Visit Booker T. Washington National Monument with Kids

words by Katherine Freeman
Hands-On History Day Trip for Families

To celebrate Black history in Virginia, explore the humble beginnings of Booker T. Washington: born a slave on the Burroughs farm in 1856, he grew up to become the most prominent African-American educator and orator of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

About Booker T. Washington

When Booker T. Washington was a child, the Burroughs Plantation in Virginia produced tobacco as a cash crop, as well as flax, grains and potatoes. Washington lived with his mother and two half siblings in the one-room kitchen cabin, and his tasks on the farm included bringing water to the men in the fields, carrying schoolbooks for the Burroughses’ daughters and taking grain to the local mill. Today, the farm is the Booker T Washington National Monument and honors his legacy. In addition to teaching about Washington’s life, the Monument also provides a glimpse of nineteenth century plantation life.

Visiting the Booker T. Washington National Monument with Kids

When you visit, be sure to bundle up if it’s cold or sunscreen and wear a hat in summer. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes as there is lots of wide open space to play and run and explore safely within sight of parents. Start your adventure at the visitor center, where several exhibits and an audio-visual presentation will give you a good understanding of Washington’s life and accomplishments. If you have any questions or want to learn more, there are plenty of park personnel and volunteers to help you. Once you’ve learned about Washington, explore the trails. The stroller-friendly Plantation Trail (a ¼ mile loop) will take you through the historic area, where you will see reconstructions of the farm buildings and learn about what went on in each. If you’re up for a longer walk, try the Jack-o-Lantern Branch Heritage Trail. This 1 ½ mile walk through the fields and forests will provide beautiful sites. Don’t forget to grab a trail guide from the visitor center for more information about your hike.

There is a wonderful Junior Ranger Program, too! Junior Ranger programs engage young people in age-appropriate activities that allow them to discover the significance of a specific site, introduce them to the national park system and share the mission of the National Park Service. They reveal to children that these amazing places belong to them. Pick up a kids workbook at the visitor center and the kid-friendly activities will help you learn more about the tobacco cash crop, slavery, the Civil War, and Washington’s life and achievements. You can enhance learning further by asking about the student book of activities based on Virginia’s Standards of Learning.

Plan your visit around one of the special events for an extra special experience, such as “Beyond the Slave Cabin Door: Creating a Sense of Place”, which includes a walking tour focused on how enslaved people resisted their owners. Or check out “Seeds of Despair” to learn about the farm’s cash crop and how it influenced everyone who lived on the plantation.

Tips for Your Booker T. Washington National Monument Daytrip

The Booker T. Washington National Monument is roughly a two-hour drive from Charlottesville. Entrance to the park is free, and it is open seven days a week from 9am-5pm. If there is a chance of inclement weather, it’s a good idea to call ahead to make sure the park is open. There are spaces for picnics but no food for sale on site. Stroller friendly and fun for all ages of children from toddlers to teens. On the drive down or on the way home, make a stop in Lynchburg at Amazement Square, a hands-on children’s museum.

For more information about visiting the Booker T. Washington National Monument and special events, call 540-721-2094 or visit, a collection of local resources including a popular calendar of events, family services guides and features on education, health and family day trips for parents and teachers in Charlottesville, as well as Virginia Wine & Country Life, a semi-annual life & style magazine, and Wine & Country Weddings, an annual art book celebrating elegant Virginia weddings.