In Virginia, we are spoiled with an endless abundance of natural beauty, easy access to outdoor adventures and beautiful weather most of the year. But when winter hits, it’s easy to just forego the outdoors and stay home close to the fire. That’s fine if you live somewhere that dumps three feet of snow in your front yard every other day, but we don’t have that problem here. In fact, we have more than a few places that just get better in the winter. Check out the following list for some ideas, then grab your longjohns, zip up your parka and start exploring!
1. Head to the beach for fun with fewer crowds.
Virginia Beach may not be your first thought for winter fun, but with so many things to see and do, and a lot fewer people, winter is the perfect time to explore Virginia Beach. Head to
First Landing State Park
to see where the original Jamestown colonists landed in 1607, see winter wildlife, including harbor seals, at
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
or try your hand at horseback riding along the coast with
Virginia Beach Horseback
. With lower prices for the off-season, the beach offers more than enough hotels and restaurants to choose from, making it a perfect winter vacation getaway.
2. Explore the historic beauty of Wilderness Road State Park.
We might be complaining about how warm this winter has been so far, but you can rest assured that the original pioneer families that settled in southwest Virginia would have counted our summery winter days a blessing. At Wilderness Road State Park in Ewing, a living history site showing life on the Virginia frontier in 1775, you can see firsthand the challenges that these families might have faced, especially in winter. The park features a frontier museum, an outdoor living history museum and a theater showing the award-winning docudrama "Wildnerness Road, Spirt of a Nation." Learn more at
Wilderness Road State Park
3. Chill out at the world-famous Jefferson Pools.
The Jefferson Pools are one of Virginia’s greatest treasures. The naturally occurring hot springs are owned and operated by the historic
The Omni Homestead Resort
and are located just a few miles from the resort in the Allegheny Mountains of Bath County. While legend has it that the pools were discovered by Native Americans in the 1700s, they became famous in 1818 when Thomas Jefferson visited – and didn't leave for 3 weeks. Today, the pools remain a favorite destination with their continuously warm temperatures, crystal-clear water and high mineral content.
4. Discover Virginia’s ski resorts.
Virginia may not have the fresh powder and crazy courses that places like Colorado and Utah have, but we do just fine when it comes to ski resorts. We are fortunate to have several outstanding resorts, including
The Omni Homestead Resort
. All within easy driving distance from just about anywhere in the state, they are perfect for a weekend getaway or just a day on the mountains. If skiing isn’t your thing, enjoy the resorts’ many other options, including the state’s largest tubing park at Wintergreen.
5. Visit the Peaks of Otter in Bedford.
Winter is the perfect time to take on the Peaks of Otter. Featuring three main summits (Flat Top, Sharp Top, and Harkening Hill), the “Peaks” offer trails for every skill level and views that can’t be matched. If you’re looking to make a full trip of it, kick back and relax at the Peaks of Otter Lodge and visit the nearby Johnson Farm, an historically restored, fully functioning farm that shows life in the Blue Ridge at the turn of the 20th century. While you’re there be sure to head into Bedford for shopping, dining and a look at the awe-inspiring D-Day Memorial.
6. Go whale watching.
If you're looking to make some truly amazing memories this winter, then head to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach. As one of the country's finest aquariums, the center offers 800,000 gallons of aquariums and fascinating wildlife exhibits. But, they ALSO offer Sea Adventures, a guided boat tour that allows you to see dolphins, whales and other marine wildlife in their natural ocean habitat. All tours leave from the Virginia Aquarium dock in Virginia Beach and offer a firsthand education in Virginia's aquatic life. Check out tour times and availability
7. Find a frozen waterfall.
Virginia is full of beautiful hikes and trails. As a bonus, many of these mountain and forest walks lead to incredible waterfalls. And while a waterfall is beautiful any time of year, a frozen waterfall is its own special kind of magic. Head up to the Cascades in Giles County (shown here) on a cold day and you might just get to see a sight as incredible as this one.
8. Take in the views at Birch Knob Observation Tower.
Located in Dickenson County (near Clintwood) on the border of Virginia and Kentucky, the Birch Knob Observation Tower rises 3,144 feet above sea level at the highest summit of Pine Mountain. On a clear winter’s day, you can enjoy incredible views of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. According to the Dickenson County website, some days you can see as far as Ohio. The 183-stair climb to the top begins at a point just below Birch Knob (accessed by a paved road), which also features a trailhead for the 2-mile hike down the mountain to Jenny Falls.
9. Uncover the natural wonders at Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve.
According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Buffalo Mountain is one of Virginia’s most significant natural areas. The mountain and its surrounding nature preserve are home to 13 rare plants, three rare animals and six significant natural communities, making it a treasure trove for nature lovers. The one-mile hike to the summit is steep, but at 3,971 feet above sea level, the views are well-worth the climb. The area offers geographic diversity unlike anywhere else in the state, featuring open prairies, a rocky treeless summit and magnesium rich soil that supports plants and grasses not found elsewhere in Virginia.
10. Grab your fishing pole and head out on the water.
Winter may not be the most popular season for fishing, but it can be one of the best. With fewer crowds at particularly popular fishing spots and plenty of fish in the water, winter offers prime fishing at many spots around the state. Try the Lower James River just south of Richmond or Bugg’s Island Lake on the Virginia / North Carolina border for Blue Catfish, Striped Bass, Largemouth Bass and Crappie. Or hit one of tidal rivers like the Nottoway, Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Rappahannock or Potomac for bass and catfish.
Now that you don’t have any excuses for staying inside this winter, we would love to hear about some of your favorite places to explore when the temperatures drop. Do you have a favorite winter spot in Virginia? Let us know what you would add to the list in the comments below!