Local Options to Get Active as a Family
“It’s frightening how damaging a sedentary lifestyle is for a child’s mind and body,” says Tiffany Lyttle, a local nurse and mom to seven children. “Too much screen time and lack of movement literally cuts years off of their lives and causes limitations. It’s such an important act of love for me to facilitate opportunities for them to stay active.”
Fortunately, Lynchburg lends itself to dynamic and creative activities for all ages. So, we talked to local moms, a nurse, a pediatrician and local parks and downtown representatives to bring you a comprehensive list of ideas to keep you and your family moving all year. These are largely activities that can be adjusted for any age or developmental level, and best of all, they can be enjoyed together.
As Samantha Moroz, mother of three, says, “Spending time together and being active fosters relationship, communication and develops a stronger family unit. We enjoy each other’s company more when we are active and doing things together.”
Here’s to staying healthy while making memories!
“Nature is good for your physical and mental health; green space and nature will put you in a good mood!” says Maggie Mace, Recreation Services Manager for Lynchburg Parks and Recreation Department. “Start small: plan a picnic in the park, throw a ball, fly a kite, create a nature scavenger hunt!” With more than five parks to choose from, Lynchburg families have plenty of options.
Not only does Lynchburg offer a combination of paved and earthen trails, it’s also home to a variety of ecosystems, from creeks and the James River to the urban forest surrounding our city, all offering endless items to be discovered. Along with Along with her three- and five-year-old boys Moroz says, “We explore the dirt trails, look for insects, find plants, keep our eyes open for creatures, and venture across the many suspended bridges.” Bonus: you can bring your family pet along for the adventure!
To help your young explorers, borrow a backpack free of charge from the main Lynchburg Public Library. Each pack includes “nature guides to animals and plants, a magnifying glass, discovery activities, [and] a port-a-bug field observation container,” according to the library website.
The Nature Zone
Located in the Miller Center at 301 Grove Street, the Nature Zone offers the chance to see “wild” animals, chat with a naturalist, watch a feeding and look over antlers, rocks, insects and other outdoor treasures. This option is a great primer for a family with young children or one new to outdoor exploration!
“Kids need to be allowed and encouraged to be active,” says Dr. Rachel Gagen, local pediatrician and founding member of Live Healthy Lynchburg. “Focus on moving your body, getting sweaty, and feeling the rush that comes with achieving a goal!”
Trails & Downtown Exploration
Running, roller blading, walking, baby-wearing or stroller-pushing—whatever your family’s preferred mode of outdoor travel, Lynchburg offers an option. “With steep hills and fantastic staircases all throughout the downtown district, you can create your own fitness routine for the whole family,” says Ashley Kershner, Executive Director of the Downtown Lynchburg Association. “And as a bonus, it’s free!” She recommends starting with the Bluffwalk or the steps of Monument Terrace on 9th Street. Families can also try the Percival’s Island park and trail which connects to Jefferson Street and the Blackwater Creek Trail. Kershner loves running trails with her one-year-old son in his stroller, saying, “Doing fitness as a whole family can instill values early on.”
Many of Lynchburg’s trails are equally accessible for bikes; pick some up for a day from Bikes Unlimited downtown or invest in some of your own. “We love riding our bikes in the neighborhood [or] on the Blackwater Creek Trail,” says Lyttle, whose children range from three to 12 years of age.
Try a Group Activity Together
“Children who have physical activity modeled for them want to be more engaged,” Mace says, and “Older adults can learn new activities. . .from younger family members.”
Music for All
Remember that fitness and activity can result from musical expression as well! Not all children will play competitive sports, Gagen says, so teach them to move in some capacity.
Check out the Old Time Jam at Riverside Park and the Park and Drum Circle at Riverfront Park and Community Market; these jam sessions are perfect to let little ones dance and get their squirms out. “Babies are born wiggling, [and] toddlers explore their surroundings with increasing speed,” Gagen says.
Reach New Heights—and Speeds
To test your strength and improve mental finesse, visit Rise Up Climbing located on Church Street, where they offer “Crag Monkeys” for children ages 3 to 7 plus other classes for all ages. “Climbing can be done with no prior experience!” Kershner says.
You can also “climb” Amazement Tower, “an endless maze of slides, ladders, tunnels, and a zip-line” inside the four floors of Amazement Square, a children’s museum on 9th Street; it’s “one of the tallest climbing structures in the nation. . . interconnecting all four floors and extending even into the roof!”
Finally, gain new skills and speeds at the Snowflex Centre on Liberty Mountain where tubing, snowboarding, and skiing are available year-round; they even offer late hours which makes for a fun summer evening out!
Mace recommends trying out the free Yoga in the Park series with Yoga Goodness Studio at Riverside Park in the warmer months. Or you can attend a class at their downtown studio where they offer classes for all ages and skill levels; “it’s a great way for parents and kids to learn alongside each other,” Kershner says.
Make a Splash
While the long summer days can be daunting, local parents should take full advantage of the aquatic options offered. Additionally, Miller Park and both YMCA locations offer swim lessons for all age levels at reasonable prices.
Splash Parks & Pools
Lynchburg’s various splash zones offer a chance to cool down and visit with friends; “the kids have always been huge fans” of the Sprayground at Riverside Park, says Lyttle. With younger children, Moroz recommends trying the zero-depth fountain at the downtown Riverfront Park. Finally, check out the pool at Miller Park where they have safe swimming options for all ages and a low daily admission cost of $2 or $3/person depending on age.
Ivy Creek Park
Mace calls this “one of Lynchburg’s best kept secrets.” Here you can “rent kayaks and canoes, go fishing, or enjoy a short walk on the trail” around the lake. They now offer youth-sized kayaks, so kids can learn water safety and independence. (Read more about kayaking on pages 13-15.) They also have the Cabin, which houses a “mini-nature center.” Moroz’s boys enjoy exploring the trail, collecting insects, and fishing with their dad.
“We are so fortunate to live in an area with exploration opportunities like canoes on the James River,” Lyttle says, adding that they also love natural rock slides and waterfalls along nearby Appalachian Trails. You can rent from James River Adventures, just across the river from downtown and located next to Riveredge Park, where you can safely park and rent whatever is needed for an afternoon of canoeing, kayaking or paddleboarding.
Fitness Bucket List