Virginia lets visitors go back in time and see the land of famous historical figures, including eight U.S. Presidents. Virginia visitors will come across captivating museums, hiking trails, wineries, mountains, beautiful parks, lakes, flea markets, VA beaches, wedding venues and unique attractions. The state welcomes visitors throughout the year and is a perfect destination of a fun-filled vacation steeped in history. Here are the best things to do in Virginia.
1. Shenandoah Caverns
© Courtesy of Miguel Montero - Fotolia.com
The entire family will love a visit to explore the natural geological formations in Shenandoah Caverns. The mile-long collection of caves and tunnels goes through seventeen connecting chambers with different formations such as the Rainbow Lake, the Diamond Cascade, the Grotto of the Gods, the Capitol Dome, and the Oriental Tea Garden.
The caverns will intrigue visitors young and old as they gain a sense of adventure and explore the many hidden passageways found underground. The guided tour is approximately an hour long, and visitors learn fun facts about the history of the land, how the caves were discovered, and the creation of the formations.
261 Caverns Rd, Quicksburg, VA 22847, Phone: 540-477-3115
2. George Washington's Mount Vernon
© Courtesy of melkenater - Fotolia.com
An iconic American landmark, The George Washington's Mount Vernon is a historic reminder of the legacy and life of the Father of Our Country. In the 18th century, Mount Vernon was a vibrant plantation. It is now one of the most beloved historic sites in the nation. Visitors can explore the estate and the reconstructions that give form to 18th-century plantation life mixed with modern-day functionality and features.
Each of the 18th century homes have been constructed to authentic form, and visitors can explore them and the surrounding lush gardens and grounds, as well as the intriguing museum galleries that are filled with exhibits and immersive programs honoring George Washington’s legacy.
3200 Mount Vernon Hwy, Mt Vernon, VA 22121, Phone: 703-780-2000
3. Norfolk Botanical Garden
© Courtesy of Microdac - Fotolia.com
Open all year round, the Norfolk Botanical Garden has a lovely indoor exhibit in the Baker Hall Visitor Center, including rotating exhibits of photography, painting, and other art. There’s different things to do for visitors of all ages; the younger ones will enjoy the Children’s Adventure Garden or the Bristow Butterfly Garden, while adult visitors might prefer touring the land on one of the daily evening bike rides.
Some of the themed gardens include desert plants, a Japanese garden, rose garden, and the Annette Kagan Healing Garden, which is filled with medicinal plants and streams. There’s a guide-driven tram that starts from the Baker Hall Visitor Center and goes in a circle around the garden while stopping in various locations as well as a boat ride that goes out into Lake Whitehurst. Things to Do in Norfolk
6700 Azalea Garden road, Norfolk, VA 23518, Phone: 757-441-5830
4.Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
© Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
A part of the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.’s National Mall, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center has thousands of aviation and space artifacts on display in their two large hangars – the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar and the Boeing Aviation Hangar. The items on display include the Space Shuttle Discovery and a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird alongside various aircraft, spacecraft, engines, uniforms, models, and other objects on display.
Visitors of all ages will enjoy watching interactive videos at the Airbus IMAX® Theater or stunning 360-degree bird’s eye views of planes taking off and landing at Washington Dulles International Airport from the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower. Other activities at the Udvar-Hazy Center include watching specialists reconstruct and repair rare artifacts at the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, participating in an educational Learning Lab program or in a science demonstration, or getting their own flight experience in a jet simulator!
14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, Virginia 20151, Phone: 703-572-4118
5. Edith J. Carrier Arboretum
© Courtesy of cascoly2 - Fotolia.com
The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum is located in the Shenandoah Valley on the James Madison University campus and is the only arboretum and botanical garden located on the campus of a Virginia state university.
Visitors are invited to discover the intricate trail system that takes them through various exhibits in the 125 acres the attraction takes up. Lined with mature Oak-Hickory Forrest, visitors will also come across a variety of flowers, trees, and plants, ranging from daffodils in the April Walk Daffodil Garden to New York fern in Fern Valley. There is also an herb garden, a wetlands garden, and an experimental planting area with hybrid azaleas.
780 University Blvd, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, Phone: 540-568-3194
6. Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
© Courtesy of Konstantin L - Fotolia.com
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville educates its visitors by getting an up close and personal look at the 3rd President of the United States and his beautiful plantation. There are multiple tours of the house and grounds daily, a state-of-the-art visitor center, dedicated exhibitions, a discovery room, museum shop, and a media center that plays interactive videos for visitors.
