There’s nothing quite like taking the perfect picture. And with so many incredible natural views, historical sites and really cool towns in Virginia, you’ll never have trouble finding your next photo op. Whether you’re a pro, a beginner or just someone who likes to capture the moment, these 16 spots practically guarantee an amazing picture every time.
1. Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, Eastern Shore
Pristine beaches, lighthouses, wildlife refuges, wild ponies and the Atlantic. What more do you need to know? From the white sands of Assateague Island National Seashore to fishing boats off of Chincoteague, these islands are a photographer's dream all the way around.
2. Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia Beach
If wildlife photography is your thing, then Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is your place. Located near the North Carolina border in the city of Virginia Beach, Back Bay is home to countless species, including seals, sea turtles, osprey and bald eagles. With many migratory flocks calling Back Bay home, there are excellent seasonal photo shooting opportunities, as well.
3. Botanical Gardens: Norfolk and Richmond
The Norfolk Botanical Gardens and Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens have pretty much done all the work for you. Which mean you're in luck if you're a point and click kind of photographer. However, they also provide incredible creative opportunities with greenhouses, gardens, water features and interesting architectural structures that will make even the pickiest photographer happy.
4. Maymont Park, Richmond
If you want a one-stop shop for diverse scenery, Maymont is it. With over 100-acres of manicured gardens, a children's barn and petting zoo, a nature center, wildlife exhibits and an historic mansion, Maymont is a Richmond treasure. Add to that the Japanese Gardens, complete with a waterfall, and the Italian Gardens with granite columns, tiered gardens and a gazebo and Maymont is a photographer's paradise.
5. Spy Rock and Crabtree Falls, Nelson County
For nature photographers, the views at Spy Rock and Crabtree Falls are a visual gold mine. The trail to Spy Rock leads you through 1.5 miles of wooded paths and sheer rock face to the gorgeous granite dome with some of the most amazing 360 degree views in Virginia. Traveling on a few miles, you'll reach Crabtree Falls, the highest falls east of the Mississippi. If you prefer to go directly to the falls from the Crabtree Falls Parking area, be sure to enjoy the caves, scenic bridges and incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the way.
6. McAfee Knob, Roanoke County
Some places were just meant to be photographed and McAfee Knob is no exception. And if the 4.5 mile hike to the summit doesn’t take your breath away, the views most definitely will. From the peak, you’ll see Catawba Valley, North Mountain, Tinker Cliffs and the Roanoke Valley wrapped around you from west to east. That’s a workout worth the reward.
7. Great Falls National Park, McLean
In keeping with our nature theme, Great Falls National Park is not just a national park, its a national treasure. Encompassing 800 acres along the banks of the Potomac, Great Falls provides prime photo ops with rapids, rock faces, waterfalls and cascades. With multiple overlooks, photo taking is easy - or take advantage of the 15 miles of hiking trails to capture the perfect shot on your own terms.
8. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond
Beautifully preserved and exquisitely landscaped, this 19th century cemetery is a walk through history. Overlooking the James RIver, it holds the bodies of 2 U.S. presidents, the President of the Confederacy, 28 Confederate generals and many other significant and notable figures in Virginia history. The cemetery is open daily and visitors are free to explore the grounds,camera in hand, of course, to capture the eerie beauty of Hollywood's gardens, Gothic monuments and intricately carved tombs, mausoleums and memorials.
9. Old Town Alexandria
History, architecture, urban life, waterfront activities…need I go on? Old Town Alexandria is situated on the Potomac River and houses many sites where founding fathers met and built our nation. Grab your camera and set out on colonial tours, visit historic sites like Gadsby's Tavern and Christ Church or simply walk the streets. In Old Town, you'll find an endless supply of photographic opportunity amongst some of our state's most vibrant history.
10. Mount Vernon, Fairfax County
As the former plantation and manor of George Washington, Mount Vernon provides historical significance and architectural beauty to spare. In addition, the grounds are the site of a working 18th century farm with animals, gardens and structures that seem to have come off the pages of a history book.
11. Monticello, Albemarle County
While you're out capturing images of historic presidential homes, don't miss Monticello. Monticello's gardens and structures are like taking a peek into the great mind of Thomas Jefferson himself. Well-known for his architectural prowess, nearly every aspect of this site, from the house to the grounds, has Mr. Jefferson's imprint. And the vistas from the mountain? Simply breathtaking.
12. Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park
"Take photos along Skyline Drive" might seem a little vague, but intentionally so. There are so many photo ops along this 109-mile stretch of road through the Blue Ridge Mountains, that I can't even begin to name them. In addition to 75 scenic overlooks, the drive offers access to hikes like Compton Peak, Hogback Mountain, Big Meadows, Hawksbill, Rose River Loop and Doyle’s River Falls. Drive it, hike it, camp it…just DO NOT leave your camera behind.
13. Mabry Mill, Meadows of Dan
As one of the most iconic sites along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you might think that Mabry Mill has been photographed enough. To that I can only say, it is NOT POSSIBLE to photograph this site too many times. In addition to the historic mill, the site offers a look at Appalachian life more than a century ago with structures like the nearby Matthews Cabin and blacksmith shop.
14. Mount Rogers National Recreational Area and Grayson Highland State Park,
With 200,000 acres, 500 miles of trails, beautiful forests, rock formations and much more, Mount Rogers National Recreation Area is home to Mount Rogers, the highest natural peak in Virginia. And if you get lucky, you might just see the wild highland ponies that live in the balds between the recreation area and Grayson Highlands State Park next door. At Grayson Highlands, you'll find hiking, waterfalls and amazing scenic overlooks that will have your camera in overdrive.
15. Abingdon, Damascus and The Virginia Creeper Trail
Abingdon and Damascus are connected by the Virginia Creeper Trail and while the trail carries on past Damascus, you'll find enough between these two towns to keep your photographer's heart happy for days. While it's a relatively small section of the 34-mile trail, there are photo ops aplenty with cars from old steam trains, streams, bridges, old mills and so much more.
16. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields National Military Park
According to the park's website, this is the second-largest military park in the world with 4 major Civil War battlefields and 5 historic structures. Walking tours, driving tours and self-guided tours are available and with so much to see, you could spend days taking it all in. Needless to say, the photographic opportunities are endless.
Clearly, finding the perfect photo ops won’t be a problem — choosing only one might be. So where are some of your favorites places to take photos? Tell us about any that we might have missed in the comments below!