Things to Do in Virginia
Spend an afternoon shopping and people watching around the hip and vibrant Carytown neighborhood in west Richmond. The nine-block shopping area sits just south of the Museum District, only a couple blocks from the Museum of Fine Arts. Carytown boasts more the 250 shops, with everything from big name clothing stores to local boutiques and craft shops. You’ll find dozens of restaurants, cafés and bakeries, so there are plenty of choices when it’s time for a lunch break. Carytown is also home to the Byrd Theatre, a national historic landmark that is still in daily operation. Stop in to catch second-run movies for only $2.
Site of the American Revolutionary War’s decisive 1781 battle—where the British surrendered, leading to the war's conclusion—the Yorktown Battlefield is one of Virginia’s most important landmarks. Now part of the Colonial National Historical Park, the site features monuments, weaponry, and other historical and natural attractions.
Located at the site where English settlers first landed in America, First Landing State Park is Virginia’s most-visited state park. A diverse ecosystem of beach, lagoon, marsh, maritime forest, and cypress swamp, it offers a wide range of activities for visitors, including hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, kayaking, boating, and camping.
One of the largest and grandest buildings in Colonial Williamsburg, the Governor’s Palace was the seat of royal authority in the colony. Between 1710 and 1776, the landmark housed seven royal governors and two elected governors (Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson). After burning down in 1781, it was restored to its former glory in 1934.
Located in Colonial Williamsburg, Bruton Parish Episcopal Church is a National Historic Landmark. Visit to view the well-preserved example of colonial religious architecture and perhaps take in a concert at the active church. First built in 1674, the current structure dates back to 1715.
After stepping foot on the ground where America secured its independence in the final, decisive battle of the Revolutionary War, head to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown to experience what post-war life was like in the newly free colonies. A living-history museum, the Yorktown Victory Center features indoor exhibitions, a Continental Army Encampment and a 1780s farm.
Two of the most fascinating exhibits include an early draft of the Declaration of Independence, before it was given to Congress members to sign, and one that covers the fates of British ships lost in the York River during the war. At the outdoors Continental Army Encampment, historical interpreters detail the lives of American soldiers at the end of the war. Also outdoors, a fully recreated 18th-century farm showcases the types of crops tended to in that time period and the lifestyles of many Americans during the war.
Experience military and maritime history aboard the USS Wisconsin, one of the biggest battleships ever built. Having been through three wars, “Wisky” now serves as a floating museum docked next to the Nauticus Maritime Center in Norfolk.
Nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park is full of wildlife, natural beauty, and opportunities for outdoor recreation. The 105-mile (169-kilometer) scenic Skyline Drive cuts through the park, and hundreds of miles of hiking trails lead to stunning vistas, waterfalls, protected wilderness, and historic sites.
The largest waterpark in Virginia, Water Country USA is home to more than a dozen rides and attractions, from gravity-defying waterslides to wave pools and paddling areas for younger children. The Williamsburg-based park also offers a wide range of dining and shopping options and is a popular day-trip destination for families.
Explore the first English settlement in the United States at Historic Jamestowne, part of the Colonial National Historical Park. Located on Jamestown Island, the town was founded as James Fort in 1607. Learn about the ongoing excavation work and see the ruins and thousands of artifacts that have been unearthed so far.
More Things to Do in Virginia
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Also known as the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum annex at the Dulles International Airport, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center opened in 2003 and is home to some 760,000 square feet of galleries, display area and storage used to showcase and house items from the main museum located in Washington DC’s National Mall.
Travelers who wonder at the world of air and space exploration can wander the collection of this impressive museum, which includes the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar. Visitors can get a bird’s eye view from the second-floor deck designed to highlight all the work taking place below. The collection is vast and travelers will be able to see the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima, as well as an Air France Concorde supersonic airline, a Redstone rocket and more.
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is the perfect place for those traveling with families and small children to spend the day and get an up close look at some of the most impressive machines to take to the sky.
University of Virginia
Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819 to promote discussion, collaboration, and enlightenment through higher education. Today the UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered to be a “public Ivy,” on par with the Ivy League institutions, making it one of the top schools in the nation serving roughly 25,000 students.
Located along the Monticello Wine Trail in Virginia, Blenheim Vineyards is a family-owned operation dedicated to making high-quality wines that reflect the climate of the surrounding piedmont landscape. The winery’s two vineyard sites produce chardonnay, viognier, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and cabernet sauvignon varieties.
A visit to Virginia’s wine country is a trip back in time to when Thomas Jefferson planted the seeds of America’s first vineyards. Jefferson Vineyards, wanting to continue the Founding Father’s dream of wine in the region, offers visitors a rustic spot to sip chardonnay, meritage, and petit verdot while taking in Virginia’s lush landscape.
Ocean Breeze Waterpark
Ocean Breeze Waterpark offers family-friendly fun in sunny Virginia Beach. Splash in the wave pool, get thrilled on the park's 30 water slides, or just lounge with the family at a kid-friendly water playground. Beat the heat at the seasonal, outdoor waterpark.
