You’ve survived the holidays. You’ve almost made it through March madness. You’ve binge-watched so much Netflix that you’ve decided it’s official – you simply can’t keep up with the Kardashians. So what to do now?
Two words: Day. Trip. Day trips are the
best. They’re like a mini-vacation without the stress and expense – and when you get home, you won’t find yourself saying that you need a vacation from your vacation. Virginia has no shortage of opportunities to lose the winter doldrums without losing your sanity. These 17 fun – and accessible – day trips range from educational to thrilling and are a must-do for any Virginian.
1. Take a trip back in time at the Jamestown Settlement.
Virginia hails as the “birthplace of a nation” thanks to the first permanent English settlement in America, established in Jamestown in 1607. Today, you can see first hand what life was like in 17th century America with galleries, live events and re-creations of the Jamestown fort, historic ships and a Powhatan Indian village.
2. Be a part of living history in Colonial Williamsburg.
Just a few miles from Jamestown, you’ll find an authentic colonial town at Colonial Williamsburg. This outdoor living-history museum is one of the largest of its kind and offers tours, re-enactments, museums and unique shops for a one-of-a-kind historical experience. And thanks to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, many of these activities are free.
3. Festivals, Festivals, Festivals.
Spring, summer and fall, you’ll find a festival nearly every weekend in Virginia. Get your hippie on at large music festivals like Floydfest in Floyd and Lockn’ Music Festival in Nelson County or enjoy small town arts and crafts at events like the Heart of Virginia Festival in Farmville. Our state abounds with musicians, artisans, amazing food and better yet, people who love them. Check online to see what festivals are in your area – or where you can go to find one that fits your interests.
4. Tour historic Virginia homes and plantations – almost anywhere in the state.
With so much history and amazing efforts from groups like Preservation Virginia, you can spend a day, a weekend or even a week visiting beautifully preserved and reconstructed homes that tell Virginia’s story. From presidential manors to sprawling plantations, these homes show the elegance, artistry and wealth of some of Virginia’s founding families. Or, if you want to see another side of Virginia before the 20th century, head west and learn about life on Appalachian homesteads, with cabins, living history exhibits and more. No matter where you live, you are sure to find a bit of history close by.
5. Go glamping. Yes, I said “glamping.”
If you love camping, but sleeping on the ground is not your idea of a good time, then glamping is the thing for you. Glamping, which is undoubtedly my new favorite word, is glorified “camping” in fully decked-out trailers, tents, yurts, treehouses and eco lodges. It could just be a fancy word for sleeping in your car for the weekend, but regardless, it sounds fabulous. Glamp sites can range from simple yurts like the one shown here at Kiptopeke State Park on the Eastern Shore to the uber-glamorous. Check out Rose River Farms in Syria or Primland in Meadows of Dan for just two of the more upscale glamping options available in Virginia.
6. Go underground at Luray Caverns.
Luray Caverns is a destination in its own right. In addition to being the largest cavern series in the East and a U.S. Natural Landmark, Luray Caverns features guided underground cavern tours, museums, a seven-acre 19th century farming village, gem sluicing, a garden maze, a ropes course, a 47-bell tower, a country club, a vineyard and more. Located in the quaint town of Luray in the Shenandoah Valley, this is one place you won’t want to miss.
7. Eat, drink and be merry at Virginia's wineries.
Virginia is giving the west coast a run for its money with more than 250 wineries spread across the state. And after winning 29 medals at the San Diego International Wine Competition in February 2015, Virginia offers plenty of reasons to raise a glass—and no shortage of ways to fill it. Visit www.virginiawine.org to see a listing of wine trails and tours in your region.
8. Discover a new favorite brew.
Maybe wine is not your thing, but fear not, for breweries are on the rise. Microbrews, a long-trending beverage of choice for many, are plenty in the Old Dominion state. Devil’s Backbone, Starr Hill and Apocalypse Ale Works are just a few Virginia breweries garnering national praise. Enjoy a day of tasting and tours on the Brew Ridge Trail or visit www.vabeertrail.net for brewery tours in your neck of the woods and discover a new favorite – just in time for summer.
9. See the wild ponies on Chincoteague and Assateague Islands.
Located off the Eastern Shore of Virginia, these side-by-side islands have been long famous for their wild ponies. The ponies, inhabitants the Islands for hundreds of years, are thought to have first arrived when either a Spanish galleon shipwrecked off the coast or the original settlers’ set their horses free to roam.
