21 Hot things to do

 

It's summertime, and the weather is high, so stretch right up and touch the sky– or just take a few of these ideas and roll with them. You'll be having a ball before you know it.

 

 REGAL KID MOVIES

 Are the kids climbing the walls? Have you started to pull your hair out in clumps? It must be summer! But never fear, movies are cheap ways to beat the heat and buy yourself a few hours of sanity. In fact, Regal's Seminole Square 4 offers a free kid's movie program with shows at 10am every Tuesday and Wednesday from mid-June through mid-August. 980-3333

 June 22 and 23

 Stuart Little (G)

Muppets from Outer Space (PG)

June 29 and 30

 Stuart Little 2 (G)

Rugrats: the Movie (PG)

July 6 and 7

 Rugrats in Paris (G)

Daddy Daycare (PG)

July 13 and 14

 Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (G)

Cat in the Hat (PG)

July 20 and 21

 Elmo in Grouchland (G)

Shrek (PG)

July 27 and 28

 Black Beauty (G)

Good Boy! (PG)

August 3 and 4

 King and I (G)

Agent Cody Banks (PG)

August 10 and 11

 Jimmy Neutron (G)

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (PG)

August 17 and 18

 Pinocchio (G)

Peter Pan (PG)

980-3333

 

FILM BOOT CAMP

 Could you be the next M. Night Shyamalan? For the last two summers, youthful filmmaker Johnny St. Ours has touched off some very Charlottesville film experiences with his free, open-to-everyone "film boot camp." Here's how it works. Aspiring filmmakers and watchers meet at sundown on the roof of his "iron cave," a big steel cargo container in the parking lot of Club 216 on Water Street. Then the screenings begin. "Boot Camp is about putting your camera where your mouth is," says 26-year-old St. Ours. Indeed, post-screening, he conducts a brutal critique session of the short films. Thin-skins beware: "Unless we're glued to our seats," says St. Ours, "we will push the 'stop' button at five minutes." The camp meets every other Friday night at sundown starting the first Friday of June. Email him if you want to volunteer or have questions. Otherwise, says St. Ours, just show up. ironcaveartisans@yahoo.com

 

 CHOO-CHOO FOR THE KIDDIES

 Although it's no longer a round-trip, the trains keep a rollin' over to Staunton, a true train-lovers mecca. Once you're there, you can board Gypsy Hill Park's miniature train in which was revived by a non-profit three summers ago after several years of flooding and track problems kept it out of commission. Volunteers now operate it on weekends during the warm months. The train makes four aviation-fueled loops around a narrow-gauge track complete with two bridges and two tunnels. The cost is just $1 a ride, which consists of four loops– "unless they lose count," notes the nonprofit's president John Zinn, "and then you get five." If your tots get bored riding the rails, feeding the ducks at an adjacent pond should perk them right up. A new sidewalk allows easy wheelchair access to the park. 540-213-2130

 

NECKIN' AT THE DRIVE-IN

 Here's a challenge: Take your sweetie to the drive-in and then see if either of you can remember anything about the feature. But, oh, that old-time neckin'. Somehow it seems well worth the $7.50 price of admission. And if you really are there to see the flick– like maybe with the whole family– there's even better news. Kids ages 6-12 are $3, and tots five and under are free. This slice of Americana is within reach just 40 minutes down Route 15 south at the Fork Union Drive-In. Don't tell anyone we suggested it, but a full cooler might be the icing on the cake... 842-3624

 

SAND, SWIMMING, AND SCENERY

 It's summertime, and the swimming is good– especially in early summer, when water levels are high and the swimming holes are blue and glistening. The county has three public lakes, the most beautiful of which is Mint Springs in Crozet, the lake out-of-town guests always beg to go back to. With the mountains forming a perfect backdrop, you can beach yourself whale-style or drift out on a raft to escape the shrill shrieking of happy tykes. Lest you fear too many kids will spoil the fun, county lakes have mandatory rest periods every hour, so adults can have 15 minutes in the water without boisterous splashing and the incessant refrains of "Marco! Polo!" On a long summer day, grill out in one of the picnic shelters. And if lying sandside doesn't appeal, there's fishing, hiking, a playground area, and a memorial to a fallen airplane. 823-5889.

