Virginia is an enchanting destination for brewery-hoppers and mountain climbers. While it’s not the first place we’d think of for a vacation, that’s what makes it such a gem.
We’re travel nuts, and some of our favorite places to visit are those that most people don’t think to visit. We’ll show you the 21 best things to do in Virginia and why we think a visit is in order.
21 Best Things to Do in Virginia in 2023
Travelers visit Virginia for its amazing eclectic views. Virginia provides stunning art masterpieces. The city boasts of fantastic colorful murals.
But, what should you do in the Mid-Atlantic state? Keep reading the article to see what Virginia has to offer.
1. Tour Virginia Aquarium
Virginia aquarium is undoubtedly the best destination to visit in Virginia. It would help if you visited the aquarium to see thousands of animals and other wonderful exhibits. The Marine Science Center hosts at least 300 species.
Recently, Virginia Aquarium introduced river otters such as Tippy, Homer, and Sheldon. You need two hours for a self-guided tour of the aquarium.
As an adult, be ready to part with $29.95. While children between 3 and 11 years pay $24.95 to be admitted to Virginia Aquarium, kids under three years are free.
Visiting Virginia Aquarium allows you to find sand tiger sharks. Other popular exhibits you will love to see in this destination include Dolphins. However, Dolphin tours only dine during the summer months.
2. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is Virginia’s most significant museum. While MFA was founded in 1870, it only opened its door to the public in late 1876.
The museum was relocated to its current location in 1909. The museum has more than 450,000 art collections, making it a distinguished center of fine art.
As per Virginia Aquarium records, more than one million visitors come to the place annually. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts distinguishes itself from other museums with 18th-century paintings and Oriental collections.
Here, you can find art from all continents. Whether you want the art of Oceania, Africa, contemporary art, or the Art of the Americas, the Museum of Fine Arts got you.
For instance, the European Art department holds more than 40,000 artworks from the greatest artists in European history. If you need a break after touring the museum, you can eat at Amuse and Best Café.
3. Frontier Cultural Museum
Located on Richmond Avenue, Virginia, Frontier Cultural Museum is the largest open-air museum. Frontier Cultural museum is the ideal place to learn about early immigrants.
You can find the history of American descendants and millions of people who migrated to America. You can explore the life of various continents, including Germany and England contributions.
The museum aims at telling the story of Americans and their roles in colonial America. Organize a family-friendly weekend event at Frontier Cultural Museum as you explore at least 11 permanent exhibits.
4. Virginia Beach
You need a vacation on the beach when you visit the vibrant city. Travelers worldwide visit Virginia Beach for its family-friendly attractions and maritime history. Unlike other beaches in the United States, Virginia Beach is unique for its unspoiled natural landscape.
You will always feel safe and comfortable in Virginia Beach. Even if you don’t love being on a beach, the extensive beach has a lot of fun things like skating and cycling.
Other things you will love about Virginia Beach are desirable weather and unique sightings. The best time to visit Virginia Beach is during the summer months, as the water is warm enough even for retirees.
Chesapeake Beach, a famous section in Virginia Beach, is rated the best for families. Remember that drinking or smoking is not allowed around the beach.
5. Luray Caverns
The cave in Eastern America has attracted millions of visitors since its discovery. Benton Stebbins discovered the caves 140 years ago. Luray caves are adorned with mudflows and flowstone. You enter Luray Caverns using a path that leads you to the Dream Lake.
The downward path takes you to a small section past the Fried Eggs. You can complete the 2.4-kilometer trek in 45 minutes. As a visitor, the authorities allow you to carry your pet. Luray Caverns Corporation currently manages Luray Caverns.
Virginia Department of the Interior made Luray Caverns a National Natural Landmark in 1974. On the caverns, you will find miniature trains and other crucial displays. If there is something you should never miss while in Luray Caverns, it’s the Stalacpipe.
6. Arlington National Cemetery
It might appear weird to include a place of dead people in this list, but the national cemetery fits here. Arlington National Cemetery is home to 400,000 American veterans. The famous cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, has the country’s greatest heroes.
The cemetery was initially established for people dying in Civil Wars. People who died in Vietnam, Korean, and World Wars are buried here. It is worth visiting Arlington National Cemetery even when you don’t have a personal connection.
Besides, the National Cemetery has more than 300 varieties of trees. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been the heart of the national cemetery and the most toured part for 100 years.
