It feels like just yesterday that we were patiently (or not-so-patiently) awaiting the start of summer. After a winter that seemed like it would never end and a spring that was temperamental at best, summer couldn’t get here soon enough. And once the kids were finally out of school, we all sighed a collective breath of relief. But somehow, the lazy days of summer have flown by with all the energy of an eight-year-old who’s missing after school sports.
Now that back to school is only a few short weeks away, you might find yourself in the position of wondering where the time went…and how much of your bucket list you actually managed to accomplish this summer. Well, the good news is that there’s still time. So make the most of it while you can.
We’ve put together a list of 14 fun family-friendly activities that you can do right here in Richmond (or fairly close by) before the summer ends. Best of all, most of them are free – or at the least affordable enough to keep your budget on track for the coming school year.
Whether you’ve had a summer jam-packed with quality family time or you feel like you need to make up for lost time, try these 14 fantastic ideas and make the most of what’s left of summer.
1. Go on a picnic.
What could be easier than a picnic? Put together your families favorite sandwiches and snacks, grab a blanket, and head to your favorite park. Or if you need some fresh new ideas, try one of our favorite picnic spots here in the Richmond area.
2. Find a swimming hole.
Pools are great for cooling down in the summer, of course. But few things are better than a good old-fashioned “swimming hole.” Fortunately, Richmond offers plenty of natural outdoor swimming options along the James River. Here are a few you might like to try:
Location: Cross the pedestrian bridge under the Lee Bridge at Riverside Drive and 22nd Street.
Location: 7200 Riverside Dr., Richmond, VA 23225
Texas Beach/North Bank Park
Location: 1941 Texas Ave., Richmond, VA 23220
Location: 463 Tredegar Street Richmond, VA 23219
Location: 8600 Riverside Dr., Richmond, VA 23235
There are few things to keep in mind when swimming in natural water, however. First, when the water levels are over five feet (click here to check water levels), life jackets are required – and we would recommend them for young children at any time. Secondly, always use caution when swimming or playing in the James. Water shoes are recommended to avoid accidents due to rocks or debris in the water. Safety first!
3. Head to a water park.
While some might consider swimming holes to be “nature’s water parks,” we realize that they’re not for everyone. So if you’re looking for something that’s a little more structured but a step up from your standard neighborhood pool, try one of Richmond’s local water parks. With slides, water features, and lazy rivers aplenty, they offer something for everyone in the family – and guarantee tired children at the end of the day. Here are some to try:
Pocahontas State Park
Location: 10301 State Park Rd., Chesterfield, VA 23832
Location: 13131 Overhill Lake Ln, Glen Allen, VA 23059
Location: 7900 Osborne Turnpike, Henrico, VA 23231
Soak City at King’s Dominion
Location: 16000 Theme Park Way, Doswell, VA 23047
Don’t mind a drive? Here are a few more to try within an hour or two of Richmond:
Great Wolf Lodge
Location:549 East Rochambeau Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23188
Water Country USA
Location: 176 Water Country Pkwy, Williamsburg, VA 23185
Massanutten Resort Water Park
Location: 1822 Resort Drive, McGaheysville, VA 22840
4. Catch a free (or low-cost) movie.
Taking your family to the movies these days can cost an arm and a leg. However, if you don’t mind skipping the new releases and catching some classic family favorites from previous years, then Richmond offers a number of free and low-cost movie options. Try these to get you started:
Movies in the Park – Free
Henrico Theatre – $1
5. Visit a historical site.
If there’s one thing that Richmond has in abundance, it’s history. From serving as the home to some of our nation’s founding fathers to currently serving as the state’s capitol, Richmond is filled with history from tip to toe. And there are few better ways to get your kids back in a learning state of mind than with history that they can experience firsthand. For some of the best interactive history spots in the area, be sure to see our list of Best Historical Sites for Families in Richmond.
6. Check out a state park.
When it comes to state parks, Virginia doesn’t disappoint. Virginia offers 40 parks throughout the state with campsites, cabins, more than 500 miles of trails, beaches, picnic shelters, special events, nature programs, and much, much more. If you haven’t had a chance to explore these amazing parks, here are some within an hour or so from the Richmond area:
Bear Creek Lake State Park
Location: 22 Bear Creek Lake Rd., Cumberland, VA 23040
Chippokes Plantation State Park
Location: 695 Chippokes Park Rd., Surry, VA 23883
High Bridge Trail State Park
Location: In Prince Edward and Cumberland Counties. Click the link for directions and parking information.
