Where to Cool off around Charlottesville:
Swimming Pools, Natural Water Sources, and Water Adventures
Summertime has returned to Central Virginia. The sun starts slipping through windows before six o’clock in the
morning, to the joy of many songbirds, and doesn’t set until almost nine o’clock at night. The well-known humidity in the area speaks to the lushness of this environment, and is often relieved by a breeze or an afternoon thunderstorm that arranges the clouds in dramatic shapes. But for those long summer afternoons when the sun shines consistently, the City of Charlottesville and the surrounding areas offer many ways for residents to cool off and beat the heat. The beauty of this locale is that there are both natural, rural sources of water where you can take a dip and the resources of the city and its populace are expansive enough to provide numerous public and private swimming pools. If you are looking for real estate in Charlottesville, Albemarle County, or the surrounding areas, you won’t be disappointed by the many opportunities to get your feet wet.
Charlottesville's Public Pools and Parks
Charlottesville’s public recreational amenities include two outdoor pools, an indoor pool, and three outdoor spray parks. One of the outdoor pools is Onesty Family Aquatic Center at Meade Park located in the historic Woolen Mills community, adjacent to downtown and Belmont. The community is named for the Charlottesville Woolen Mills, which was in operation for over 100 years until its closure in 1962. The Onesty Family Aquatic Center is shaded and equipped with a lounge area and chairs, lap lanes, underwater benches, hydrotherapy jets, a slide, diving board, and a current channel or “lazy river” in which you can relax and let the water carry you. If you have children, there is also a shallow area for kids age 2-5, and a bucket fountain that is timed to pour water every few minutes. There are also restrooms and concessions, and summer passes are available.
Just off Preston Avenue, near the Rose Hill neighborhood, there is Washington Park Pool. It sits on land originally known as Washington Park when it was deeded to the City in 1926, but the park was renamed the Booker T. Washington Park in 2001 to honor the close friend of Charlottesville educator Benjamin Tonsler. Similarly to the Aquatic Center, the Washington Park Pool offers lap lanes, water slides, a diving board, shallow play area, locker rooms, snack bar, and summer passes. The main difference between the two is that, instead of a bucket fountain, this one has a mushroom-shaped fountain. So the question is, do you want to be suddenly drenched or slip under a calmer curtain of water? Fun fact: the park is also known for the playground and picnic shelter given to the City by the Dave Matthews Band.
The site of the city’s indoor pools is Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center, which was recognized as a 2011 Facility of Merit by Athletic Business Magazine and offers one competitive pool, one leisure pool, two water slides, a lazy river, and water aerobics classes. You can purchase a daily pass, 1-month, 6-month, or annual pass.
Another fun way to cool off is to go to one of the spray parks, or “splash pads” as some people call them. These have a flat surface with drains that eliminate any standing water and have multiple fountains and spray devices that are refreshing, without requiring you to be fully submerged. Because of this they are considered safer than pools since they don’t require a lifeguard. The three spray parks Charlottesville has to offer are located in Forest Hills Park, Greenleaf Park, and Belmont Park. In Albemarle County, the community of Esmont has a splash pad located in Simpson Park.
If freshwater swimming is more to your liking, the natural environment of Albemarle County provides some alternatives that are open to swimming from Memorial Day through Labor Day (except on days when Albemarle County Schools are in session). Chris Greene Lake in Charlottesville boasts a 2-acre sand beach and 53 acres of water surrounded by trees on three sides, as well as $5/hour canoe rentals. Walnut Creek Park in North Garden also offers 2 acres of sand beach and $5/hour canoe rentals on 45 acres of water. Lily pads nestled along one side of the perimeter make it as picturesque as a Monet painting. With 15 miles of hiking trails and an 18-hole disc golf course, there is ample opportunity to work up a sweat before jumping in the water. Black Dog Paddle, a regional paddleboarding company, offers standup paddleboarding classes both at Chris Greene Lake and Walnut Creek Park throughout the summer. If you prefer a smaller, more intimate setting, there is Mint Springs Valley Park in Crozet with a 1-acre beach and 8 acres of water.
But if you’re thirsting for more adventure, try the rope swing over the popular swimming hole known as Blue Hole, located in Sugar Hollow just outside the Shenandoah National Park. Or explore a stretch of the 42-mile long Rivanna River, a tributary of the expansive James River. Through Rivanna River Company you can rent canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and tubes to make your passage down the river. On the James River, you can rent canoes, kayaks, tubes, and rafts through the James River Runners .
Your other option is the many member-only swimming locations that Charlottesville and the surrounding area has to offer. Here are just a few of them.
In the Fry’s Spring neighborhood along Jefferson Park Avenue (or JPA as it is known by locals) there is Fry’s Spring Beach Club . It is a private, nonprofit club with the mission of providing “recreational, social, athletic, literary, and education activities for the benefits of its members and their guests.” Established in 1921, it offers a 50-meter pool, water aerobics, yoga classes, and concerts. Available at the café are not only snacks but also beer, wine, and lunch and dinner menu items as well.
Blue Ridge Swim Club in Ivy is open on Sundays from June to August and offers a beautiful 100-yard, narrow pool built in 1913, filled with water fed by a natural spring. Thus, it is free from chemicals and is never stagnant, as the spring water is piped in and out. The water is notably cool, and refreshing on a hot summer day. The club also offers yoga classes, croquet, and live music for its members and their guests.
If overall fitness is your game, membership with ACAC allows you access to the elegant rooftop pool at their downtown location, as well as heated indoor pools, and a therapy pool. Through an expanded “full facility” membership, you can explore the Adventure Central Waterpark in Charlottesville.
Farmington Country Club houses an aquatic center that consists of a 25-meter lap pool with eight lanes and a wading pool for small children.
A membership with the Boar’s Head Inn Sports Club grants you access to a 25-meter outdoor pool with six lanes, a round pool with a slide, and a shallow pool for small children. To soothe your post-swim stomach growls, the Poolside Snack Window and The Café are open all summer.
The opportunities for cooling off in and around Charlottesville this summer abound!