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Nestled on the East Coast of the United States, Virginia stands as a testament to the nation’s rich history and abundant natural beauty. In this Virginia travel guide, you will see why travelers from near and far are drawn to the Old Dominion State for its captivating blend of history, landscapes, and adventure.
In Virginia, every season paints a different picture, whether it’s the vibrant colors of fall foliage, the lush landscapes of spring, or the cozy winter retreats. With warm hospitality, rich traditions, and a diversity of experiences, Virginia invites travelers to uncover a world where history meets natural wonder, creating memories that linger long after the journey ends.
I was born in Virginia and am so excited to share the beauty of this state. Virginia offers a tapestry of experiences that cater to all kinds of adventurers. History buffs can stroll through the cobblestone streets of Williamsburg, explore the hallowed grounds of battlefields like Gettysburg, or visit the homes of American icons like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
Nature enthusiasts will find solace in the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains, where hiking, biking, and breathtaking vistas await in Shenandoah National Park. Coastal getaways along the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia Beach offer sandy shores, water sports, and fresh seafood delights.
Virginia’s cities, from the capital city of Richmond to the cultural hub of Charlottesville, buzz with artistic expression, culinary delights, and a welcoming spirit. The state’s culinary scene celebrates regional flavors, while its wineries and craft breweries continue to gain recognition. So let’s get into the Virginia travel guide, and plan an epic trip.
Planning a Trip to Virginia
Embarking on a journey to Virginia is like diving into a rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty. Before you set out, take some time to plan your adventure. Virginia has a diverse range of attractions, so consider your interests and priorities. Are you fascinated by American history? Do you crave outdoor adventures in picturesque landscapes? Or are you more interested in savoring local flavors and immersing yourself in vibrant city life? Tailoring your trip to your preferences will help you make the most out of this Virginia travel guide.
The Best Time to Go
Virginia’s charm shines throughout the year, but the best time to visit largely depends on your desired activities and climate preferences. Spring brings blooming gardens, mild temperatures, and a burst of color. Summer is perfect for beachgoers and outdoor enthusiasts, with warm weather and festivals galore. Fall blankets the state in breathtaking foliage, making it an ideal time for scenic drives and hiking. Meanwhile, winter offers cozy escapes to charming inns and historic sites aglow with holiday spirit. Consider the experiences you want to enjoy when planning your trip to Virginia, and you’ll find the perfect season to match your desires.
What to Pack
Packing for a trip to Virginia requires versatility due to the state’s varied landscapes and seasonal changes. Sometimes it feels like Virginia can go through all four seasons in a matter of days. Be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes for exploring historic sites and hiking trails, especially if you plan to visit the picturesque Shenandoah National Park. Layers are essential, and Virginia’s weather can be unpredictable, even in the warmer months. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen and insect repellent for outdoor adventures. If you are visiting in the fall, bring your camera to capture the stunning foliage. And no matter the season, a reusable water bottle and a sense of adventure are always excellent additions to your packing list.
If you aren’t sure what to pack here are some packing lists you can use. Get creative and mix and match them depending on what you choose to do during your time in Virginia.
Where to Stay
Virginia offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences. If you are seeking a taste of history, consider staying in a charming bed and breakfast in a historic town like Williamsburg or Staunton. For a luxurious escape, indulge in one of the state’s upscale resorts or spa retreats. Nature enthusiasts can camp under the stars in one of Virginia’s beautiful state parks. Traveling on a budget? There are plenty of affordable motels and hostels available throughout the state. If you are looking for a vibrant urban experience, Virginia’s cities like Richmond, Norfolk, and Charlottesville boast a variety of boutique hotels and accommodations in the heart of the action.
Best of Virginia
Virginia, known as the “Old Dominion”, is a treasure trove of diverse experiences waiting to be discovered. From historic landmarks that narrate the nation’s story to the breathtaking landscapes that define the state’s natural beauty, the Best of Virginia is a captivating blend of history, culture, and outdoor adventures. Whether you’re drawn to the cobblestone streets of Williamsburg, the vibrant art scene in Richmond, or the serene landscapes of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia offers a wealth of opportunities for exploration and enrichment.
