FAMILY- Fun for the whole crew

When I first moved to Charlottesville from a much larger city in the north, I was struck by how instantly comfortable it felt living here. Maybe it was the Southern hospitality... all that "Yes ma'am" and "You come back and see us again, honey." Maybe it was just the size of the place...small enough to wrap my arms around and make my own. Maybe it was the fact that, with two young children, I didn't have to work at all to answer that never-ending question, "What are we going to do, Mom?"  

Every day of the week children's programs are happening somewhere in the area, and the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library system (979-7151, ext. 3) hosts a lot of them. While there's still a considerable amount of quiet reading and writing going on at the eight area branches, year-round special programs also give kids (including teens) the chance to explore very un-quiet activities, including making music and magic, juggling and dancing, playing with wild critters, even cooking up chocolate confections. 

On the Downtown Mall, the Virginia Discovery Museum (977-1025) offers younger children lots of opportunities for playful exploration. Hands-on displays, rotating exhibits, poetry and science clubs, unique special programs, and lots of community events make imagination the name of the game at this indoor playground.

Kids who prefer more competitive games have lots of options to join the team with youth club sports, including soccer (Soccer Organization of Charlottesville Albemarle 975-5025), lacrosse (Seminole Lacrosse League 975-0949), softball (Cove Creek Baseball 970-2255), baseball (Lane Babe Ruth Baseball 977-5772), football (Pop Warner Football 980-6040), and basketball (Charlottesville Recreation and Leisure Services 970-3260). Most area pools have swim teams that compete in the Jefferson Swim League (975-5001). Charlottesville Recreation and Leisure Services (970-3260) and Albemarle Parks and Recreation (296-5844) let kids play basketball, dance, and work out on the balance beam, among other things. There's even an annual youth triathlon for those who have trouble being great at just one sport (  

Other exciting adventures can be found at McCormick Observatory (924-7494) where, every first and third Friday, the astronomers open the dome to let the public take a peek at the starry skies through their giant research telescopes. At Ivy Creek Natural Area (973-7772), public trails allow tree huggers and others the chance to get back to nature through self-guided romps and a regular program of special events and guided walks in the woods.

And then there are the festivals. An annual slate of festive fairs lets families whoop it up almost any weekend of the year. Some perennial favorites include the Virginia Festival of the Book (March), the Dogwood Festival (April), the Nelson County Summer Festival (June), the African American Cultural Arts Festival (July), the Albemarle County Fair (August), the Vegetarian Festival (September), the Garlic Festival (October), Governor Jefferson's Thanksgiving Festival (November), and First Night Virginia (December).

Now that we're firmly entrenched in the life of Charlottesville, the only problem my family has is trying to choose just one answer for that never-ending question. 

(Editor's Note: Family editor Linda Kobert originally wrote this piece for our 2006 Annual Manual. Look for her ideas of how to have fun for the whole family every week in our culture section, and in the next Annual Manual in August!)