When it comes to history and natural beauty, Virginia is unrivaled. From the first permanent English settlement in the nation at Jamestown to the largest cavern series in the East in Luray, Virginia offers sites and attractions that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. The following list highlights a few of the most significant – and beautiful – sites in Virginia. You are probaby familiar with most of them – and perhaps you’ve already seen them. But if you haven’t, then it’s time to update your bucket list, because these are sites you won’t want to miss.
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. Jamestown: The Beginning of a Nation
This is where it all began. And by "it," I mean everything...Virginia as we know it...the United States as we know it, for that matter. No, Jamestown wasn't the first settlement ever, but it was the first permanent English settlement in the United States. These are the people who made it work against all odds.
2. Yorktown Battlefield: The End of the Revolutionary War
Like Jamestown, this is one of the most significant sites in U.S. history. After 6 long, bloody years and many major battles in Virginia, the Revolutionary War finally ended in 1781 in Yorktown when General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington. Today, you can visit the site where America won her independence and began her legacy as one of the greatest nations in the world.
3. Mount Vernon: The Home of George Washington
George Washinton is arguably one of the most significant figures in American history. Not only was he the man that led America to her independence, he played other important military roles and went on to serve as the first President of the United States, a role that continues to shape our nation today. Washington was born in Westmoreland County in 1732 and died in 1799 at Mount Vernon. As his personal home, Mount Vernon offers a nearly endless supply of historical significance. Today, Mount Vernon remains a working farm and living history museum, providing fascinating information about the myths, legends and facts that surrounded Washington and the early beginnings of America.
4. Appomattox Courthouse: Site of Lee's surrender and the end of the Civil War
The Civil War may have "only" lasted 4 years, but it still stands as the bloodiest, most derisvie stain on American history. More than half of the war's battles were fought in Virginia, ending with General Robert E. Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865, in the front parlor of the McLean house in Appomattox Courthouse. Today, the site serves as a National Historical Park and offers a closer look at the final moments of the war and the resulting peace that was formed with the South's surrender and re-entry into the Union.
5. Breaks Interstate Park: The Grand Canyon of the East
Breaks Canyon is the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi and is, without a doubt, the highlight of Breaks Interstate Park in southwest Virginia. Located within the Jefferson National Forest, the canyon ranges from 830-1,600-feet in depth and stretches 5-miles in length. With outdoor activities and amenities to spare, Breaks Interstate Park is a must-see.
6. Arlington National Cemetery: A National Treasure
Arlington National Cemetery is more than just a humbling walk among the gravestones of our veterans. It is an outdoor museum and monument honoring all of the men and women who have served, or are serving, our country. The cemetery grounds contain more than 30 monuments and tributes to member 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 Monument and the Memorial Arboretum.
7. Luray Caverns: The Largest Cavern in the East
Luray Caverns is a destination in its own right. In addition to being the largest cavern series in the East and a U.S. Natural Landmark, Luray Caverns features guided underground cavern tours, museums, a 7-acre 19th century farming village, gem sluicing, a garden maze, a ropes course, a 47-bell tower, a country club, a vineyard and more.
8. Shenandoah National Park: Skyline Drive
The Skyline Drive, beginning in Front Royal, is only 105 miles through the Shenandoah National Park, but the views along the way make it feel like another world. 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.
9. Bristol: The Birthplace of Country Music
In 1998, the city of Bristol was recognized by Congress as the "Birthplace of Country Music" for its role as the site of some of the first recordings of country music by artists like Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. This vibrant little city in Southwest Virginia is also one of the state's 2 "twin" cities, sharing a name, state border and a main street with Bristol, Tennessee.
10. Chincoteague and Assateague Isalands: The Pony Swim
Chincoteague and Assoteague Islands, located off the Eastern Shore of Virginia, have long been famous for their wild ponies. The ponies have lived on Assateague Island for hundreds of years and are thought to have first arrived when either a Spanish galleon shipwrecked off the coast or the original settlers’ set their horses free to roam. Every year, "saltwater cowboys” roundup the ponies and swim them across the channel to Chincoteague Island where a festival and pony auction are held to benefit the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. This year marked the 90th anniversary of this iconic Virginia event.
This is our list of must-see sites in Virginia. But maybe you have your own bucket list already. What sites do you think we should add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!