You are connected to the legacy of departed forces who fought in World War I and II when you visit the Tomb. Only four people lie in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The Tomb is heavily guarded and represents missing servicemen who made their sacrifices in wars worldwide. Interestingly, prominent personalities like John F. Kennedy and William Howard are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
7. Blue Ridge
Blue Ridge is an excellent outdoor adventure located in Southern Appalachians. The prettiest must-see spots on the parkway are Mount Mitchell, Cascade Falls, and Flat Rock.
The original purpose of the parkway was to serve as a recreational road connecting Virginia National Park and Great Smoky in North Carolina. You are only allowed to camp in specific areas on Blue Ridge.
As a result, you should never sleep on the parkway. Initially, the parkway sourced its funds from the Public Works Administration. Blue Ridge currently draws its operating funds from New Deal agencies.
Although people claim it’s difficult to drive on Blue Ridge, driving on America’s Favorite Drive is pretty simple. However, you will find scary curves and steep sections on the parkway. In total, there are 26 tunnels on Blue Ridge.
8. Busch Gardens
Established in 1975, Busch Gardens is an attractive theme park in Williamsburg. Busch Gardens has a capacity of 38,000 visitors. You pay $75 for an adult and $65 for children. The European theme adventure park sits on 130 acres.
Glissade was the first coaster to visit Busch Gardens Williamsburg. You can tour Das Festhaus and enjoy their German cuisines. While most theme parks are expensive, Busch Gardens offers numerous services at an affordable cost.
9. Norfolk Botanical Garden
With more than 65 themed gardens, Norfolk Botanical Gardens sits on 175 acres. Virginia Native Plant Garden and Hall Rose Garden are the most loved gardens. Dogs are allowed at Norfolk Botanical Gardens.
You can tour the expansive garden with your canine friend. However, you shouldn’t take your dog to kid’s gardens or Trams. You need to walk through the Norfolk Botanical Gardens to see azaleas, specifically the enchanted Forest.
The 100-acre historic house museum is in Richmond, Virginia. At Maymont, you can have unique experiences such as feeding goats and exploring the Mansion. The Victorian country estate was initially occupied by James Henry and Sallie May.
In 1925, the couple gave the estate to the local community in Richmond. Currently, the estate is operated and maintained by Maymont Foundation. An estimated 527,000 people visit Maymont every year.
11. Edgar Allan Poe Museum
Edgar Allan Poe Museum should be on your bucket list if you are a great fan of the celebrated literature lover. The museum began 100 years ago when James Howard decided to create a monument for an author.
You pay $9 for adults and $7 for children under 17 years. It only takes you one hour to go through the Poe Museum. However, you can take a little more time if you are a massive fan of his works.
To secure your spot at Edgar Allan Poe Museum, you can book the museum tours ahead of time. Visitors can cancel the payment and demand a refund 24 hours before starting the tour. You can visit the Edgar Allan Poe Museum any day.
12. Mount Vernon
The first President of the United States, George Washington, resided in Mount Vernon. The gorgeous gardens are located 16 miles from the city. Mount Vernon is unique as it marks the status of America’s first president.
First-time visitors can tour the Mansion and explore George Washington Tomb. If you feel hungry, you can dine at Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant. You pay $2 when you obtain your ticket from their website.
The current owners of the Mount Vernon estate are Robert and Michelle Stevens. The current market value of the 21 rooms mansion is $60 million.
13. U.S Marine Corps War Memorial
The Marine Corps War Memorial is dedicated to all Marine officers who have lost their lives when defending the United States. The Department of Interior maintains the 7.5-acre war memorial.
If you visit Arlington National Cemetery, you can access the U.S Marine Corps War Memorial from inside the cemetery. The signature of the memorial center is six marines raising two U.S flags at Iwo Jima. You can visit the memorial center any day from 6 a.m.
14. American Shakespeare Center
Found in Staunton, Virginia, the classical theatre is a destination like no other. It is one of the best places to visit as a literature enthusiast. While at the American Shakespeare Center, you can explore Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
15. Virginia Natural Tunnel
Virginia Natural Tunnel is naturally made from limestone ridge. The naturally formed cave is used as a railroad. It isn’t easy to deal with the trail leading to the Virginia Natural Tunnel. You will take 20 minutes to climb the 850 meters of the natural tunnel.
