25 Best Things to Do in Virginia

The state of Virginia has a copious amount of history to offer as well as great museums and culture found in its cities. Four of the United States first five presidents were born in Virginia and many of the states attractions relate to its notable residents including country homes and historic cemeteries.

Another historic claim the state can make is the most historic battlefields, these too rank among the states most visited attractions. As well as history galore, the state also has many natural attractions to offer and a wide variety of wildlife and outdoor pursuits. Here is our list of the best things to do in Virginia:

1. Williamsburg

Williamsburg, Virginia

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Williamsburg, Virginia

If you want to experience the American Revolution period then Williamsburg is the best place to do so.

The buildings here are either original and still standing from the 18th Century or faithful reconstructions.

You can also visit spots frequented by US heroes such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Williamsburg was the site of the final battle of the American Civil War and it was also the capital of Virginia from 1705 and for the duration of the war.

2. Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA

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Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA

Virginia Beach is the name given to a popular resort town east of Norfolk. As you would expect, here you can find amusements and hotels along the promenade.

There are also a number of museums and a water park here for if the sea is too cold to swim in.

The resort is very popular and can become crowded in the summer months.

3. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

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Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

This Palladian style mansion, designed by Thomas Jefferson himself, is a beautiful country home and one of the most visited in the United States.

Jefferson apparently got his inspiration for the design of the house from a villa in Vicenza, Italy.

Inside the house today, you will see a number of Jefferson’s inventions and to the rear of the home are spectacular historic gardens, which were also designed by Thomas Jefferson.

The on site Monticello Visitors Centre has a lot of information about the house as well as its own exhibits.

4. Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

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Mount Vernon

George Washington lived in Mount Vernon for 45 years, during which he supervised its construction while simultaneously leading his army in the revolution.

Washington had a say in all aspects of the house’s design including the interior. Tours through the house give a unique perspective of what Washington’s family life was like and there are still many heirlooms such as portraits and crests in the home.

Washington also worked on the grounds of the house, which offer views of the Potomac River.

5. Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

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Shenandoah National Park

Located right in the heart of Virginia, Shenandoah National Park includes the Blue Ridge Mountains, which reach heights of 4,000 feet.

There are a number of hiking trails within the park to suit all levels of experience. Spring and summer are great months for outdoor enthusiasts at the park but it is known to be at its most beautiful in October when the autumnal colors are at their most vibrant.

Running along the length of the park is Skyline Drive, which is a great opportunity for taking in the views and also offers stops at the summer home of President Hoover and the Old Cave Cemetery.

6. Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

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Arlington National Cemetery

This cemetery, which overlooks Washington DC, covers an area of 600 acres and is the place of burial for some of the most famous United States citizens. John F Kennedy’s grave can be visited here as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier memorial.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers is guarded 24 hours a day for 365 days of the year and contains remains of soldiers lost in both world wars as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars.

7. Arlington House

Arlington House

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Arlington House

Arlington House is found on the Arlington Cemetery site and was originally built by George Washington as a remembrance of his step-grandfather, also called George Washington.

The house is also well known for being the home of Robert E Lee for thirty years until it was abandoned in the Civil War.

The house has been restored to its former glory and pays tribute to Lee, who serves as a commander in the war.

Near the house, there is also the tomb of Pierre L’Enfant who was responsible for designing the city of Washington DC.

8. Jamestown

Jamestown, Virginia

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Jamestown, Virginia

The Jamestown Settlement was built in 1957 and commemorates the 350th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown.

Visitors will find a museum and galleries focusing on the colonization of the New World by the English. On the site, there is also a statue paying tribute to Pocahontas, who played a vital part in easing tensions between Native Americans and the settlers.

William O Partridge built the statue in 1922. On site, there is also a re-construction of the triangular fort built by the colonists and the foundations of the original buildings are still visible.

9. Yorktown

Yorktown, Virginia

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Yorktown

On the battlefield of Yorktown, American Independence became a real possibility when Lord Cornwallis and his English army surrendered to a combined force of American and French troops.

The exhibits and displays make this crucial battle easy to understand and guided tours are also frequently available.

