Virginia is a state that has a rich history, fascinating geology, exciting culture, and plenty to see and do. It is no wonder that millions of people visit Virginia every year.
If you are planning a trip to Virginia, or you want to explore the area, you will need to know which places to visit. We have put together this list of the best attractions in Virginia. Keep reading to find the perfect places for you to visit.
1. Virginia Museum Of Fine Arts
This museum was opened as the state’s flagship art museum in 1936 in the midst of the Great Depression. The collection began with donations, and over time it has grown into a fantastic collection of art.
It is located in Richmond and is an excellent place to spend a morning or an afternoon. Admission is free and the collection includes works by Alphonso Mucha, Lillian Thomas Pratt, Louis Draper, Ludwig and Rosie Fischer.
There are also collections of Islamic art, The Black Photographers Annual, Native American Art, and more.
The exhibitions change seasonally, but include things like Raoul Dufy: Drawn to Royal Ascot, Ebony Patterson, Love & Longing in Indian Painting, Eight Views Of Omi: Japanese Woodblock Prints by Ito Shinsui, and more.
There are various tours available if you want to be guided around the museum, including an audio tour and group tours.
Within the museum there is a restaurant, a cafe and a shop. Take some time to sit and enjoy a coffee or a bite to eat, and browse the items and souvenirs. The building itself is an attraction, with stunning architecture and a rich history.
2. Luray Caverns
The largest Caverns in the Eastern United States is a great place to visit and Luray Caverns is considered one of the most fascinating Geological attractions in America.
The tour guides will take you through the caverns along lit pathways. Some of the rooms are the size of a cathedral with ceilings that are 10 stories high.
You don’t need to book your tickets in advance, but there might be a wait to enter the caves to ensure that they do not become overcrowded.
Included with admission is entry to the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum (a display of over 70 historic vehicles), Shenandoah Heritage Village (a 3 acre museum complex dedicated to America’s first frontier), and Toy Town Junction (a collection of trains and toys through the years) – which makes this day trip great value for money!
While in the area, you can take a look at Skyline Drive. This is a 105 mile drive along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park.
It takes about 3 three hours to drive the full length of the road and you will get some amazing views.
3. Arlington National Cemetery
The Arlington National Cemetery is run by the Office of Army Cemeteries and is a final resting place for those who have served the nation.
It is a peaceful place to visit, with 639 acres of rolling green hills dotted with memorial stones.
The cemetery is well maintained and is an area of historical significance. Up to 30 funerals a week are held in the cemetery, so you must be respectful when exploring the grounds.
There are various gravesites of historical interest, and a map is available to help you find any particular graves you would like to visit.
The welcome center is where you can find the relevant maps and brochures, as well as historical exhibits.
You will need comfortable footwear to explore the cemetery on foot. Alternatively, you can take the tour bus – tickets can be purchased at the welcome center.
The tour bus takes you to the grave site of president John F Kennedy, the gravesite of John J Pershing, The Memorial Amphitheater (also known as the grave of the unknown soldier), and Alrington House.
There is live narration throughout the tour and you can get off at each stop.
More than three million people visit Arlington National Cemetery every year, some to visit family or friends who have been buried there.
Make sure you look at the website before you visit for guidelines on how to conduct yourself during your visit.
4. Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach is an exciting city to visit with plenty to see and do. You can visit the aquarium, go to the Atlantic Fun Park, visit the Cape Henry Lighthouse, check out the 3 mile boardwalk, or relax on the beach.
There are plenty of exciting indoor and outdoor attractions in the city and surrounding areas, so you could easily spend a week here on holiday.
Virginia Beach is very popular with people who enjoy water activities like surfing, fishing, parasailing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and boating.
It’s also a perfect spot for hiking and biking, with city parks and state parks to explore.
You can visit one of the 16 pick-your-own produce farms which are a short drive away from the beach, or check out the tennis courts and golf courses in the area.
There is an impressive range of restaurants in Virginia beach, from romantic fine dining to casual cafes. Whether you want seafood, outdoor dining, or a seafront view, you will be able to find your perfect restaurant.
You can also go on brewery tours or take the VA beach beer trail, perfect for craft beer lovers. Foodies will also love the farmers markets and seafood markets offering the freshest produce.
