If you’re from Virginia, you probably understand why our state is unquestionably the best (although we could maybe, just maybe, be a little partial), but if you’ve never traveled to the state, you may not fully understand the slogan “Virginia is for Lovers”. So here’s the secret behind that well-worn phrase: Virginia isn’t just for beach lovers, or mountain lovers, or even history lovers. The state has so much to offer that it is for lovers of every type of adventure. Choose one of these ten iconic trips to get a glimpse at why Virginians are so passionate about their state.
1. Visit Virginia’s Beautiful Beaches
Virginia Beach Oceanfront
You’ll find plenty of activities to keep your vacation exciting along the shores of Virginia. Head to Virginia Beach and rent bicycles for a trip down the Boardwalk for scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean. If you want to make the most of your trip, set aside a day and take the 23-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel over to the Eastern Shore. There you can stop at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge to see the park’s most famous inhabitants, the wild ponies.
Fly in to: Norfolk International Airport (ORF)
-Virginia Beach Boardwalk
-Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
-Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
2. Take the Presidential Tour
Eight U.S. Presidents called Virginia home, leaving behind important historical legacies throughout the Commonwealth. Start your trip by flying into Fairfax at Dulles. Your first stop will be Mount Vernon, George Washington’s expansive estate along the Potomac River. Next, your journey takes you to James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange, which is about two and a half hours from Mount Vernon. Drive about 45 minutes southwest to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, and take a detour to the city of Charlottesville to see Jefferson’s beloved University of Virginia. Only about 10 minutes down the road is James Monroe’s Highland. Add more Presidential destinations to your Virginia historical road trip.
Fly in to: Dulles International Airport (IAD) or Richmond International Airport (RIC)
-James Monroe’s Highland
3. Travel the Crooked Road
Floyd Country Music Store
Explore Virginia’s rich musical heritage on the Crooked Road, a 300-mile route with destinations that highlight the state’s important contributions to country music. Depending on your location, fly into either Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Blountville, Tennessee or Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport. If you catch a flight into Roanoke, start your trip in Franklin County at the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum, and head west to the Floyd Country Store. Driving further west, you’ll reach Bristol, known as the Birthplace of Country Music. If you fly into the Tri-Cities Regional Airport, begin at the western part of the Crooked Road and head east towards the Ralph Stanley Museum in Clintwood and the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons. Although you could probably drive all 300 miles in one day, plan this trip over at least two to three days to spend some time at each of the important detours off the Crooked Road. If heading west to east, consider staying at the luxurious Primland Resort in Meadows of Dan, or book a room at the historic Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon if you are driving west from Roanoke.
Fly in to: Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TRI) or Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport (ROA)
Stay at: Primland Resort or Martha Washington Inn
-Floyd Country Store
-Ralph Stanley Museum
-Blue Ridge Institute & Museum
-Carter Family Fold
-Bristol, the Birthplace of Country Music
Views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Skyline Drive
One of the most famous breathtaking routes in America winds through Virginia, showcasing the Blue Ridge Mountains and the state’s natural beauty. Start your route from Roanoke and head north toward Peaks of Otter, about 34 miles from the city of Roanoke. The trio of mountain peaks that make up the Peaks of Otter have a total of 12 miles of hiking trails if you are looking for outdoor experiences. Your drive continues north on the Blue Ridge Parkway, continuing another 78 miles through the mountains and across the James River to Humpback Rock. Hike to the top of this two mile trail for views of the Shenandoah Valley. Shortly after leaving Humpback Rock, you’ll reach the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, which leads into Shenandoah National Park. 73 miles into your trip is Stony Man Trail, known as one of the most scenic trails off of Skyline Drive. The 2.3 mile trails takes a little over two hours to get to the summit, and you’ll get the best view if you plan to reach the top near sunset. About 20 miles north of the trailhead is the Inn at Little Washington, one of America’s finest restaurants and country inns. Simply reverse your itinerary if you fly in to Dulles and take Interstate 66 west to the north end of Shenandoah National Park.
Fly in to: Dulles International Airport (IAD) or Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport (ROA)
Stay at: The Inn at Little Washington
-Skyline Drive Scenic Outlooks
-Shenandoah National Park
-Peaks of Otter
-Stony Man Trail
5. Sip Exceptional Virginia Wines
Vines on the Monticello Wine Trail
There is more than one region that produces excellent wine in Virginia. In fact, almost every single part of the state has a collection of outstanding vineyards. The Monticello Wine Trail has over 30 wineries, all within easy access of Charlottesville. A few can’t-miss vineyards include King Family Vineyards, where you can attend a polo match on Sundays, Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, a popular spot for weddings because of the incredible hilltop view, and Veritas Vineyards & Winery, which has a Virginia LOVEworks installation made out of used corks hanging from the ceiling. After sampling the wines and touring the countryside outside of Charlottesville, head back to the city and book a room at Boar’s Head. If you have some time to kill, walk around the historic University of Virginia campus. For dinner, try Public Fish & Oyster for a selection of fresh Virginia oysters, or grab a burger at Citizen Burger Bar, known for their mouthwatering burger selection.
