Smith Mountain Lake is a beautiful man-made lake in southwest Virginia that’s an easy drive from Charlottesville or Richmond, VA or Raleigh, or Greensboro, NC. For us to get there from the south side of Richmond is about 2 hours and 20 minutes, though that time can increase depending on which part of the lake you’re trying to get to.
If you’re visiting Smith Mountain Lake (SML) during the summer, naturally enjoying the lake should high on your list. There are plenty of other activities in the area to keep youngsters happy and interested in your summer getaway.
Here are some of the best activities for kids in and around SML:
Hit The Beach
image credit: Virginia DCR website
There are two public beaches at Smith Mountain Lake. The first is at Smith Mountain Lake State Park, and the second is at the Smith Mountain Lake Community Park in Franklin County.
SML State Park has an entrance fee, as well as a day use fee for the beach. Check out the DCR website for current details.
SML Community Park is free to enter and to use most of the facilities, but the beach has an admission fee. Free facilities include playgrounds, trails, fishing pier and restrooms.
Mini-golf (ahem, Putt-Putt)
There are two main places to play putt-putt at SML – at the Bridgewater Plaza (right next to “the bridge”), and a few miles west of Bridgewater at Hot Shots in Westlake.
Harbortown Minigolf at Bridgewater Plaza is an old west-themed course built overtop the marina docs. The elevated platform provides a unique perspective of the Bridgewater marina and accompanying restaurants and shops that make up Bridgewater Plaza. Look the other direction and you’ll have an excellent view of the most trafficked sections of the lake.
Hot Shots is in Westlake, which is the hub of commercial activity just west of SML, in Franklin County. The course at Hot Shots doesn’t offer the scenery of the Harbortown course, but its also never nearly as crowded. The course is just as entertaining, and everyone will like the unique water features, including a large waterfall.
Get Ice Cream
Going out for ice cream is always a treat on family vacation. You’ll find no shortage of ice cream at SML. Here are some of our favorites:
Ice Cream Cottage, Bridgewater Plaza
The Ice Cream Cottage serves Hershey’s ice cream and always has a huge selection of flavors. Naturally, you can expect to get sundaes, milkshakes, and other frozen treats as well, but the handscooped Hershey’s ice cream is the best.
Homestead Creamery, Wirtz
About 10 minutes west of Westlake, you’ll find some of the best ice cream of your life. Homestead Creamery is a locally owned dairy operation that has a retail store with food items, local meats and cheeses, ice cream, and prepared foods from their deli. Seasonal varieties of Homestead Creamery ice cream are a real treat.
Visit the Alpacas
The Alpaca farm is an interesting, if not unexpected, operation right near Westlake. The operators are super-friendly and love to tell people about their animals. Visits to the farm are by appointment only, so be sure to schedule your visit! http://www.smithmountainlakefarm.com/index.html
image credit: Sml Farm Alpacas on Facebook