Free in the NRV: Inflation-Proof Summer Fun |
Summer and the cost of living are not easy. With record inflation, some people are cutting back on their recreational activities to save a few dollars. The good news is that the New River Valley offers plenty of free and fun activities, including concerts, a swimming hole, craft sessions, beer tastings, and even a potato chip sampler.
Here is an overview of some ideas:
Swimming – Swimmers have long reveled in the free-flowing waters of Giles County’s Narrows Town Park Swimming Hole. Wolf Creek’s stone-sided swimming area, known as “The Boom,” got its name from the crash of logs hitting a traffic jam downstream. When the Hale family gave the Boom to Narrows, they stipulated that it would be free to the public. It’s always free – free pool, free parking, free locker rooms. A paddling pool is free for children under 4; others pay $2.50. But due to budget constraints, there are no lifeguards this year.
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Bike Skill Parks – The Blacksburg Rotary Mountain Bike Skills Park, located off Meadowbrook Road at the base of the Gateway Trail, offers two trails of varying skill levels with jumps, rollers and berms. Wytheville’s shaded Crystal Springs Mountain Bike Terrain Park includes beginner obstacles as well as advanced features including seesaws, rock chutes and ramp walls. Using natural materials from the surrounding forest – rocks, logs and natural slopes – the park has minimal impact on the environment.
Camping – The Forest Service allows free primitive camping in undeveloped areas of the Jefferson National Forest. The Poverty Creek area below Pandapas Pond does the trick if you set up at least 200 feet from the creek. Count on being off the network (and your phone). In addition, Wytheville offers seven free backcountry campsites at its 1,800-acre Crystal Springs Recreation Area. Sites must be reserved by calling Wytheville Parks and Recreation at 276-223-3378.
skate parks – Blacksburg’s 8,000 square foot municipal skate park, behind the Aquatic Center, features a deep bowl as well as a street course with metal-rimmed ledges ideal for gliding and grinding maneuvers. The free park is open to boarders, stunt performers, and remote-controlled toy vehicles from dawn until dusk and is unstaffed. The Christiansburg skate park on Franklin Street offers its own challenges, including a half-pipe, grinding rails, and a stair step.
Sports VT and UK – Most people don’t realize how many free sporting events Virginia Tech and Radford University host, including the August football games. The Radford women will face American U. on August 12, Concord on August 18, George Mason on August 21 and Wofford on August 28, all at Radford. The men will face W&L at home on August 22. Although Tech won’t have any men’s home games in August, the women’s soccer team will face Indiana on August 21 and Delaware on August 25. Virginia Tech Women’s Volleyball is hosting an exhibition game at Cassell Coliseum on August 16.
Music and more music – Floyd’s Village hosts more free music events per capita than anywhere else in Southwest Virginia. The Floyd Country Store is known for its $8 outlets on Friday nights, but this stop on the heritage music circuit also hosts free music events, including Honky Tonk Thursdays (7-9 p.m., July 28 and July 11 August) and Sunday afternoon. old-time and bluegrass jams. The session of yesteryear is animated by a different string orchestra every week from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Traditional instruments and dancers welcome. At 4 p.m., the bluegrass jam kicks off another two hours of music.
Saturday lunch at the store is another special event. Pick up a homemade sandwich and settle in for Americana afternoons (12 p.m. to 3 p.m.). You’ll hear everything from blues to bluegrass and the Celtic or African sounds that underlie American folk traditions.
The Floyd Small Town Summer Series in nearby Lineberry Park features eclectic live music at 6 p.m. on August 4, 18 and September 1. Every other Thursday (August 11 and 25), Kat Mills, then the Cosmic Porchpickers, play at the Floyd Hotel amphitheater from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
In Pulaski County, weather permitting, count on live music on Saturday and Sunday afternoons by notable local bands at Rockhouse Marina on Claytor Lake. In Radford, Bisset Park is the place to listen to local music on Tuesday July 26 and August 2 from 7-8 p.m.
The Christiansburg Library hosts Music on the Lawn (Haze & Dacey) on August 6 from 6-7:30 p.m., rain or shine. Bring a chair or blanket. Blacksburg’s Free Summer Arts Series sponsors Friday concerts on Henderson Lawn downtown from 6-7 p.m. ‘Out fest will blast downtown with free music, including Cocobolo and Crossties. More free music can usually be found at the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market as well as area wineries and breweries.
Movies (and free popcorn, too) – The Lyric Theater in Blacksburg aired free classic movies Wednesdays and Saturdays at 3 p.m. “The Godfather”, the last film of the summer festival, will be screened on July 30 and August 3. The Friday children’s movie, “Sing 2,” airs Aug. 5 at 10 a.m. Popcorn is still free for Lyric Monday moviegoers.
Museums (air conditioning and education) – Hot, humid summer days are the perfect time to peruse the air-conditioned galleries of local museums. Expect a few surprises. From “crowns of feathers” and local prehistoric plant fossils to amazing art by familiar people you didn’t suspect were artists, discoveries await. The Montgomery Museum of Art and History in Christiansburg, in a new downtown location, is free, as are the Wilderness Road Museum in Newbern, the Alexander Black House in Blacksburg, the Meadowbrook Museum in Shawsville, the Glencoe in Radford, the birthplace of First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson in Wytheville, and the Raymond Ratcliffe Museum in Pulaski. Tours can be arranged in advance to the new Pulaski Courthouse Museum, which commemorates county veterans since the Revolutionary War. Look for an incredible geological display along the staircase.
Nature Center House Price – The Blacksburg Nature Center on Wharton Street is the “animal house” for children. Visit live fish, turtles, snakes, ants and learn about the seasonal bee hive. A host of age-appropriate games, puzzles and books keep the little ones busy. Open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday morning as well as Thursday afternoon.
Beer and wine tastings – Blacksburg’s Vintage Cellar on South Main Street offers initiations to fine beverages during beer tastings on Fridays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and wine tastings on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Crisps tasting – The Christiansburg branch of the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library passes on a little epicurean knowledge of the potato chip on August 12.
Exchange of objects for children – The Blacksburg branch of MFRL is helping prepare for back to school with a supplies and clothing exchange on July 30, from noon to 3 p.m. Bring offerings; leave your wallet at home.
Yoga – Is it time to move? The Montgomery-Floyd Library System streams yoga video among its libraries for low-stress, non-judgmental workouts. The next session will be at Floyd’s Jessie Peterman Library on August 2 at 3 p.m.
DIY sessions – Once again, the libraries pass. The Blacksburg and Floyd Libraries regularly assemble a range of crafting kits. You can buy a new one every week (Blacksburg) or every two weeks (Floyd).