The tours are focused and guide visitors on specific aspects of the house, the gardens and grounds, or on slavery at Monticello. Designated a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Monticello takes back to one of our nation’s most historic times while exploring Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Things to Do in Charlottesville
931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902, Phone: 434-984-9800
© Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
Watching a video, walking through a site, or exploring artifacts can definitely take visitors back in time and give them a better understanding of the nation’s history, but none give a more memorable experience than the world’s largest living history museum, Colonial Williamsburg.
The 301-acre historic area is a true-to-life replication of Britain’s 18th century capital and includes everything from restored and reconstructed buildings, replicated products, and costumed interpreters that bring the decades before the American Revolution back to life. The different perspectives of history, whether it be Native American, black, or white, slave, indentured, or free, are all bought together for visitors to appreciate in Colonial Williamsburg. Next read: Best Things to Do in Williamsburg, Virginia
101 Visitor Center Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23185, Phone: 757-229-1000
8. The Mariners' Museum & Park
© The Mariners' Museum & Park
The Mariners' Museum & Park is one of the largest maritime museums in North America. Similarly, the Mariner’s Museum Library, which is located on the Christopher Newport University campus, has the largest maritime history collection in the west. Congress designated it as America’s National Maritime Museum, and visitors are welcome to explore everything the museums offers.
This ranges from over 32,000 artifacts with everything from maritime paintings, carved figureheads, and miniature ship models to working steam engines and the only known Kratz-built steam calliope to exist in the world. Since it was founded in 1930, the museum has also gathered a large collection of drawings and paintings by marine artists Antonio Jacobsen and James Bard.
100 Museum Dr, Newport News, VA 23606, Phone: 757-596-2222
9. Historic Jamestowne
© Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
What better place to explore and understand the nation’s history than at the site of the first permanent English settlement in America, Historic Jamestowne. Visitors are fully immersed in the 17th century, as the cultural heritage site brings history to life. There are over 4,000 artifacts that come together to tell the story of Historic Jamestown in the award-winning archaearium museum.
Visitors will not only be able to see items that have been unearthed from the site of James Fort in 20+ years of excavation, but they’ll also be able to see how the precious artifacts are preserved after being in the ground for over 400 years. Guided tours are held at various times throughout the day, and tickets can be purchased online or at the Visitor Center.
Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center, 1368 Colonial Pkwy, Jamestown, VA 23081, Phone: 757-856-1250
10.Military Aviation Museum
© Military Aviation Museum
The Military Aviation Museum has one of the largest collections of warbirds (in flying condition) in the world and is a treat for anyone and everyone who can make it out there when vacationing in Virginia. The complete collection has preserved and restored aircraft from 1910 to the 1950s, including from both World War I and World War II, and models from Japan, Germany, Japan, the UK, and Russia.
Most of the aircraft are in flying condition, and visitors can get a glimpse of their capabilities twice a year at major airshows hosted in the spring and fall. Fun Things to Do in Virginia Beach
1341 Princess Anne Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23457, Phone: 757-721-7767
© Courtesy of Ritu Jethani - Fotolia.com
Located in Richmond, Virginia, Maymont is a 100-acre Victorian estate and public park that Major James H. Dooley and his wife Sallie Dooley donated to the people. Visitors can spend the day treading the lands that contain a museum (which used to be the Maymont Mansion in which the Dooley’s lived), an arboretum, a nature center, and formal gardens.
There are also various native wildlife exhibits and a children’s farm on the complex as a well as an extensive carriage collection. The Maymont Mansion has a collection of exquisite antiques and furnishings to explore, while the elaborate Japanese and Italian Gardens are picture perfect. Younger visitors love watching the river otters play, petting a goat at the farm, or picnicking on the lawn or by the brook. Things to Do in Richmond
1700 Hampton Street, Richmond, Virginia 23220, Phone: 804-358-7166
12. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
© Courtesy of visualpower - Fotolia.com
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is a historic property with more than 50 acres of dining, shopping, and of course, spectacular gardens. The gardens cater to over a dozen different themes. Some of the more famed ones include the Rose Garden, Asian Valley, the Cherry Tree Walk, and Children’s Garden. There’s a classical domed conservatory amidst the gardens that is the only one of its kind in the mid-Atlantic.
