While living in Washington, DC, I got a lot of recommendations to visit Natural Bridge, Virginia. Natural Bridge is just a short 3 hour and 15-minute drive from the city. I didn’t know much about the area, honestly. But, once I read a little about Natural Bridge, I added it to our DC bucket list.
Unfortunately, our weekends during the short time we lived in the area quickly filled up. So, when we began planning this road trip I figured this was the time to see it! We booked the Peaks of Otter Lodge along the Blue Ridge Parkway for a couple of nights and discovered that Natural Bridge was only 30 minutes away. We decided to make a day trip to Natural Bridge while visiting the area. (See my post on what else we did while staying at the Peaks of Otter Lodge here.)
Virginia Safari Park
The obvious big attraction in Natural Bridge is its namesake, the Natural Bridge of Virginia. But, our first stop in Natural Bridge was the Virginia Safari Park. Virginia Safari Park is a 180-acre animal park with a drive-thru safari and a walk-thru zoo. The entrance fee is pricey, but it was well-worth it to us, as it was a fantastic park! When you pay to enter, make sure you buy at least 4 buckets of feed for the drive-thru portion. The animals are quite good at stealing your buckets.
The 3-mile drive through the park took us at least an hour with stops to feed and view all kinds of animals. The llamas are the first to greet you and they are quite forceful. Be careful or you’ll lose all your buckets of food right there!
Once our kids got over the initial shock of animals coming in their windows to eat, they really had fun feeding deer, elk, ostrich, llamas, and camels. We also saw many other animals as we drove through including bison, zebras and rhinos.
One huge bull elk stole the bucket right out of Todd’s hand and then tossed the bucket back like it was a cold beer on a hot day! Once he was finished, he dropped the bucket aside and went on to the next sucker. It was hilarious to watch! The drive wanders through the park and as we neared the exit, a large group of animals waited for the last scraps in our bucket.
Virginia Safari Park Zoo
Once we finished the drive, we parked the car and walked into the zoo. There were so many animals to see including monkeys, tigers, turtles, birds and penguins, but the definite highlight was feeding the giraffes! The kids had a blast getting the giraffes to use their tongues to eat right out of their hands. The Virginia Safari Park is large enough to spend an entire day exploring. You can visit the drive-thru area more than once and spend as much time as you want in the walk-thru zoo. The animals move throughout the day, so you never know what you’ll see! It was quite hot the day we visited, and the kids were starting to fade. As lunch time approached, we made our way to the gift shop and exit.
Pink Cadillac Diner
After a fun morning at the safari park, we stopped for lunch at the impossible to miss Pink Cadillac Diner. A delicious lunch and ice cream in the 50s-themed diner was the perfect break in our day before we made our way to the Natural Bridge of Virginia. The Natural Bridge Historic Hotel and Conference Center is where you can purchase tickets to the Natural Bridge and Caverns. We decided to purchase the combo pack and see both the bridge and the caverns. Our tour of the caverns was first. We drove over to the caverns entrance and put on light jackets for our 45-minute guided tour of the continuously 54-degree caverns.
Natural Bridge Caverns
The Natural Bridge Caverns were discovered over a century ago and were opened to the public in 1977. As we began our descent down the 34 stories into the caverns, the temperature dropped and the formations began to appear. We made our way down ramps and stairs through areas known as the Colossal Dome Room, the Well Room and the Canyon Room. Our guide explained the history of the cave and how it was discovered. We continued walking and descending to the original cave entrance. Here we stopped and our guide turned off all the lights to give us a true sense of the darkness that the original explorers felt. The kids were a bit stunned with how black it truly was, but thankfully the only sound we heard was dripping water. We walked by Mirror Lake and then made our way back to the surface!
Natural Bridge of Virginia
Finally, we saved the best for last, and we began walking down the trail to the Natural Bridge of Virginia. The trail begins down a series of steps along a beautiful cascading waterfall. Then, as you come around the corner at the bottom of the steps, the bridge appears in front of you. We were mesmerized! Pictures really do not do this bridge justice!
The Natural Bridge of Virginia has a rich history beginning with the Monacan Indians. A young George Washington once surveyed the land and bridge. Thomas Jefferson even owned the land and built the first guest property on site! People have been fascinated with this area for centuries, and it’s obvious why when you visit.
The trail leads you along Cedar Creek through the bridge and then continues along the creek to the overlook of Lace Falls. The entire trail is about 1 mile in length. There is seating just on the other side of the bridge, so sit and enjoy the incredible view! We enjoyed meeting several new people as we sat and enjoyed the beauty! There is also a Monacan Indian Historical Exhibit and other interesting sites along the trail to explore. The kids really enjoyed throwing rocks and sticks in the creek along the trail. We had a fantastic day exploring Natural Bridge and all returned to Peaks of Otter lodge thoroughly exhausted!