Top Cities to Visit in Virginia
Richmond, Virginia’s capital city, is a dynamic blend of history and modernity. Stroll along its cobblestone streets, and you’ll encounter iconic landmarks like the State Capitol and St. John’s Church, where Patrick Henry gave his famous “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” speech. Richmond’s thriving arts scene, world-class museums, and vibrant culture make it a must-visit destination for those seeking a balance of tradition and innovation.
Nestled in the heart of Virginia’s wine country, Charlottesville is a city of charm and sophistication. Visitors can explore the historic grounds of the University of Virginia, designed by Thomas Jefferson, and tour his beloved Monticello estate. Beyond history, Charlottesville offers a dynamic arts scene, scenic vineyards, and the stunning landscapes of Shenandoah National Park, making it an ideal destination for culture enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
Virginia Beach invites travelers to its sunny shores along the Atlantic Ocean. Known for its pristine beaches, water sports, and vibrant boardwalk, it’s a coastal paradise. Beyond the beach, you’ll find the Virginia Aquarium, exciting nightlife, and a diverse culinary scene. Whether you’re catching waves, exploring marine life, or savoring fresh seafood, Virginia Beach offers endless seaside adventures.
Williamsburg is a living history museum, transporting visitors back to colonial times. Walk the streets of Colonial Williamsburg, where costumed interpreters reenact daily life in the 18th century. Nearby, Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Battlefield offer additional insights into America’s early history. With its cobblestone lanes, historic taverns, and well-preserved buildings, Williamsburg is a captivating step into the past.
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke is a haven for outdoor mountain scenery enthusiasts and lovers. Hiking trails, including the iconic Appalachian Trail, surround the city. Roanoke’s vibrant cultural scene includes the Taubman Museum of Art and the historic Roanoke City Market. Its welcoming atmosphere and stunning mountain vistas make it a getaway for outdoor adventures and artistic exploration.
Harrisonburg, located in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, is known for its welcoming community and rich agricultural heritage. It’s a hub for farm-to-table dining and craft breweries. The city’s historic district offers a glimpse into its past, while the nearby Shenandoah National Park provides opportunities for hiking and outdoor exploration. Harrisonburg’s blend of local flavor and natural beauty makes it a hidden gem in Virginia.
Interested in more places in Virginia to explore? Check out these posts:
Top Things to Do in Virginia
Virginia’s range of activities caters to every traveler’s interests. From history enthusiasts to nature lovers, there is something for everyone in Virginia. Consider adding some of these things to your itinerary as you plan your trip to Virginia.
Visit Historic Williamsburg
Williamsburg, often referred to as the “Colonial Capital of Virginia,” takes you back in time to the 18th century. Explore the meticulously preserved colonial buildings and enjoy the immersive experience that offers a glimpse into America’s past.
You can walk around Colonial Williamsburg for free but I recommend purchasing a ticket so you can experience it to the fullest. You can go into the shops and watch the reenactments as you explore this historic town.
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, located in Charlottesville, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a masterpiece of neoclassical architecture. Tour the former president’s home, explore the gardens, and learn about Jefferson’s life and contributions to American history.
Explore Shenandoah National Park
Nature enthusiasts will find paradise in Shenandoah National Park. Hike along the scenic trails, take in breathtaking vistas from Skyline Drive, and immerse yourself in the park’s diverse flora and fauna. It’s a haven for outdoor adventures and wildlife lovers.
Experience Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach offers miles of pristine sandy beaches and a vibrant oceanfront boardwalk. Enjoy swimming, water sports, and beachfront dining. Don’t miss the Virginia Aquarium or explore the nearby First Landing State Park.
