Virginia Discovery Museum- East end of the Downtown Mall- A hands-on, interactive children's museum for kids ages 1-13 featuring 12 permanent exhibits, rotating exhibits in the Discovery Corner, and changing Back Gallery exhibits. Other ongoing programs include Magic School Bus, Poetry Clubs, Tuesday Travelers, Toddler Times, Friday Fun and drop-in art projects. Mon.-Sat. 10am-5pm. Closed Sun. $6 all ages except under 1 year old free; $75 annually for a family membership or the $125 explorer membership, which gets you into 160 different kids museums nationwide. 977-1025.
Jefferson-Madison Regional Libraries - Some of the best programming for kids around. In addition to regular story times, all eight branches host a wide variety of classes, clubs, reading groups, game nights, workshops, performances, and all kinds of fun for kids of all ages all year 'round. And they also lend books. 979-7151.
The Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center - In Darden Towe Park, Rt. 20 north- This hands-on facility commemorates the hometown origins of Lewis and Clark's westward journey. While the museum buildings have yet to go up, tours of full-size replicas of a keelboat, pirogues, and dugout canoes– water craft used on the first leg of the expedition– are available by appointment and cost $150 for 1-9 people; $200 for 10-19; and $300 for 20-30, with funds going to completion of the museum. All replicas were constructed at the site by young volunteers using hand tools and historic techniques. Regular hours will resume when construction is complete. 979-2425.
McCormick Observatory - McCormick Road at the top of Observatory Hill- UVA's astronomy department opens the dome at the observatory and allows visitors to step up to three research telescopes for awesome views of the heavens. Department staff and graduate students answer questions and narrate a slide show. First and third Friday nights (weather permitting) 9-11pm DST. 7-9pm EST. Free. 924-7494.
Putt Putt Golf Course - 1515 Putt-Putt Place - Legendary miniature golf, with two 18-hole courses suitable for even the smallest golfers. A hole-in-one still wins a discounted game. Open daily March 1 - November 30, 10am-11pm, depending on weather. $6 per person. 973-5509.
ACAC Adventure Central- 200 Four Seasons Dr. With a three-pool water park complete with slides and fountains, classrooms, indoor playstructures, tennis courts, and an indoor sports arena, Adventure Central is home to a summer camp, an after-school program, birthday parties, and sports academies in the summer and winter. 978-7529.
Kegler's Bowling Lanes - 2000 Seminole Trail- There are lots of family perks at this bowling alley, including bumpers available on all lanes to help little bowlers keep the ball out of the gutter, a refurbished arcade room, billiard tables, and a snack bar. Mon-Fri. before 5pm: $12 per person including shoes unlimited time until 5pm; after 5pm and all weekends $17 per person including shoes for two hours. 978-3999.
UVA sports, various locations - Football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and lots of other competitive sports are very accessible for families at the university. Sports fans can find some sort of game or match several times a week during the school year and even some during the summer. Kids up to 8th grade can sign up for Cavman's Crew get seven free admissions in six sports, freebies, and meet and greet opportunities. Check www.virginiasports.com for schedules. Call the UVA ticket office for information, ticket prices, and kids club sign up: 924-8821.
–>>For more, check our Sports and Recreation section.
Science Museum of Virginia - 2500 W. Broad St., Richmond- Hands-on and interactive exhibits make science fun for the whole family. Exciting rotating exhibits and an engaging array of permanent displays, IMAX movies, planetarium shows, special events, and lots more. Check website for hours and admission fees. 800-659-1727 or 804-864-1400.
Children's Museum of Richmond - 2626 W. Broad St., Richmond- An award-winning place for kids ages 12 and under to learn while they play. Lots of active, hands-on, entertaining displays, rotating exhibits, and special events and programs. Check website for hours and admission fees. 804-474-2667 or 804-474-7000.
Frontier Culture Museum - Rt. 250 west in Staunton or exit 222 from I-81- A unique experiential museum portraying the historical context of our immigrant ancestors with authentic 17th, 18th, and 19th century working farms and costumed interpreters from Germany, Northern Ireland, England, and the Shenandoah Valley. Daily: 9am-5pm. Winter hours: Dec. 1 - mid-March; 10am-4pm. Adult $10, children 6-12 $6, under 6 free. 540-332-7850.
Fruit fun - Three of the closest to town are Carter Mountain Orchard (977-1833) next to Michie Tavern, which offers apples, peaches, and stunning mountain-top views in the summer, Chiles Peach Orchard (823-1583) near Crozet which also grows apples, cherries, peaches, strawberries, and pumpkins in the fall, and The Berry Patch (963-0659) which has blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries in the spring.
The Gypsy Express - Charlottesville has plenty of parks, sure, but we dare say Staunton has something more thrilling for tots than any playground slide: a miniature train in Gypsy Hill Park. Revived by a nonprofit a few summers ago after several years of flooding and track problems that kept it out of service, volunteers now operate it on weekends during warm months. The train loops around a narrow-gauge track complete with two bridges and two tunnels. Can you scream? "You're supposed to; otherwise the engineer goes to sleep," says the nonprofit's president, John Zinn. It's $1 a ride, which consists of four loops— "unless they lose count," notes Zinn, "and then you get five." And if your tots get bored riding the rails, they'll perk up when you stroll over to the adjacent duck pond and give them some healthy duck treats available from vending machines. (Bread isn't good for them.) Operates May-Oct, Sat 12pm-6pm, Sun 1pm-5pm. 540-885-0513.
Boys and Girls Club - The goal here is to "help youth from all backgrounds (with a special concern for youth from disadvantaged circumstances) develop qualities and skills needed to become responsible citizens and leaders. Trained staff provide programs that enhance character and self esteem, are educational and fun, and contribute to the development of youth by allowing the member to realize and reach their full potential." With locations at Cherry Avenue, Southwood, and Jack Jouett Middle School, it's for children ages 6-18. Fees range from $35 to $50, depending on the club's location. Their administrative office is located at 1000 B Cherry Ave. 971-9400.
Boy Scouts - Part of the Boy Scouts of America and Stonewall Jackson Area Council, the Monticello District includes troops all over Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Orange, Madison, Fluvanna, and Greene Counties. with programs for boys ages 7-21 and girls 14-21. Info: 434-964-0880 or district executive firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cub Scouts - It all starts right here for the young scout. The Monticello District is home to nearly three dozen different packs in Charlottesville, Albemarle and surounding counties. 434-964-0880 or email@example.com.
Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Council - Unlike Boy Scouts who help old ladies across the street and get to dance around campfires at their Order of the Arrow induction, Girl Scouts "inspires girls ages 5-17 with the highest ideals of character, conduct, patriotism, and service so that they may become happy and resourceful citizens." Based in Roanoke but with troops in 36 counties across Central Virginia. 540-777-5100.
The Charlottesville/Albemarle 4-H Program operates locally through the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service. It offers many exciting activities for hands-on projects, camping experiences, workshops and contests, and programs offered through local schools. Ten different 4-H Clubs give kids ages 5-18 a way to get together with others who have similar interests, including leadership, llamas, livestock, dogs and horses, ecology, botany, bees, and more. Check here for more info and contacts for clubs. 872-4580.
Young Women Leaders Program - For middle school-aged girls, this mentoring program pairs girls with "Big Sisters" from UVA. The program includes twice-weekly meetings throughout the school year. 924-9732.