Activities to Take Your Family to New Levels of Excitement.
Parents, do you find that your children’s excitement about summer fizzles only a few days after school is out for the year? Do your ideas for new activities tend to give way to days filled with video games and other sedentary or familiar activities? Lazy summer days can be fun, especially when many kids have full schedules during the school year, but you may want to consider adding some exciting local activities and events to jazz up the doldrums. Tri-Rivers Canoe Rental, Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre, Patrick Henry’s Red Hill and Lynchburg City Parks and Recreation are all offering multiple activities this summer right here in Central Virginia. We hope you’re ready for an epic summer of family fun!
Get Some Altitude
Though summer heat can be sweltering, the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre has plenty of options to keep you cool. If you’re not familiar with Snowflex, the term itself refers to the synthetic material they’ve used to simulate real snow. The Snowflex Centre, which sits atop Liberty University’s 5,000-acre mountain, is composed of beginner, intermediate and advanced slopes to suit everyone in your family, and ticket prices are based on per-hour usage.
If you’re looking for a more structured and intensive experience, the Snowflex Centre will be offering two overnight ski and snowboard camps for individuals under the age of 21 (no official minimum age).
If you prefer boarding off the snow, Liberty will also be offering an overnight skateboard camp. Liberty Mountain Skate Park features ramps for all skill levels and, like Snowflex, offers tickets at a per-hour rate for those who aren’t looking for a full camp experience.
Snow sports and skateboard day camps will also be offered.
The Snowflex staff is currently working on dates for the Summer Snowflex Series, which will feature fun activities and discounted prices for the whole family. “We really enjoy the Snowflex Summer Series events,” says General Manager Drew Sherwood. “To see families, friends and the community come together to have fun and fellowship is one of the most rewarding things about this job.” Sherwood adds, “The concept of the Snowflex Centre has always been about community and bringing people together. Compared to traditional hills, Snowflex is small and allows our customers to connect more and to make new friends. [It] is also a great place to showcase the University and the entire valley. It offers the best views in Virginia with some of the most spectacular sunsets over the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Visit www.liberty.edu/snowflex for information.
Play On the Water
If one of your main goals this summer is to spend “unplugged” outdoor time with your family, then check out Tri-Rivers Canoe Rental. Owner Kevin Torrence launched the company last year at the Wild Blue River Festival in Halifax with this very goal in mind. “Canoeing is a great way for a family to get away from playing video games, playing on their phones and watching TV,” Torrence says. “It’s a great way for families and friends to get together and get away from it all at the same time.”
Tri-Rivers is true to its name: it provides canoes—complete with drop-off and pick-up services—for travel on the James, Staunton and Banister rivers, making planning very easy. Torrence recommends the James River for families since it tends to be calm and straightforward, plus a canoe trip from downtown Lynchburg to Mt. Athos only takes about four hours. Parents, if you are skilled at canoeing and want an outing to yourselves, you could consider an 11-mile trek on the Staunton River from Long Island to Brookneal.
Regardless of what kind of outing you’re planning, Torrence advises wearing sunscreen and bringing towels, Ziploc bags, bottled drinking water and snacks. Canoes are available weekends only and cost $40 each to rent for the day; Tri-Rivers has mostly two-seaters but also a few three-seaters and a few solos. All canoes feature comfortable padded seats, come with paddles and most have backrests.
If you have a larger group and wish to rent four or more canoes, each canoe will be discounted to $35 a piece. You can even make overnight trips or have Torrence conduct a guided tour for an extra $40. Whether you elect to take guided or unguided trips, Torrence recommends calling a week to a few days in advance to schedule your outing. You will need to call several weeks in advance if you want to share the water with the batteaus for the James River Batteau Launch on June 18.
Although your canoe expedition with Tri-Rivers will provide a calming break from technology, the experience will be anything but boring. “You can see all kinds of wildlife from your canoe,” Torrence says. “You’ll see all kinds of birds, deer and more. There are even some eagle nests along the James River, so you might see an eagle! You’ll see things you don’t get to see every day.” Visit tririveroutfitter.wix.com/canoes for information.
