Mountain Lake Hotel is the same venerable stone lodge offering miles of trails, off-mountain adventures, and lakeside nature programs, but under new management the 200-year-old resort has a new name – Mountain Lake Lodge—and three aerial adventure courses. Once zip line is especially geared for kids. Feel the rush as you zoom over stately hemlocks, looking down on birds and the widening Mountain Lake. Zip lines build strength, athletic skills and self-esteem in kids of all ages. www.mountainlakelodge.com
In the grand tradition of Barter Theatre, the Barter Players entertain younger audiences with a wonderful combination of education and drama. High-energy productions of classic literature and beloved children’s stories are staged regularly as matinees and summer plays. Some shows on tap include: Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat (April 30—May 23), Pied Piper of Hamlin (May 28—June 22), Cinderella (June 25-July 21), Mother Goose (July 24 – August 11), and Little House on the Prairie (Sept. 25—Nov. 19) But that’s not all, with advance arrangements, visitors can have a backstage tour of the sets, props, and costume room or spend 15 minutes chatting with the actors, directors, or designers of the show they just watched. (276) 619-5406; www.bartertheatre.com.
Towering palisades like castles line the water’s edge as your canoe glides through the bends of the New River in Giles County. This paddling adventure follows the course of pioneer woman Mary Draper Ingles as she reached the end of her long journey home in 1755 after escaping from Shawnees. Your trip is considerably easier than Mary’s as you let the river draw you along at 1-2 miles per hour over gentle Class I and II rapids interspersed with flatwater pools. The New River supports remarkable populations of largemouth bass, rock bass, and muskellunge here, so give in to the urge to try some fly casting if you’re an angler. See http://gilescounty.org for outfitters.
Tucked into a narrow ravine off Radford’s main street, lies a treasury of wildflowers and songbirds. A honeycomb of footpaths, many mountain-goat steep, radiate up the banks on either side of Connelly’s Run. You enter the park from a paved cul-de-sac whose north side is washed with a travertine waterfall that adds a new coat of limestone as it splashes down the cliff. On the shaley left side, you’ll find a wealth of dry-environment flowers: asters, bergamot, sneezeweed, and hepaticas, on the right, a wealth of quivering spring beauties, larkspur, trillium, bloodroot, and wild geranium. www.radfordpl.org/wildwood
The Saltville area has been a human community for 14,000 years, so that is how far back the Museum of the Middle Appalachians starts its exhibits. Pose for your picture with the mastodon, giant beaver, or woolly mammoth. Learn more about the Ice Age history of this salt-rich valley, its two Civil War battles, and the part that salt has played in the town’s history. Then drive out by the salt flats, home to one of the region’s largest heron rookeries.
Beagle Ridge Herb Farm near Wytheville erected the area’s first butterfly house to delight visitors with the antics of swooping swallowtails, monarchs, painted ladies, and other native butterflies. Fluttering, frolicking, and alighting on their guests, these beauties seem to resemble “flying flowers,” the name Ellen Reynolds gave to the clear plastic butterfly house in her sprawling herb garden. Flying Flowers opens May 11, when Reynolds’ releases her newly hatched lepidoptera into the flower-festooned butterfly house. Reynolds hosts a tea with the butterflies every Saturday afternoon in June and July, and celebrates the September Saturday when she and guests release the monarchs for their southward migration. Beagle Ridge also offers ATV excursions for those who want an immersion experience in the surrounding Blue Ridge forest. (276) 621-4511; www.beagleridgeherbfarm.com