Williamsburg is a historic town that is very popular with tourists visiting Virginia. You can visit colonial Williamsburg, historic Yorktown or the American Revolution Museum.
There are also plenty of historic restaurants and shops to have a look at. It’s not all history, there are also lots of fun activities you can do in the area- brewery tours, bowling, mini golf, horseback riding, wine tastings and you can even go to an alpaca farm.
If you love getting outdoors then you will love Williamsburg. It is a great spot for hiking, biking, fishing, trail riding, canoeing, swimming and exploring nature.
With various parks, creeks, rivers and gardens to explore, you will be able to spend plenty of time outdoors. On the other hand, Williamsburg is also great for shopping!
This is the perfect place to bring the family for a long weekend, with educational and fun activities for people of all ages.
There is a fantastic range of restaurants to try as well, with cuisines like Italian, seafood, BBQ, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Indian, Mexican and more.
6. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
Monticello was the home of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and the author of the declaration of independence.
He spent four decades living at this property, which was primarily a plantation. It is also very close to his place of birth. This site is rich in history and there are various tours you can take and exhibits to explore to learn all about it.
Whether you want a full tour of the house, gardens and grounds, a tour of the main highlights, a VIP after hours tour or a family friendly tour, there is something to suit everyone.
Tickets can be purchased online and it is recommended to buy them in advance. Start at the visitor center for some exhibitions and an introductory film.
A tour of the main house is recommended, and on peak days you can even meet ‘Thomas Jefferson’ (a paid actor) and ask him questions. The gardens and grounds are beautiful and peaceful, and you can explore them at your own pace.
There is a range of fascinating exhibits and tours that will teach you about the history of slavery at Monticello, a difficult but relevant part of American history that is important to study.
At the Monticello cemetery you can visit the grave of Thomas Jefferson, and of his descendants. There is a shop and a cafe on site so you can buy a souvenir to remember your visit or stop and have something to eat.
7. Virginia Aquarium And Marine Science Center
The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center is considered one of the best Aquariums in the United States. It is very popular and you should book in advance to avoid disappointment.
This also allows you to look at the calendar of different events to see which ones you are interested in, like sharks after dark or boat tours of Chesapeake Bay.
You can also book behind the scenes tours for certain animals for an extra fee such as komodo dragons, sea turtles, and sharks.
At the aquarium you will learn about the different species in the exhibits, such as eels, barracuda, rays, snakes, salamanders, frogs, seals, otters, and periwinkles.
You will also learn about the conservation efforts and how the center is helping local wildlife. The aquarium organizes regular sensory friendly mornings for those people who want to explore the exhibits at a calmer pace with less noise.
There is a cafe and a gift shop at the aquarium, complete with plenty of plush toys of your favorite animals from the exhibits.
Also located at the center is The Adventure Park, a rope course in the trees that you can explore in a harness. You need to book this separately as admission is not included with the price of an aquarium ticket.
8. Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is probably the most famous park in Virginia and has over 200,000 acres of land to explore.
There are two main visitor centers- which one you go to will depend on where you enter the park and which direction you approach it from. With restrooms, exhibits, maps and information these are good places to start your visit.
A lot of the best hiking trails also start at one of the visitor centers. There are also some exhibits outside of the visitor centers, which you can find on a map of the park.
Shenandoah National Park has woodland, mountains and meadowland along with over 90 mountain streams. This means that you can hike, fish, bike camp, and spot wildlife.
There are many species of mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians, birds and insects that live in the park. The high elevation and remoteness of Shenandoah National Park also make it a fantastic spot for stargazing.
You will be surprised at how many starts you can see, as well as planets and meteor showers. Make sure you give yourself at least 20 minutes to get used to the darkness to get the full effect.
If you are a keen hiker, then you will probably want to hike to the summit of Old Rag Mountain. This will offer you unparalleled 360 degree views of the park. This is only safe for experienced hikers who have prepared for the climb.
9. Manassas National Battlefield Park
This historical site was the location of two major Civil War battles between the North and the South – one in July 1861 and one in August 1862. It is a site of Confederate victory and has great historical importance.
There is a museum in the visitor center where you can learn more about the history of the land, and you can also take a guided walking tour with a park ranger.