Visitors can explore the secret passageways within the gardens, and the fact that the land was once Powhatan Indian hunting grounds makes the exploration all the more adventurous. The garden even has fun events and activities planned such as gardening classes, outdoor yoga, and even PokéMondays!
1800 Lakeside Avenue, Richmond, Virginia 23228, Phone: 804-262-9887
13. Chrysler Museum of Art
© Chrysler Museum of Art
Though the Chrysler Museum of Art was founded in 1933 as the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, it wasn’t until 1971 that the museum really came to life with the single donation of automotive heir Walter P. Chrysler Jr. and his wife Jean – the donation consisted of their extensive private collection. It immediately became one of the most significant art museums in the Southeastern US and is considered so to this day.
Visitors can enjoy over 30,000 objects at the museum, spanning over 5,000 years of world history. The pieces range from European and American paintings to present day sculptures, but some of the most significant include works by Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, and Salvator Rosa. The museum’s Glass Studio offers free daily demos, classes, and workshops that visitors can join in on. This includes an event every third Thursday of the month that combines adult beverages, music, and glass art as performance art.
Chrysler Museum of Art, One Memorial Place, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510, Phone: 757-664-6200
14.The Tomb of the Unknowns
© Courtesy of Kevin Tietz - Fotolia.com
The Tomb of the Unknowns, or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as it’s also called, is located inside Arlington National Cemetery. The monuments stands on top of a hill that overlooks Washington D.C. and is dedicated to American service members who have lost their lives without their remains being identified.
The tomb itself, as well as what it stands for, have a great history; the tomb was built from seven pieces of Yule marble quarried in Colorado, and the monument opened to the public in April 1932. The tomb is one of the most-visited sites in the cemetery, as visitors from across the nation come to pay their respects to the “Unknowns.” Things to Do in Arlington
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA 22211, Phone: 877-907-8585
© Courtesy of Paul Hakimata - Fotolia.com
A part of Colonial Williamsburg, the Governor’s Palace is the second largest building in the historic town – only being ousted by the capital building. The Governor’s Palace was the official residence of the state’s Royal Governors, including two post-colonial governors, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry.
Visitors can now tour the historical reconstruction and experience the grandeur and aura of the pre-Revolution era. The elegant décor of the house, specifically the Grand Ballroom, is sure to impress architecture lovers. Some of the other things visitors can look forward to include a large display of guns and swords, the tiered gardens, and a boxwood maze; there’s an ox wagon rider through the well-manicured gardens for a true 18th century experience.
101 Visitor Center Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23185, Phone: 888-965-7254
16.Arlington National Cemetery
© Courtesy of dinhhang - Fotolia.com
The Arlington National Cemetery was built on the estate of Mary Anna Custis Lee, the wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. The 624-acre site is where all who have lost their lives in one of the nation’s various conflicts have been buried since 1864, including military personnel, fallen war heroes, and veterans.
Those who have been buried at the US military cemetery date back to as early as the American Civil War and include Army Chief of Staff and Nobel Peace Prize winner George C. Marshall, President John F. Kennedy, and pioneer in computer technology and co-inventor of COBOL, Admiral Grace Hopper. Next read: Best Things to Do in Arlington.
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA 22211, Phone: 877-907-8585
17.The Art League
© The Art League
The Art League is a nonprofit visual arts education organization and gallery space in Alexandria, originally founded in 1954. Arts instruction is offered for more than 7,000 students annually at the League as part of quarterly courses focusing on fine arts and crafting skills for students ages five years old through adults. Guests can visit the League's public art gallery space, which showcases monthly juried art shows and a wide variety of special exhibitions, including solo artist exhibitions and student and faculty shows. After perusing art exhibits, guests can shop at the Art League Store, which is staffed with working artists and sells high-quality art supplies and materials at excellent prices. A variety of arts outreach programming is presented by the organization throughout the year, including public art openings and special event programming.
105 N Union St, Alexandria, VA 22314, Phone: 703-683-2323
18. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond was a concept that started long before the museum was opened in 1936; since the early 1900’s there were many gifts of art made to the state from donors such as Judge John Barton Payne.
