Wagon Rides/Campfires/ResOURces Railroad
Climb aboard for a wagon ride at a Fairfax County park. There are daily rides at Frying Pan Farm Park. Other sites conduct rides with themes such as nature, history or holidays. Sign up for a ride today. Call ahead for ADA arrangements. Parks that host wagon rides:
Ellanor C. Lawrence Park
Ellanor C. Lawrence Park schedules wagon rides around these themes:
- Rocky Run Stream Valley and S'mores Wagon Ride & Campfire: Riders meet at Cabell's Mill. These rides are brisk treks through the Rocky Run stream valley. You'll discover who Ellanor C. Lawrence was and learn about local and natural history. At the finish there's a warm campfire and a sweet treat.
- Haunted Meadow: A special ride in October designed around spooky themes of the season. The beautiful colors of fall are a bonus.
Frying Pan Farm Park
Frying Pan Farm Park has regular daily rides and specially scheduled themed rides:
- Daily rides: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Saturday; 12 noon-4 p.m. Sundays; March through November
- Birthday party and private wagon rides can be arranged. Call 703-437-9101.
- Christmas at the Farm: One of the park's major annual events. Wagon rides are part of a day when the farm is abuzz with blacksmith demonstrations, photos with Santa, children's holiday shopping, live music, pony rides, tours and farm animal visits.
Huntley Meadows Park schedules extended rides that explore the park's meadows, wetlands and wildlife:
- Wild Side Wagon Rides: These are 90-minute tractor rides with a park naturalist into wetlands that are difficult to reach on foot. You'll have opportunity to look for and learn about songbirds, wildflowers, butterflies and waterfowl. There's a stop for a snack at the wetlands observation platform. For information call 703-222-4664.
Laurel Hill Park occasionally features wagon rides that highlight the natural resources of the park as well as the historic Lorton Prison buildings.
- Slaughter House Ride: This is a night time wagon ride to the lesser known grounds of the old Lorton Prison, an area called the Slaughter House. You'll learn about prison history and what happens when nature takes over abandoned buildings. Call Hidden Pond Nature Center at 703-451-9588 for directions and where to meet.
Riverbend Park is a natural gem along the Potomac River with a variety of themed wagon rides.
- Poohsticks Bridge: Children must be accompanied by a registered adult on this ride. It's a journey through the woods to Poohsticks Bridge. You'll hear Winnie the Pooh's story and play Poohsticks on the bridge.
- Great Parks in Great Falls: This is a chance to explore nature and history at Riverbend Park on a 45-minute wagon ride. Your journey then continues at Colvin Run Mill Historic Site, where you will see the miller and his dusties harness the power of water to grind grain.
- Journey to the Pond: This ride leaves from the park's nature center. Frogs, tadpoles and water critters abound in the destination pond. You'll see what's hopping, splashing and swimming. Children must be accompanied by a registered adult.
- Birds, Butterflies and Blossoms: Take this wagon ride scavenger hunt through the park's meadow. Search for birds and butterflies, and meet a friendly animal up close. Children must be accompanied by a registered adult.
Sully Historic Site
Sully Historic Site, on the National Register of Historic Places, was the 18th century home of Richard Bland Lee, Northern Virginia's first Representative to Congress. There are guided house tours and walking tours of the site's outbuildings as well as specially scheduled wagon rides.
- Birthday Party Wagon Rides. Call 703-437-1794 to arrange.
- Tractor-pulled Wagon Ride - Landscape History Tour : Make a reservation for your group to take this special tour of Sully's historic landscape.
- Dairy Days: Wagon rides are available during Sully's summer celebration of butter churning and ice cream making.
- Summer Tours: Wagon rides on select summer days. Call the site for information and dates.
You'll do more than sit around at a Fairfax County Park Authority campfire. You'll roast marshmallows, share ghost stories, hear tales of American Indians, make s'mores, learn how animals fly at night, celebrate Girl Scouts, identify constellations, watch for meteors, listen to owls, and eat those s'mores. Sign up for a Park Authority campfire today. Parks that host campfires:
Hidden Oaks Nature Center, Hidden Pond Nature Center, Riverbend Park and Ellanor C. Lawrence Park regularly host campfires. Check ahead if there's bad weather, because many of these programs are cancelled if there's rain. Children must be accompanied by a registered adult.
