When it comes to amazing things to do — Virginia delivers time and again. We’ve been looking for awesome outings for you and yours — but we know that sometimes they can get pricey. You may have seen our last list of
free things to do in Virginia, but we’ve found even more! So here’s another list of absolutely free things you can do this summer – or anytime – that will keep you entertained, informed and definitely on budget. Read on and then get out there and enjoy your next Virginia adventure!
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Booker T. Washington National Monument, Franklin County
Now a national park, Burroughs Plantation is the where the legendary educator, innovator and Civil Rights Activist Booker T. Washington was born and spent his boyhood as a slave. Beginning at the visitors’ center with an audio-visual presentation of his life and achievements, the park walks visitors through the restored plantation, including historic buildings and a working farm. Picnic areas, gardens and other walking trails make this an absolute must-see site – free admission is only a bonus.
2. ArlingtonCemetery and Monuments, Arlington
Arlington National Cemetery contains more than 30 monuments and tributes to members of the U.S. Armed Forces, in addition to the graves of hundreds of thousands of military men and women. Some of the highlights include the graves of both John F. and Robert F. Kennedy, the Tombs of the Unknowns, the Changing of the Guard, the Women in Military Service For America and the Memorial Arboretum. This free site is an incredible place to visit and reflect on the how fortunate we are to call America home.
3. Virginia Battlefields, Statewide
Virginia has hosted some of the most significant battles in American history. There are hundreds of battle sites that have been preserved and commemorated throughout the state and provide a wealth of history about Virginia, the military and the nation as a whole. Search for battlefields near you and you are sure to find one. Take the kids for an educational outing or just brush up on history for yourself. Some of the sites do ask for small fees or donations for upkeep, however, many are free. The National Park Service website can help you plan your visit at www.nps.gov.
4. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond
The Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond is more of an outdoor art/history museum than a cemetery. Founded in the late 1840s, this site overlooking the James River 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, gardens and the many fascinating tombs, mausoleums and memorials.
5. Danville Museum of Fine Arts: The Sutherlin Mansion and the Last Capitol of the Confederacy, Danville
The Sutherlin Mansion, as it was formerly known, was built by the mayor of Danville, but served as the headquarters for the Confederate Army after Richmond fell near the end of the Civil War. This stately home-turned-museum sits on Millionaire’s Row in historic Danville and now houses fine art collections, as well as providing a history of the site itself. Admission is free – and well worth a visit.
6. Free Summer Concert Series, Statewide
Many cities and towns now offer free summer concerts, often on Friday evenings, throughout the summer. Also, many vineyards will offer live music throughout the spring, summer and fall. Check out listings and event calendars, usually on your town or city’s website, to find schedules.
7. Fairs and Festivals, Statewide
Much like music festivals, Virginia is host to hundreds of special events, fairs and festivals year-round. Examples of some free events include the Dinwiddie Music Festival at the Virginia Motorparks Speedway, Taste of the Mountains festival in Madison, Historic Waterford’s Home Tour and Craft Exhibit in Loudoun County and The Renaissance Fair in Gloucester. Check your local listing for a great opportunity to get out and about without spending a penny – although, I should warn you most of these places have incredible food, drinks and artists, so bring your wallet just in case!
8. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
Since opening in 1936, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has been a center of cultural and artistic discovery in Virginia. The museum’s permanent collection has over 33,000 works of art, including one of the world’s largest Faberge egg collections. The museum also hosts expansive temporary exhibits showcasing some of the greatest artists and sculptors in history. General admission is free.
9. The Library of Congress Packard Campus Theater, Culpeper
This art-deco theater only seats 200, but boasts state-of-the-art sound and video technology as part of the larger Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation. Run by the Library of Congress, the center holds more than 6 million movie, television and sound archives. Free screening of classic movies, television and live shows are offered three times a week, but seating is limited so reservations are recommended. Find out more at www.loc.gov/avconservation/theater/schedule.html.
10. National Inventors Hall of Fame, Arlington
Walk the halls of this fascinating museum and discover the amazing inventions of the more than 500 inductees. The newly space in Arlington offers interactive displays and information that will inspire everyone – from kids to adults. Learn more at www.invent.org.
11. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Center, Charlottesville
What looks like a normal Virginia home near the University of Virginia actually houses the nation’s only museum of Australian Aboriginal Art. The center began in 1997 and now provides an extensive permanent collection, traveling exhibits and ongoing education for every age group from toddlers to teens to lifelong learners. The museum is open to the public at no charge every day but Mondays.
12. The Carter Family Fold, Hiltons
See the cabin where the famous Carter Family lived and made the music that has inspired generations. A museum dedicated to the music and life of this family is open for tours, along with their cabin, and only a donation is requested. Shows are available for an admission fee, but even if you don’t stay for a show, this is a site you won’t want to miss if you love the music of Virginia.
13. Mabry Mill, Meadows of Dan
Visit this incredibly preserved historic gristmill in the heart of the Blue Ridge for a look at Appalachian life more than a century ago. At the nearby Matthews Cabin and blacksmith shop, The National Park Service offers demonstrations on blacksmithing, carding, spinning, basket making and other traditional Appalachian crafts and skills. The mill also has a restaurant and gift shop and offers seasonal live music, so be sure to bring a blanket and some chairs!
14. State Capitol Building, Richmond
The Virginia State Capitol building has been home to the General Assembly, the oldest legislature in the Western Hemisphere, since 1788. The building, designed in the Monumental Classic style, has inspired countless other capitol, state and national government buildings for centuries. Guided tours are available 7 days a week or you can choose a self-guided tour during operating hours.
15. Torpedo Factory Art Center, Alexandria
Located in an old torpedo factory, this stunning art gallery features ceramics, photography, jewelry, stained glass, sculptures and more. Admission to the gallery is free, and when you are done, the scenic streets of historic Old Town Alexandria are waiting just outside. This is a win-win.
We would love to hear about any of these sites in Virginia that you’ve seen for yourself. And of course, if there are some amazing places we’ve missed, let us know in the comments below. We are always on the lookout for things that make Virginia the greatest place to live!