How to stay cool in Charlottesville

How to stay cool in Charlottesville

Summer in Charlottesville runs the gamut from warm rainy days to several humid and really hot days in a row with afternoon thunderstorms to top off and alleviate the sweltering hours just before. 

Residents always know to carry an umbrella in their car just in case, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and make sure the AC in their cars is working starting in May. But when you want to truly cool down, what is there to do? Below are some fun ways to beat the heat this summer.

In the air

How about jumping out of a plane? It doesn’t matter how hot it is on the ground, when you’re up in a plane going close to 100mph at several thousand feet, you’ll cool right down. Skydive Orange can help make it happen. It’s not inexpensive — a single tandem jump runs close to $400 — but if you are really burning hot it might be just the ticket.

A gentler air ride

An early morning hot air balloon ride could be another great way to cool down and soak in some views. Three local companies all boast perfect safety records, according to their websites, and send riders up when the weather cooperates:

Boar’s Head Ballooning

Boar’s Head is celebrating over 38 years in flight.

Rides are $250 PER PERSON in April, May, June, September, October and November

Call for special July & August rates.

Blue Ridge Ballooning

Rides start at $225 per person.

Monticello Country Ballooning

Rides start at $225 per person.

In the water

Nothing says summer day on a weekend more than Tubing on the James – kayaking and canoeing are also popular choices and there are several places to put in your craft.

Located in Scottsville, there is a 3-mile river tube trip that winds through beautiful rural countryside, and has a nice set of novice rapids. The trip lasts 2-4 hours, depending on river conditions and activity on the tube.

All tube trips depart on the half hour between 10:00AM and 2:00PM (hourly on weekdays). If river levels are below 3.2 feet, the last trip will go out at 1:30PM.

James River Reeling and Rafting: 286-4386 or James River Runners: 286-2338.

Learn how to swim

Eighty percent of American adults claim they can swim, but a better question is: can you swim well enough to save yourself? According to a 2014 report by the Red Cross, 54 percent of Americans can’t perform all five critical water safety skills: stepping or jumping into water that’s over your head; returning to the surface and floating or treading water for one minute; turning around in a full circle and finding an exit; swimming 25 yards to the exit; and exiting from the water without a ladder if you’re in a pool.

The City of Charlottesville’s summer group lessons are already well underway, but private lessons are still possible, and if you find a friend or two to do it with you, the per person price drops. 970-3073

You can also check into lessons through ACAC (Albemarle Square: 978-3800; Downtown: 984-3800), and then you’ll truly be ready to enjoy all the water activities this area has to offer.

Swimming holes

Short hikes from the base of Sugar Hollow Reservoir will lead visitors to two of the most popular swimming spots in the area: Blue Hole and Snake Hole. Another natural pool can be accessed by a more strenuous hike along Riprap Hollow in the Shenandoah National Park. The prize after a tough 3.4 miles on foot? A 50-foot wide swimming hole, offering a break to hikers hoping to complete the total 9.5 mile trail, or a reprieve from the sun for those wishing to swim.

County Lakes

The river isn’t the only body of water where recreational activities abound. You can swim of course at all three county lakes: Walnut Creek Park, Mint Springs Valley Park in Crozet or Chris Greene Lake north of town by the airport, but you can also rent canoes at Walnut Creek and Chris Greene for $5/hour. 296-5844

Movies

Summer is blockbuster season, and the big hits keep rolling out through Labor Day. Violet Crown, Regal Stonefield and the Alamo are the three main theaters in Charlottesville now, with a handful of other venues popping up at the Paramount, at UVA and through the Bridge and  Light House Studio – the former Vinegar Hill Theater Downtown.

Stage

There are theater productions aplenty this summer starting with Live Arts. Other live performances include the Ash Lawn Opera at the Paramount. Tickets are available at theparamount.net or 979-1333.

Museums

Charlottesville has a handful of great museums to explore, including The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia on Rugby Road, which has several shows hanging this summer. The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection on Pantops hosts several Night at the Museum events.

