One of the country’s largest city parks is full of surprises
Back in 1966, the city of Newport News, Va., began developing a park around Lee Hall Reservoir, with the intent of protecting the quality of its water. Fifty years later, that park has 7,711 acres and is considered one of the largest city-run parks in the United States — nine times larger than New York’s Central Park. Not only is the park large, but it’s chock-full of wonderful opportunities for visitors.
From nature to nurture
This vast city park of lush woodlands, flowering meadows, and shimmering lakes is home to a surprising number of native animals, from deer and foxes to bobcats and beavers. “It’s an oasis in the middle of a large metropolitan area, making it even more valuable and needed than when it was first created,” said Michael Poplawski, the city’s parks and recreation director.
Added to the ample natural beauty of the park, numerous fun activities and historical sites are available. Along with playgrounds and picnic shelters, there are more than 30 miles of trails within the park, including a 5.3-mile multi-use bike path. Rentals are available for bicycles, as well as rowboats, canoes, and paddleboats used on the park’s two freshwater lakes.
Insider tip: Several unusual activities spark visitors’ interest, such as an expansive archery range, an 18-hole championship disc golf course, and an aeromodel flying field for remote-controlled aircraft, complete with a 400-foot paved runway and a 30-acre fly-over area. You can also enjoy “treasure” hunting with more than 50 geocaches hidden within the park.
Two championship golf courses, the Deer Run and Cardinal, grace the grounds of the park and are open to the public. The park is also a designated stop on the official Virginia Civil War Trails, featuring some top-notch fortifications and redoubts. A Discovery Center offers numerous nature and historic exhibits, including Civil War artifacts found in the park (check for opening times).
The park’s campground offers 188 campsites, with paved roads, nice bathroom and laundry facilities, and spacious sites in a secluded forest setting.
50th anniversary special events
As Newport News Park celebrates its 50th anniversary, a number of special events bring extra excitement and fun. The Children’s Festival on May 7 kicks off the season with fun activities, rides, and entertainment.
Newport News Golf Club at Deer Run is offering an anniversary “50 for 50” golf deal throughout May, with 50 holes of golf for $50, including commemorative golf balls.
The 43rd annual Fall Festival of Folklife, Oct. 1–2, will feature a number of fun anniversary activities.
Newport News Park is about three hours from Washington, D.C., located off I-64 at exit 250B. The visitor center is located at the park entrance and is open daily, 9:00am–5:00pm.
Newport News Park: nnparks.com
Newport News Tourism: newport-news.org