Virginia is full of history, to be sure. But some of the things that we learn about our state as we dig a little deeper may be surprising. From facts that are fun, to things that you really just never thought about, there’s ALWAYS something new to learn about our lovely – and ever-fascinating – home state. Here are a few tidbits that you might want to keep with you next time you want to impress your guests at a dinner party…
1. Virginia accounts for 1 out of 10 "vanity" plates in the nation. With more than 1.2 million registered personalized plates, we have more vanity plates than there are people in the state of Rhode Island.
Virginia has more than 8 million residents; that means that we have 1,262,820 specialized plates registered in the state. That's a LOT of cryptic messaging, folks.
2. Virginia handles 70% of the world's internet traffic.
Know as the "Silicon Valley of the East," well over half of the world's internet traffic goes through data centers in Loudoun County.
3. More than half of all U.S. residents live within 500 miles of Virginia.
We know the East Coast is heavily populated, but Virginia is at the heart of it all. Most people in the country can get to Virginia within a day's drive and more than 60% live within a day's drive of our capital city, Richmond.
4. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's historic home, is the only private home in the United States to be named a United Nations World Heritage site.
The United Nations chooses its World Heritage sites based on how they “represent a masterpiece of human creative genius” and “exhibit an important interchange of human values." Monticello fits the bill on every count. If you haven't been…you should!
5. Virginia was the site of more Civil War battles than any other state, with more than 120 major battles being fought here. That's an average of one major battle every 12 days throughout the war.
Not counting skirmishes or other military engagements, Virginia saw 123 major battles during the war, including the first major engagement at Bull Run and the last battle at Appomattox Courthouse. The war lasted from April 12, 1861 until April 9, 1865, making for 1,457 long days in between.
6. The Pentagon is the largest office building in the world and has TWICE the office space of the Empire State Building.
With 5,100,000 square feet, it's possible to get across the entire building in under 10 minutes, but only if you take shortcuts - and walk quickly. But don't worry - if you can't physically make the walk, the Department of Defense provides scooters that will get you there at a top speed of 3 mph.
7. And speaking of the Pentagon, construction on the Pentagon began on September 11, 1941, exactly 60 years to the day before American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Nearly 200 people died during the attack, although fortunately, recent renovations had included reinforced concrete and blast-proof windows, certainly sparing hundreds of additional lives that day.
9. Sorry, but I've got to give you one more. The Pentagon has 68,000 miles of internal telephone lines. That's enough phone line to stretch from Florida to Washington state more than 22 times.
That's a whole lotta phone line.
9. The first quarter horse, one of the most popular horses in America, was bred in Virginia.
Quarter horses, one of the most popular American breeds, got their start in Virginia. These horses, named for their speed on quarter-mile flat tracks, trace their roots to cross-breeding of Spanish horses used by colonists and English thoroughbreds. Janus, an English thoroughbred imported to Virginia in 1756, is considered one of the most important sires for the breed as we know it today.
10. The Wren Building at W&M is the oldest college building in the U.S.
Despite being gutted by fire three times (1705, 1859 and 1862) The Wren Building just keeps on keeping on. Built between 1695 and 1700, the building was the heart of the newly formed school and was simply known as “the College.” It was named after the famous English architect, Sir Christopher Wren, in 1931.
11. In 2015, we sold 6.5 million bottles of Virginia-made wine. That's a bottle for nearly every person in the state of Massachusetts.
As the 5th highest producer of wine in the nation, Virginia has more than 250 wineries.
12. Colonial Williamsburg is the world's largest living history museum. The Louvre in Paris, the world's largest museum, could fit in Colonial Williamsburg 20 times over…with room to spare.
Covering 301 acres, the historic area of Williamsburg includes hundreds of restored, replicated and rebuilt structures, including homes, businesses and political buildings. Staff members from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation work as guides and costumed interpreters to bring us the tales of colonial men and women, including black, white, Native American, slave, indentured, and free, in both historical and modern day contexts.
13. Sorry, Pilgrims. Virginia had the first Thanksgiving in 1619.
Nearly 2 years before the Pilgrims sat down to feast at Plymouth Rock, 38 English colonists landed at Berkeley Hundred, site of the Berkeley Plantation. On December 4, 1619, they held a feast as a way of giving thanks to God for their safe arrival in the New World.
14. With some of the toughest traffic laws in the nation, Virginia has more traffic lawyers per capita than any other state. In fact, we have twice as many as the next closest state, Maryland.
Virginia ranks 7th for most tickets issued annually. In Virginia law, driving 20 mph over the speed limit will get you a reckless driving ticket, which counts as a Class One criminal misdemeanor that can land you in jail for up to a year and a $2,500 fine.
15. Lee County is physically closer to eight state capitals other than its own capital in Richmond.
Located in the southwest corner of the state, Lee County is actually closer to Raleigh, North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Nashville, Tennessee; Charleston, West Virginia; Frankfort, Kentucky; Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana than it is to the state capital of Virginia in Richmond. Go figure!
16. Virginia Beach has the longest stretch of pleasure beach in the world.
With 35 miles of coastline, VB has the Guinness World Record to prove it.
Do you have any great Virginia trivia that we may have left off the list? We would love to hear it in the comments below!