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  • Writer's pictureThe West End Mom

Beat RVA's Summer Heat: 6 Kid-Friendly Ways to Stay Cool

Updated: Feb 7

RVA's hot, humid days have arrived, but you don't have to let the heat stop you from exploring The River City with your children. I've rounded up 6 activities and places to try this summer that will keep your entire family cool even on the hottest summer days in Richmond.

The best part? I've got categories for each activity, so you can find something that works for your family's budget. You will find free places, spots with moderate rates, and splurge worthy activities and places for families to visit all around Richmond, Virginia.

*Follow @thewestendmom on Instagram and TikTok for things to do with kids in Richmond and around Virginia!

Here are 6 kid-friendly ways to stay cool in RVA when the weather is hot:

1. Play with Water: From running through sprinklers in your yard and splashing at local splash park to playing at massive water parks, Richmond has plenty of water activities to keep you and your kiddos cool and happy!

Free Splash Parks: Richmond now has six, free splash parks around Henrico County and in the City of Richmond.

Dunncroft Castle Point Park is my children's favorite splash park because it has so many unique water features. There's a frog structure to run through, a spinning water spout and lots of lower pressure spouts (perfect for our smallest friends).

I love this park for a lot of reasons! The splash park is completely fenced in and separate from the playground. The playground is great for children 0-5 because of the soft flooring and the ramps (full sun). My kids love running around the ramps. The bathrooms are also very close to the splash park.

Location: 4901 Francistown Road, Glen Allen, Virginia

Eastern Henrico Recreation Center: The splash park has so many fun water features! Almost the entire ground has something to run through or splash in. I really like that this splash park has a fence around it too (no gate). While the water area has full sun, there are some shaded areas throughout the day due to the sun's location.

The layout of this play space is really great with little kids because the bathrooms, playground and splash park are next to each other. The picnic shelter has full shade and a full view of the playground.

Location: 1140 N Laburnum Ave., Henrico, Virginia

Low/Moderate Cost Pool: Pocahontas Aquatic Center

Located in Pocahontas State Park, the aquatic center is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. While it has a daily admission fee, it has a *LOW* price & *LOTS* to offer. The fenced in pool area has a spray park, 3ft & 5ft pools, baby pool & activity pool. The two, large water slides are currently closed for repair, but will open back up this summer!

The activity pool is the main attraction for families with kids (~9 & younger). The pool is zero entry, going to 2ft deep. It has tube slides & small slides. There are spray features, including hoses & sprinklers.

Cost: It costs $9 per adult & $8 per kid (12-3) on weekdays. 2 and under are free. It costs $10 per adult & $9 per kid on weekends/holidays. Parking costs $7 on weekdays & $10 on weekends.

Location: 10301 State Park Road, Chesterfield, Virginia

Splurge-worthy Water Parks: Kings Dominion's Soak City

Open since 1975, this theme park is located in Doswell, about 25 minutes from Richmond. Kings Dominion has 12 world-class coasters, a 20 acre water park, a 14 acre kids’ area, music festivals & seasonal events. You could easily spend a day here & you’d still need more time to explore the entire park!

Soak City, the water park, is located inside the theme park, so it's included in your daily admission. It's a 20 acre water park with a splash park, wave pool, water slides, wave pool and more. Splash Island, the little kids area, has small water slides and water spouts in the ground and on the play structure. There are also a couple of sun shades around the play area that provide some breaks from the sun.

Cost: Tickets start at $39.99 on line. If you purchase a Gold or Platinum Season Pass, you can get your 3-5 year old a free Pre-K pass for the season too.

2. Eat Cold Treats: There are over 75 places to purchase ice cream and cold treats around RVA. From snow balls & shaved ice to rolled ice cream and over-the-top shakes, you are sure to find a cold treat for everyone in your family!