The museum expanded in 2010 to create a total of 545,000 square feet, all of which house a number of galleries, including the Lewis collection of Art Deco and Art Nouveau and an American art collection. Visitors can also enjoy the Margaret R. and Robert M. Freeman Library and the E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden, which is an outdoor collection of alternating exhibitions on a beautifully landscaped slope complemented by a reflecting pool and waterfall.
200 N. Boulevard, Richmond, VA 23220, Phone: 804-340-1405
19.Basket and Bike
Basket and Bike is Richmond's premiere bicycle excursion company, offering guided rides and excursions throughout the Virginia Capital Trail and the main avenues of the cities of Williamsburg and Richmond. The company strives to bring the beautiful Virginia landscape to life for all riders, led by experienced local guides. Signature excursions include the 14-mile Journey Along the James, which traverses the gorgeous James River waterfront and explores attractions such as the Upper Shirley Vineyard and the historic 1613 Westover Parish Church. Discover Downtown Richmond tours stop at local foodie destinations, while Jamestown Island Bicycle Excursions travel for 16 miles along Jamestown Island's beautiful Colonial Parkway and explore the attractions of Colonial National Historic Park.
4305 Cambridge Rd, Richmond, VA 23221, Phone: 804-564-2568
20. Virginia Living Museum
© Virginia Living Museum
The Virginia Living Museum has a long history where it has evolved from a nature museum and planetarium in 1966 to then adding a focus on physical and applied sciences in 1976, and then a living museum in 1983. Visitors can see a range of traditional exhibits, living exhibits, and preserved land that is home to Virginia’s many indigenous species, the science center, aquarium, aviary, and the botanical preserve and planetarium.
The 5,500 square foot land has a ¾ mile boardwalk that showcases animals such as red wolves, bobcats, river otters, and pelicans in their natural habitats. The museums also houses a butterfly garden and several exhibits on the many environments that can be found in Virginia such as cypress swamp, the Appalachian Mountain cove, and coastal plain.
524 J Clyde Morris Blvd, Newport News, VA 23601, Phone: 757-595-1900
21.U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
© Courtesy of rruntsch - Fotolia.com
The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, is an iconic national monument that is recognized around the world. The memorial was dedicated to all Marine Corps personnel who have lost their lives defending the United States since 1775.
Designed by sculptor Felix de Weldon and architect Horace W. Peaslee, the memorial was inspired by a photograph combat photographer Joe Rosenthal took of six marines raising a flag on top of Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Visitors now flock to Arlington Ridge Park where the memorial is located to pay respects to fallen marines and view that captured moment of our country’s history.
Arlington, VA 22209, Phone: 703-289-2500
22. Virginia Zoo
© Courtesy of crystalseye - Fotolia.com
The 53-acre Virginia Zoo opened in 1900 and is now one of the biggest animal attractions in Norfolk, Virginia. One of the exhibits that the zoo is known for and that visitors adore is the Trail of the Tiger. Since its opening in 2011, visitors have flocked to the zoo to see the many large animals that have come all the way from Asia.
Some of the animals in the exhibit include orangutans, Malayan tapirs, rhinoceros hornbills, the chestnut-breasted malkoha, and the crowd-favorite, the Malayan tigers. Visitors can walk through the “Asian Forest” and view the animals in their natural habitats or even see underwater views of the tigers and otters!
3500 Granby St, Norfolk, VA 23504, Phone: 757-441-2374
23. Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
© Courtesy of Eleanor - Fotolia.com
While in Virginia, visitors can go to the Malaysian Peat Swamp, the Red Sea, or even Indonesia’s Flores Island – all at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach. The center has numerous exhibits for visitors to explore and houses over 12,000 animals from over 700 different species such as spotted eagle rays, Komodo dragons, and cuttlefish.
The Bay and Ocean pavilion shows the journey of different bodies of water in Virginia while the Chesapeake Bay Aquarium showcases the different species that can be found in the Chesapeake Bay. Other exhibits include the Marsh Pavilion, the Chesapeake Light Tower Aquarium, and Restless Planet. Visitors can also explore the outdoor nature trail and the half-acre aviary that’s at the center.
717 General Booth Blvd, Virginia Beach, VA 23451, Phone: 757-385-3474
24.The National D-Day Memorial
© The National D-Day Memorial
Located amidst a collection of iconic statues, The National D-Day Memorial was constructed in remembrance of the American D-Day veterans who lost their lives in battle. The memorial is dedicated not only to U.S. citizens, but all of the international allied forces that supported the US during the Invasion of Normandy.