Moore House, the building where Cornwallis surrendered is visible, as is Nelson House which has a cannonball embedded in its upper wall, acting as a pertinent reminder of the events that took place here.

10. Richmond National Battlefield Park

Richmond National Battlefield Park

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Richmond National Battlefield Park

Richmond was a strategically important city during the American Civil War and the National Battlefield Park demonstrates why that was so as well as detailing the campaigns that took place there.

Also found here, is the John Marshall House, which is one of the few Federal homes built in the area that still remain.

It includes family heirlooms and furniture that provide an insight into the life of the Supreme Court Justice.

11. Virginia State Capitol

Virginia State Capitol

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Virginia State Capitol

This imposing building was built between 1785 and 1788 upon the instructions of George Washington.

It was designed by Thomas Jefferson and is next to the Canal Walk, which runs from the south of the building alongside the James River Kanawha Canal.

Tours of the building are available and include information about the Civil War, past governments and the building itself.

12. Assateague and Chincoteague Islands

Assateague Lighthouse

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Assateague Lighthouse

The 38 mile long barrier island of Assateague lies to the east of Chincoteague Island.

The island is partly located in Maryland and partly within Virginia and is a protected site serving as a wildlife sanctuary.

Chincoteague itself offers 14,000 acres of shoreline as well as forests, marshes and wetlands which provide an environment suitable for a wide variety of wildlife.

The islands most notable animal residents are the wild ponies found here. As well as wildlife spotting, the island is a great location for outdoor pursuits including hiking, swimming, kayaking or fishing to name only a few.

13. Natural Bridge of Virginia

Natural Bridge of Virginia

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Natural Bridge Of Virginia

This natural phenomenon is over 200 feet high and spans a distance of 90 feet.

The bridge is regarded as one of the oldest tourist attractions in the United States and, alongside the Niagara Falls, is one of the most popular US sights for European visitors.

The bridge is now a state park and a visit here should include a walk along the Cedar Creek Trail.

Also on offer are the Natural Bridge Caverns and the Natural Bridge Zoo.

13. Manassas National Battlefield

Manassas National Battlefield

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Manassas National Battlefield

Manassas was the site of two very important battles in the American Civil War in 1861 and 1862.

The site is well preserved and well documented and the history of the events that took place at the site are easy to understand.

The second battle that took place here was an important victory for the Confederate forces, however the war continued for another three years after this battle.

The site is also a great spot for bird watching and is a retreat for over 160 different species, both native and migratory.

14. Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens, Williamsburg

Busch Gardens in Virginia themes itself upon Europe and, in particular, Southern Germany.

This is a great place to experience many German clichés whilst remaining within the United States.

Visitors will see dirndl dressed dancers and Bavarian bands.

The rides here are themed on the Alps and the Loch Ness Monster as well as other European sites.

There are rides to suit all ages and levels of daring as well as live entertainment throughout the day.

15. Carytown

Carytown, Richmond

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Carytown, Richmond

Carytown is widely regarded as the home of culture in Richmond and Virgina.

It starts at Thompson Street and stretches all the way to the Boulevard and is home to a wide range of shops and restaurants.

Lovers of food or shopping will certainly find something to please them here.

16. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Virginia Museum Of Fine Arts

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is widely regarded as one of the best museums in the state of Virginia.

During its lifetime it has hosted works by some of the most famous artists on the planet including Picasso.

As well as a large and varied collection, the museum also has two great places to eat and a wonderfully relaxed outdoor seating area.

17. The Boulevard Bridge

Boulevard Bridge

The Boulevard Bridge in Richmond was previously known as the Nickel Bridge due to the five-cent toll charged to cross it.

The passing of time and rising inflation means that the toll charged is now 35 cents, but it is well worth paying as the views from the bridge of Richmond’s skyline and the Rocky River are exceptional.

18. Church Hill

View from Church Hill

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View From Church Hill

Church Hill in Richmond offers great views of the downtown area as well as a wide mix of historic buildings and homes.

History lovers will love the area but it also has plenty to more to offer and the views of the James River and beyond will appeal to all travelers.

