city kids: a guide to summer fun in the burg.

I don’t know about you, but during the school year, I am BUSY. And my kids are busy. The end of the year arrives none too soon, but still shockingly fast, and I often find I’m… unprepared. Come Monday, June 10, I’m going to have that “oh-my-gosh-what-the-heck-am-I-gonna-do-with-the-kids-now” freak out. But this year, I’m determined to be prepared when they ask, “Mom, what are we going to do today?” So I’ve compiled this list — for myself, for you, for everyone who might find themselves in this predicament — of activities, camps and classes offered by Harrisonburg businesses and organizations to keep your kiddos busy allll summer long.

kids on a slip-n-slideSpitzer Art Center Children’s Workshops
Children ages 5 – 10 can sign up for one of many classes offered at the center. Register one week ahead for topics such as collage, drawing, water color, greeting cards, and more.

Larkin Arts Youth Summer Art Program
Kids ages 6 – 14 can attend week-long, 3-hour classes for $85. Classes include papier mache, sculpture, basket making, drawing, collage, photography, food art, painting, and a bunch of others.

larkin arts signArts Council of the Valley and Court Square Theater Summer Art Camp
These 3-hour, Monday to Friday classes cost $80 and include acting, characterization, script writing, choreography, improv, singing, dancing, poetry, filmmaking, comic creation, plus many more. Ages 6 – 15.

You Made It! also offers week-long camps, Monday to Friday for three hours, for $185. Ages 6 and up. Classes include clay, canvas painting, wheel throwing, pottery painting, fused glass, and several others.

kid in treeExplore More Children’s Museum offers 4-day classes, three hours per day, for ages 3 – 5th grade. Topics include LEGO engineering, Jedi training, Culinary Kids, Project Funway, Castles, Crowns and Catapults, Animal Adventures, and Construction Junction, to name a few.

kids hands holding LEGOSBlue Ridge Community College Learning Can Be Fun 
BRCC offers a zillion classes for grades K – 12, including art, music, dance, theater, culture, history, literature, nature, science, technology, sports and outdoor recreation. The classes run Monday – Friday for 3 hours each day, through the end of July.

James Madison University
JMU also boasts a large assortment of camps for summer kids, including baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, football, fencing and field hockey. They also offer band camp, diversity studies, poetry workshops, nonviolence seminars, and STEM classes.

Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation
In addition to spending some time at one of our many city parks, like Purcell, A Dream Come True, or Hillandale, your child can enjoy swimming at Westover Pool (open Monday through Saturday noon to 7pm and Sunday 1pm to 7pm) and a variety of classes. Some of their offerings include guitar, mountain biking, water adventure, adventure sports, rock climbing, rafting/kayaking, a ton of dance classes, archery, fishing, jump rope, skate boarding, and pretty much every major sport.

child in pool child at poolMassanutten Regional Library kicks off its annual Summer Reading Games, but you have to register THIS WEEK to get the free pass to the Massanutten Water Park. Other activities include Baseball Storytimes (Turks read to kids), Crafty Kids, LEGO Club, and Stitch and Knit, plus others.

RMH Wellness Center has full- or half-day camps on a weekly basis, for kids ages 4 – 11. Kids will learn about topics like dinosaurs, medieval times, the ocean, and space, plus participate in activities like swimming, rock climbing, indoor and outdoor games, playground time, crafts, fitness, and sports.

Library signYes, summer is about relaxing and decompressing after a stressful school year, but keeping your kids active will make them healthy, blah blah blah. Really, it’ll make them SLEEP WELL at night :) So sign up for something today! Consider it an investment in the sanity of your household. You’ll all be better for it.

child asleep in carCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

down by the river no. 22: riven rock park.

Like I’ve said before, something strange always happens.

It was a spur-of-the-moment plan. The air was thick, and the day was hotter than two cats fighting in a wool sock. Still a week before Westover Pool opens, and the kids and I were craving water. The sprinkler–even the fancy one with twelve settings–just wasn’t gonna cut it.

So I decided to take the kids to Riven Rock Park for a cool dip in the river. I texted Brandy, and she agreed to meet us there with Blake and Ella after they finished up at a friend’s birthday party. We got there first. The park was busy. Not overly crowded, but lively. Lots of families with the same idea.

So you’ve read a few paragraphs now and might be wondering, “Where the heck are the photos??” Well, you see… about that…

Brandy and her kids arrived. We saw them pull in and ran to greet them. And amidst the hugs “hello” and the retrieval of bags and towels and such from her car, she–woopsie–locked her keys and phone (a.k.a, the “river camera”) in the trunk. You KNOW that oh-my-gosh-i’m-a-complete-idiot-i-can’t-believe-i-just-did-that feeling. We’ve all had it. In fact, one time I flushed all my keys down a public toilet. It SUCKS, that feeling. Then she remembered her spare key, tucked up under the car somewhere. See? It pays to think of these things. Only the key was severely eroded and bent, and it nearly broke off in the door lock (but it didn’t, thank heavens!), and so we were back to that horrible hyphenated feeling. <sigh> Seeing as how we were all there, and the kids were dying to get in the water, and even with my phone we couldn’t have called anyone because we were out of cell range, and it was just too darn hot to stand there and worry about it, we decided to enjoy some time there and deal with it later.

Our first plunge into the frigid water involved lots of slipping and falling and shrieks and giggles. For some reason that now escapes my memory, we decided to cross the river (not very wide, maybe thirty feet, and only shin deep), and I swear it took half an hour to help four kids teeter across. Then–yep–we had to go back across. Still, along the way we saw a crawdad or two and some minnows, and we were refreshed by the cool water, the warm sun, and the beautiful surroundings. After that tiring endeavor, we got out and hiked up the trail a bit. On the way back down, Brandy spotted a place where a calm, three-feet deep pool had formed, surrounded by nice trees and rock formations and some mild rapids downriver from us. Blake and Bree jumped right in and were able to swim around. Cal is a bit short and couldn’t touch the bottom, so I hauled that fifty-pound boy up on my hip and used a giant stick (a branch, really) to balance myself on the slippery river bottom. We were going along just fine until Cal got wiggly, and I got slightly off kilter and lost my footing… and then lost one flip flop… and then lost my stick. By now Cal had practically climbed on top of my head to get to safety, but thankfully, my feet found a grip and we were all fine. Sheesh.

So it was time to finally deal with the car situation… the kids were tired and starving (and the adults, too), and we’d all had enough sun. The car thing turned out to be no big deal at all. We piled into my car and drove back into cell phone range, called AAA, let the kids play on a playground while we waited (not long at all), drove back to the park, got the car unlocked, swung by Beyond for some sushi (by the way, I realized on the way to Beyond that I was wearing a bikini top and a wet skirt. Woops. I actually called to see if they just wanted to meet me in the street, but they were cool with it.), picked up some pizza, came back to my house and enjoyed a very much deserved feast on my deck. Hence, these photos–the only proof you have that any of this actually took place.

okay, so imagine we are standing on the bank of the river, and not on my front porch.

sooooo freakin’ hungry.

gone in like ten minutes.

a warm spring evening on the deck.

all that worry and sweat and she’s still this pretty.

konked out before she even got home.

So, you’ll have to visit Riven Rock Park and see for yourself. Just be careful not to lock yourself out of your car, slip on the rocks, or lose your stick. But even if you do, it’ll still be a great day.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.