I am a big fan of January. The month that’s denigrated as a little too resolution-oriented for some, and downright humdrum for others, is the month I welcome. I love the quiet beauty. The structure of school resuming. And that there is nary a holiday guilting me into hanging a bat wreath on my front door or compelling me to labor over meals labeled “nasty” after just one bite.
Admittedly, there is a flaw in the month: the bitter cold that cements kids (and let’s face it – grownups too!) to the couch, leaving us all monstrously bored and prone to epic tantrums.
Well, guess what? Turns out super winter-catatonic children (and adults with supersized resolutions) can be vanquished with a super-hero intervention. And coming to our rescue? Incredibly sophisticated indoor pools sprinkled throughout the Richmond region.
Swimming does a body good for a number of reasons: it gets us off the couch; alleviates arthritis; burns calories; and molds shoulders that will look toned and awesome in sleeveless shirts come springtime. (Have you seen some of those swim-team teens?) And when it comes to the kids, an hour or three of swimming laps or launching down a water slide later – and your grumpiest will be too tired (and wrinkly) to traumatize you further. While membership is required at each of these facilities, some do allow non-members to take lessons. Just ask!
So which indoor activity pools are the coolest hot spots?
Let’s begin with a Richmond jewel: the fabulous Weinstein Jewish Community Center and its five-star indoor pool environment. The two Weinstein JCC pools are open year-round. One has a commercial-sized water slide, a mushroom, and a small lazy river. The beach-slope entrance on this pool is a plus for little ones and for seniors who like to take their time getting all wet. A six-lane lap pool sits beside the activity pool and a lifeguard is always on duty, allowing parents of kids ages nine and up to squeeze in a yoga class or workout in the gleaming fitness center. Lessons are available year-round from instructors who provide exemplary role model material. The women’s and men’s locker rooms sport huge bubbly whirlpools, saunas, and steam rooms a la Carrie Bradshaw. So when the kids are doing laps, you’re sinking into heaven. All’s fair in love and winter-crankiness.
The YMCA (Goochland), while not the flashiest of indoor pools, devised a brilliant plan for providing a rockin’ indoor pool experience for you and your kids. Get this: October through May, the Goochland Y places a dome-bubble structure over its outdoor pool. Seriously, can more pools do this? The fancy bubble creates an 80-degree environment while the water stays between 83 and 85 degrees. All this warmth means your kids can play on a water slide, with a mushroom, in the baby pool, and with water features in a balmy environment all winter long. Yes, in Goochland!
The YMCA (Swift Creek) isn’t the Y from your childhood. Fancy slide? Yes, ma’am. Giant water bucket dumping the wet stuff from overhead? Got it. Toddler water-play area? Check again. Whirlpool that forbids kids? Checkamundo! (Plus, it sits very near the activity pool so you can keep an eye on your little ones.) If your children can prove that they’re drown-proof, this Y’s lifeguard will honor your kids with a wristband allowing Mom or Dad to take a cycle class or lift weights while the kids play.
Live in Midlothian? Bragging-rights allowed, because you live near the ACAC Midlothian that underwent a pricey renovation a few years back and now has phenomenal indoor pools for everyone. This wowza-experience has a beach entrance complete with shooting fountains and a tiny alligator slide also shooting water (for an indoor water-park feel) – all spurting from just a foot of H20, making it perfect for little ones. Older kids will dig the alligator “water-walk pad” that lets kids traverse an alligator’s back while holding onto an overhead net. A no-nonsense lifeguard supervises the fun. I love that the ACAC allows parents to bring in light snacks so the kids can eat at a poolside table. Also making the love list? Very near to the kids’ pool – but around the corner – sits a whirlpool and lap pool, meaning everyone can de-stress simultaneously. And if you visit the ACAC around seven in the evening, you’ll see little ones splashing in the pool and later padding out of the facility in jammies, for ultimate cute.
American Family Fitness, with locations throughout RVA, is known for indoor pool fun, but there are three that crank up the volume. The AFF Midlothian’s activity pool sports an elaborate pirate ship with two slides and squirting fountains. Midlothian also has a family pool, a lap pool, and like all AFFs, a whirlpool. AFF Swift Creek’s activity pool boasts a hot pink swirly slide and a mushroom that sits next to a lane pool. Live on the other side of the James? Then check out the AFF Virginia Center Commons that has an adorable activity pool for the younger set with tall squirting flowers, a spurting frog, and bubbles galore. Older kids will probably prefer to swim laps in the nearby lane pool. One caveat with AFF pools: no lifeguard on duty full-time. Children must be at least fourteen years old to be at the pool without an adult. But all locations do offer Surfs Up for members, a service that lets kids ages four to thirteen play in the pool and swim with a lifeguard present. So while the kids are in Surfs Up, parents are free to work out in the club.
Easy as 1-2-3…Counting Down Waterful, Wonderful Weekend Getaways for the Family
1. If you’re a parent and haven’t at least heard of Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, it might be time to think about turning in your cool-parent card. Great Wolf Lodge is a huge hotel with varying styles of rooms that surround 79,000-square feet of indoor water park. And it’s all just an hour from Richmond. Great Wolf is packed with exciting water slides with names like Howlin’ Tornado and River Canyon Run, a long lazy river, an elaborate play pool for toddlers, a four-story interactive tree house with a thousand-gallon bucket dumping water regularly, eagle-eyed lifeguards, and, as they say, so much more. Prices start at: It’s anybody’s guess! Great Wolf offers deals and discounts to Girl Scout groups, homeschoolers, PTA members, military folks, Cheerios lovers, and you get my point. (549 East Rochambeau Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23188; greatwolf.com)
2. Prefer the mountains? Then take the scenic two-hour drive to Massanutten for a large indoor water park lounging within a ski resort. Massanutten’s year-round water park features the requisite lazy river, wild water slides, water cannons, a giant tipping bucket, tube slides, an adorable frog pond for the little guys – even two whirlpools (one sizzling-hot for adults and a cooler one for families). Massanutten also boasts the first and biggest FlowRider® in Virginia
(a surfing-like experience) which teens absolutely adore. And yes, there are lifeguards everywhere. A food court sits beside the pools, which means persuading your children to take a break for some nourishment is a breeze. Hideaways Lounge is upstairs and is a relaxing spot for sandwiches with a front row seat (practically) to the indoor fun, and aptly named for parents needing a break. (1822 Resort Drive McGaheysville, VA 22840; massresort.com)
3. But the pièce de résistance for an indoor water getaway is the five-star finery of The Jefferson hotel. Our downtown beauty was opened in 1895 by Mr. Lewis Ginter who built one indulgent weekend for the entire family. Did you even know that The Jefferson sports a sparkling indoor pool themed to transport you to the tropics? Word’s out! Even better, it’s quiet and uncrowded. Kids can bring small pool toys and floats and whoop it up. Five-star properties earn their stars from their opulent surroundings, to be sure, but those stars also deliver white-tie service to their guests. And The Jefferson does not disappoint. Want a pool-side hot chocolate for the kids? One call and steaming mugs will be delivered to your chaise. A lifeguard is never on duty, so one parent can supervise while the other takes a breather in your elegant room and sinks into the (renovated) soaking tub with a good book. Yum-yum-yum. (101 W Franklin St, Richmond, VA 23220; jeffersonhotel.com).