 

NOSE AROUND TOWN

 Realtors are saying it to frustrated home sellers all over town: "The market's a bit slower this year– just relax." But while that may be bad news for someone whose home is on the block, it's good news for nosey parkers who want to check out an open house or two. Get the Hook or the Sunday Progress and take your pick. Houses are typically on view from 1 to 4pm. You can start big with sprawling country estates and wind down to Fifeville fixer-uppers by the end of the afternoon. Or you can devote a whole Sunday to one type– million-dollar McMansions with grand entries one week, townhomes the next. After your tour, hit a bar with your companion and wonder, "If that little pile of sticks can bring $400,000, just think what we could get!" readthehook.com

 

 STARGAZING

 Get starry-eyed at public nights at UVA's McCormick Observatory on O-Hill. They happen the first and third Fridays of each month from 9 to 11pm. If you don't feel like leaving home, there are several amazing astronomical events you can enjoy from your own backyard. The most well known is the Perseid meteor shower, an annual event that takes place mid-summer. The shower is produced when the Earth passes through the debris trail left by the Swift-Tuttle comet, which orbits the sun every 128 years. You can check out the Perseids this year from July 17 to August 24, but best viewing is August 12, according to information on star-watch.com. Stargazers can expect to sight as many as 200 shooting stars an hour on that peak night. 924-7494, astro.virginia.edu

 

 BUS-ACHINO

 Here's a one-of-kind way to cool off with a frappé or smoothie: the Chatterbus in Waynesboro, the country's only coffeehouse in a bus, according to owner Coleen Paixao. The renovated Blue Bird school bus now resides at the corner of Poplar and Broad, but it occasionally hits the road for a special event. There's music outside on Friday nights– unless it's raining– and later this summer another bus is set to join the coffeebus (as a living room!) in the parking lot of the Dixie gas station later this summer. It's got a motto– "A place to chat, not gossip"– and a website: chatterbus.com. And according to Paixao, the Chatterbus will appear on the Travel Channel as one of seven unique buses. 540-649-2039.

 

HORSIN' AROUND

 Trot trot to Boston? Actually, you don't have to go nearly that far to get your equestrian thrills. In fact, you need only head to Wintergreen, where trail rides are available for all levels. Our suggestion: Go with a novice. After all, what could be funnier than a city slicker trying to look relaxed– stiff legs, clenched jaw, and all– while astride an animal that can undoubtedly sense his fear. Funny? Oh, yeah. 325-8260

 

 TOTALLY TUBULAR!

 The last couple of years have been "a bear" for tubing, says James River Runners owner Christie Schmick. This year, however, things are looking up. "It's in marvelous shape," says Schmick. "We're anxious to get moving."

As of mid-May, water temps were in the 70s– "refreshing," Schmick reports. Located just five miles from downtown Scottsville in Hatton's Ferry, the James River Runners ride is a three-mile, two-to-four-hour adventure. For $15, you get a tube and shuttle service back to the start-point.

There's also James River Reeling and Rafting– co-owner Geneva Denby says they've been "wide open" for a couple of weeks. In addition to tubes, she rents canoes and rafts. Tubing time is also two-to-four hours, and runs from 10:30 to 2:30 seven days a week. $15 per person.

"I'm so glad to be open," says Denby. "I hate the winter." She's not alone, that's for sure...

James River Runners. 10082 Hatton Ferry Road, five miles from Scottsville. 286-233. www.jamesriver.com

James River Reeling and Rafting. At the corner of Main and Ferry streets in downtown Scottsville. 286-4FUN. www.reelingandrafting.com

 

 FREE AT LAST

 Has the curse of the rainy Fridays After Five lifted? Last year, it seemed every time you turned around on Friday the rain was pouring down, and the crowds were going home. This year, with admission free once more, things may be looking up. The schedule is packed with familiar names– Terri Allard, Stoned Wheat Things, and Corey Harris and the 5X5 will all appear, as will British invasion group The English Channel. Now, if that rain will just keep holding off... cvilledowntown.org/fridays

