Photo credit: Flickr - Tony Alter
Growing up in Virginia, there was never a shortage of exciting things to do and interesting spots to visit, all within a few hours drive of each other. With a prime location right outside Washington D.C. and along the east coast, Virginia is one of my favorite, often overlooked vacation spots. Whether on school field trips, family vacations, or just going out on my own on a day trip, here are my favorite things to do and see in Virginia.
Not to be confused with the blossoming hipster community in Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Virginia is just about as historic America as you can get nowadays. A beautiful colonial town, Williamsburg is overflowing with period houses you can visit and tour and can even chat with guides in costume; perfect for families. Home to the College of William and Mary, the second oldest university in the United States, Williamsburg also has the young, independent vibe of a small college town. Once you get tired of touring the old town, you can hop on over to Busch Gardens theme park or Water Country USA to have a different kind of fun.
Located near Alexandria in northern Virginia, very close to Washington D.C. is Mount Vernon, the ancestral home of the first U.S. President, George Washington. A sprawling plantation home situated on the Potomac River, Mount Vernon is an easy day trip from the nation’s capital, not to mention a beautiful place to spend the afternoon wandering among the gardens. I have wonderful memories exploring the rooms inside the mansion, trying to imagine George Washington roaming the same halls.
Located on the coast near Williamsburg, Jamestown was the first English settlement in America, and a very unique place to visit nowadays. Walking around the old fort and town on one of the many historic tours offered, you can learn a great deal about settler life back in the 17th century and their relationship with the Native Americans. Perhaps what makes Jamestown so fascinating is that it is still being excavated. Frequently you can see archaeologists working around the surrounding areas while on a visit to Jamestown, making the visit even more interesting.
Another historic town, Charlottesville is famously home to the University of Virginia, as well as Monticello, the mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson, the third president. A massive plantation home, Monticello was the culmination of Thomas Jefferson’s life work - he started designing and building it in his twenties. Nowadays Charlottesville is a hip, university town with a lively music and art scene located among beautiful mountains and forests in the Shenandoah National Park. It is the perfect weekend getaway.
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