Ok, so maybe not EVERYTHING…after all, there are only 26 letters in the alphabet. But the following historical facts, interesting characters and natural wonders from Virginia will certainly get you on the path to understanding why our state is one of the greatest places that you could ever call home.
At Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee, who was born in Westmoreland County and raised in Alexandria, surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, thus ending the Civil War and reuniting the nation. (Pictured here are Union soldiers on the courthouse steps in April 1865.)
Blue Ridge Parkway
Take a slow meander through some of the most stunning mountain scenery in Virginia and find our why the Blue Ridge Parkway is called "America's Favorite Drive." The parkway picks up where Skyline Drive ends and carries you a few hundred miles through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests to North Carolina. Enjoy dozens of scenic overlooks, like Raven's Roost pictured here, and sites like Humpback Rocks, Peaks of Otter and Mabry Mill.
Frequently named one of the top places to live, not just in Virginia, but in the nation, Charlottesville is a Central Virginia gem. As the hometown of Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville hosts his academic village at the University of Virginia, as well as his historical plantation home at Monticello. With a charming downtown, beautifully preserved homes and buildings, museums and monuments, Charlottesville provides history and culture, both in town and in the surrounding areas.
Douthat State Park
Located in Millboro, this park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the design and development of parks nationwide. It features hiking, biking and bridle trails with stunning mountain views, interpretive nature programs, cabin rentals, camping and a lake for swimming, boating and fishing, making it an ideal place to visit throughout the year.
Edgar Allan Poe
Best known for his macabre poetry and short stories, Edgar Allan Poe offers a backstory almost as dark as his writing. Poe was raised as an orphan by the Allan Family of Richmond. After a brief and somewhat notorious stint at University of Virginia, Poe left amongst charges of gambling and drinking, as well as an overall lack of funds. While he saw literary success in his brief lifetime, he also experienced heartbreak, hardship and loss, themes which became the backbone of his work. Poe died in Baltimore at the age of 40 from unknown causes. Today, the
Edgar Allan Poe Museum
in Richmond holds the world’s finest collection of Poe's memorabilia and works.
Few places in Virginia offer the diversity of history that you'll find in Fredericksburg. Not only was it where George Washington spent large parts of his boyhood, it is rich in Native American history, Revolutionary War history, Civil War history (including 5 major battle sites), African American history and more.
Did you ever wonder where George Washington used to hang out? Ok, probably not, but if you did, the answer would be
. The historic tavern served as the social and political hub of Old Town Alexandria. Many of the founding fathers often lodged and ate at Gadsby’s while attending balls and social and political functions. Today, you can enjoy the same fine dining in rooms that still look almost exactly as they would have during America’s early years.
Henry "Box" Brown
In 1849, Henry "Box" Brown, a 33-year old slave, escaped to freedom by having himself shipped in a wooden crate to abolitionists in Philadelphia. Brown was born a slave in Louisa County, but as a young man, was sent to work in a tobacco warehouse in Richmond. After his wife and children were sold, he resolved to gain his freedom by any means. With the help of local abolitionists, he had himself crated and shipped for the sum of $86 dollars on March 23, 1849. Twenty-seven hours later, he was received by members of the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society. He went on to be an active member and speaker for the Anti-Slavery Society.
Not many people would associate "island living" with the state of Virginia, but Virginia is home to many beautiful islands, including Assateague Island (the first of Virginia's Barrier Islands), Chincoteague Island (famous for its annual wild pony swim), Tangier Island (where inhabitants still speak the same Old English dialect as they have since the 1600s), Wallop's Island (home to a NASA flight facility) and Gwynn's Island (shown here).
Thanks to the perseverance of the colonists who landed at Jamestown in 1607, the first permanent English settlement in the New World was formed and America got its start. Today, you can see first hand what life was like in 17th century America with galleries, live events and re-creations of the Jamestown fort, historic ships and a Powhatan Indian village.
King Kongs. No, seriously. We have at LEAST two.
No one can accuse Virginians of not having a sense of fun. With our fair share of quirky restaurants, wacky museums and just plain weird roadside attractions, it shouldn't come as a surprise that King Kong serves as a landmark for both
The Pink Cadillac Diner
in Natural Bridge and
in White Post.
