Road Trip to Amusement Parks in Virginia, Maryland
Take a weekend getaway to two nearby amusement parks.
Fall does not have to mean the end of amusement-park season.
In fact, it's a particularly good time for a road trip — the crowds are down, the weather cooler (usually) and most, if not all, larger parks dress up for Halloween and add shows and special features for the holiday.
There are two amusement parks to our south you might want to consider for a weekend away.
Kings Dominion is just above Richmond, VA. The drive means you will probably want to stay overnight, in which case you could continue a couple hours north the next day toward Six Flags America in Maryland, just outside Washington DC.
Both are large parks with a combination of thrill rides and amusements for younger kids. The one disadvantage to traveling in the fall is that the water-park rides may be closed for the season, something you will only notice if you happen to be there on a particularly warm autumn day.
While October might be too late to swoop down a water slide, you won't miss the fall decorations. Both parks are heavily decorated for Halloween. While their special Halloween shows and night-time events might not always be suitable for small children (check their websites to get a feel for them) the decorations you will pass by during the day won't startle most youngsters. (Both parks also do winter festivals for the weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the week between Christmas and New Year's day.)
If you have older kids who want to ride all of the thrill rides, you will end up walking through most of the parks and waiting in lines. If you have youngsters who will be happy with spinning-teacup levels of excitement, both parks group their kiddie rides together so you don't have to traipse all over.
Each park also has family rides that adults and young kids can enjoy together — a ferris wheel, carousel and mini-Eiffel Tower at Kings Dominion, and a train and carousel at Six Flags. There are also plenty of live-entertainment options, some of which are outdoors, so you can easily use them as an excuse to just pause for a few minutes and get back to the rides if you don't want to stay for the full show.
You are one lucky parent if your kids will run right to the rides and not pay any attention to the myriad of food stands throughout the area or the souvenir stores that line the "downtown" area right after you enter (or leave) either park, but these are an expected part of the park experience.
Side trip to Annapolis
If you manage to leave Six Flags not exhausted and with some time to spare, Annapolis is short drive that will not take you too far out of your way on the return trip. It's a pleasant, compact downtown surrounding a small harbor with plenty of places to eat and shop, in case you didn't get your fill of those already. There's not much for the kids, but it's a decent way to decompress and they will probably be pretty worn out by this point in the weekend.
There are certainly amusement parks closer to this area. But if you've already done those, these two parks pair nicely together for a weekend getaway.