Free: Bruster's Real Ice Cream's Baby Cups (children 40" or smaller)

This popular ice cream spot serves over 24 flavors, include vegan & non dairy ones. You can drive thru or walk up to order your sweet treats. With prices between *free* and $7.49 for individual orders, Bruster’s is budget friendly! Baby cones cost $1.97, and all kids under 40” can get a *free* one. Also, pup parents can pick up a *free* Dog Sundae any time!

We especially love that the Bon Air location has a shaded patio and shaded play area. The sand pit with toys, the yard games & chalk are such a hit with my crew!

Moderate: We particularly love restaurants that have play options nearby, so the newer Gelati Celesti location in Bon Air is the perfect spot for a family treat.

This locally owned ice cream shop serves 24 flavors, including dairy free options… and more than 85 specialty flavors are rotated throughout the year.

There is a large, turf play area next to the ice cream shop. You can enjoy your ice cream inside in the AC or let the kids run around outside too.

Splurge-worthy Ice Cream Experience: Sweet Wynns Ice Cream Workshops

I found the *sweetest* kids class in RVA ! Sweet Wynns offers an ice cream workshop for kids & their grownups on weekends. Sweet Kids Workshops are an hour & 30 minute, hands on workshop where kids & their grownups make their own ice cream. For learning about the ingredients & measuring them to taste testing your own creation, you’re involved in the entire process. This class is perfect for pre-k & older!

Cost: Classes cost $30.75 per child. If you sign up for emails or follow them on social, you’ll see discount codes regularly!

3. Hike by the River: We love exploring by the river in the summer because it's always cooler by the water. The James River almost always has a breeze, so if you can hike in the shade plus explore by the water, you're sure to stay cool.

Free Hike: Pony Pasture

Pony Pasture is one of the most popular RVA spots by the river, especially on nice days! It’s great for families because you can hike or bike the trails, picnic by the river, relax on the rocks & even get in the water. I particularly love the trails in this area because of the views & the terrain. You’ll see the river, wetlands, creeks, forest & wildlife during walks. Most of the paths are wide & flat - great for little kids & strollers! The loop made by connecting Riverside Trail to Pleasants Creek Trail is our go-to in this location.

Free Hike: Robious Landing Park

Located in Chesterfield County, Robious Landing Park is a 102 acre park on the James River. The 3.4 miles of trails have views of the river & forest. It has ramps for boating & docks for fishing, including a floating dock. Robious Landing Park also has a small playground, picnic tables & 3 picnic shelters.

The Lilly Pad is ~5m walk from Osborne Park’s playground and about ~2m walk from the river trails. It's Richmond's only water-front dining experience, and it's right on the water!

Your family will love this *little slice of paradise* with riverfront dining. You can only sit outside, so dress for the weather. The menu has seafood, burgers, pizza + more. Plenty of options for even picky eaters!

4. Stay in the Shade: We love visiting parks and playgrounds all year, but in the summer, you have to visit ones with shade. I've rounded up all of RVA's best and worst parks with shade on this guide. Here's two of our favorites:

Free Park: Echo Lake Park

Located off Nuckols and Springfield, Echo Lake Park has a lake, nature trails, two playgrounds, a picnic shelter, and bathrooms. There's also lots of open space for children to play. The playgrounds are completely in the shade, and the nature trails are mostly in the shade. The decks overlooking the lake are in full sun.

This is one of the best parks to visit in the summer because the playground has almost complete shade.

This playground is located next to the Virginia World War Memorial Carillon. I like it because it’s fenced in (except a gate) and it’s perfect for the 6 and under crowd. The main play structure has three slides and climbing features. It has two swings, two baby swings and a swing that holds a big kid & a baby! Bigger kids would enjoy the large climbing feature, see saws and other balancing structures.

While the playground has full sun most of the day, there are plenty of large trees to escape the heat outside the fenced in area.

Yes, heat rises, but when your are in the shade & swinging down zip lines, it's pretty cool. And everyone 3 years old and older can try out this tree-top course.