16. Wolf Trap National Park
The national park is a gift from Catherine Filene to the Americans. When Mrs. Catherine purchased the national park’s land, she named it Wolf Trap.
According to Catherine, the national park would only remain relevant by naming it Wolf Trap Farm. Near Wolf Trap National Park, attractions include Surf Reston, Great Falls Park, and Escape Room Herndon.
17. President Heads
You can find presidential statues in Virginia’s Presidents Park. Visitors can walk through the open museum and learn more about the President’s heads. The busts were moved from the original location by Howard Hankins after the park went bankrupt in 2010.
18. Virginia Living Museum
Virginia Living Museum consists of outdoor exhibits and gardens. You will see different bird species and animals native to Virginia in the gardens. The living museum also has two Northern River Otters who might perform for you.
To volunteer at the Virginia Living Museum, you must be at least 15 years old.
However, children aged 18 years and below must seek parental permission before acceptance as a volunteer. The American Association of Museums accredited museum was first opened to the public in 1987.
19. Great Falls Park
You can tour Great Falls Hiking Trails and learn about the park through their tour guides. Make sure you have a lot of water when going to Great Falls Park. Remember to wear ankle hiking shoes as the hiking trails are tough to explore.
Great Falls Park is known for its horse trails and beautiful parkland. Millions of visitors flock to the park to see Scott’s Run Nature Preserve and River bend Park. People visit the national park for its scenic views.
Drinking and smoking are not allowed inside Great Falls Park. However, you are free to carry your leashed pet on the park trails. The highest percentage of people living around Great Falls Park are Non-Hispanic, while very few African Americans live in this park.
20. Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens
Lewis Ginter Botanical is the most preferred tourist attraction in Richmond, Virginia. The mid-Atlantic botanical garden is one of its kind. The 82 acres of botanical gardens consist of themed gardens and a conservatory.
Lewis Ginter, the namesake of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, was a fine linens mogul who ventured into the business shortly after the Civil War. Lewis Ginter is buried on Lakeside Avenue in the botanical gardens.
21. Water Country
Water Country USA is Virginia’s largest water park. The water park boasts of wave pools and themed shows. At least 40 water rides ensure you get a relaxed beach vibe. The park is always open if it’s not thundering.
Things to Consider
Before visiting places on this list, it’s essential to consider several things if you want to have an unforgettable experience in Virginia. Below are the top things to consider before deciding on Virginia’s best places to visit\:
- Violent crimes are high in Virginia. For instance, Portsmouth is listed as one of the most dangerous cities in Virginia. If you are visiting such cities, be sure to take precautions.
- Virginia often has severe weather. Tropical cyclones and winter storms are common in Virginia; plan your tour wisely to avoid inconveniences.
- Cost. The cost of touring Virginia varies with the specific destination. Check with the destination management days before.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before deciding to tour a specific destination, you must do a lot of research. Below are popular questions from other travelers:
What is the number one attraction in Virginia?
Virginia Beach is the top-rated tourist attraction in Virginia. The beach attracts millions of travelers every year, making it one of the most preferred tourist destinations in the United States. Virginia Beach is popular for its First Landing State Park and Cape Henry Lighthouse.
What is a cool place to visit in Virginia?
You can tour Thomas Walker Civic Park, Great Falls National Park, and Falling Spring Falls. Virginia has unimaginably amazing places such as Richmond and Mount Vernon. You can enjoy the vast history of President Heads and Colonial Williamsburg.
What do people go to Virginia for?
People go to Virginia because it’s always beautiful in every season. Virginia has four unique seasons, with each season providing a distinct experience. Landscapes and beaches in Virginia change every season.
What is there to do in Richmond for free?
If you are on a budget and want nice places to visit in Richmond, visit the Virginia State Capitol and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Libby Hill Park Overlook and Oceanfront Resort Beach are also free to visit.
What food is popular in Virginia?
Oysters and crabs are popular foods in Virginia. Virginia is also known for its tasty beef. You might also love their peanuts and blackberries. Blueberry muffins are considered Virginia state snacks, which every visitor desires to taste.
Best Things to Do in Virginia: Final Thoughts
It’s challenging to narrow down on Virginia’s best thing to do. A visit to the Aquarium, Museum of Fine Arts, or Arlington National Cemetery are things that should top your list. All in all, there is no shortage of things to do in Virginia. Happy travels!