Whether you’re local or planning a visit to Cville, here are some of the best summer activities in Charlottesville to keep you cool and fill your days with adventure!
Summer in Charlottesville may be hot and steamy at times, but there’s no better time of year to get outside and explore all that the city and beautiful surrounding countryside has to offer. From hiking to river sports to wine tasting, there are activities for all ages.
Maybe you’re planning a family weekend to Charlottesville and need ideas on how to cool off.
Maybe you’re dropping off your first-year off at the University of Virginia and are wanting to spend a few days doing outdoor active adventures.
Or maybe you live in Cville and have something to add to this list in the comments!
I’d say that May, June, and September are the best months to visit if you want to dine outside without melting, as July and August can get quite humid. But if you are coming in the hottest months – just find a river, splash park, or check out the Blue Ridge Tunnel hike and you’ll be fine!
I asked my neighbors and friends to list their favorite activities and here’s what topped their lists.
Summer Activities In Charlottesville
1. The Rivanna River
The Rivanna River runs right through Charlottesville, and it’s a great way to cool off. Riverview Park lies along the river and has a nice riverfront trail and playground for kids. There’s also access to the river next to the playground where you can wade and swim. The “beach” isn’t big though, so expect to sit on rocks!
There are a few rope swings along the Riverview Park greenway. You’ll have to walk to get to them, but they are loads of fun!
Lastly, I am not an outdoorsy type of girl (snakes!), but many of my friends LOVE floating down the Rivanna in tubes! Check out the Rivanna River Company for all the details on how to do that.
2. Crabtree Falls Hike
A little over an hour’s drive southwest of Charlottesville is George Washington National Forest where you’ll find Crabtree Falls hike. The trail winds next to 1,000 feet of waterfall drop – a super impressive waterfall! The 3.5-mile hike took our family of four a couple of hours, including stops for photos, a picnic, and pausing to admire nature’s beauty : ) Grab sandwiches from Bellair Market to enjoy at the top or head to Camp Trapezium in Amherst for beer and pizza after!
3. Old Rag Hike
Old Rag is one of the best hiking trails on the East Coast, if I do say so myself! The 8-mile hike is one giant loop that takes the better part of a day to do. Pack plenty of water, especially when it’s really hot, and a picnic for the top of the mountain.
When I first hiked it, I was surprised at how much scrambling we had to do at the top. There were some rocks I couldn’t get over without a lift or hand from a companion (at my height!). So note that this hike is not for beginners or anyone with limited physical ability.
Check out my blog post recap here.
4. Blue Hole
One of our favorite summer hikes is Blue Hole, a trail that has lots of water throughout and ends in a freezing cold swimming hole! I don’t usually submerge myself, but the boys love it!
5. The Blue Ridge Tunnel
Aka “the coolest spot all summer” is the Blue Ridge Tunnel. This super long, dark tunnel is cool enough in the summer to need a jacket. Bring flashlights and headlamps and good walking shoes too. Note there are port-a-johns on either side of the tunnel but no sinks or water fountains.
6. Paddle Boarding
Per the above comment about open bodies of water, I’m not the person you’ll find paddle boarding, but my friend Ellen is!!
Ellen says: “My favorite summer activity is paddle boarding! You can be as active as you’d like or peacefully float and share a paddle board picnic with a friend. Beaver Creek is a beautiful place to go with an easy launch dock and serene scenery. I also love paddling at Walnut Creek, Ivy Creek, and Chris Greene Lake.”
7. Boating The James River
A bit south of Cville in Scottsville, the James River Batteau Co. offers both daytime and sunset cruises down the James River on historic boats called batteaux. Once used to transport crops down stream, these boats are a fun way to enjoy the river without actually getting in the water! (Although swimming from the boat is encouraged at swimming stops along the way!) Note at this time children must be at least 8 years old to bring along.
Go with friends for a daytime tour or book a sunset cruise with charcuterie and live music.
8. Mountain Biking
There are several places to bike if mountain biking is your thing. The Warner Trail and Piney River along with the Ragged Mountain Trail were all recommended!
9. Cool Treats
The Birthday Cake ice cream at Chaps is the BEST FLAVOR ever!! I can’t even describe the combination of cakey and sprinkles.
La Flor Michocana is known for its popsicles! They offer a variety of flavors, from traditional fruity choices like coconut with strawberry slices to unique twists like Rum & Raisins and Tres Leches.
10. Vineyard Picnics
Cville is known for our beautiful vineyards, and there’s no better place for a picnic! Our favorites for picnics are:
- Jefferson Vineyards – lots of space for kids to run. Bring a picnic blanket to put in the grass.
- Eastwood Farm – beautiful views, kids’ juice flights, food trucks, Adirondack chairs and picnic tables under the tent.
- Blenheim – famous via Dave Matthews! Plenty of picnic tables.
- King Family – great for sports because there are lots of flat fields for tossing footballs or playing chase.
- Septinary – this one is adult only, so if that’s your vibe, head there!
And many more!!!
11. King Family Vineyards Polo
On select Sundays in the summer, King Family Vineyards hosts polo matches. Bring a big spread of food, open your tailgate, and wait for the wine golf cart to stop by so you can buy a couple bottles of Crosé! Check their events calendar for dates and details. (Check out Birch’s first birthday at King Family!)