Visitors can see the stunning sculptures at the 50-acre memorial against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains; over 60,000 visitors come annually to pay their respects. The memorial offers a wonderful opportunity for visitors to better understand the history behind the D-Day memorial.
3 Overlord Cir, Bedford, VA 24523, Phone: 540-586-3329
25.National Museum of the Marine Corps
© National Museum of the Marine Corps
The National Museum of the Marine Corps attracts over 500,000 visitors a year and is one of the top tourist attractions in the state. Since its opening in 2006, the museum has expanded to include exhibits on modern Marine Corps history as well. The museum has various visiting exhibits throughout the year, but some of the permanent exhibits that visitors will enjoy include the Legacy Walk, Making Marines, Defending a New Nation (which focuses on events from 1775 to 1865), and the dedicated exhibits to World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
The museum is one part of a more complex Marine Corps Heritage Center; the 135-acre campus comprises a memorial park, a chapel, parade grounds, hiking trails, a rifle range laser simulator, a classroom, and other facilities.
18900 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Triangle, VA 22172, Phone: 877-635-1775
25 Best Things to Do in Virginia
- Shenandoah Caverns, Photo: Courtesy of Miguel Montero - Fotolia.com
- George Washington's Mount Vernon, Photo: Courtesy of melkenater - Fotolia.com
- Norfolk Botanical Garden, Photo: Courtesy of Microdac - Fotolia.com
- Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Photo: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
- Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, Photo: Courtesy of cascoly2 - Fotolia.com
- Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, Photo: Courtesy of Konstantin L - Fotolia.com
- Colonial Williamsburg, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- The Mariners' Museum & Park, Photo: The Mariners' Museum & Park
- Historic Jamestowne, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Military Aviation Museum, Photo: Military Aviation Museum
- Maymont, Photo: Courtesy of Ritu Jethani - Fotolia.com
- Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Photo: Courtesy of visualpower - Fotolia.com
- Chrysler Museum of Art, Photo: Chrysler Museum of Art
- The Tomb of the Unknowns, Photo: Courtesy of Kevin Tietz - Fotolia.com
- Governor's Palace, Photo: Courtesy of Paul Hakimata - Fotolia.com
- Arlington National Cemetery, Photo: Courtesy of dinhhang - Fotolia.com
- The Art League, Photo: The Art League
- Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Photo: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
- Basket and Bike, Photo: BillionPhotos.com/stock.adobe.com
- Virginia Living Museum, Photo: Virginia Living Museum
- U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, Photo: Courtesy of rruntsch - Fotolia.com
- Virginia Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of crystalseye - Fotolia.com
- Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Photo: Courtesy of Eleanor - Fotolia.com
- The National D-Day Memorial, Photo: The National D-Day Memorial
- National Museum of the Marine Corps, Photo: National Museum of the Marine Corps
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Tom Mc Nemar - Fotolia.com
Founded in 1920 as the Norfolk Symphony, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra is the product of a merger in 1979 of the Norfolk Symphony, Virginia Beach Pops Symphony, and the Peninsula Symphony Orchestra. Visitors will be witnessing an important bit of musical history, as the symphony was, at one point, the only American orchestra between Atlanta and Baltimore.
Mostly, the Virginia Symphony performs in Williamsburg and the Hampton Roads metro area but also has performances scheduled at Chrysler Hall, the Sandler Center, the Ferguson Center, and in various universities in the state. Visitors can look forward to the soothing sounds of the symphony during their vacation in Virginia.
Virginia Symphony Orchestra's Administrative Offices, 150 Boush Street Suite 201, Norfolk, VA 23510, Phone: 757-892-6366
American Shakespeare Center
The American Shakespeare Center may now be one of the most respected theater companies in the world, but its humble beginnings started with a small Shenandoah Valley touring troupe. Visitors can enjoy the world of Shakespeare with plays such as The Taming of the Shrew, A Christmas Carol, Much Ado about Nothing, and of course, Romeo and Juliet.
The internationally recognized theater focuses on Shakespeare’s works and adheres to the original staging conditions so that visitors aren’t impeded by sets, but instead gain a better appreciation for the language and works for which William Shakespeare is renowned.
The Blackfriars Playhouse, 10 S. Market Street, Staunton, VA 24401, Phone: 540-851-1733