Located in the Meadows of Dan, this incredibly preserved historic gristmill lies in the heart of the Blue Ridge and offers 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.
is near the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and serves as one of the state's most iconic sites.
This peninsula on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay is one of Virginia's best kept secrets. The Northern Neck is a haven for boaters, fishermen, beach goers, crabbers, birdwatchers and those who just like a peaceful getaway from the crowds. Filled with history (including George Washington and Robert E. Lee's boyhood homes), antiques, fabulous seafood, vineyards and more, you'll only be bored if you choose to be.
Apples, peaches, pears and more. Virginia is home to some of the finest orchards in the world. Seasonal apple picking is a favorite pastime for many Virginians and you'll find countless festivals, parades and events like the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival that celebrate our beautiful fruit orchards throughout the year.
Pocahontas was born c.1595 in the Tidewater Region of Virginia. Her father, Chief Powhatan, was the ruling Native American leader when colonists first came to Jamestown. She is famous for having supposedly stopped her father from killing John Smith in 1608. She later married a colonist, John Rolfe, and travelled to England where she was presented to the courts as a “civilized savage” from the New World. And, of course, she taught John Smith how to sing, dance and respect nature in Disney’s “Pocahontas.” The last bit may have been fictionalized, just so we're clear.
Queen Elizabeth - and the reason we got the name "Virginia"
Because Queen Elizabeth I never married, she was known as "The Virgin Queen." When Sir Walter Raleigh fist began exploring the lands north of Spanish Florida in 1584, all newly "discovered" lands were called "Virginia" in honor of Elizabeth. Originally, the name "Virginia" was given to all British-claimed lands along the east coast from South Carolina to Maine. Or so the story goes... Today, some scholars speculate that the name may have derived from a native phrase, "Wingandacoa," or the name, "Wingina."
With nearly 40 rivers running throughout the state, you don’t have to go far to find the beauty of gently flowing waters or frantically racing rapids. Virginia is home to some special rivers, as well, including the New River, which despite its name is one of the oldest rivers in the world. And don't forget the James River which, as it flows through Richmond, provides the only Class IV rapids in an urban setting.
The Skyline Drive, beginning in Front Royal, is only 105 miles through the Shenandoah National Park, but the stops along the way can make it last for days. 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.
Born in 1743 in Shadwell, Thomas Jefferson grew up to be one of the most influential founders of our nation. After attending the College of William and Mary, he served as a lawyer and a member of the House of Burgesses. As author of the Declaration of Independence, he made an indelible mark on both state and national history. He went on to serve as a state legislator, governor, Congressman, Minister to France, Secretary of State, Vice-President and finally, third President of the United States. After his presidency, he retired to his home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, where he founded the University of Virginia before his death in 1826.
Virginia has 3 of the top 40 public colleges and universities in the nation: University of Virginia (#2), the College of William and Mary (#6) and Virginia Tech (#27). But that’s saying nothing of all of the other amazing schools, public and private. Pictured here is the Wren Building at the College of William and Mary, the oldest college building in the U.S.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
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.
Colonial Williamsburg operates as the largest living history museum in Virginia, with incredible restorations and replications of life in Colonial times. Once the center of colonial life and a former capital, Williamsburg provides a hands-on interactive trip back in time to the earliest foundations of our beautiful state.
This Virginia Tech football standout helped the Phoebus Phantoms from Phoebus High School in Hampton win their first State Championship before he graduated in 2003. At Virginia Tech, he played from 2004 until 2008 when he was drafted to the Houston Texans in the 4th round. He went on to play for the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans.
This, my friends, is where it all began – or ended, depending on your point of view. Yorktown Battlefield was the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. On October 19, 1781, General Charles Lord Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington at Yorktown, effectively guaranteeing the end of the war and the start of America's independence.
Zebras, of course
While zebras may not be as common as deer here in Virginia, that doesn't mean we don't have them. At the
Virginia Safari Park
, you can drive through 180-acres of free-roaming animals, including zebras, rhinos, camels, exotic deer and more. After the drive through, take the village walk to feed giraffes, interact with kangaroos, visit tigers and pet llamas, goats and pot-bellied pigs at the petting zoo.
We’ve used up the alphabet on a few of our favorite Virginia people and places. But we would love to hear some of yours! Tell us about some of the history, sites or people that make Virginia special to you in the comments below!