One of the islands’ highlights is the annual Pony Swim. Every year, “saltwater cowboys” round up the ponies and swim them across the channel to Chincoteague Island. The event culminates with a festival and pony auction to benefit the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company and ends when the ponies swim back to Assateague. If you miss the swim, don't worry. These islands are perfect to visit anytime. Free of high-rises and large hotels, the islands remain peaceful and relaxing with beautifully preserved culture, pristine beaches and plenty of activities.
10. See planes...
The Udvar-Hazy Center is a companion facility to the Smithsonian Insitute’s Air and Space Museum. Located in Chantilly, it displays thousands of aviation and space-related artifacts, including the space shuttle Discovery. Housed in two massive hangars, the Center also offers tours, lectures, special events and an observation tower with sweeping views of Dulles International Airport – one of the busiest international airports in the world.
When was the last time you took a train ride that didn’t involve a commute to work? Just think….plenty of leg room, scenic views and no traffic (I’m looking at you, I-95). The Old Dominion Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society offers vintage diesel train rides leaving from Dilwyn and traveling through the hills of Central Virginia. Or with Amtrak stations all over the state, you can catch a train to the city of your choice, then sit back, relax and enjoy the view.
12. And automobiles.
If you’re into fast cars, visit one of the two NASCAR tracks located in Virginia: Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway. At the Richmond International Raceway, you can even have the chance to ride along at top speeds…or drive a car yourself. Some other racing options include the VIRginia International Raceway in Alton and the Virginia Motor Speedway in Jamaica, Virginia.
13. Hit the beach.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / flickr
With three options (a main beachfront with piers, hotels, boardwalks and shopping or two quieter beaches at Sandbridge and Chesapeake Bay Beach), there’s something for everyone at Virginia Beach.
If outdoor sports are your thing, every year, Virginia Beach hosts the East Coast Surfing Championships, The North American Sand Soccer Tournament, the Shamrock Marathon and the Rock n’ Roll Half-Marathon. For history, visit the Cape Henry Lighthouse or the site of the first landing by English colonists in 1607 at First Landing State Park. Or, if you’re like me, just take a day to sit on the beach and soak in the sun. You’ve earned it.
14. Get a thrill with rides, rides and more rides at Virginia's theme parks.
No offense Disneyworld, but how often do you get a chance to visit “The World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park”?
Busch Gardens Williamsburg has received the National Amusement Park Historical Association’s "Most Beautiful Park" award every year since 1990. This European-themed park offers six world-class rollers coasters, plus nearly 30 other rides and experiences perfect for any age. With nature exhibits, award-winning food and kid-friendly shows, Busch Gardens delivers fun for the whole family – or just an excuse to feel like a kid again. For other theme parks, consider King’s Dominion 20 miles north of Richmond with a built-in water park and 15 thrill-inducing roller coasters. You really can’t go wrong.
15. Slip n’ slide at Virginia water parks.
Most Virginians know Water Country USA – a huge outdoor water park with a full day’s worth of thrilling rides, slides and shows. But Water Country isn't the only place for slides and lazy rivers. Indoor parks like Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg and Massanutten Water Park in McGaheysville provide options year round.
16. Take a walk on the wild side at the Virginia Safari Park.
At the Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge, you can drive through 180-acres of free-roaming animals, many of whom will come up to your car – or simply stand in front of it and stare at you. Either way, it’s an amazing way to get up close and personal with animals you won’t see everyday – all in an environment that leaves the animals free to roam as they please. After the drive through, take the village walk to feed giraffes, interact with kangaroos, visit tigers and pet llamas, goats and pot-bellied pigs at the petting zoo.
17. Get outside!! Take a hike, take a picnic or just take a break at Virginia State Parks.
Virginia has 36 state parks offering a variety of activities. With countless trails for hiking, walking, mountain biking and horseback riding, state parks make for a great day out or a weekend of camping. A number of parks also offer lakes or rivers for swimming, picnicking, fishing and boating. With so much to do, there’s just no excuse to stay indoors.
No need to wait until summer for a break from the everyday. With so many incredible sights and experiences in this amazing state of ours, a good time is never more than a day away. Get out there and explore some of these options and tell us about your favorites!