We asked our Instagram followers to share their favorite things to do in Virginia (and who they most wanted to take along for the ride) and we LOVED every single one of the dozens of responses we received. We’ve narrowed down our own favorites to these twelve incredible destinations that showcase some of the best activities that Virginia has to offer. Read on to see if your response made the cut!
Between the Northern Neck and the Middle Peninsula of Virginia, the Rappahannock is one of Virginia’s most scenic rivers, running almost 200 miles from its narrow source in the Shenandoah Valley to its final destination along Virginia’s eastern coast, where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. If you don’t have your own boat or water sport equipment, you can rent them from River Rock Outfitter in Fredericksburg, which sits on the banks of the Rappahannock River about an hour north of Richmond. The outdoor shop provides an array of kayaks and paddle boards for hourly, daily, or weekend rates, allowing you to spend as much time as you want out on the river. Closer to the river’s mouth, The Tides Inn in Irvington offers all sorts of waterfront fun, including kayak, canoe, and paddleboat rentals, fishing excursions, riverfront cruises, boat charters, sailing classes, and jet ski eco-tours of the Rappahannock River.
Virginia is home to eight distinct cavern systems, but Luray Caverns are the largest in the Eastern United States and are also a U.S. National Landmark. Noted for the variety of distinct formations and the unparalleled natural colors, the caverns open to cathedral-sized rooms that reach up to ten stories high and contain crystal-clear pools that reflect massive stone columns. When visiting Luray Caverns, don’t miss seeing the world’s first and only Stalacpipe Organ, which creates distinct music from the existing stone formations, and after touring the caverns, check out The Garden Maze on the complex grounds, one of the largest hedge mazes in the Mid-Atlantic United States.
This Virginia lover couldn’t pick one favorite thing to do, but instead highlighted three of the most notable historic sites in Northern Virginia. Start your journey about 15 miles south of Washington, D.C. at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the immaculate riverfront estate of the first President of the United States. The jewel of the property is the restored home of the Founding Father, but you’ll also enjoy touring a host of colonial outbuildings, beautiful gardens, a working distillery and gristmill, and the lush lawns surrounding the home. Learn about the history of the era in the museum and education center, which features 25 galleries and theaters, over 700 artifacts, and interactive displays that let you get to know the real George Washington.
Next, travel west towards Chantilly to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the companion facility of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Within the museum’s two capacious hangars, you’ll get a peek at thousands of historically-significant aviation and space artifacts, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde airliner, and the Space Shuttle Discovery.
After your tour, head to one of the nearby Civil War National Battlefield Parks in Northern Virginia to walk the hallowed grounds of American history. Manassas National Battlefield Park and Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park are both just a short drive from the Udvar-Hazy Center, allowing you to fit all this epic history into a single (albeit long) day!
Find Small Town Charm in Every Corner of the Commonwealth
No matter what part of Virginia you’re visiting, you’ll find the irresistible allure of a quaint yet cozy small town. From waterfront communities like Cape Charles and Chincoteague on the Eastern Shore to the historic streets of Lexington and Staunton at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia’s small towns are hidden gems packed with amazing farm-to-table restaurants, warm hospitality, and historic preserved Main Streets. Embark on a leisurely road trip through Virginia’s scenic countryside and end the journey in one of these stunning small towns, where you’ll learn the true meaning of the phrase “Southern Charm”.
Just 30 minutes west of the Dulles Airport and about an hour west of Washington, D.C., the pet-friendly Salamander Resort is a luxurious rural retreat set on 340 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. If traveling with your pet, book one of their terrace level accommodations, which provide easy access to the grounds and come with loads of upscale amenities for both you and your pet, including plush dog beds, food and water bowls, organic treats made daily by the pastry team, a special toy, and waste bags. The grounds contain miles of trails for you and your dog to explore; grab a trail map from the front desk and take your pooch for a stroll through some of Virginia’s most breathtaking countryside. Before leaving the resort, stop at the “dog walk” in front of the pet step-and-repeat for a photo opp.
Named for the steam engines that once climbed the rails into the Iron Mountains, as well as the native plant that grew along the tracks, The Virginia Creeper Trail is a 34.3-mile maintained rails-to-trails route open to hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders. Rent bikes from one of the outfitters in Damascus or Abingdon and opt for the cycling route length that suits your level of difficulty; the outfitters provide shuttles to or from their location, allowing you an easy one-way ride along this famed Southwest Virginia trail.
Savor Award-Winning Treats at Red Truck Bakery
Red Truck Bakery is not only beloved by Virginians, but has gained international acclaim for their incredible baked goods, with outlets like the Washingtonian, The New York Times, Southern Living, and Esquire Magazine writing about the rural bakery. Additionally, celebrities like Oprah and former President Barack Obama have raved about the bakery’s sweet treats. With so many ringing endorsements, you’re sure to love the pastries, pies, cakes, and other baked goods made fresh each day at the Red Truck Bakery.
In the past decade, Virginia has exploded onto the craft beer scene, and the historic Scott’s Addition neighborhood in Richmond is a prime example of this brewing movement. This craft beverage mecca is home to over a dozen breweries, cideries, distilleries, and meaderies within six square blocks of each other, allowing you to easily visit them all on foot. Breweries to visit include The Veil Brewing Company, Ardent Craft Ales, and Vasen Brewing Company, while cider lovers will enjoy sipping seasonal offerings on the patio of Blue Bee Cider, or in the case of inclement weather, sampling ciders in the cozy warehouse tasting room of Buskey Cider. Make an appointment at Reservoir Distillery to try some of Virginia’s finest whiskies, and if you’ve never tasted mead before, be sure to stop into Black Heath Meadery.
Containing more than 10,000 animals representing 300+ species, the Virginia Aquarium in Virginia Beach is fun for all ages. While you’ll spot all types of aquatic creatures swimming in the enormous glass tanks, you can also get an up-close look (and feel!) at animals like stingrays and horseshoe crabs in the aquarium touch pools. Get out on the water with the aquarium’s boat tours; depending on the time of year, you’ll spot dolphins, whales, or other local wildlife in their natural habitat during the tours.
One of the most significant natural landmarks in the United States, Shenandoah National Park contains countless hiking trails, including over 100 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail, which winds through the shaded peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. But the beauty of the park is even more apparent under an expansive night sky. Plan a weekend trip with friends to hike the park, then stay overnight in one of the four campgrounds within Shenandoah National Park. You’ll always remember the epic experience of sleeping under a bright blanket of stars in the park, away from the noise and daily distractions of modern day living.
Virginia’s pristine beaches are a popular spot for family getaways. Whether you’re looking for a quiet coastal retreat (stay at Cape Charles on Virginia’s Eastern Shore), an oceanfront destination for a large family reunion (book a rental home in Sandbridge Beach), or exciting nightlife and luxury lodging by the Atlantic (plan a trip to Virginia Beach), the beaches in Virginia welcome every traveler to see what the shores are all about! Don’t miss out on sampling the local seafood, including fresh Virginia oysters pulled straight from the Chesapeake Bay.
These are just a few of the awesome responses we received from our Instagram fans. Where is your favorite place to go when visiting Virginia? Share your top destinations with us in the comments below!