There are lovely hiking trails for both experienced and less experienced hikers. The Henry Hill Loop Trail is just over a mile long and is a great way to explore the area where the 1861 battle took place. The First Manassas Loop is 5.4 miles long and explores the area more fully.
You can also take the Second Manassas Loop to look around the area of the 1862 battle, which is 6.2 miles long. Alternatively, you can take the self-guided driving tour and explore both sites.
Other areas of interest in the park include the historic stone house and the Brawner Farm Interpretive area. The park is a great place for bird spotting as it is home to around 168 species of birds.
The range of habitats including grassland and woodland also attract various mammals including deer, raccoons, squirrels and opossums.
10. Busch Gardens Theme Park
If you are looking for an exhilarating day out then head to Busch Gardens Theme Park.
It was voted in the Top 5 Theme Parks in USA Today Readers Choice Awards and has also been voted the most beautiful theme park for 32 years in a row by the National Amusement Park Historical Association.
There are lots of rides and rollercoasters to suit people of different ages and various levels of thrill seekers. You can watch seasonal shows, or visit the new speakeasy attraction.
If you love animals then you will love the animal attractions at Busch Gardens.
There are Clydesdale horses, border collies, black face sheep, Scottish Highland cattle, gray wolves, various birds of prey, reptiles, red foxes, norway rats, and a selection of colorful birds in the aviary.
These exhibits are exciting and educational as you will learn all about the different animals.
There are different shops on site which sell items like German themed gifts, art, pottery, and gifts. Some of these shops have interactive experiences like wine tasting, pottery painting, or digging for gold and gemstones.
If you get hungry throughout your day of activities you can stop for a bite to eat at any of the 9 restaurants on site including a smokehouse, a classic American Grill, a German establishment that specializes in pretzels and beer, and an Irish pub.
11. George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon was the estate of George Washington and it is now being preserved and maintained by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association. It officially opened to the public in 1860 and has been popular ever since, now receiving around one million visitors a year.
The estate was originally made up of around 8000 acres, but is now 500 acres. Included on site is the Mansion of George Washington, the tomb of George and Martha Washington, the farm, the distillery, and other original structures.
With a museum, memorials, and interactive exhibits, this is a fantastic place to visit and learn. There are so many things to see and do that you will need at least several hours to explore the estate.
You can also walk around the grounds, take an in-depth tour of the mansion house, have an interactive character tour, or a self-guided audio tour.
Once you have finished exploring the estate you can go to the food court or the restaurant for something to eat.
12. Historic Jamestowne Archaeological Museum
This Museum is located in Williamsburg, so you can easily fit it in with a trip to that area. The archaeological site has been open since 1994.
The dig was to recover the original fort built by Captain John Smith in 1607 that was lost in the river.
The museum shares the findings of the dig along with lots of interesting history about the area and the settlement. The exhibits cover the timeline of the area from pre-1600 onwards.
You can book onto one of the historical and archaeological tours to really make the most out of your visit.
The dig is still ongoing, so you can also find out about the most recent discoveries and look at the excavation work. There are three gift shops you can visit, a cafe, and designated picnic areas.
13. Norfolk Botanical Garden
The Norfolk Botanical Garden opened in 1938. It began as a large planting of Azaleas which was carried out by a workforce of 220 African Americans.
Within a year, they had planted four thousand azaleas, two thousand rhododendrons, and thousands of other shrubs, and trees had been planted.
By 1941 the garden was 75 acres in size and surrounded by 5 miles of walking trails. Today, the gardens cover 175 acres of land with 60 different themed gardens.
The gardens are designed for different seasons. Such as the Spring Margaret Moore Hall Rose Garden, the summer flowering arboretum, the fall enchanted forest, and the winter Camelia garden.
There are also different events held at the botanical garden, like animal meet and greets and educational sessions, art classes, gardening lessons, and yoga.
The gift shop includes gardening tools, unique gifts, and eco-friendly items. Picnicking is welcome all year round and there is a seasonal cafe with a garden inspired menu made with fresh ingredients.
14. Military Aviation Museum
This museum is a fascinating attraction whether you are an aviation enthusiast or not. There are regular air shows and flight displays, and lots of exhibits that you can explore at your own pace.
You can also take a guided tour if you prefer, which includes some areas of the museum that are not open to the general public. You can also buy tickets to fly in in a World War 2 aircraft, giving you a bird’s eye view of Virginia Beach.
