Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
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“Virginia is for lovers,” is a popular slogan that you’ll likely see while visiting this Mid-Atlantic state, but you don’t have to be traveling with your sweetheart to have an amazing trip here, although there are plenty of luxury spa resorts if you do. Virginia is also full of fascinating history, including the early settlements of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. Even if you’re not a history buff, Virginia’s landscapes are nothing short of impressive, from mountains and forests to beaches that connect quaint towns, wineries, and interesting roadside attractions.
Many people only see brief glimpses of Virginia when visiting Washington, D.C.; however, there is so much more of this fascinating state to see and explore. So whether you’re planning an east coast road trip or just a tour around the state, these are some of the best places to visit in Virginia.
City life and colonial history are big parts of visiting Virginia, but there is also a lot of agriculturally rich farmland throughout the state. One of the best places to experience this is Sterling. Tour the Heritage Farm Museum to learn about the lives of early farmers and even “milk” a life-like cow! There are hands-on classes here for the kids and a quaint general store to browse. Families will also enjoy the water slides at Downpour Algonkian. And to experience Northern Virginia’s nature scene while visiting this area, head to the Claude Moore Park and Recreation Sportsplex. This is a great place to go fishing or have a picnic, and it’s pet-friendly too!
Another Virginia city in close proximity to Washington, D.C. is Arlington. Located in Northern Virginia right across the Potomac River, this famous city is home to the famous Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery was established where Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s home was located and has become famous for its “changing of the guard” ceremony. This is also where other national landmarks are located, including the Pentagon and the Iwo Jima Memorial. Bring your bike along or rent one to pedal along the W & O.D. Railroad Trail, which spans about 23-miles and gives you lovely views of the city.
One of the most unique places to visit in Virginia is the colonial town of Williamsburg. Much of the town resembles a living history museum, and it’s a family-friendly destination that’s packed with adventure and education. You can tour the city on your own or take a guided tour to learn even more about it. In addition to the living history exhibits, there are some really relaxing spas in the area and art museums to browse.
The city of Virginia Beach is located right at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay along the Atlantic Ocean, making it the perfect destination for a beach vacation. This is a resort city that has been growing rapidly and has a suburban vibe. It’s a great spot for water sport enthusiasts and outdoor lovers because there are state parks, protected beach areas, and native wildlife in the area to observe. This is a favorite destination for families during the summer months. There are quite a few distinct neighborhoods in Virginia Beach, so also plan to explore the city beyond the beach to experience their diversity.
Richmond is the capital city of Virginia and worth a visit as well to learn about the city’s important role in Virginian and American history. It was a prominent Powhatan Confederacy village and settled by colonists from England in the early 1600s. The modern-day city we know Richmond to be was established in 1737 and many notable events took place here during the Revolutionary War and American Civil War. Today, Richmond has a vibrant arts scene, and it’s a great place to learn about history in museums and monuments. There are also lots of privately owned galleries, venues, and festivals to check out visual and performing arts. Don’t miss the street art murals! As a top “foodie city,” make sure to sample some local ham biscuits, pimento cheese, and a sailor sandwich.
Alexandria is a popular weekend destination because of its proximity to the nation’s capital. It’s situated right along the Potomac River south of D.C. and home to many professionals who work for the federal government and companies based across the river. The big tourist draw here is Old Town, which is packed with adorable boutiques, antique shops, and eateries. This is a very walkable city that dates back to early European settlers in 1695. It also prides itself on being an eco-friendly city. Top landmarks to check out while you’re in town include the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Gadsby’s Tavern, the Little Theatre of Alexandria, and Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home.
Norfolk is a Virginia city located at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and one of several cities that makes up the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. It’s a historic urban area with deep cultural and maritime roots that have played an important role with the U.S. Navy. Naval Station Norfolk is the largest Naval base in the world. It’s interesting to tour around Norfolk to learn about the different architectural periods that the city has gone through from the wood and frame homes of the early settlers in the 1600s to its rebuilding after the Revolutionary War and its Art Deco trends after the Great Depression. Plan to check out the region’s biggest festival in June, Harborfest, its Fourth of July festival, or St. Patrick’s Day parade depending on when you visit. Other top attractions are the city’s botanical garden and the Virginia Zoological Park.
There are great places to find entertainment in Virginia, but the cultural hub of Southwest Virginia is in Roanoke. It’s easy to see the colonial influences while driving along Roanoke’s roads because the city was an important transportation hub in the eighteenth century. You can visit the Virginia Museum of Transportation here to learn more about locomotives and the city’s railroad heritage. This is a great home base for visiting the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, which border the city and are ideal for hiking.
There are over a dozen different neighborhoods to explore when you visit Charlottesville, which was home to two different early presidents: James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson. One of the big reasons to stay in Charlottesville is to visit Monticello, which is about three miles southeast of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another big reason to visit Charlottesville is its wine scene. Although it’s a pretty small city, it is well-known for its wine and beer tours. Other popular things to do here are hiking, ballooning, and catching a live concert. If you visit in the summer, check out the Ash Lawn-Highland Opera Festival. And if you crave outdoor adventure, head to Shenandoah National Park nearby for hiking and beautiful scenery.