Fly in to: Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO) or Richmond International Airport (RIC)
Stay at: Boar’s Head Inn
-Monticello Wine Trail
-University of Virginia Campus
6. Get Out on Virginia’s Many Waterways
Paddleboarding on the New River
Like wines, Virginia has many great spots to get out on the water and kayak with your partner, plan an overnight canoe trip, or even try something new with stand up paddleboarding. For a trip that combines water sports, scenery, and abundant Virginia wildlife, fly in to Roanoke Airport and plan a paddling trip down the New River. Book a trip with Tangent Outfitters at either of their locations along the New River (Pembroke and Radford). The company has canoe, paddleboard, kayak, and even tube rentals available for you to use on the river. If you get tired of traversing the river, Cascades National Recreation Trail is less than a mile away. Hike through the shaded mountain trail a total of four miles to reach a 66-foot waterfall.
Fly in to: Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport (ROA)
-The New River
-Cascades National Recreation Trail
7. Attend a Multi-Day Music Festival
The Sun Sets Over the Crowd at Lockn’
Virginia’s music scene gets more impressive each year, and whether you are looking for bluegrass or want to spot your favorite jam-band in action, you’ll find your festival within the Commonwealth. Catch a flight into Roanoke for the 15th annual Floydfest, a five day celebration of music, food, and arts from around the world. Another big music festival in Virginia is Lockn’, held in Nelson County, which is easily accessible from both Richmond International Airport and Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Airport. The festival lasts four days and outdoor activities such as mountain biking, yoga, and hiking are available for patrons during breaks in the music. This year, big names like Phish, Ween, and My Morning Jacket will perform at the festival. If Floydfest and Lockn’ aren’t quite your style, you may consider attending the Richmond Jazz Festival to see incredible musicians like Herbie Hancock, the Roots, and Wyclef Jean.
Fly in to: Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport (ROA) for Floydfest, Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO) or Richmond International Airport (RIC) for Lockn’, and Richmond International Airport (RIC) for the Richmond Jazz Festival
-Richmond Jazz Festival
8. Go Back in Time in the Historic Triangle
A Horse-Drawn Carriage on the Streets of Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown are the three sites that make up the Historic Triangle in Virginia. After flying in to the Newport News Airport, take Route 17 to Yorktown Battlefield Park, the location of the last major battle of the American Revolution. The park’s Victory Center chronicles the struggle for independence in America, offering a detailed timeline that explains how the United States gained its freedom from England. Following your tour of Yorktown, head west on the Colonial Parkway to Jamestown, where you’ll learn about the first permanent English colonies in North America that were formed in 1607 and their interactions with the Native Americans upon arrival. See recreations of the three ships that crossed the Atlantic and even visit the site where Pocahontas and John Rolfe married in 1614. Next, finish your historic triad trip at Colonial Williamsburg, the Capitol of England’s first permanent colony in the New World. Here, you can find restored and reconstructed buildings from the Colonial era, where period actors explain what life was like during the early days in America. For a little luxury after spending the day reliving simpler times, get a room at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg. The resort sits on the banks of the James River and has a 36-hole golf course, full-service spa, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis center, and four restaurants on site.
Fly in to: Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) or Richmond International Airport (RIC)
Stay at: Kingsmill Resort
-Yorktown Battlefield Park
9. Taste Virginia’s World-Class Oysters
Pleasure House Gives an Oyster Farm Tour
Virginia has seven distinct oyster regions that produce the finest examples of Virginia seafood. In 2015, Governor Terry McAuliffe christened this chain of locations the “Virginia Oyster Trail”. In addition to eating fresh local oysters at restaurants like Merroir, you can learn about the culture and history of the watermen on the Chesapeake Bay. Then, take a tour of an oyster farm to get a more in-depth look at the cultivation of Virginia oysters. Whether you prefer briny or mild, every oyster lover will find exceptional flavor when touring Virginia’s oyster regions. For an overnight stay in the heart of oyster country, stay the Tides Inn in Irvington, where you’ll have views of the Chesapeake Bay from the hotel. The resort even offers sailing classes for guests looking to learn a new skill during their stay.
Fly in to: Richmond International Airport (RIC) or Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport (PHF)
Stay at: The Tides Inn
-Seven Unique Oyster Regions
-Oyster Farm Tours
10. See Virginia’s Natural Wonders
Underground Lake in Luray Caverns Reflect the Geologically Stunning Ceiling
There are eight natural wonders of Virginia, and while it may take you at least a week to see them all, you need to add this trip to your agenda. You can fly in to any airport throughout the Virginia area to begin your journey, but no matter where you start, you need to see all eight. The pitch black, glassy waters of Lake Drummond in the Great Dismal Swamp are eerily beautiful. Burke’s Garden, known as “God’s Thumbprint”, is a bowl-shaped valley that offers natural landscape, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks from the ridge. At Natural Bridge, you can walk under a daunting rock arch that was once surveyed by a young George Washington and even belonged to Thomas Jefferson. Explore Virginia’s underground scene at Luray Caverns, where you’ll see towering caverns and quiet, clear pools. Each of these eight wonders provides a unique look at Virginia’s breathtaking natural beauty.
Fly in to: With each of the eight wonders spread across the state, choose the airport closest to your starting point.
-All Eight Wonders—Burke’s Garden, the Great Dismal Swamp, Natural Bridge, Luray Caverns, Natural Tunnel State Park, Westmoreland State Park, Breaks Interstate Park, and Great Falls Park
Virginia has many special attributes and landmarks that make it a unique travel destination. Use these itineraries or create your own custom route for a fun-filled Virginia vacation for you and your family this year.
© pkeppel for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2016. |