Charlottesville: Carter Mountain's Cultivating Curiosity Class
Updated: Aug 21, 2020
I've been looking for some structured activities to help us get ready for preschool this fall, and I was so excited to find Cultivating Curiosity at Carter's Mountain. We love Carter's Mountain, and we visit multiple times each fall to pick apples and to grab some pumpkins.
I booked our class the Saturday before our class (2 days). The classes do tend to fill up the day before the session. I tried to add G (1 year old) into the class, not sure if she would need a spot or how the class would work. It turns out that she didn't need a ticket anyway - she was too young for the craft and I purchased her an ice cream for snack.
We left Richmond around 9 to make sure we had plenty of time to make our class. Carter Mountain is 64 miles from Short Pump (about 1 hour and 15 minutes). We arrived at 10:15, and we had plenty of time to make it to the open air barn to check in. There is plenty of parking, and it's about a 2 minute walk to the barn.
I didn't bring our stroller, just our backpack, but I wish I had. Even though the orchard is not stroller friendly, I could have used the stroller as a home base in the barn, and I could have used it to make the walk to the peaches a little easier (it was a LONG walk).
We purchased apple donuts and sat at a picnic table while everyone checked in. There was so much going on in the barn that my kids loved it: lots of delivery trucks, flat beds, tractors, and more were busily working.
Inside the barn, most adults wore masks and our teacher wore a mask the entire class. In the open air portion of the barn, people only wore a mask when social distancing wasn't possible.
When everyone arrived, our teacher invited us to the sun deck for the story. Since most of our class was larger groups or families, the parents of the older children did not go to the sun deck. It was a little small to fit everyone and it was hot! We were on the deck for about 10 minutes.
After our story, we worked on an apple craft for about 30 minutes. When everyone finished, people used the restroom, had a snack, or watched the busyness of the barn. Our teacher said we could go to the orchard alone or we could go with the group - I really like how flexible the class is. We decided to stay with the group, so we could hear her lesson on peaches.
The walk to the peach orchard was pretty far. Both of my kids wanted to be carried, so we had to take a bunch of breaks. It was also pretty hot, so luckily we had on sunscreen and hats. We were the last ones in the group, but everyone waited on us at the top of the hill. Our teacher taught us about peaches and how the pick ripe ones. We were allowed to go down any row we wanted that was ripe for picking.
After we filled our bag with about 8 peaches, we went back to the barn to rest. We were exhausted after this! When the entire group returned, our teacher got everyone ice cream (peach or vanilla flavor) and we were free to explore the farm or leave.
About the program:
Cultivating Curiosity is a children's program that meets on Mondays and Tuesdays each week in August. Each week has the same class, and the themes change each week. Children can learn about peaches, apples, bees and more. The program is geared towards children between the ages of 3-8, but all ages are welcome to participate in the story time, craft, picking adventure and snack. Parents are required to stay with children (no drop off). It costs $9 per child, and this includes a snack and picking fruit. Wear your walking shoes: the peach orchard is quite a long walk, and the apple orchard is a little bit closer.
Ideas to Extend your Visit:
1. Charlottesville has so many wineries and breweries with amazing outdoor spaces. One would be perfect to visit for lunch or for the kids to run around before heading home. Just make sure to double check all of the wineries hours & if children are allowed (some do not allow anyone under 21).
2. Michie Tavern is at the bottom of Carter Mountain. This 18th century historic tavern has southern food, a general store (candy, ice cream, and more), and areas to walk around outside. There are a lot of steps, so it's not stroller friendly.
3. Mellow Mushroom is 25 minutes (7 miles) from Carter Mountain. It offers call in orders & curbside pick up. It is located next to UVA's campus, so you could pick up lunch and eat on UVA's lawn.
*Students move back in Friday, September 4, so the campus will have more traffic on it. I am not sure of all of the regulations, but when we visited Williamsburg, William & Mary required everyone who walks on campus to wear a mask.
4. The Saunders-Monticello Trail is at the bottom of Carter Mountain. It's part of Kemper Park, an 89 acre park along Thomas Jefferson Highway. The trail has a gradual incline, making it accessible for strollers, bikes, wheelchairs and walkers. The trail has boardwalks & paved paths. Face coverings are strongly recommended because some of boardwalks may make social distancing difficult.