Summers in Virginia are beautiful –but they can be hot. Very hot. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep cool in the summer heat. We’ve put together a list of just a few of the activities and outdoor amenities you can take advantage of this summer. From sprinklers to sailboats, there’s no reason to let the summer be anything but amazing!
1. Go old school with sprinklers, fountains and sprayparks
Who doesn’t remember playing in the sprinkler as a kid? Now many malls, community centers and even neighborhood parks offer a ramped up version of old-school sprinkler fun with sprayparks and fountains designated just for cooling kids down in the summer. Check out Reston Town Center in Reston or Stony Point Fashion Park in Richmond or check your local parks and see what’s out there – it’s usually free and it’s always fun.
2. Cool down at a Waterpark
For when you want to get really serious about water fun – check out some of Virginia’s waterparks. Virginia has nearly 20 to choose from – ranging from full-size amusement parks like Water Country U.S.A. in Williamsburg to smaller pools with slides and fountains like Ida Lee Park in Leesburg or Alexander Waterpark in Dublin. Pictured here is SplashDown Waterpark in Manassas. Search your local area for smaller parks or make a plan for a full day of fun at one of the major parks.
3. Experience the thrill of Virginia’s Theme Parks
Virginia’s largest and most well known theme parks are Busch Gardens in Williamsburg and King’s Dominion in Doswell – and if you love giant roller coasters and themed entertainment, then you won’t want to miss these. To keep you cool in the summer heat, both parks have water-themed attractions like log flumes and kiddie sprinklers. Plus, King Dominion offers a full in-house water park, Soak City. But there are smaller amusement centers to choose from, as well – like Central Park Funland in Fredericksburg, Go-Karts Plus in Williamsburg or Motor World Virginia Beach.
4. Spend a day at the lake
Many of Virginia’s lakes offer the sand and sun you love at the beach – without the drive. With lakes throughout the state, it’s easy to plan a beach-day getaway in a beautiful natural setting. Lake Anna in Louisa, Philpott Lake in Bassett, Claytor Lake (pictured) in Dublin or Lake Arrowhead in Luray all offer beautiful sandy beaches perfect for sunning and swimming. If you want to try your hand at Scuba diving, visit Lake Rawlings in Rawlings. For swimming, boating, fishing and camping, there are countless other options to choose from. Check out some of our favorites at www.onlyinyourstate.com/virginia/virginia-lakes/.
5. Need a quick cool down? Ice cream does the trick every time.
Whether you’re trying bribe the kids with a treat or you need a nostalgic taste of summer time magic, Virginia has some of the best ice creams shops around. From roadside stands like Carl’s in Fredericksburg to old-time parlors like Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Co. in Alexandria, there’s no shortage of places to find a cool cone. See the list of our top picks at www.onlyinyourstate.com/virginia/12-ice-cream-shops-in-virginia/.
6. Set sail
Considering the first colonist to arrive in Virginia did so via wind powered boats, its safe to say sailing has been a long time tradition here. Whether you’re taking a full-size sailboat like this one out on Smith Mountain Lake, or heading to the Potomac or the Chesapeake Bay, there are plenty of options. Don’t know how to sail? Don’t worry. Check out places like Mariner’s Sailing School in Alexandria or Norton’s Sailing School in Deltaville and get the skills you need to be captain of your ship, as it were.
7. Ride the rapids with whitewater rafting or kayaking
The James River runs right through the heart of Downtown Richmond – and offers the only Class III/IV rapids in the country within an urban setting. Companies like Adventure Challenge in Richmond offer guided trips down the rapids for groups of all ages and skill levels. And of course, the amazing Blue Ridge Mountains in the western part of the state also offer incredible rafting and kayaking opportunities. For some other specific ideas, check out Great Falls in McLean (pictured here), Natural Bridge, Breaks Interstate Park and the Shenandoah Valley.
8. Make your own lazy river in a innertube or canoe
If you’re looking for something a little less adventurous – or in my case, you’re way too lazy to kayak down rapids – try tubing or canoeing. You don't need a water park to have a lazy river. Just take a trip down the James with James River Runners in Scottsville or float down the New River with New River Junction in Blacksburg. There are too many options to list here, so be sure to search for a company near you!
9. Hit the slopes with year-round skiing at Liberty Mountain
The Snowflex Center at Libery Mountain in Lynchburg lets you hit the slopes any time of the year. With options for every skill level, from beginner to advanced, the center uses a synthetic material to recreate the feel and grip of real snow, even without Mother Nature’s cooperation. Camps are available throughout the summer, as well as tubing, skiing and snowboarding. I can’t think of a cooler way to spend a hot summer day. Learn more at www.liberty.edu/snowflex/.
10. Head to a ski resort for indoor water parks and activities
If you prefer to do your skiing in winter only, that doesn’t mean ski resorts are off limits. Massanutten Resort in McGaheysville offers 4 seasons of fun with an indoor waterpark, zip lines, hiking, golfing and much more. Likewise, Wintergreen Resort in Roseland features “The Plunge” – Virginia’s largest summer tubing park, as well as climbing towers, zip lines, bungee trampolines, tennis, golfing and more. Both resorts have year-round accommodations and spa facilities to make sure that everyone stays happy – no matter what the season.
11. Hit the beach –surfing, sand sculpting and sun
As far as I can tell, there are 2 types of beach-goers. Those who like to sit in the sand and sun and those who want to stay on the move. Virginia Beach is the perfect place to do both. With 35 miles of beach to choose from, there are plenty of quiet beaches like Sandbridge. Or if you’re looking for some excitement, head to the Virginia Beach Resort Area for the 53rd Annual Coastal Edge East Coast Surfing Championships on August 16-23, 2015, or the Neptune Festival where the world’s most talented sand sculptors compete in an International competition starting September 25.
12. Try something a little different with fly fishing
There are endless opportunities for fishing at lakes, rivers, reservoirs and creeks. But if you want to spice things up a little – and keep cool – try fly fishing. There are options throughout Virginia, including lessons and guided excursions at resorts like The Homestead, Primland Resort and Wintergreen Resort. Or choose a smaller outfitter like VA Trout in Lexington and learn the intricacies of this increasingly popular sport.
13. Hike a trail to a waterfall
This is pretty much the best of idea ever. Virginia has a so many of incredible options for hiking trails and waterfall vistas – and many of these places have swimming holes perfectly suited for cooling down after an energizing (and probably very sweaty) hike. Check out a few of our top picks at www.onlyinyourstate.com/virginia/19-waterfalls-in-va/.
14. Education, entertainment and air conditioning – the perfect summer trifecta.
It gets hot outside. Hot and humid. But if you’re not ready to sit indoors and do nothing, try a museum like the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond or the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Life Center in Virginia Beach. Full of interactive displays, educational activities and central air, these are two of Virginia’s best attractions any time of the year.
15. Go picking
There are few things sweeter than fresh fruit and berries, but if growing them is not your thing, then Virginia offers tons of options for picking them. Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches and melons are at their peak in the summer months. Visit Westmoreland Berry Farm in Oak Grove for pick-your-own fruit, homemade ice cream, a goat farm and kid-friendly activities. Or check out Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery where you can pick blackberries, then settle in for their award-winning “True to the Fruit” wines and honey meades. Bring home plenty of extras for canning or let the kids set up a lemonade and berry stand – it’s never too early to teach entrepreneurship, after all, someone will need to support you when you’re old.
There’s more to add to this list, for sure, but we hope this will get you started on planning your summer. Be sure to check out our list of free activities (
Part 1 and Part 2) in Virginia, as well. And in the meantime, let us know your favorite hot weather activities!