Here are some of the programs that take place at our campfires:
- Adapted Campfires: Children with disabilities and their families gather 'round the campfire for storytelling, traditional campfire songs and making s'mores. Meet a live animal highlighted in one of the stories.
- All About Bats: Several species of bats flit in the Virginia sky. Look for them as we head to our campfire where you'll learn bat facts and lore. Toast marshmallows over the embers.
- American Indian Stories: Tales of Native Americans.
- Astronomy: An exploration of the skies.
- Girl Scouts: Wrap up National Girl Scout Week with a campfire, cooking hotdogs and making s'mores, singing songs and hearing American Indian tales of wildlife. This one's for all current and former Girl Scouts and their families.
- Fliers of the Night: Join a naturalist to learn how animals that fly at night (owls, bats and moths) do so without banging into trees. Learn how to see these elusive creatures. Make s'mores.
- Nature's April Foolers: Join a naturalist in learning how animals use trickery to get a meal or to keep from becoming a meal. Toast marshmallows.
- Nocturnal Senses: Learn from a naturalist how animals of the night use their keen senses of smell, sight and hearing to get a meal or to keep from becoming a meal. Make s'mores.
- Sounds of the Night: Fill your ears with delight. Learn to identify nocturnal animal calls, and enjoy stories of local denizens of the night. Make s'mores.
- Stories and Songs: Gather 'round for storytelling, traditional campfire songs and making s'mores. Meet a live animal highlighted in one of the stories.
Hidden Pond hosts Campfire Fridays, a summer family series. There's a different topic at each evening program. Fireflies, Dinoflagellates, and Foxfire fungus are some of the glowing organisms you'll learn about. Join our naturalist for outdoor adventure and nature study concluding with a campfire. S'mores provided. Campfire themes include fishing, the lure of the swamp, night sounds, snakes and turtles.
Ellanor C. Lawrence
- Amphibians: Learn about our native amphibians. See animals first hand, and talk about their habits and habitats. Make s'mores.
- Barred Owls: Enjoy an evening hike and campfire to learn about owls. Meet our resident barred owl. Roast marshmallows.
- Bats: Walk the meadows and forest edges to see bats feeding on insects. Use a bat detector to hear echolocation. Learn about our native bats and their habits.
- Predators at Night: Learn about animals that seek their meals in the dark.
- Campfire with the Constellations: Meet at Cabell's Mill and talk stars around a warm campfire. Head out to the meadow with a naturalist to learn how to identify early summer constellations.
- Fathers' Day: Begin Father's Day weekend with a hike, campfire and s'mores. Learn about some of nature's best fathers, take a hike near a stream and eat s'mores. Moms are invited too.
- Moon and the Stars: Meet at Cabell's Mill, talk moon and stars around a warm campfire, then join a naturalist to learn how to identify early spring constellations. Make s'mores.
- Mothers' Day: Investigate the hard work that goes into raising young. Toast marshmallows around the campfire.
- Rocky Run Stream Valley: A journey to explore the many aspects of a simple stream of water.
- S'Mores Wagon Ride & Campfire: This is a brisk wagon ride through the Rocky Run stream valley. Discover who Ellanor C. Lawrence was, and learn about local and natural history. Return to a warming campfire and a sweet chocolate treat.
- Wear Green Campfire: Wear your best green to this Saint Patrick's Day ride, and help find all things wearing green in the meadow. Toast marshmallows at the campfire.
- Winter Survival: Lessons on living in cold.
Riverbend Park has a Riverside Campfire program built around themes like these:
- Bats & Bugs: As day turns to night, bats and some insects wake up. Through games and activities, you'll learn about the relationship between night flying bats and the insects they seek. Bring a toasting stick; s'mores provided. Come early if you'd like to picnic, or bring hot dogs to toast.
