There are so many places to visit in Virginia and tons of attractions to discover. If you’ve decided to spend some time in Old Dominion and have no idea where to start, don’t worry. Our guide is going to help you plan that perfect Virginia travel itinerary around nine awesome parts of the state.
Places to Visit in Virginia
This article was originally created on January 27, 2016. It has been maintained and updated (as of October 12, 2018) to reflect our current viewpoints and travel trends.
We’ve got a mix of outdoor fun, the beach, and places to go when the weather doesn’t cooperate. So check out these Virginia attractions and places to visit, from the north, east, and west. But also beware. There’s a big chance you’ll start looking to move here!
Northern Virginia | Washington, DC Area
Northern Virginia (NOVA) is filled with suburbs and places that are commonly attributed to the Washington, DC area. Head out of the nation’s capital and you find the cities, towns, and counties of Fairfax, Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Manassas, and even more. Depending on how you define Northern Virginia, there are plenty of things to do in this steadily growing part of the state. Here are a couple of places to explore in Northern Virginia.
Stay close to Washington, DC in Alexandria and you’ll be close to so many wonderful things in and around the city. Walk around Old Town and the Waterfront and you’ll forget that the nation’s capital is nearby. Enjoy shopping on King Street and if you’re feeling up for a quick day trip away from Alexandria, you have to drive eight miles to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. That way you can learn more about how our first president spent his days there.
Sterling is a Loudoun County highlight and very close to Dulles International Airport. The sights found at Algonkian Regional Park and other outdoor getaways are a great reason for you to ask yourself, “Why would I bother going into the city?” Kids can have fun at Rebounderz and if they’re worn out from bouncing around on the trampolines, you can take them to Heritage Farm Museum, which takes the indoor fun and mixes it with education.
Of all the places to visit in Virginia, the East is a really popular spot. There are all the Virginia Beach attractions that keep you coming back, Colonial Williamsburg that takes you back, the Eastern Shore, and so much more. We even threw in Richmond, although it’s technically beyond the diving Fall Line. But don’t tell anyone, okay?
While technically a part of Virginia’s Piedmont, Richmond sits far enough east to make the cut here. It’s a city filled with Civil War History, but there are tons of other things to do in Richmond. Make a day of visiting Maymont, enjoying the lavish estate, its gardens, and wildlife center. More beauty is on display at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, one of the nation’s best. Outdoor lovers who spend time in Richmond love the easy access to the James River Park System, where running, mountain biking, and kayaking are popular pastimes. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is perfect throughout the year, thanks to traveling exhibits coming through.
There are tons of things to do in Virginia Beach, ways to admire iconic views, and hopefully, plenty of time to enjoy that lovely boardwalk. You can spend an evening at Neptune’s Park with a truly impressive statue that accompanies a variety of concerts and shops in the area. But there’s more to Virginia Beach than all the awesome oceanfront fun. On North Virginia Beach’s Cape Henry, First Landing State Park provides a wonderful combination of swimming, hiking, and other outdoor fun. Also, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is perfect for those in search of trails and masses of birds to admire.
Spend at least a weekend in the city of Newport News and visit its collections found around the Mariners’ Museum and Park. You could also go for a walk or run around the Noland Trail, a 5-mile loop around Lake Maury. Next door, learn about the first commissioned Union Submarine, the USS Monitor. The Virginia Living Museum has splendid living exhibits, an outdoor boardwalk and a planetarium inside. When searching for more outdoor things to do in Newport News, start with some relaxation time at Huntington Park Beach. It’ll be nice to chill out after having so much fun.
Go back in time when exploring Williamsburg, but don’t forget that you’ll eventually have to return home. There are plenty of things to do beyond Colonial Williamsburg, but that’s certainly where you should start when wanting to knock out the main attractions. Visit the Jamestown Settlement and Governor’s Palace to enhance your feel for the early Colonial Period. But you can also spend a lot of time busying yourself at other Williamsburg highlights, including the Watermen’s Museum, Yorktown Beach, and Powhatan Creek Park.
Western Virginia (not to be confused with the also wonderful state of West Virginia) makes up three distinct regions—the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Valley and Ridge, and the Appalachian Plateau. The beautiful scenery more than makes up for the lack of huge cities in this part of the state. We love mountains and are big fans of this region’s Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, among other things. Not only is this area full of our favorite places to visit in Virginia, but it’s also a great part of the US to explore during fall. Just saying.
Front Royal is a wonderful base for enjoying the outdoors in the Shenandoah Valley, but there’s also a lot of fun stuff happening in and around the historic downtown. Known as Virginia’s Canoe Capital, you can paddle the beautiful Shenandoah River. You can also learn about Front Royal’s place in the Civil War with a driving tour or travel deep down in the Earth with a visit to Skyline Caverns. There, you’ll reach as far as 260 feet below ground. Learn about Virginia’s 400-year beer history at the Virginia Beer Museum, but don’t forget to grab a brew and some food from Front Royal Brewing Company. Regardless of how you spend your days in Front Royal, you have to check out more of the awesome food scene at places like Blue Wing Frog. Don’t forget about dessert at C&C Frozen Treats, too!
Come to southwestern Virginia and explore all the fun things to do in Roanoke. Star City is emerging as a must-see place to visit in Virginia, and you should start by checking out Downtown Roanoke. Stick to Market Street and you’ll find plenty to do in and around the fun-filled Center in the Square. Drive out to the Roanoke Star and you’ll get a beautiful view of the city and its surroundings. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs right by Roanoke and some of the country’s best hikes—McAfee Knob being one of them—are a short drive away from Star City. Roanoke is very close to Blacksburg, which means you can get in on the Virginia Tech football fun during the fall. I’d also recommend visiting one of our favorite water spots, Cascade Falls, if you’d like a quick day trip from Roanoke.
Referred to by locals as “Cville,” Charlottesville was home to two US Presidents and full of appealing places to explore. Explore Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Monroe’s Highland, but you should also check out Carter Mountain Orchard and some of Virginia’s finest wineries (like Blenheim and Jefferson) that surround these iconic residences. Many people come to attend UVA or admire the beautiful campus, but this is an awesome more-than-a-college town in our opinion. If you’re in Charlottesville, you have to walk through the Historic Downtown Mall, one of America’s longest pedestrian malls and full of unique eats and specialty shops for everyone to enjoy.
Our Thoughts and Yours, Too!
We’re pretty hooked on the Old Dominion and can’t wait to keep coming back. Have you ever explored Virginia? What did you think of the state? Do you have a favorite out of all these places? I bet you’re ready to visit them all after looking through these places to visit in Virginia. Remember that one trip is never enough. You’re not running a travel race, which means it’s okay to come back for seconds.