The state of Virginia is a pretty historic and totally beautiful place to visit. From the picturesque places on the East Coast to the Appalachian mountains, there’s a heap of the best things to do in Virginia that are dotted all across the state.
Now, although Virginia might not always be the most obvious choice when looking for the best places in the USA to visit from an international perspective, it’s got some gems that Americans have loved for years! This is exactly why I wanted to share some of the spots you shouldn’t miss whilst exploring the state.
With that in mind, take a look at the best things to do in Virginia when you visit. Have the best time exploring!
1.) Shenandoah National Park
Nestled along the Blue Mountain Range, rambling through Shenandoah National Park is one of the best things to do in Virginia if you love the great outdoors.
Now, of course, it’s a national park so expect it to be vast, so you must have at least some plan in place if you’re planning on seeing the most epic spots. Obviously, if you love a hike, join the Appalachian Trail which is totally beautiful and completely unspoilt. Just make sure to plan your route, follow the trails and always be a responsible hiker.
Alternatively, if you don’t fancy a ramble, pop in your car and drive the Skyline Drive that runs the length of Shenandoah National Park.
If you fancy a shorter (but still pretty long) hike, join the Old Rag Hike that can be pretty intense. Only attempt this if you’re in good physical fitness and, of course, take lots of water.
Plus, if it’s waterfalls you’re after, hop on over to Dark Hollow Falls (via the Dark Hollows Falls Trailhead). Just be aware, the trail can get super muddy, so good shoes are a must!
2.) Luray Caverns
This is no ordinary kinda cave, the Luray Caverns are totally stunning! Discovered in the 19th Century, and designated a world heritage site in 1973, this impressive cave system is so beautiful to pop inside. Honestly, you don’t need to be a geologist to enjoy this place, the whole system is so beautiful to see.
Rooms inside of the caverns reach up to 10 stories high, and cave walls are marked with beautiful colour formations that have formed over thousands of years.
3.) Mount Vernon
So yeah, you’ll have probably heard of George Washington, right?
Well, whilst in Virginia, you can visit his plantation house near Mount Vernon that’s one of the best things to do in Virginia (especially if you love history).
This estate turned historically protected site, has a heap of lovely garden walks, a museum to touchup on your history and the tomb of Washington and his wife, Martha, too. It’s around 10-miles from the centre of Alexandria, which makes it totally easy to visit for a half-day trip.
4.) Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg is best described as a living museum whereby you can explore the long, sometimes checkered and tumultuous history.
Honestly, you can spend a day exploring all the old-world feeling town and it’s totally lovely for a more relaxing family day out.
Once here, be sure to take a horse-drawn cart, do a little shopping and learn more about history in this region of the USA.
Also, the King’s Arms is a big win for me, love it!
5.) Chrysler Museum of Art
Almost 100 years old, visiting the Chrysler Museum of Art is one of the best things to do in Virginia if you’re into your art and design.
Along with huge exhibitions and temporary rooms, there’s a really interesting exhibit is dedicated to glassmaking. If you tire out your senses from the art, take a breather and relax in the architecture of the large front hall.
6.) First Landing State Park
Perched on the area around Cape Henry, First Landing State Park is a great place to check out whilst on the coastal routes of Virginia itself.
You see, this spot is not far from the site where the first colonialists landed back in the 17th Century. Nowadays, the beach is still as pristine as ever and it’s a lovely place to go for a stroll and ramble the oceanfront.
Also, if you fancy a hike, join the Bald Cypress Trail that’ll take you straight through the swamps and is a pretty easy hike.
7.) Norfolk Botanical Gardens
There is a lot of incredible history to see in Virginia, but sometimes you just need to stop and smell the roses. Right?
If that’s you, check out the Norfolk Botanical Gardens to get a breath of fresh air and walk through the colourful gardens. Throughout the year, the gardens host regular (and seasonal) events, too. This means it’s always worth checking what’s going on before you visit.
Oh, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Japanese Garden. Stunning!
8.) Virginia Beach Oceanfront
Walking along the 3-mile boardwalk along the Atlantic Coast is totally bliss in the late afternoon. You see, along the boardwalk are a heap of bars, restaurants and little stopping points that makes it so much fun on a sunny day.
Once here, keep your eyes peeled for the Neptune Statue, grab some of the best pancakes at Pocahontas Pancake House and pop into Pelon’s Baja Grill for some tasty Mexican (their tacos are everything).
Around a 1-hour drive from Alexandria, the historic town of Leesburg was once one of the most affluent towns in all of Virginia. Nowadays, it’s a pretty quaint little town, especially in the centre of Leesburg to visit.
Once here, make sure to grab some freshly-caught oysters from King Street Oyster Bar, stop by Mom’s Apple Pie Bakery for some of the best puddings in Virginia and spot George C. Marshall’s, Dodona Manor.
It’s a perfect town to stop at as you head further east on a road trip from Alexandria or Washington DC.
Being the capital of the state, visiting Richmond is one of the best things to do in Virginia if you want more of a city break. You see, it’s a perfect little place for a weekend stay and has plenty to do once you’re here.
After arriving, be sure to check out the Virginia State Capitol building, visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and explore the totally vast Maymont Estate.
Afterwards, head on over to Lemaire for a special treat of a dinner. It’s a little more expensive than some other spots in Richmond but the food is so good, especially their crusted tuna. Yum!
11.) James River Visitors Center
Beyond Coleman Falls and around 40-miles from Lynchburg, the James River Visitor Center is a great place to stop as part of a winder road trip around Virginia.
You see, from here they have some epic walking trails and the Harry Flood Byrd Memorial Bridge where you can grab some epic photos, too.
Although a sleepy little spot, it’s worth stopping if you have a little picnic to enjoy the views. It’s totally tranquil.
12.) Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello was the main plantation that the third president of the United States used to live.
Nowadays, it’s a great place to visit to learn more about Thomas Jefferson and the development of the plantation itself. Just on the outskirts of Charlottesville, it’s really easy to visit in the car.
Just a stone’s throw from Washington DC, exploring the historic Alexandria is one of the best things to do in Virginia if you’re already visiting Washington DC.
After arriving, be sure to check out the 18th century, Carlyle House Historic Park that’s totally lovely. Oh, and see the George Washington Masonic Memorial that’s not too far from Alexandria Train Station.
Finally, get yourself over to Hank’s Oyster Bar for some of the yummiest shellfish in all of Alexandria. Plus, their calamari is epic, too.
14.) Cape Henry Lighthouse
Just across from First Landing State Park, seeing Cape Henry Lighthouse is one of the best things to do in Virginia if you want to explore more of the states long history.
You see, the lighthouse itself has stood since the 1700s and is well worth a gander whilst you’re already in the area.
Plus, you can partner this with your trip down to Virginia Beach, too!