Monticello: A day and house tour pass gets you guided tours of Thomas Jefferson’s home and gardens, access to the Visitor Center and additional exhibitions.

Montpelier: At James Madison’s home, about 25 minutes north of Charlottesville, you’ll find tours of varying lengths daily.    

Ash Lawn-Highland: James Monroe’s abode is now owned and operated by the College of William & Mary, and tours are offered throughout the summer.

At night

Enjoy the original night life at the McCormick Observatory, where the public can peer through professional telescopes on the first and third Friday night of each month. Call the Public Night Hotline at 243-1885.

Brewery tours

Hop on the self-guided Brew Ridge Trail to visit some of the area’s most popular breweries this summer. Included on the trail are Blue Mountain Barrel House (Arrington), Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Roseland), Wild Wolf Brewing Company (Nellysford), Blue Mountain Brewery (Afton), Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet) and South Street Brewery (Charlottesville). 

Most of the breweries along the trail are full service restaurants and family appropriate. A trail map and itinerary is available on brewridgetrail.com, as is a list of transportation services offering brewery and winery tours in Nelson County and surrounding areas.

Winery Tours

The question is where to begin when it comes to winery visits in Charlottesville. A good start is the Monticello Wine Trail website, which has links to all Central Virginia vineyards from Glass House Winery in Free Union to Prince Michel Vineyards and Winery to Blenheim and Cardinal Point, and lists events including Keswick’s dog friendly Yappy Hours, musical events and more.

Cideries

From Bold Rock Hard Cider in Nellysford to Castle Hill Cider in Keswick (castlehillcider.com) and Albemarle Cider Works in North Garden, ciders are surging as one of this area’s biggest attractions.

Luray Caverns

As earth’s surface temperature soars, deep underground in Luray Caverns, it remains a cool and steady 54 degrees. Located about 90 minutes from Charlottesville in Luray, the caverns offer numerous spectacular features: Giant’s Hall, a massive calcite formation known as Titania’s Veil, and the world’s largest stalacpipe organ. There’s also the Luray Valley Museum on site.

If you’ve already done Luray there are a couple that are even closer to town. Grand Caverns in Grottoes (540-249-5705) is about an hour from downtown Charlottesville and has features including the Bridal Chamber and a red-lit space called Dante’s Inferno. 

You can also check out Shenandoah Caverns in Quicksburg (540-477-3115) or Endless Caverns in New Market (540-896-2283) for more stay-cool adventures.

Kid friendly

Jump Kids bouncing off the walls? No worries at Jump, a trampoline emporium located in the former Carmike theater. 284-8248

Bounce & Play is a great option for the littler ones in your life – mom and dad can chill in a comfortable seating area. Seminole Square. 973-1111

Laser Tag – After they outgrow Bounce & Play, kids can head over to the former Office Depot store at Seminole Square for Laser tag. Summer hours are Mondays from 9:30am-1:30pm, and Friday-Sunday 9:30am-1:30pm. 973-1111

AMF Keglers Lanes Keglers’ recently renovated bowling facility on 29N is always cool. 978-3999

Discovery Museum – A classic on the Downtown Mall that features a series of rotating exhibits and activities as well as some permanent displays. 977-1025

Wintergreen & Massanutten

You’re guaranteed a slight heat reprieve as you gain altitude. Summer tubing will send you flying down the hill on inner tubes with special plastic tracks taking the place of snow. A full list of activities and booking options can be accessed on the Wintergreen Resort website.

Not much further away than Wintergreen—about an hour’s drive northwest in McGaheysville — Massanutten is another mountain resort that keeps you busy and cool year round. The biggest non-snow attraction is the Massanutten Water Park, a sprawling indoor/outdoor complex of water slides and other wet and wild activities. And just like Wintergreen, there’s zip lining, a climbing wall and summer tubing.

Have fun & stay cool!

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