 

 PICNIC

 It's picnic time! All you need is a blanket, a basket or cooler stuffed with goodies, and a few free hours. Head to one of the nearest parks, or just pack up and go to your own backyard. If you're not of the make-it-yourself school of picnicking, here are a few suggestions for one-stop picnic shopping:

 

Bellair Market: The Bellair Market used to be an anomaly; an upscale deli in a gas station? Now you can't drive a mile without passing such a spot, but the Bellair can still hold its own. Sandwiches, entrees to go, deluxe wines, and plenty of gourmet goodies make this the west-of-town picnic-pick. Ivy Road. 971-6608

 Brix Marketplace: Stop by Tuesday through Sunday for sandwiches such as the Italian Meat Selection, with prosciutto, Genoa salami, goat cheese, black olive tapenade, roasted red peppers, fresh basil and balsamic vinaigrette. Or for veggie lovers, there's the fresh mozzarella with basil pesto, tomatoes, Romaine, and balsamic vinaigrette. There are, cheeses, crackers, patés, and pastries made in-house, plus a house-label wine made for Brix by Jefferson Vineyards. 1330 Thomas Jefferson Parkway. 295-7000

 Ciboulette and Feast! The selection is sublime at the Main Street Market, where you can get your pick of sandwiches and salads, plus lots of imported cheeses, crackers, wines, and other fancy fare. 416 W. Main St. Ciboulette: 295-0570. Feast! 244-7800.

 Fuel Co.: The newest addition to the gourmet gas station line-up, Fuel's Café features a huge sandwich selection, plus special coffee drinks, and a mouth-watering array of entrees. Prices can be a bit steep, but for the upscale picnicker, it shouldn't be an issue. 901 E. Market St. 220-3700.

Everyday Cafe: Here's where you folks east of town can get your picnic fix on. Situated at the peak of Pantops at the Liberty gas station at Rivanna Ridge, the Everyday Cafe has a little bit of everything: sandwiches, wraps, pizza, even gelato. 295-1344.

 

WILD WHEELS

 Relive your wild and crazy adolescence– or at least get out of town– behind the wheel of a classic convertible like a 1974 green MGB or a 1960 Triumph TR3? Red MGA or a 1957 Austin Healy. For $95, you can rent one of these or five other classic car models from Sports Car Rentals and be the envy of all, even if just for a day. The rental includes 200 free miles and the owner, John Pollock, will gladly throw in a special map of his favorite local driving routes. Swank factor: 10. Sorry young'uns. If you're under 25, you need not apply. For more information check out the website, www.sportscarrentals.com or call 823-4442.

 

SPACE CASE

 Viewing flicks at Richmond's Science Museum's Imax Dome theater feels like being trapped in a fly's eye, but it makes most big-budget Hollywood films look contrived and wimpy. Now through June, you can zoom around a track in NASCAR!, or blast off with Space Station. Other shows include Pulse: a Stomp Odyssey, by the creators of the famous rhythm show. Admission for the IMAX film is $8; combined with museum admission it's $14.50. Call 800-659-1727 to buy tickets in advance.

 

 ROCK CLIMBING

 This year you can climb ev'ry mountain and get credit for it! The Outdoor Wilderness Leadership School at Wintergreen is offering a five-day rock-climbing course through PVCC for which you can get college credit. Orientation for the class is June 2, and two sessions follow (June 7-11, and June 14-18). If you're more of a one-day kind of person, you need only contact Cheston Harris at OWLS 48 hours in advance to make a reservation. The school is located just footsteps from Eagle's Swoop, the big chunk of granite that hugs the back of the same peak that holds the resort's most popular intermediate ski run. Harris says anyone of any level can come on down– or up, as the case may be– to learn top-roping, lead climbing, even multi-pitch. Fear of heights? No problemo. "We can work them through that," laughs Harris. OWLS charges $65 per person for three hours of instruction. Open seven days a week. 325-8166.

