Welcome To Virginia, The State With A Lot To Love
For more than 50 years, ‘Virginia is For Lovers’ has been one of the most recognizable tourism taglines in the world. With its stunning scenery, memorable wineries and open roads, it’s also a tagline founded in truth.
There’s a lot to love about Virginia. Located halfway between New York and Florida, it’s a place defined by its natural beauty and rich history. Whether it’s the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, home to what’s known as America’s Favourite Drive, the fact that the state has more than 300 wineries or that it’s an always-open golf destination, Virginia is a place filled with wonder waiting to be discovered.
To understand what makes Virginia so captivating is to first take a look at its history. Being the place that provided eight of America’s presidents, you don’t have to travel far to see residencies, museums and cultural establishments that explore America’s past. Thomas Jefferson was one such president so passionate about food and wine that, when he travelled abroad, he would bring back recipes to try, along with vines he hoped would flourish at his Virginia home, Monticello.
As the house that appears on the back of the American nickel, Monticello is a staple of American history and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site open for tours and visits. Other historical sites include Colonial Williamsburg, the world’s largest outdoor living museum, that serves to educate its guests through immersive 18th-century experiences and houses 88 original, historically preserved buildings. As well as getting to see how people used to live in that time, you can watch demonstrations of foraging and frequent taverns to enjoy meals prepared as they were back then.
If that weren’t enough, you can visit Jamestown, America’s first permanent English colony; or Yorktown, widely known as the location for the final battle of the American Revolutionary War; or take a drive to Mount Vernon, as it’s the home of America’s first president, George Washington, a top destination in the state. Whatever the town or city you want to see in Virginia, you’ll be sure to find something with a story.
History is only one of many ways to explore the state. Another fine way is to take to its roads. As a place with so many different regions, Virginia is packed with personality. You have Virginia Beach, the closest warm-water beach to Canada. Drive four hours west and you’ll find yourself hiking or cycling in spectacular mountains. Jump back in the car and head for a place like Richmond, a city gaining a reputation for its upcoming chefs and shopping scene. There’s so much to do in the state that you’ll struggle to decide what you want to see first.
And whether you’re taking a car or motorcycle, travelling Virginia’s roads will allow you to take in the scenery and experience the state’s beauty as intended. Its landscapes encompass beaches with pristine sand dunes, national parks with panoramic views, state parks consistently rated the best in the nation and hiking trails stretching past natural landmarks. Shenandoah National Park is just one. With nearly 80,000 hectares of protected land, a visit here could see you stumble across wildflowers, waterfalls, songbirds and black bears. Great Falls Park is another; it’s a beautiful 324-hectare park home to a range of outdoor activities.
For many, the best way to experience all of this in one trip is via the Blue Ridge Parkway. Running for 755 kilometres through the southern and central Appalachians, it promises wildlife and offers activities like hiking, camping and picnicking, to name just a few. Particularly in the fall, the trees showcase an unforgettable view of their rich, full and vibrant colours.
As well as habitats, mountains and other natural sightseeing opportunities, driving the roads of Virginia will introduce you to its small towns. Here, you’ll find places filled with people ready to hear your story, share theirs and welcome you with open arms and southern comfort. Last year, the state had the Virginia Values Act go into effect, extending non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as legal protection for people of colour, people of faith, immigrants, women and more. There are multiple events celebrating diversity throughout Virginia, including a growing number of Pride festivals and inclusivity initiatives such as OutRVA in the state capital of Richmond.
For all the different destinations that work to shape Virginia, there are a number of points that bring everything together. First, a love for food. With a climate that makes for four distinct seasons, agriculture booms. Chefs have access to incredible produce that, naturally, translates to incredible tastes. If you’re looking to dine at one of the finest restaurants in the world, The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia remains the first and only Michelin three-star restaurant in the nation’s entire capital region for the third year in a row. Inspired by American cuisine, chef and proprietor Patrick O’Connell’s inn draws admirers from around the world.
There’s So Much To Do In The State That You’ll Struggle To Decide What You Want To See First
Oysters are one Virginian staple. As the oyster capital of the East Coast, Virginia’s eight regions produce different flavours and styles, and you can expect to see oyster farms and restaurants pushing the envelope to bring you into the experience. Picture being seated at a table in the water and served oysters with unrivalled freshness. Here, you can make it happen.
Another product, and perhaps lesser known, is peanuts. Virginia is home to a number of peanut growers all producing standout produce, and you have the Virginia ham, another staple of the state, known for its southern sweetness. Agriculture abounds in Virginia, and you’ll find a festival dedicated to celebrating so many delicacies, from apples and chocolate to garlic and Brunswick stew.
Naturally, all good food has the potential to be paired with good wine. There are more than 300 wineries in the state of Virginia, each crafting their own spectacular, award-winning vintages waiting to be explored. The state’s reputation when it comes to wine is so renowned that some consider it the Napa Valley of the East Coast.
There are more than 300 Wineries in the state of Virginia, each crafting their Own spectacular, award-winning
Drinks waiting to Be explored
For those looking to take their indulgences to the next level, the state also offers wonderful accommodations and spas to help you relax, depending on your tastes. A number of the state’s downtown inns use historic houses to celebrate history, offering a comfortable stay in a place that promises the true state experience. In addition to these historic inns, you’ll find resorts perched at the top of mountains in South Virginia and hotels spanning Virginia Beach with unrivalled spas and pampering treatments.
With so much luxury on offer, there’s also something about the place when it comes to superstar talent. Dwayne Johnson owns a farm in Virginia, author John Grisham lives in Charlottesville and Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band started his career in the same city, working as a bartender at one of the town’s bars. Similarly, TV shows like Homeland and even movies like Wonder Woman 1984, Harriet and Dirty Dancing have all been filmed in a Virginian location. For those who are particularly big fans of the 1987 classic with Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, you can sign up to take part in one of the Dirty Dancing weekends.
Pharrell Williams is another. Originally from Virginia Beach, he is extremely passionate about his home state and is dedicated to making it a better place for residents and visitors alike. Pharrell put together a festival called Something In The Water, which takes place on a stage set up right on the beach. The event has hosted the biggest names in R&B and hip hop, including Tyler, The Creator, Missy Elliott and Post Malone.
With so much talent in one place, it’s not surprising how much influence the state has had on the music world, in general. So influential that you may be surprised to learn that the first country music recordings took place in Bristol, Va. As a city with half of it located in Virginia and the other in Tennessee, you could start the day by being in two states at once before heading to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Or, if you plan ahead, you can go all out at the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival.
No matter when you choose to visit Virginia, or where you choose to go in the state, you’re sure to take something home. For some, that might be a bottle of wine. For others, a souvenir from one of the many national parks. But, there is one thing that everybody who visits leaves with — a desire to go back.