- Fishing: Fish from the Potomac River bank and learn about the fish world. S'mores provided. Come early and picnic, or bring hot dogs to toast. Bring a toasting stick, blanket and flashlight, fishing rods and tackle; bait provided. Fishing rods available for rent (limited availability).
- Riverside Camping: Enjoy a family night in the park with a campfire and night hike. Bring camping gear, toasting sticks, and a dinner to cook on toasting sticks over the campfire. Campfire, smores and light breakfast provided.
Other campfire programs include:
- Sounds of the Night: Fill your ears with delight. Learn to identify nocturnal animal calls and enjoy stories of local denizens of the night around a campfire. Make s'mores.
Riverbend Park has a Cub Scout Camping program that includes a campfire. Scouts set up their tents and camp under the stars, pack a dinner to cook over the campfire, enjoy a night hike and eat s'mores. Bring tents, sleeping bags, dinner and flashlights. Optional Riverbend patch. Call the park for information. 703-759-9018
Engine #62 of ResOURces Railroad
Take a ride on Engine #62 of the Resources Railroad.
The trackless train can take you into park areas that sometimes aren't easily accessible to families. It's a safe, fun way to see and learn about the county's natural and cultural resources. Drivers double as interpreters, so the rides are informative as well as fun.
Engine #62 has been chugging along since June 26, 2013, and its three brightly colored cars – one of them fully accessible and ADA compliant -- have carried thousands of people. It can be transported on a small truck from site to site, and it is available to rent in birthday party packages at select parks.
When it's not on the road at a special event, Engine #62 can be found giving rides on weekends at Clemyjontri Park in McLean.
For more information about Engine #62, contact Barbara.Ziman@FairfaxCounty.gov.
About the Train
Engine #62 of Resources Railroad is a transportable, trackless train that can run on grass, gravel or pavement. The Fairfax County Park Authority can move the three-car train from park to park where drivers, who double as interpreters, lead tours. Some of the drivers are National Association for Interpretation Certified Interpretive Guides.
The train cars are pulled by a lawn tractor transformed by a wooden cover into a train engine named Engine #62 of the Resources Railroad. The train is ADA-accessible. It has been used at water parks, playgrounds, historic sites, nature centers, on a farm and at gardens. It has proven to be a safe and fun way to expand interpretation of parks and to increase local residents' knowledge about stewardship of their local resources.
Engine #62 of ResOURces Railroad carries about a dozen people at a time into park areas that often aren't easily accessible to families. Each car comfortably seats two adults with two children or four to five youngsters. ADA compliance is accomplished through a ramp/gate on the caboose that can fold down to admit a wheelchair. When the gate is folded up, a removable bench fits in front of it. The caboose also has a side door so that when the gate is in its upright position the car functions as a normal passenger vehicle.
The train is driven on a hill grade of 7% or less to accommodate the power of the lawn tractor pulling it. The train travels at about four miles per hour.
On their train rides, residents learn why invasive plants require removal from county yards and community parks, what comprises a healthy environment for animals and birds, and why historic buildings, battlefields and artifacts are being preserved for future generations. The train has been used to illustrate bodies of water and their aquatic life, storm water management, invasive management, animal habitat, historic landscape features, and local economics through farm and dairy programs.
Engine #62 has appeared at:
- Frying Pan Farm Park for camps and a family program
- Sully Historic Site for birthday parties, a farm-to-market program and a recruitment of a Civil War soldier program
- Lake Fairfax Park for camps and weekend rides
- South Run RECenter for camps and weekend rides
- Cub Run RECenter for camps
- Green Spring Gardens for weekend and fall programs
- Clemyjontri (an accessible playground park) for weekend rides.
Among the special events at which the train has appeared are:
- July 4 at Lake Fairfax
- Pumpkins in the Park, Turkey Train, and Santa Train Ride at Lake Fairfax
- Centreville Day in historic Centreville, Va.
- The bunny train at McLean Central Park following McLean Community Center's Easter egg hunt
- The Halloween Parade at Hidden Oaks Nature Center
- Opening of new facilities at Oak Mar Rec Center
- Birthday Parties
- Homeschool programs