12. Lunch or Dinner at Pippin Hill
While Pippin Hill is a favorite vineyard to visit year round, it’s especially great in the summer when their gardens are in full bloom. From peas to bees, most of the food served in the restaurant is grown there. Enjoy a charcuterie board or lunch on the beautiful veranda.
About once a month Pippin’s head chef Ian hosts a cooking school. It’s a really fun evening including a garden tour, hands-on kitchen experience, and of course plenty of wine. Read my post about it here.
13. Fridays After Five
Every Friday in the summer there is a concert at the Ting Pavilion on the downtown mall. Listen to music, bring a picnic (or get takeout on the mall), and enjoy some local beer and wine with friends. I recommend getting a salad from Tilman’s for yourself and pizza from Vita Nova or Christian’s for littles! Check out the music schedule here.
14. Concerts at the Pavilion
And in addition to Fridays, the Pavilion hosts concerts throughout the warmer months too. Some famous folks come through like Willie Nelson and Lord Huron. See upcoming concerts here.
15. Splash Parks
There are a number of splash parks in town:
- Greenleaf Park – a smaller water area and larger playground. Partially shaded too.
- Tonsler Park – a combo of splash park and playground (without much shade but a nice wall for parent sitting!) Parking can be tough in peak hours.
- Belmont Park – smallest splash area, but great if you’re staying nearby.
- Forest Hills – the biggest splash park with lots of features and a playground. Plenty of parking along the streets.
And if you’re an adult looking to cool off, head to ACAC for a workout and then hit up the rooftop infinity pool to relax afterwards!
16. Mint Springs
If you’re looking for a nice outdoor area with a swimming beach, Mint Springs in Crozet is your pick! Fun for a picnic and a dip when it’s super hot (if you like lakes!). There are also picnic tables and a playground.
17. The City Markets
Get all your local produce from the city markets! The downtown market is on Saturdays from 8-12 p.m. and has a mix of local produce, artisans, and bites to eat. A great spot to get breakfast on a weekend morning (pick up pastries at Petite MarieBette while you’re nearby!).
On Wednesdays there’s a smaller market at Meade Park from 3-7 p.m. Stop by for mid-week staples or dinner ingredients.
18. Pick Your Own Fruit
If you’re like to simply pick your own, Chiles is our go-to for fruit (and pumpkins in the fall). Just west of town, they have strawberries and blueberries in the late spring and peaches, vegetables, and flowers in the summer. Check their website or call ahead to ensure they have what you’re hoping to pick.
19. Outdoor Dining on the Mall
When the weather is warm (but not hot) you gotta dine al fresco on the downtown mall! Favorite dinner spots with outdoor tables and great people watching include: Zocalo, The Bebedero, Petit Pois, Hamiltons, Bizou, Fitzroy, and Tilman’s.
More recommendations: Best Restaurants For Dinner in Cville
Just outside of town, you can easily spend a whole day at Monticello and Highland. One of the most famous historic sites in the state, Monticello is the home of Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University of Virginia, sits at the top of “little mountain.”
The Monticello Trail is a great shady walking trail that starts at the base of the mountain and goes up to Monticello. It’s a perfect trail for summer, and the incline is easy.
Monticello also has a fabulous July 4th celebration with a Naturalization Ceremony. Learn more about that here.
Best Places To Stay In Charlottesville VA
- Vineyard: The Inn at Stinson is like staying in someone’s home (in a good way!). Do a chef’s dinner and take a dip in the pool!
- Romantic: The Clifton (where we were married!) has beautiful grounds, a restaurant with a nice porch, and a pool to sit by all day long.
- Luxury: Keswick Hall has the most beautiful infinity pool around. And the restaurant, Marigold, is amazing.
- Downtown: The Quirk is chic and a great walkable location to downtown and UVA. The rooftop bar is excellent!
- Countryside: The Farmhouse at Veritas will take care of you with from a multi-course dinner to a delicious brunch.
- Houses: Check out Be Still Getaways. It’s a collection of Airbnbs managed by my friend Jamie. Every detail has been thought out!
Charlottesville Summer Camps
If you’re a local look for summer camp ideas, here are some of our favorite day camps!
Living Earth – 100% outdoors for those kids who love being outside! Trek through the woods, play creative team games, swim in the swimmin’ hole, and build a fort. The perfect way to spend a summer day.
Camp 4 Real – this all-American camp is all about having fun! Located at either the Blue Ridge School or Miller School campus, campers play tons of classic P.E. style games, have dance parties, go swimming and mountain biking, and eat healthy lunches provided.
Virginia Outside – from beginner fishing camps to outdoor adventures, there are several in Cville that leave from the Rivanna River on day trips to bodies of water and hiking trails across the region. Ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those who love fishing!
Field Camp – a good mix of outdoors and classic camp life, you’ll spend your days outside playing field games, doing crafts, getting dirty, swimming in the stream-fed pool. There is an overnight option every Thursday!
ACAC Camp – great if you don’t love being outdoors so much! Tons of swimming in the huge pool, P.E. style games and lots of practice for sports teams in sports specific camps. Plus plenty of indoor fun when you need a break from the sun from a mini movie theater to arts and crafts.
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