We grew up on fairy tales. From Grimm’s somewhat graphic tales of magic and misstep to Disney’s animated interpretations of villains and heroes, fairy tales often fueled our childhood imagination. The following sites in Virginia all invoke a sense of the mystery, romance and intrigue that make fairy tales so compelling. From stories of lost love to rumors of pirates to scenes and settings that simply allow the imagination to run free, these spots in Virginia are a must-see for the young at heart.
1. The Devil’s Bathtub, Fort Blackmore
The Devil’s Bathtub is located 1.5 miles down the Devil’s Fork Loop Trail in the Jefferson National Forest. It’s a tricky path with streams and slippery rocks, but once you reach Devil’s Bathtub – a pool of nearly crystal green water at the base of a stone slide – you will feel as though you’ve entered a world all your own.
2. The Japanese Gardens at Maymont Park, Richmond
In 1911, the Dooley’s, a prominent Richmond couple and original owners of the Maymont land, hired Muto, a master Japanese gardener, to built this subtly beautiful and intricately elegant space. With a waterfall, paths, delicate stonework, and understated richness, the Japanese Gardens create a sense of being removed from your ordinary life – even if just for a moment.
3. The Wishing Well at Luray Caverns, Luray
It doesn’t get much more fairy tale perfect than a wishing well – and the Luray Caverns couldn’t be a more perfect setting. Hidden inside the largest cavern series in the East, this glowing green “wishing well” will make you believe in magic even before you throw in your penny.
4. Prince William Forest Park, Prince William County
Located near Quantico, this park is the largest protected natural area in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. With hiking trails, wildlife and natural beauty in abundance, it's like a place that time forgot.
5. Crabtree Falls, Montebello
Crabtree Falls is a series of cascading waterfalls totaling nearly 1,200 feet (the highest reaching 400 feet), making them the highest vertical drop waterfalls east of the Mississippi – and one of the most popular in Virginia. The rushing water, mossy rocks, and towering trees create an ethereal effect in which it’s hard not to get lost.
6. Humpback Bridge, Covington
Called “kissing bridges” because of the cover and inherent romance they invoke, covered bridges are instinctively full of fairy tale connotations. Built in 1857, Humpback Bridge is Virginia's oldest covered bridge – and one of the most iconic sites in the state.
7. Hidden Valley Lake, Washington County
Located in the mountains of Washington County, Hidden Valley Lake sits at an elevation of 3,500 feet in the Hidden Valley Wildlife Management Area. The name alone begs a visit…a lake tucked in a hidden valley? Yes, please. Better yet, motorboats are not allowed, making it a perfect place for peaceful fishing, picnicking or just enjoying all that nature has to offer.
8. Lover’s Leap, Natural Tunnel State Park, Duffield
As one of two places in Virginia where a pair of star-crossed lovers are said to have leapt to their deaths rather than live apart, this Lover’s Leap near Natural Tunnel offers an added level of mystery and intrigue given its proximity to the natural wonder of the tunnel itself. Legend says that a young Indian maiden fell in love with a brave from a warring tribe. Forbidden to marry, the pair threw themselves from the high cliff into the valley below to be joined in death as they could not be in life. The natural beauty of the spot only strengthens the romance of the tale.
9. Lover’s Leap, Meadows of Dan
Like the “leap” at Natural Tunnel, this picturesque overlook belies the tragedy of the legend that surrounds it. Folklore tells of a young white settler that arrived to the frontiers of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the late 1600s. He soon fell in love with the local chief’s daughter, Morning Flower. When their love was forbidden by conflicts between the Indians and settlers, they, too, chose death together rather than life apart.
10. Devil’s Den, Fancy Gap
This geological wonder, referred to as the "Devil's Den," sits at 2,906 feet just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway in an area surrounded by frontier history and fairy tale magic. According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the cave began forming 600 million years ago with the collision of Appalachian and Piedmont rock encrustations. A 280 acre nature preserve surrounds the cave and contains hardwood forests and open plateaus filled with deer, fox, birds, bats, and many species of migrating butterflies.
11. Great Falls Park, McLean
It’s easy to forget that things like traffic, deadlines and real life exist when you stand at the edge of Great Falls in McLean, Virginia. In the urban hub of Virginia, the Potomac River gathers at Great Falls to make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world – or at the very least the set of “Outlander.”
12. The Abandoned Renaissance Fair, Fredericksburg
The eerie emptiness of this spot makes it irresistible. Once bustling, the faire now sits in decay. Only open from 1996 – 1999, bad weather, swampy grounds and poor ticket sales are said to be the things that thwarted this Renaissance Faire’s merry existence. The site is closed to visitors, but these images tell the story better than words ever could.
13. Rockfish Valley, Rockfish
The Rockfish Valley Overlook at Milepost 1.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway has always been one of my favorite views in Virginia. It may not be the grandest or the highest, but there’s always been something special about standing at the overlook gazing at the storybook houses and farms in the valley below. This image captures that feeling perfectly.
14. The Ghost Town of Wash Woods, False Cape State Park, Virginia Beach
All that remains of this centuries-old seaside fishing community is overgrown cemeteries, a church and steeple and a handful of ruins. Once 300 people strong, legend says the community began 300-400 years ago when sailors shipwrecked off the coast, made their way to land and survived by farming, hunting and fishing. By the mid-60s the area was abandoned. But walking amongst the ruins, you can almost hear the stories of former inhabitants and imagine the lives that were once lived here.
15. First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach
Already famous as the site of the Jamestown Colonists' first landing in the New World, the park offers even more lore, legend and opportunities for fantastical exploration. With beaches, cypress swamps and plenty of trails for exploring, you can lose yourself in Native American history, tales of the first colonists or imagine the time when Blackbeard, the most famous pirate of all time, is said to have hidden in the inlets within the park, possibly leaving treasure behind.
16. The Homestead Resort, Hot Springs
With a somewhat sad lack of full scale, on-point fairy tale castles set amongst snow covered mountains or thick forest cover (think highest-room-of-the-tallest-tower-guarded-by-a-dragon type castles) in Virginia, the Homestead Resort serves as beautiful fairy tale escape – and more than makes up for the lack. With mountain backdrops and exquisite architecture, the Homestead has been serving our own version of royalty (i.e, U.S. presidents and celebrities) since 1818.
17. The Jefferson Pools, Hot Springs
Conveniently close to the Homestead Resort are the Jefferson Pools. Legend tells that the pools were discovered by Native Americans in the 1700s. They revered the naturally warm water for its mystical healing power. In 1818, Thomas Jefferson visited the pools, and folklore says he didn't leave for 3 weeks. It was Jefferson that drew attention to them, but with continuously warm temperatures, crystal water and high mineral content these pools, clearly, have made a name for themselves.
Of course, it’s hard to hit EVERY magical spot in Virginia – and you probably know of a few gems that should be added to the list. We would love to hear your thoughts and contributions in the comments below!