Virginia Living Museum
Visit the Virginia Living Museum to escape the static setting of your average museum. Instead, the zoo-like natural heritage site comes alive with interactive and educational displays of native animals and plants. View endangered wildlife, touch live marine creatures, and explore the region’s distant past on the Dinosaur Discovery Trail.
Mary Washington House
The historic home of George Washington’s mother gives visitors insight into the life and final 17 years of Mary Washington. Period-clad docents welcome you to the 18th-century Mary Washington House and invite you to take a mental step back in time as you explore the original kitchen, guest room where George Washington slept, and gardens.
In the midst of the summer heat, is there any better way to cool down than a visit to the waterpark? Northern Virginia’s SplashDown, just outside of the nation’s capital, has been keeping it cool during the summer months with water slides, fountains, pools, a lazy river, and even a beach area. There are varying levels of thrills for all ages, including the long lazy river for those who prefer to keep it relaxed. There is also an Olympic-sized lap pool for adults who want to swim, and a wading area for smaller children.
Facilities include an on-site snack bar to keep you satiated, a volleyball and tennis court, log walk, and the Kahuna Beach, which contains real sand. There’s also a park nearby if you prefer to have your own picnic. SplashDown offers an area for birthday parties, as well as swim lessons outside of its operating hours.
Public Hospital of 1773
See the country’s first hospital devoted to the care of the mentally ill, and learn about the treatment of mental illness in early American history at the Public Hospital of 1773. The building is located in the Colonial Williamsburg living history area, and features exhibition cells, galleries, and artifacts.
The hospital was first founded in 1773 and reopened as a museum in 1985. There are six exhibition cells on the first floor of the east wing, set up to show the types of treatments used over the years. Additional galleries and artifacts illustrate the history of the hospital and the practices of 18th and 19th century medicine. Guided tours offer additional insights.
Entrance to the Public Hospital of 1773 is included as part of your Colonial Williamsburg ticket.Guided tours are held on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9am and last for about an hour. The topics and displays of the museum may not be suitable for young children. The museum is wheelchair accessible.
The museum is located south of Francis Street in Colonial Williamsburg. The shuttle bus stops just outside. There’s also an underground concourse that leads to the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.
The Public Hospital Museum is open daily from morning until evening. Since it’s open later than many of the other attractions on the Colonial Williamsburg tour, it makes sense to save the museum for the end of the circuit.
It's easy to visit the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, which includes the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, as it's located in the same building as the Public Hospital of 1773. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s holdings include more than 70,000 antiques and works of art, 15,000 architectural elements, and 20 million archaeological artifacts, including clothing, instruments, toys, furniture, and paintings.
Drink up incredible scenery along with award-winning wines during a visit to Trump Winery, nestled into the foothills of Virginia’s idyllic Blue Ridge Mountains. The winery sits just a few miles from Monticello, the historic home of Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland. With 165 acres of grapes across the 1,300-acre estate, Trump Winery clocks in as the largest vineyard in Virginia. Its wines are critically acclaimed, especially the sparkling varieties—the 2007 Trump SP Reserve is the highest-rated wine in Virginia—while the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay rate highly as well.
Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop
Walk through the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop, a restored 18th-century pharmacy, and experience the medicine of George Washington’s era. Period-clad docents explain the medical practices of the era and share medicinal uses of leeches, cobwebs, and snakeroot. You can even smell and touch the old-time medicines for a full sensory experience.
The Rising Sun Tavern
Embrace history at the Rising Sun Tavern while surrounded by 18th-century furniture and period-clad docents. Originally built as a private residence in 1760 by George Washington’s brother, the home was later leased as a tavern. It is now a historic attraction and one of the four Washington Heritage Museum sites in Fredericksburg.
Travel back in time to the year 1784 at Michie Tavern, a Virginia Historic Landmark. Owned originally by Scotsman William Michie, the site served as the epicenter of social life in Earlysville, Virginia. The Tavern offered travelers food, drink and lodging before the Commonwealth of Virginia purchased it in 1910. The Tavern operated in Earlysville until 1927, when the current owner, Josephine Henderson, moved it to its present location, a half mile from Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home.
Visiting Michie Tavern today feels much the same as it may have 200 years ago. Servers don period outfits and serve up both traditional southern cuisine and hospitality. Before or after dining, guests are invited to tour the oldest section of Michie Tavern to learn more about its history. In addition, guests can peruse any of four shops: the Tavern-Museum Shop, the Metal Smith Shop, the Clothier and the General Store.
With rides, games, and attractions spread across 400 acres (161 hectares), Kings Dominion is one of Virginia's premier amusement parks. Thrill-seekers enjoy dozens of coasters and non-coaster rides, kids find endless fun at Planet Snoopy, and summertime guests cool off at Soak City Waterpark—all included with admission.
- Things to do in Williamsburg
- Things to do in Pennsylvania
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- Things to do in Washington DC
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- Things to do in Georgia
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