Tour the Luray Caverns
Located in the Shenandoah Valley, Luray Caverns is one of the most captivating cave systems in the eastern United States. Take a guided tour through intricate underground formations, including the awe-inspiring Great Stalacpipe Organ, which produces music from the cave’s natural acoustics.
Visit Mount Vernon
George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, situated along the banks of the Potomac River, offers a glimpse into the life of America’s first president. Explore the mansion, gardens, and outbuilding, and learn about Washington’s contributions to the nation.
Wine Tasting in Virginia Wine Country
Virginia is home to an extensive wine scene. Discover wineries and vineyards nestled in picturesque, landscapes, especially in regions like Charlottesville and Loudoun County. Enjoy tastings of award-winning Virginia wines and savor scenic beauty.
Explore Richmond’s Arts and Culture
Richmond boasts a thriving art scene, with numerous galleries, museums, and theatres. Visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, catch a performance at the Richmond Ballet, or explore the city’s vibrant street art scene.
Take a Scenic Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Embark on a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, known for its sweeping mountain views, lush forests, and charming overlooks. The fall foliage here is particularly spectacular.
What to Eat/Drink in Virginia
You can’t travel to a new place and not try out the local cuisine. Virginia has a wide range of local cuisine that you can’t miss. From seafood to southern favorites, there is something for everyone to try on your trip to Virginia.
Virginia is renowned for its delicious, salt-cured hams. These hams are typically aged for an extended period, resulting in a distinct, savory flavor. You should try Virginia ham as it’s a culinary tradition that dates back to the colonial era, and it’s a quintessential taste of the state’s heritage.
Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs
Chesapeake Bay is famous for its sweet and succulent blue crabs. Whether enjoyed in the form of crab cakes, soft-shell crabs, or steamed crabs seasoned with Old Bay spice, they are a must-try. Blue crabs embody the flavors of the region and its seafood culture.
Virgninia’s peanut industry is a significant part of the state’s agricultural heritage. You must savor Virginia peanuts for their outstanding crunch and flavor. This popular snack comes in a variety of forms, such as roasted, boiled, or even peanut brittle.
This hearty and flavorful stew is a Southern classic, and Virginia’s version is a must-try. Made with a combination of meats (often chicken and pork), vegetables, and tomatoes, it’s a comforting dish that showcases the state’s Southern roots.
A regional specialty, she-crab soup is a creamy bisque featuring crab meat and crab roe. This delicacy is a testament to Virginia’s love for seafood and is a warm, indulgent treat for your taste buds.
No list of food to try in Virginia would be complete without oysters. The oyster industry is thriving in Virginia and the state is known for producing some of the finest oysters in the country. They can be enjoyed raw, roasted, fried, or in stews. Oysters aren’t for everyone but they are a must-try for a coastal taste.
Virginia has a growing wine industry, with numerous vineyards and wineries scattered throughout the state. The wine regions, such as the Shenandoah Valley and the Monticello AVA, produce high-quality wines, making Virginia an excellent destination for wine enthusiasts.
Virginia is also famous for its Apple Orchards, and the apple cider produced here is exceptional. You can find both sweet and hard cider varieties, making it a versatile and refreshing drink to enjoy throughout the year.
One of my absolute favorite cideries to visit is Carter Mountain, located in Charlottesville, Virginia. The views are gorgeous year-round. Don’t miss grabbing their famous apple cider donuts on your visit.
In the heart of America’s historic and picturesque East Coast, Virginia calls on travelers with its rich tapestry of experiences. From the enchanting streets of Colonial Williamsburg to the majestic mountain views of Blue Ridge Parkway, this state offers a diverse array of adventures waiting to be explored. As you explore Virginia’s landscapes, sample its culinary delights, and uncover its history, you’ll find that this state is more than a destination, it’s a journey through time and nature.
So, whether you’re a history buff, and outdoor enthusiast, a foodie, or simply someone eager to create unforgettable memories, Virginia welcomes you with open arms. Let the beauty, culture, and charm of the Old Dominion State become the backdrop for your next adventure.