Located in Prince George County, Tree Time Adventures is an outdoor aerial obstacle course. It has 4 tree top courses that take you on ~2-3 hour tour through the tree canopy. There is even a course for beginners & children as young as 3 years old. With almost 60 obstacle bridges, 8 zip lines, axe throwing & 2 nature trails, this adventure park has the *MOST* activities for all ages in RVA.

Cost: it costs $39 per child (Ages 14 and Below) & $49 per adult for 2.5 hours.

5. Explore Early: The sun is the hottest between 11am and 3pm, so we tried to get out of the house early for breakfast picnics and park play. These are two of our favorite playgrounds, but they have full sun. Playing at these parks during hot, summer days just isn't an option. So we opt to visit them for a breakfast picnic before the equipment gets too hot.

Free Park: Park 365

Located in the city, Park 365 is an outdoor play area that is open to all ages & all abilities. It’s open every day of the year from dawn to dusk. While this is one of the best playgrounds in the Richmond area, it has full sun throughout all parts of the day. There are two large picnic shelters and a water play area that provide some relief.

Also known as Libbie Playground, this fenced in park is located between Granite Ave & Libbie Ave. While it’s nestled in a neighborhood, it has its own parking lot & street parking. We visit this park a lot because it’s fenced in & it’s close to some of our favorite dining spots. It was also one of the places I could handle a 2 year old & a newborn alone.

You can also walk to Grit Coffee, Libbie & Grove and Cameo Cakery and Cafe from this park. Both have caffeinated beverages and breakfast items!

6. Travel to Space: It's the summer of space in RVA! 3 of our local museums have traveling space exhibits throughout the summer. Each exhibit is inside, so you can visit no matter the weather outside. Here are two that we've tried:

The Children's Museum of Richmond: Located in the city of Richmond, The Children’s Museum of Richmond has been a favorite spot for RVA families since 1981. It’s geared towards children 0-8 with exhibits for interactive & imaginative play and learning & creating.

The newest traveling exhibit *Moon to Mars* is open now through August 13. This exhibit has a space ship, space rover and a rocket launch. My kids loved "driving" the vehicles, collecting the "space rocks," and creating their own paper rockets. The highlight for us was launching our creations - children create their own paper rocket with a template, and then they get the opportunity to launch them into "outer space"!

Cost: Tickets cost $9 for parents & children. Under 1 are free. Senior tickets are $8. CMoR participates in Museums for All - families with WIC or SNAP EBT cards receive $2 admission per family. See my guide to *7 Tips for Saving Money on Museum Admissions* for more ways to save money.

The Science Museum of Virginia: Located on 33 acres in the City of Richmond, this museum has four floors of interactive exhibits for all ages. It has plenty of space to move around, and it's one of our favorite indoor locations for a wide range of ages. Our favorite permanent exhibits are The Animal Lab, The Speed Exhibit, The Boost Exhibit, and The Light Place (designed just for kiddos 5 and younger).

The newest traveling exhibit *Space: An Out-of-Gravity Experience* is open now through September 4. It has hands-on and large scale interactive exhibits and multimedia components. Guests can try on an astronauts glove and experience the simulation of picking objects up on Mars. Guests can launch rockets and learn how astronauts wash their hair & eat in space.

The highlights for younger children are the space station play house with astronaut dolls, Make Your Home on Mars magnetic board, and the astronaut's bathroom. Everyone will also love the large-scale space station - guest get to board the "International Space Station" and experience a simulated space experience (while the platform stays still, the walls rotate around you).

Cost: General admission costs $17 for adults (13+), $14 for kids (6-12) & seniors (60+), $10 for preschoolers (3-5), and 2 and younger are always free. This exhibit also requires an additional ticket if you are not a member: $5 per person over 2 years old.

The Science Museum of Virginia participates in Museums for All - families with WIC or SNAP EBT cards receive discounted admission. See my guide to *7 Tips for Saving Money on Museum Admissions* for more ways to save money.

Did your favorite way to stay cool during the summer my list? If your favorite RVA space didn't, send me an email at so I can check it out!

For more details on these getaway spots and more Richmond adventures, follow our family on @thewestendmom on Instagram!

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