kids are safe as they splash and swim. A concession stands serving ice cream and other treats are also available during the summer months.

5. Ride a Rollercoaster

amusement park
Source: Flickr / Nicolas Karim

If you’re in the mood for a thrill, head a little less than an hour south to Kings Dominion. This popular theme park features rides and attractions for all ages, ranging from carousels and kids’ rides to gravity-defying rollercoasters. Cool down on the Shenandoah Lumber Company log flume ride, or get a bird’s eye view on the Americana Ferris wheel. Kings Dominion is typically open from late March to early September, although hours may be limited early or late in the season.

6. Paddle Out for Adventure

child kayaking on the lake
Source: Flickr / terren in Virginia

Get a workout and explore the environment by renting a canoe or kayak. Lake Anna has more than 200 miles of coastline to explore, so consider renting for multiple days and storing your gear in your vacation rental’s garage or porch. Venture out on your own, or take one of Lake Anna State Park’s frequent canoe tours to learn more about the area.

7. Go Waterskiing

water skiing
Source: Flickr / Kate Gardiner

If you want to hit the water but prefer a more adrenaline-fueled experience, consider waterskiing as an alternative. Lake Anna offers plenty of quiet, uncrowded inlets with a smooth surface and enough room to get up to speed. The water can get a bit chilly in the spring and fall, but the waterskiing season typically lasts from April to October. There are also plenty of equipment rentals, boat launches, and marinas to choose from.

8. Enjoy a Historical Tour

battlefield
Source: Flickr / Jim Bowen

Lake Anna and Spotsylvania County are rich in history. Take a tour of the old gold mine in Lake Anna State Park, or head into Spotsylvania to visit the historic courthouse and take a tour of the site of one of the biggest battles of the Civil War. If you prefer a self-guided route, stop in at the Spotsylvania Museum for a brochure that guides you along a walking tour of the town’s historic district. Although these tours are not strenuous, they may be better suited for older children.

9. Discover the Wonders of Nature

wild bird
Source: Flickr / Virginia State Parks

Check out Lake Anna State Park’s calendar to discover upcoming nature and wildlife classes. These frequently offered workshops teach kids about everything from animal behavior to botany and conservation. Hands-on courses offer an immersive experience for younger kids, while guided nature walks or canoe tours let older kids have an adventure. Even if you don’t take a class, keep an eye out for the park’s Roving Rangers, who often visit the beach with native wildlife or other educational displays.

10. Hunt for Hidden Geocaches

boat pier
Source: Flickr / Virginia State Parks

If you still have a hankering for treasure hunting after experimenting with prospecting, consider going geocaching. This high-tech scavenger hunt not only lets you explore the woods and find hidden treasures, but it also teaches kids valuable navigation and orienteering skills. Lake Anna’s shores are a popular destination for geocachers, and the park offers beginner’s workshops to help get you started if you’re new to the activity.