 

BASK IN THE BARD

 What could be better than the Bard? You get your naughty chuckles– and you can feel good about them... now that's culture! You have several options for soaking up Shakespeare: over in Staunton at Shenandoah Shakespeare, where you can get an authentic dose of the Bard. That means hard wooden benches (cushions and seat backs can be rented or brought from home), seats on stage if you like, minimal sets, lights on the audience, and an energetic cast. This summer's shows include Henry the IV, part one; The Two Gentlemen of Verona; A Midsummer Night's Dream; and The Importance of Being Earnest. For information, tickets (which range from $14-$28), and directions call 1-877-MUCH.ADO. For a more bucolic setting, you can head to the Barboursville Ruins on weekends from late July through mid-August to see Much Ado About Nothing performed by the Four County Players. Precede the outdoor performance with dinner on the veranda at Palladio restaurant, also at the Barboursville Vineyard. For information, tickets (which range from $12-$18) and dinner reservations: 540-832-5355.

 

 BOOKED UP

 There's something about a tall drink and a trashy novel to send you straight to hedonist heaven. (And if you're by water, you get bonus points.) To find the perfect read– and not spend a dime– head to the library and then find your spot to kick back and lose yourself. UVA's Clemons Library couches are perfect for lounging. So is the tucked-away McGregor Room at Alderman. To read and be seen, go to Mudhouse or Higher Grounds or Greenberry's. For scenic outdoor reading, hit an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Or toss a blanket out on the Lawn or at Beaver Creek Reservoir and be glad it's summer and it's beautiful and you made time to read– even if it's not pure trash. For summer hours at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library, Main Branch, 201 E. Market Street, 979-7151.

 

 GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM

 If the idea of spending hours in the gym on a beautiful summer day gives you the shudders, perhaps you should think about turning to rudders... okay, really bad rhyme– and not even accurate, since we're talking rowing here, not sailing. Yes, that's right, you can sign up for a session sweeping your oar over the Reservoir in a long skinny boat with seven other nature-loving exercisers. Rivanna Rowing offers four-week "Learn to Row" classes for people who don't know a starboard from a port, as well as competitive training for experienced rowers. Classes will soon be underway, so call quick. Before you know it, you'll be happy to "sit easy" and "weigh enough." "Layback," "hands on," and "cox" are other titillating terms you'll soon be babbling with the best of them. rivannarowing.org or 978-2092.

 

 IT'S ONLY NATURAL

 Natural Bridge is a stunning natural attraction that has been cheesed out beyond belief. But that doesn't mean it's not worth seeing. Go at night to see a light show which, according to the Natural Bridge website, "transforms the Bridge and glen into a marvel of living stone." Musical accompaniment completes the experience. While you're there, don't forget to check out the wax museum, the toy museum, the monster museum and the caverns, which descend 34 stories into the earth. The downside? Admission, which at $25-$39 for all five attractions can put a major dent in a budget. (You can pay less to see any other combination of attractions.) Natural Bridge is located on Route 11 between exits 175 and 180 from Interstate 81. naturalbridgeva.com or 800-533-1410.

 

 IT'S ONLY NATURALIZED

 Citizens, that is. We're talking about the naturalization ceremony that happens up at Monticello every July 4, where immigrants who have waited years and worked through bundles of red tape finally get what they've been working toward: American citizenship. You can show your support– and remind yourself that even when the behavior of certain of your countrymen (and women) makes you to want to crawl under a rock– or move far, far away– the United States is still a beacon of hope for many. This year's featured speaker is W. Richard West Jr., founding director of the Smithsonian's new National Museum of the American Indian and a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. The Charlottesville Municipal Band will perform patriotic music. 10am. Free.

 

CROP CIRCLE MANIA

 With those bright lights just spotted over Mexico, and crop season upon us, what better time to get a little UFO crazy? This one's easiest if you have a lawn. Pick some objects of varying shapes– baby pools work well, as would upside down tables– and position them on your green, green grass. You can also use smaller things, like pots and pans, or use a sheet for wiggly design. Leave them there for a week or two (and don't mow in the meantime). When you pick them up, you'll have perfectly dead spots all over your lawn in just the shapes you designed. Now who's the envy of the neighborhood? Leave the real farmers' crops alone; Albemarle farmers have enough trouble fending off real estate agents without your messing up this year's harvest!

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