Having moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, only a few weeks ago, this post featuring the top 10 places to visit in Virginia is as much for myself as it is for you guys. While Charlottesville has its fair share of superb sights, I cannot wait to head out and explore the rest of this historic, scenic, cultural and culinary state.
Top 10 Places to Visit in Virginia
10. Manassas National Battlefield
Let’s kick off this list of top 10 places to visit in Virginia with something Virginia is famous for: battlefields. The very first actual battle in the American Civil War was fought in Manassas, Virginia, in 1861—another one took place in 1862. That first battle is known as the Battle of First Manassas to southerners, and as the First Battle of Bull Run to “Yankees.” This iconic battlefield is extremely well preserved, known as Manassas National Battlefield, and describes both battles in great detail.
9. Arlington National Cemetery
Located just outside of Washington D.C., Arlington National Cemetery is arguably the most iconic burial ground in the United States, a place where you can find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Arlington House, and the final resting place of notable people such as President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
8. Jamestown and Yorktown
Jamestown and Yorktown both make up Colonial National Historic Park, both playing a significant role in the story of the United States. As the oldest British settlement in North America, founded by John Smith in 1607, Jamestown is a strongly recommended place to visit in Virginia for anyone who wants to get a grip on America’s history. Although almost nothing remains from this first village, there are a recreation of a typical Powhatan village and of James Fort, a museum and exhibitions, and replicas of the ships that got the first colonists to the New World.
Yorktown’s significance, although of a different order, is no less important. This is where the British surrendered to the Americans and the French, which eventually resulted in American independence. The Yorktown Battlefield illustrates this event, and features a few centuries-old buildings.
7. Virginia Beach
Virginia is not only about battlefields, historic homes and natural sights, but also has a beautiful stretch of coastline, of which Virginia Beach is the most popular destination. Boasting a long section of sandy beach, backed by a boardwalk, hotels and entertainment venues, Virginia Beach gets overrun by tourists in summer. If the beach is too busy, you can opt to visit the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Museum, the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse or Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
6. Mount Vernon
A plantation home with 21 rooms, Mount Vernon was the residence of George Washington from 1754 until 1799. The house is filled with personal artifacts once belonging to the Washingtons, including family portraits, furniture and decorations. The surrounding gardens overlook the scenic Potomac River. This is one of the most important former residences of influential people that are open to the public in the United States.
5. Natural Bridge
One of the oldest tourist attractions in the United States, the Natural Bridge was a popular destination in the 1700s and 1800s among visitors from Europe—it was, for example, equally as popular as Niagara Falls. This rock bridge and the surrounding area were surveyed by none other than George Washington himself and, moreover, were later owned by Thomas Jefferson. Other fascinating sights in the area include an exhibit on the local tribe of the Monacans, the Natural Bridge Caverns and a number of waterfalls.
Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy between 1861 and 1865 (the American Civil War) and is still the capital city of Virginia. Many great attractions dot this historically significant city, ranging from the striking Jefferson-designed State Capital and the Church Hill Historic Area to the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, Richmond National Battlefield Park and the Wilton House Museum, which is a beautifully restored old plantation house.
3. Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is in the heart of Virginia and protects a section of the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains. A long and quite narrow park, Shenandoah National Park is bisected by the spectacular Skyline Drive, which connects to the equally remarkable Blue Ridge Parkway at the park’s southern border. More than 70 lookout points and dozens of trailheads are scattered along the 109-mile Skyline Drive. This is a truly superb place for hiking, cycling, road tripping and camping.
2. Colonial Williamsburg
The town of Williamsburg is arguably the only place in the United States where you can actually feel the atmosphere as it must have been before and during the American Revolution. Colonial Williamsburg is chock-full with either original or meticulously restored 18th-century buildings. The very capital of Virginia from 1705 until the end of the Revolutionary War, this is where you can wander on the same streets as people such as Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. Additionally—and this is amazing—you can still grab a crab cake at the actual place where George Washington was known to have seafood dinners. This is definitely one of the top 10 places to visit in Virginia.
1. Monticello and the University of Virginia
Located in Charlottesville, both Monticello and the University of Virginia are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which is why they are the number one on this list of top 10 places to visit in Virginia (and also a little bit because I live just up the street from Monticello). Both places were designed by Thomas Jefferson—the former was where he lived, the latter was his retirement project. These attractions truly are extraordinary and absolutely, without a shadow of doubt, one of the star attractions of the state of Virginia.