Explore America's Campgrounds
Balmy summer days in the 80s and 90s F with humidity that reaches nearly as high can make you yearn for breezy beaches where you can take a cooling dip. While Charlottesville's inland location puts you hours from the seashore, you'll still find plenty of places to wiggle your toes in soft sand and take a refreshing swim.
Go Jump in a Lake
Enjoy 2 acres of beach at Chris Greene Park 11 miles due north of downtown Charlottesville. You'll find the beach on a peninsula jutting out into the 53-acre lake, ensuring plenty of room to spread your beach blanket or build a sand castle near the water's edge. You can swim anytime between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the beach and its restroom facilities are open. Bring your dog to his own special beach at the lake -- a 1-acre fenced dog park that includes a roped-off swimming area away from the beach-going crowd. When it's time to dry off, take Fido for a walk along the Piney Forest or White Rock loop trails.
Up a Creek
Sun yourself on 2 acres of sandy beach along the southern shore of Walnut Creek Lake 13 miles southwest of downtown Charlottesville. Swim or rent a canoe to explore tree-lined coves around the lake. Need to get out of the water to warm up? An 18-hole disc golf course is right near the beach. Set along the park's Jungle Trail, you'll find challenges where you'll have to fly your disc between the trees or over bodies of water. Other trails tucked into the tree-lined lake shore conceal four old homesteads and 15 miles of scenic hiking or mountain-biking terrain.
Tucked in a Scenic Valley
Sixteen miles west of the city, Mint Springs Valley Park provides an acre of sandy shoreline set alongside a small creek. Swim out to an anchored raft in the 5-acre lake, or build a sand castle along water's edge. You'll find restroom facilities open from Memorial Day through Labor Day and scenic picnic sites near the beach. When you feel like stretching your legs, head out on the Lake Trail to discover two more small bodies of water and old homesteads along the Fire Trail. Or hike through an old stand of fruit trees on the Mountain Orchard trail.
When Only an Ocean Will Do
If you're longing to breathe the sea breeze and feel the salt water lapping at your toes, a three-hour drive gets you to Virginia Beach. The city has three beaches to suit your seaside mood. Busy Resort Beach is where you'll find the biggest crowds and a hub of activities that include car shows, festivals and concerts. Fifteen miles south, Sandbridge Beach offers a more kicked-back experience with natural dunes and nearby access to wild areas in False Cape State Park and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Smaller kids and their parents will feel more secure as they play in the gentler waves found at the sheltered Chesapeake Bay Beach on the city's north side.
Indulging her passion for wide open spaces and outdoor fitness through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, author Jodi Thornton-O'Connell takes the mystery out of outdoor skills and guides readers to discover fun ways to physically connect to natural surroundings.