Go Back in Time
If you’re seeking a unique historical experience this summer, check out Patrick Henry’s Red Hill nestled in Brookneal, Va. Red Hill is the last home and burial place of Patrick Henry, the first governor of Virginia, who is most often remembered for his passionate “Give me liberty, or give me death!” speech at the start of the Revolutionary War. Your family can take an unguided tour of Red Hill’s seven historic buildings, Patrick Henry’s grave site and the grounds overlooking the Staunton River Valley any day of the week (operating hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sundays). Adult tickets are an affordable $6 each, and children’s tickets are $2 each; groups of 10 or more must schedule guided tours by appointment. There are also several membership options, including a $50 family option that includes unlimited general admission.
Patrick Henry’s Red Hill will be offering several exciting programs in addition to their tours. May 29 marks Henry’s 280th birthday, and those who take the tour that day will receive a complimentary slice of birthday cake! On July 4, Red Hill’s Independence Day celebration will transport your family back to the beginning of America’s independence. Events begin at 3:00 p.m. and include living history, food, live music, fireworks around 9:00 p.m. and a special appearance by Patrick Henry’s fifth great-grandson who will be reciting Patrick Henry’s famous “Liberty or Death” speech in its entirety from memory.
Red Hill’s Development Coordinator Myra Trent explains living history as follows: “We will have costumed docents who will be blacksmithing, spinning and weaving. We will have interpreters in all of the buildings: the house, the law office and the kitchen. All of the activities are hands-on; people are able to actually touch the cotton and the wool and learn to spin. We will also have colonial games for children with 18th century toys.” The event costs $10 per car for up to five passengers with a $2 fee for each additional passenger.
For homeschool families, Red Hill will also be offering a Living History Day program on September 29 and September 30; these programs are geared primarily towards children ages eight to 10 and include activities like spinning, weaving, blacksmithing, basket making, rope making, butter making and pottery.
Whether you go to Red Hill for a tour or a special event, your surroundings will make you feel like you’ve gone back in time. “It’s wide open space.
Bring the kids out, and they can actually run—it’s ok!” Trent says with a laugh. “We have a plantation garden with tobacco, cotton, flax and heirloom vegetables. We don’t irrigate it because they didn’t have irrigation back then. When you come here, you truly do feel like you’ve stepped back in time.” Visit www.redhill.org for information.
Try Something New
For a veritable cornucopia of activity and event options, look no further than the Lynchburg City Parks and Recreation department. Along with returning favorites like “Movies in the Park,” “Canoe Down the River,” “Night at the Nature Zone,” “Food Truck Thursdays” and “Creek Critters,” Parks and Rec will be offering several exciting new programs this summer.
Channel your inner Robin Hood or Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by signing up for “Beginning Family Archery”; ages eight and up are welcome to come learn the basic elements of archery using provided equipment.
If biking is more your speed, Blackwater Bike Shop will be leading a course on mountain bike handling basics on May 21 from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 12 and up ($20 LR; $30 NR) and a course on basic bicycle maintenance on July 14 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. for ages 15 and up ($5 per person).
For parents with babies and toddlers, prepare to get your groove on! In “Mommy and Me Ballet,” moms and their toddlers (ages two to three) stretch, learn moves and dance together every Thursday from June 2 through June 23 or July 7 through July 28 from 10:00 to 10:45 a.m. ($24 LR; $36 NR). In “Baby-Wearing Dance Fitness,” moms and dads who tote their tots and moms-to-be can work out while “wearing” their babies every Saturday from May 14 to June 4 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ($24 LR; $36 NR).
Two new outdoor courses will also be offered: “Birding for Beginners” for all ages on May 7 from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. ($5 per person) and “Trees are Tremendous” for all ages on June 4 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. ($5 per person). “With these and our other outdoor programs,” says Ashley Kershner, Lynchburg Parks and Recreation Marketing and Development Coordinator, “We are offering parents the chance to reinforce their child’s connection to and appreciation for nature, something that kids don’t often experience these days.” Kershner adds: “By providing affordable, exciting events and programs for our community, we hope that families will take the time to enjoy our parks, trails and recreation programs together. Shared experiences always encourage bonding, and what better way to bond than while connecting with nature, learning a new skill or enjoying an outdoor event?” Visit www.lynchburgparksandrec.com for a complete list of programs and additional information.
Article written by Emily Hedrick