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Charlottesville is one of the best spots to raise a family (in fact it calls itself “the best place to live in America,” with a whole host of quality of life distinctions to back up that claim), and it is also a great place to bring the whole family on vacation. There are a number of kid-friendly (and family budget-friendly) attractions in the Charlottesville area, with something for every member of the family.
The Virginia Discovery Museum , on the east end of the Downtown Mall, is packed with exhibits, shows and demonstrations, all aimed at the under-ten set. The museum’s focus is on scientific subjects, but it tackles a wide-range of hands-on subjects from global cultures to math to the human body. Tickets are affordable ($4 per person), parking is free with validation, and the museum is open year-round, though it is always closed on Mondays.
Another kid crowd pleaser, the Old Michie Theatre at 221 East Water St. near the Mall has been a Charlottesville Institution for nearly 20 years. The Theatre’s company puts on productions and puppet shows aimed at children, but entertaining for parents as well.
Charlottesville also has swimming pools and splash parks that kids will enjoy in the hot summer months. Onesty Pool at Meade Park on Meade is the largest of the kid friendly venues with bucket splashes, slides, a beach like walk in access, lazy river, and more. Washington Pool also boasts a pretty great series of slides and a huge mushroom waterfall as well as the zero depth walk in. For a great splash park try Greenleaf Park or Forrest Hills Park.
There's also plenty of parks, playgrounds, trails and hikes to be had in Charlottesville. The Rivanna Trail can be walked, hiked or biked as it is paved. Follow the previous link for information on Virginia Bird Watching on the trail as well. However, there are many many trails throughout the area. Check out this link to see what they are and how to take best advantage of them during your stay. McGuffey Park is one of the most newly renovated playground parks in town with lots of equipment for little bodies to get their energy out with. McIntire Park is a golden mix of shallow children's pool and great playground (with golf course thrown in!).
Charlottesville also is home to the Ivy Creek Foundation which has a wonderful nature center, some trekking through the woods there and also some educational programming. This is a terrific spot for some communing with nature that does not involve driving out to Shenandoah. Pack a picnic and make a morning of it.
If you are bikers than Charlottesville is a great place for you! It's a biking city, so check out all the bike routes here: bike route maps
If you enjoy a farmer's market, you're in luck. From April to December City Market is a great place to grab a coffee, some artisan baked goods, some home made soap, fresh peaches, special batch jams, and all kinds of other incredible goodies on Saturday mornings. The farmer's market is also at Mead Park on Wednesdays in the afternoons. In the late Fall a Holiday Market starts up on the Downtown Mall and at Water St and South St (usually after Thanksgiving).
Lastly, there are plenty of seasonal events and special happenings. But there is a magazine for that! Charlottesville Family is available online. Check it out for the times you will be visiting or even if you're local or moving to C'Ville.