Pocahontas State Park
Location: 10301 State Park Rd., Chesterfield, VA 23832
Powhatan State Park
Location: 4616 Powhatan State Park Rd., Powhatan, VA
Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park
Location: 6541 Saylers Creek Rd., Rice, VA
Twin Lakes State Park
Location: 788 Twin Lakes Rd., Green Bay, VA 23942
York River State Park
Location: 9801 York River Park Rd., Williamsburg, VA 23188
7. Go camping.
For quality family time, it’s hard to beat camping. Camping gives you a chance to get away from the distractions of technology, explore the great outdoors, and learn how to rely on one another in a new way. Most of the state parks we mentioned above offer camping, but there are even more great camping spots in and around Richmond. Try our list of Best Camping For Families (Within A Few Hours of Richmond) for some ideas.
8. Take a family fishing trip.
There’s something special about sitting quietly on the bank of a lake or river and waiting for a fish to bite. If your summer has been filled with activity and commotion, then fishing can be a great way to slow things down and spend some peaceful time together before the busy school year starts. We’ve made a list of some of the best fishing spots in Richmond if you don’t already have a favorite place. But regardless of where you like to fish, be sure to check fishing license rules and regulations before you go!
9. Go out for ice cream (or make your own).
One of my favorite childhood memories was eating homemade ice cream on a hot summer day. But not everyone has the time or resources to make ice cream at home. Fortunately, Richmond offers more than enough options for ice cream that’s every bit as good as homemade – or better. Try a few of these local hot spots for cool treats and enjoy a family outing that everyone in the family will love.
10. Make back-to-school shopping fun.
Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be a chore. Whether you’re shopping for school supplies, clothes, or other items, keep the mood light and interactive for everyone. Try this back-to-school shopping scavenger hunt or create your own games when shopping online or in-store. Need your school’s supply lists or want to know where to find some great deals? Check out our Back to School Guide for Greater Richmond.
11. Take your kids to your alma mater.
Get your kids excited about going back to school by visiting your old school. This is especially easy if you went to a college in Virginia, or even better yet, Richmond. Take your kids on a tour of your campus. Show them some of the places you lived, talk about the classes you took, and take them to your old hangouts. Or, if you live near your old elementary, middle, or high school, call the administrative offices to see if they have staff on site who might be willing to let you stop by with your kids for a tour.
12. Squeeze in one last trip to the beach.
Who doesn’t love a beach vacation? But beach vacations can be time-consuming and costly. One of the best things about living in Richmond is our proximity to the ocean – and that means that a trip to the beach doesn’t have to take up a lot of time or money. With a number of beautiful ocean beaches just a couple of hours away, a day trip to the beach can be easy and fun for the whole family. Check out our guide to the best beaches in Virginia to plan your trip – or if you’re looking to stay closer to home, but still want some sand between your toes, visit the list of local swimming holes we mentioned above!
13. Go to an outdoor concert.
Outdoor concerts are a quintessential part of summer – especially here in Richmond. From large mainstage events to small local shows, there are ample concert series in the Richmond area that are fun for the whole family. While some of Richmond’s summer concert series like Innsbrook After Hours offer shows that are great for families, as well as others that are better for adults, here are some local summer concert series that are always fun for everyone.
Festival of Arts at Dogwood Dell
Location: Dogwood Dell Main Stage, 1300 Blanton Avenue, Richmond, VA 23221
Flowers After Five at Lewis Ginter
Location: 1800 Lakeside Ave, Richmond, VA 23228
Music in Forest Hill Park
Location: 4021 Forest Hill Ave, Richmond, VA 23225
Rockin’ on the River Concert Series
Location: Hopewell City Marina, 1051 Riverside Avenue, Hopewell, VA 23860
Westchester Concert Series
Location: 15786 WC Main Street, Midlothian, VA 23113
14. Find a way to give back.
Last but not least, leave your mark on the community this summer with a volunteering opportunity. Whether you choose to volunteer as a family or you want your kids to get involved in a community project before school starts, you’ll find a range of opportunities in the Greater Richmond area. For year-round volunteering options, see our list of Volunteer Opportunities for Kids in Richmond, or for some of the best summer options, check out our favorite volunteer opportunities for kids in Richmond this summer.
What sort of things do you have on your end-of-summer to-do list? Anything you think we should add to our list? If so, let us know. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how you’ll be wrapping up the summer!