If you’re feeling cooped up during your learning time at home, maybe it’s time to look for safe new classroom and recreational environments.
Outdoor adventures await in Central Virginia and farther afield. Lessons in Virginia history and natural history can make a family field trip memorable — and the more flexible you can be, the more fun you’ll have.
Hit Montpelier’s trails
James Madison’s Montpelier is opening its grounds, gardens and trails to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Even some folks who’ve toured President James Madison’s beloved home don’t always realize that there is plenty to learn and enjoy outdoors, including miles of walking trails, the Annie duPont Formal Garden and much more.
A day pass for admission to the grounds is $10 per car; an annual pass is $35 per car, and annual membership offers starts at $50. Even better, if you’re an Orange County resident, you get in for free. It’s wise to save some time by ordering your pass online in advance at montpelier.org. That’s also where you can get the complete rundown on what’s open to the public and what isn’t on the day you’d like to go.
Plan ahead for kangaroo time
Scheduling some indoor options as well is smart, especially for rainy spring days. There’s still time to sign up for “Roos Galore,” Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection’s Zoom webinar on the wonders of kangaroos.
Kluge-Ruhe educators Fenella Belle and Lauren Maupin will explore depictions of kangaroos in the museum’s collection at 7 p.m. May 28 and 9 a.m. May 29. To register, go to virginia.zoom.us. Kangaroos pop up in many works of Aboriginal art, and Belle and Maupin will focus on paintings from central and northern Australia. It’s an opportunity to learn more about Australia’s wildlife and its significance in the world of Aboriginal art.
The webinar is designed with families in mind, but everyone is welcome. For details, go online to kluge-ruhe.org.
Common sense outdoors
Last spring, if you wanted to visit a serene Virginia natural area to observe rare plants and animals, all you had to do was hop in the car and go. But while the COVID-19 pandemic remains in force, it’s important to plan ahead. Parking will be limited, restrooms likely will not be open and some beautiful places still will stay closed, at least for now.
If you are planning to head to a natural area, be sure to check dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/nap-covid-19 before you hit the road. The Channels Natural Area Preserve in Washington and Russell counties and Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve in Roanoke County are both closed through at least June 10, and Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve in Fauquier and Prince William counties remains closed until further notice.
Keep a few things in mind before you start your trip:
» Go before you go: Make a restroom stop before you head out, and keep any trash inside your car to throw away at home. You won’t find restrooms or trash cans when you arrive.
» If the parking lot is full, it’s time for Plan B. Groups of more than 10 are not allowed, so if the place is packed, wait for one of the cars to leave, or go back later. Don’t double park, block anyone in or invent your own freestyle parking space in the grass.
» Practice physical distancing, even when you’re outdoors. Wear your masks. And if you don’t feel well, go another time.
New self-guided tour
If you need a backup plan, consider combining recreation and education on the new Chesapeake African American Heritage Trail. The self-guided driving tour and podcast will take your family from the Revolutionary War to the Underground Railroad. Check out the video at visitchesa peake.com