Exhibits include army aircraft, navy aircraft, World War 2 aircraft, pilot training, aircraft carriers, American made aircraft, and much more. There are also several historic structures on site including the Goxhill watch office and the World War 1 Hangar.
You can buy tickets online to visit this museum. Make sure you check out the calendar to keep an eye out for special events and air shows so you can choose the best time to visit.
15. First Landing State Park
This state park gets its name from the historic landing of three small ships from England in 1607. These ships brought the first English settlers to America, and the location of the landing is within the park.
Since then, the waterways have continued to play an important role in the history of the area- they were used by pirates, merchants and mariners. They were used by military ships in the 1800s and are used today by cargo ships.
This is Virginia’s most visited state park and is an area of natural paradise amongst the urban area of Virginia Beach. There are an impressive 20 miles of trails to explore which is great for hiking enthusiasts.
It also has 1.5 miles of beach on Chesapeake Bay, as well as cypress swaps, maritime forests and lagoons. This makes for an interesting assortment of marine wildlife and land species.
Fishing, swimming and boating are just a few of the activities that people like to take part in in the park.
There are plenty of picnic shelters so you can stop and enjoy the scenery while you eat. If you want to stay for longer you can use the campground or book one of the yurts or cabins.
16. The Poe Museum
The Poe Museum has been in operation for over a century, though it has changed a lot over time. Initially, there was not enough public support for the venture, but interest picked up over time.
The museum is within the building where Poe began his journalism career. The Poe Museum is the international center for Poe studies with the largest collection of Poe memorabilia and artifacts.
As well as personal possessions and relevant objects, there is an extensive collection of first editions and manuscripts as well as letters and much more. Included on site is the enchanted garden and the Poe shrine.
17. Natural Bridge State Park
This state park is where you will find the Natural Bridge, a 215 foot tall limestone gorge that was naturally carved by Cedar Creek.
It is a fascinating geological feature, but there are other reasons to visit the park. It has stunning forest scenery and amazing views of the Mountains in the nearby area.
There are 7 miles of hiking trails which are perfect for exploring the park. This is quite a small state park in comparison to others, but is a great one to visit.
18. Virginia Zoo
Virginia Zoo is the perfect day out for animal lovers. The ‘ZooLive!’ Presentations give you an up-close look at some of the animals whilst learning about them in more detail, including the conservation efforts being made by the zoo.
On weekends you can go to keeper chats where you can learn more about specific animals at the zoo – the keepers work with the animals every day and can tell you about their personalities, their favorite treats, and how to take care of the animals.
For an additional fee you can take part in behind the scenes tours with turtles, bison, tapirs, giraffes, moon bears, sloths, rhinos, and various reptiles.
There are over 150 species at Virginia Zoo including lions, snakes, otters, bearded dragons, orangutans, chinchillas, owls, zebras, tigers and armadillos.
Once you have looked at all of the animals you can take your children to one of the playgrounds on site, or get something to eat at one of the restaurants or snack vendors. Picnicking is not allowed, but there is a park just outside of the zoo grounds which is ideal for picnicking.
19. Virginia Living Museum
Virginia Living Zoo is an aquarium, zoo, botanical garden and science center rolled into one, displaying over 250 different species that are native to the state. They are passionate about animal welfare, conservation and education.
There are lots of different animals that you can see. You can go to the aviary to look at the birds, follow the boardwalk through woods and wetlands to spot red wolves, beavers, river otters, bobcats and many more animals in their natural habitat.
You can also visit the outdoor dinosaur exhibit. On site there is also a planetarium and an observatory.
You can buy tickets online, and reserve a space on one of the behind the scenes tours. You can also add a planetarium show onto your ticket at the time of booking.
20. Great Falls Park
Great Falls Park offers dramatic views of dynamic waterfalls and rivers. The park is 800 acres in size and is a great place for birdwatching, biking, fishing, climbing, boating, horseback riding and hiking.
Ranger-led guided tours of the park are available at certain times of year. No camping is allowed in the park, but there are other suitable places nearby – a list of alternative campgrounds is available on the website.
Whether you are interested in art, history, literature, outdoor activities or animals, there is something for everyone on this list. From historical sites to national parks, from theme parks to museums, there are so many things to see and do in Virginia.
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