Going to the gym may get you in great shape for summer, but staring at four walls while you run on a treadmill can become tedious, even for the most dedicated athlete. Many people have instead turned to devices that monitor steps, sleep schedules, and even daily calories to keep on track with a personal health plan. Fitness trackers allow you to exercise your own way, mixing up your workout schedule with new destinations.
Experts recommend getting in 10,000 steps a day to stay healthy, and we have found nine historic spots that allow you to reach your daily goal while learning about Virginia’s unique past. Visit these history-rich Virginia locations to get in your 10,000 steps and avoid falling into that same old boring gym routine.
Belle Isle & Canal Walk—Richmond
Belle Isle is a 540-acre island on the James River in Richmond, and locals often use this popular river spot as an outdoor gym, hiking, biking, and walking their pet around the scenic 2 mile loop. Start from the parking lot, walk across the footbridge, and travel around the island three times to reach 10,000 steps. Or, if walking the path more than once sounds unappealing, finish the island and head back over the a suspension bridge towards Brown’s Island, which will connect you to the Canal Walk, a 1.4 mile trail along the city’s canal.
Historical Significance: Captain John Smith first explored Belle Isle in 1607, bringing settlers to the region. The island became a fishery in the 18th century, an Iron and Nail Company in 1814, and a village complete with a school, church, and general store in the 1860’s. During the Civil War, the island served as a prison for Union soldiers.
Surveyed and planned by George Washington, the canal was built in 1785 as a water route between the western counties of Virginia and the coast. The project took over 65 years to complete, but it enjoyed a very short-lived success. By 1873, the railroads had taken over as the prime method for transporting materials and goods, and the canal became virtually obsolete.
Six trails wind through the property of Stratford Hall totaling about three miles. Add in the tour of the house, garden, and grounds and you will reach your 10,000 steps goal for the day. Another bonus about exercising at Stratford Hall? Leashed pets are permitted, so you can bring your pet along to get some energy out, as well. While it costs $12 for full admission, you can pay $7 for a grounds pass and get access to the trails, where you’ll undoubtedly spot lots of wildlife, including Whitetail deer, squirrels, and American Bald Eagles.
Historical Significance: Stratford Hall is the birthplace of Robert E. Lee, one of the most famous Confederate Army commanders during the Civil War.
Montpelier contains the James Madison Trails, 6+ miles of trails that surround this historic property. Walking from the Visitor Center to the mansion is another third of a mile. The grounds are expansive and peaceful, making this historic destination a perfect place to achieve your 10,000 step mark.
Historical Significance: Montpelier is the plantation house of fourth U.S. President James Madison and his wife Dolley Madison.
Monticello & Michie Tavern—Charlottesville
Walk the Saunders-Monticello Trail that begins at the base of the Thomas Jefferson Parkway along Route 53. Park your car at the trailhead parking lot and walk the two mile trail to the ticket office. After you walk the grounds of Monticello, head back towards your car. The entire trip will get you well over 10,000 steps. And if you feel like you need a bite to eat after your hike, stop by Michie Tavern on the way back for some of the best southern fare the area has to offer.
Historical Significance: Monticello is a plantation property designed and built by third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. The plantation is also the final resting ground of the famous Virginian. Michie Tavern also holds historical significance. Established in 1784, it was the social center of the community, serving travelers with food, drink, and lodging. The tavern was moved 17 miles to its present location in 1927.
Civil War buffs can get their steps and plenty of battlefield history at Pamplin Park on the Breakthrough Trail. The trail features five loops of varying distance that total over 4.5 miles through the property and lead to some of the recreated Civil War sites. Walking each loop of the trail and visiting the monuments will get you to 10,000 steps.
Historical Significance: Pamplin Park recreates the Third Battle of Petersburg in which the Union troops broke through Confederate Army lines during the Civil War. This led to the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House a week later, marking the end of the Civil War.
The Omni Homestead Resort—Hot Springs
Take a guided tour of the grounds that surround the Homestead on the Cascades Gorge Hike, a 3 hour, 2.8 mile hike through the property. This trail is more than just a way for you to add to your daily 10,000 steps; the path features 13 waterfalls along the way and abundant wildlife in the forests. Plus, with the over 100 miles of trails surrounding the Homestead, you can choose how to complete the remainder of your 10,000 steps.
Historical Significance: First built in 1766, the Homestead has grown over the centuries, with new additions turning the original privately owned property into one of the finest hotels in America. The property has hosted 22 U.S. Presidents over the years, including Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and James Madison.
Appomattox Court House—Appomattox
Appomattox Court House Park consists of nearly 1700 acres, which is a little over three square miles. If you take the cell phone tour that guides you from site to site in the historic area, you will quickly pass the 10,000 step mark.
Historical Significance: The Battle of Appomattox Court House, one of the last battles of the Civil War, occurred on these hallowed grounds. The property contains the building in which Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the Civil War.
Mount Vernon—Mount Vernon
The Mount Vernon Trail runs from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island. It also connects with regional trails that wind throughout the northeastern tip of Virginia. With 18 miles total of trail ways, you only need to traverse a portion of the trail to get to your daily step goal. Add in walking the expansive grounds, including the farm area and the pathways through the historic cemetery, and you’ll leave this destination feeling very accomplished (and probably pretty tired!).
Historical Significance: Built in 1735 by George Washington’s father, Mount Vernon was originally a one and a half story farmhouse. George acquired the property in 1754, and he spent the next 45 years adding to the estate, transforming it into a two and a half story, 21 room residence surrounded by expansive, well-maintained grounds.
Open to the public from 8am-5pm year round, Hollywood Cemetery sits on the north bank of the James River in Richmond. Guided tours are available, or you can walk the 135 acres of winding pathways to reach 10,000 steps at your own leisure.
Historical Significance: Hollywood Cemetery is the second most visited cemetery in the nation behind Arlington National Cemetery. Two U.S. Presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler, are buried here, as well as Confederate States President Jefferson Davis. The sprawling cemetery also holds the burial grounds for thousands of Confederate soldiers.
Exercise isn’t always exciting, but planning your 10,000 steps in these historical Virginia spots adds an educational and interesting element to your workout. Shake things up and plan a day of walking around one of these important destinations around the Commonwealth. Stay tuned for more 10,000 step adventures around Virginia!