19. Virginia Aquarium

Virginia Aquarium

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Virginia Aquarium

Virginia Aquarium is a great example of an aquarium and one of the best in the United States.

There are over 800,000 gallons of exhibits and habitats in the aquarium and, for an extra fee, visitors are able to swim with seals or observe feeding of the rare and elusive sea turtle.

20. Maymont Park

Maymont Park, Richmond

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Maymont Park

Formerly a private estate, Maymont Park is now a 100-acre public park containing a historic museum in the fully furnished Maymont House.

The park, found in Richmond, also has wonderfully themed Italian and Japanese gardens and a small zoo.

It is not difficult to see why Maymont Park is the most visited attraction in Richmond.

21. Luray Caverns

Luray Caverns

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Luray Caverns

The Luray Caverns are situated in Luray and were discovered in 1878.

This natural wonder has consistently drawn visitors from far and wide since its discovery all those years ago.

If you only have time to visit one cavern whilst in Virginia, make it this one! The so-called “Stalacpipe Organ” in the museum is billed as the world’s largest musical instrument.

22. Military Aviation Museum

Military Aviation Museum, Virginia Beach

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Military Aviation Museum

This museum in Virginia Beach is home to an astonishing collection of fighting aircraft, which, rather impressively, are still in flying condition.

The collections span the periods of both world wars and is  the largest private collection of its kind in the world.

23. Cape Henry Lighthouse

Cape Henry Lighthouse

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Cape Henry Lighthouse

The Cape Henry Lighthouse has played an important role during its history due to the high volume of vessels traveling to Chesapeake Bay.

The lighthouse was completed in 1792 and was the first lighthouse to be Federally funded.

The lighthouse is one of the oldest standing in the United States.

24. Nauticus

Nauticus, Norfolk

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Nauticus, Norfolk

Nauticus is a marine themed science museum located in Norfolk.

The museum was established in 1994 and features a range of exhibits detailing both the military and commercial maritime history of Virginia.

25. Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

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Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

The Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens cover an impressive area of 50 acres and is located on the north side of Richmond.

The gardens were recently voted as the 2nd best public gardens in the United States.

The Gardens are also home to a historical domed conservatory which is a beautiful building and the only one of its kind in the area.

Where to stay: Best Hotels in Virginia (VA)
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List of Image Sources

25 Best Things to Do in Virginia:

Williamsburg, Virginia

  • Williamsburg, Virginia: jiawangkun / shutterstock
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA: Jay Yuan / shutterstock
  • Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello: Tony Craddock / shutterstock
  • Mount Vernon: Steve Heap / shutterstock
  • Shenandoah National Park: Jon Bilous / shutterstock
  • Arlington National Cemetery: Guillermo Olaizola / shutterstock
  • Arlington House: Zack Frank / shutterstock
  • Jamestown, Virginia: Zack Frank / shutterstock
  • Yorktown: Barry Blackburn / shutterstock
  • Richmond National Battlefield Park: Zack Frank / shutterstock
  • Virginia State Capitol: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
  • Assateague Lighthouse: Harry Powell / shutterstock
  • Natural Bridge Of Virginia: Zack Frank / shutterstock
  • Manassas National Battlefield: Zack Frank / shutterstock
  • Busch Gardens, Williamsburg: Gamma Man / Flickr
  • Carytown, Richmond: Carol Bell / shutterstock
  • Virginia Museum Of Fine Arts: Morgan Riley, Midlothian, Virginia / Wikimedia
  • Boulevard Bridge: User:Konsciousimages / Wikimedia
  • View From Church Hill: ESB Professional / shutterstock
  • Virginia Aquarium: Sherry V Smith / shutterstock
  • Maymont Park: Felix Lipov / shutterstock
  • Luray Caverns: Joe Ravi / shutterstock
  • Military Aviation Museum: JJM Photography / shutterstock
  • Cape Henry Lighthouse: ShoreTie / shutterstock
  • Nauticus, Norfolk: Jay Yuan / shutterstock
  • Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens: Realest Nature / shutterstock