Know the ropes

Explore Park opens Treetop Quest, its challenging ropes and obstacle course, on July 1. The woods will be laced together with tightropes, rope nets, zip lines, swings and other high-flying adventures that are open for everyone ages 4 and older. Treetop Quest looks like it will be hugely popular, so families should book their outings in advance.

The aerial adventure park is designed and constructed by Treetop Quest LLC and is similar to other parks the company operates near Atlanta and Philadelphia. Treetop Quest will be open daily July 1 through Aug. 11 and then open only on weekends through December. Prices for a two-and-a-half-hour adventure range from $15 for small children up to $35 for adults 18 and older. Don’t forget, Explore Park now has overnight camping options, with campers receiving 10% discounts on Treetop Quest. Reserve your place in the trees by calling 427-1800. Groups of 10 or more are asked to call 777-6391 and leave a message.

Hit the ice!

Who says ice skating and hockey are just winter sports? The ice rink at the Lancerlot Sports Complex in Vinton is open all summer long, with daily public skating sessions, hockey games and lessons. Public skating times run 9-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. most weekdays, with limited skating hours on the weekends. Admission for skating is $7; skate rental is $3. For the full Lancerlot schedule, go online to or call 981-0205.

Blue-ribbon exhibits

The whole family can enter exhibits at the Salem and New River Valley fairs. Categories that include art, photography, food and dozens of others are open to grown-ups and children. Seeing your handiwork on display elicits feelings of pride and accomplishment — not to mention you can win cash. But it’s really just about the feelings of accomplishment, right?

You can get information about the Salem Fair exhibits registration at The New River Valley Fair guidelines are at Both websites are updating their information, so you might have to check back later this month. The Salem Fair runs July 3-14, and the New River Valley Fair happens July 22-27.

Jars, jobs and fun

Kid bored? Then it’s time to draw a job from the Jar of Chores! My family has two jars, one for chores and the other for fun stuff. The Jar of Chores contains slips of paper bearing simple tasks, such as sweeping the stairs, loading/unloading the dishwasher and the like. The Jar of Fun can include anything your children enjoy, from drawing with sidewalk chalk to playing in the sprinklers to eating a bowl of ice cream. The jars are easy responses to youthful complaints of boredom.

Races, rides and sports camps

Even if your children aren’t playing for elite travel sports teams that overwhelm your family’s weekend schedules and empty your savings account, kids can still participate in sports through races, organized rides and camps. The Fishburn Park Junior Mountain Bike Races happen in July and are open to riders ages 4-14. Blacksburg plays hosts to a kids’ triathlon for children ages 4-10 on July 7. And Salem offers numerous half-day sports camps in July and August.

Fishburn Park Junior Mountain Bike Races

The course is geared more toward rookie mountain bikers.

When: 5:30 p.m., July 2, 9, 16

Where: Fishburn Park, Roanoke

Cost: Free, but registration required


Kids in Triathlon (KIT) Youth Triathlon

Children swim, bicycle and run in a race that’s more about having fun than placing first.

When: 8 a.m., July 7

Where: Community Center, 725 Patrick Henry Drive, Blacksburg

Cost: $40 until July 1; $45 after


Salem sports camps

Baseball, football, basketball, softball, soccer, golf, lacrosse and other camps are offered, including non-sports camps.

When: July and August

Cost: Varies

Information:, 375-3054

Movies at dusk

A warm summer night, a starry sky and a big inflatable screen. What more do you need for a fun night at an outdoors movie? How about free popcorn! The Roanoke and New River valleys light up the great outdoors with free movie nights all summer. And don’t forget the drive-in theaters still around: the Starlite in Christiansburg, Hull’s in Lexington and Park Place in Marion.

Movies in the Market

Where: Roanoke’s City Market

When: June 14, “Bumblebee”; July 12, “Mary Poppins Returns”; Aug. 9, “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial”

Movies at Longwood

Where: Longwood Park, Salem

When: June 14, “Ralph Breaks the Internet”; July 12, “Christopher Robin”; Aug. 16, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”

Books and more

Every library in our region offers reading programs, entertainment, classes and other fun things for kids so their brains don’t go soft this summer. Pick up a schedule at your local library and hang it on your fridge or pin it to a bulletin board.

Ralph Berrier Jr. has worked at The Roanoke Times since 1993, was the paper’s music reporter from 2000-2007 and he currently writes the Dadline parenting column and is a general assignment features reporter.

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