Everyone has different interests, and most people plan their vacation activities according to these. Those who like spending time outdoors will explore the trails, get close to nature, and try adventurous activities, while people who love the arts might watch a performance and visit a gallery. On the other hand, those who enjoy learning about a location’s history while on vacation may enjoy touring the museums, visiting interesting buildings, and viewing historical landmarks. When visiting Virginia, there are plenty of things to see and do. If you are in this state and you are passionate about history, here are 20 awesome historical sites to visit in Virginia.
20. White House of the Confederacy, Richmond
White House of the Confederacy is located on E. Clay Street in Richmond, VA. It was built in 1818, and it was Jefferson Davis’ home from 1861 and 1865, and it served as his headquarters as the sole President of the Confederacy. At that time, it was the counterpart to Washington D.C.’s White House. Although the house was built in 1818, it has been a museum since the late 19th-century. The museum is operated by the American Civil War Museum. Visitors can take guided tours to learn more about the activities and lives of those who have lived and worked at this landmark house.
19. Edgar Allen Poe Museum, Richmond
It would be easy to assume that the Edgar Allen Poe Museum in Richmond is the former home of the poet. That is not the case, as it is simply a building chosen to showcase the poet’s life and work that opened in 1922. However, the building that houses the museum does have historical significance. It is known as the Old Stone House, and it was built in the 1740s, which makes it Richmond’s oldest cited building.
18. Yorktown, VA
Yorktown is part of Virginia’s Historic Triangle, along with Jamestown and Williamsburg, says Frommers. When you visit this town, make sure you stop by the Yorktown Victory Center. It marks the site where the British surrendered to the American and French allied forces in 1781, under the command of George Washington. At the center, there are timelines that mark the path to American freedom from Britain, films, and outdoor living exhibits. You should also visit the American Revolution Museum.
Fredericksburg played a significant role in the birth of the nation. It is also famous for being the place where George Washington grew up. Another former president who lived in this location was James Monroe, who is known for creating the Monroe Doctrine that kept European powers out of the Americas. A further notable person from this town is Robert E. Lee, as the Confederate leader was born in this location. Fredericksburg is an interesting city to visit, as it has retained a lot of its original charm. Some of the key places to visit while you are in Fredericksburg are a Colonial-era mansion called Kenmore, the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, the Historic Civil War battlefield of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania, and Chatham Manor. The latter is a historic estate that was used as a headquarters during the Civil War.
16. Booker T. Washington Monument, Hardy
Booker T. Washington was an educator, author, orator, and advisor to several presidents. He was also a member of the contemporary black elite and a dominant leader in the African American community. The Booker T. Washington Monument in Hardy pays tribute to his life. Washington was born and raised on the site, which was a tobacco plantation. It was during his time living on the plantation that Washington formed his opinions on slavery and emancipation.
15. Bacon’s Castle, Surry
If you visit Surry, the top historical site to visit is Bacon’s Castle. It is a 40-acre historic site with a mansion constructed in 1665 by Arthur Allen. It is the United States’ only remaining example of Jacobean architecture, so it offers a unique experience that you cannot enjoy anywhere else in the country. The mansion is named after Rebel Leader Nathaniel Bacon. Between March and November, visitors can take guided tours through the house and grounds.
14. Lee Chapel, Lexington
Only In Your State lists Lee Chapel in Lexington as one of the best historical sites to visit in Virginia. The chapel is within the Washington & Lee University campus in Lexington. The construction of the chapel began at the request of Robert E. Lee, who was the President of the university during that period. It is also the final resting place of Lee, as he was buried under the chapel when he died in 1870.
13. Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington
Arlington National Cemetery is on the grounds of Arlington House, which is a 19th-century mansion that was built as a memorial to George Washington. It is the final resting place of more than 400,000 active servicemen and veterans. Some notable people buried in the cemetery include William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy. The cemetery is considered to have national significance as it represents service to the United States. More than 7,000 services take place at this location each year.
12. First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach
First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach is a fantastic place to visit for both those interested in the local history and people who enjoy exploring the outdoors. It is a historically significant area because it is where Christopher Newport and the settlers of the Virginia Colony first landed in 1607. It is also where the settlement that later moved to Jamestown established their first elective government. Around the park, there are historical markers, more than 20 miles of trails, and a 1.5-mile stretch of sandy beach in the Chesapeake Bay. It is also a wonderful place for wildlife spotting, as the forests, swamps, and lagoons in this park are home to a multitude of plants and creatures. Visitors can spend the night in the park in the cabins or yurts, or on the campsites.
11. Old Town Alexandria, Alexandria
Old Town Alexandria is the city’s historic district. It is one of America’s oldest towns, and its proximity to the capital means that it was often where the Founding Fathers would meet. Visitors should explore the harbor and wander along the streets. They should also take some time to stop off at Gadsby’s Tavern, which is a historic public house that was the meeting place for multiple notable people. Other attractions to visit are Carlyle House Historic Park, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary, Founders Park, and Old Town Alexandria Waterfront.
10. Manassas National Battlefield, Manassas
Manassas National Battlefield in William County is the location of two Civil War battles. They are known both as the First and Second Battle of Manassas and as the first and second battles of Bull Run. The First Battle of Manassas was the first major battle of the Civil War. What was once a bloody killing field is now a rural area that people visit for both the history and the scenic countryside.
9. Battle of Appomattox Court House, Appomattox
More Civil War Battles took place in Virginia than in any other state in the United States, and Appomattox is where it both started and began. At the Battle of Appomattox, General Lee surrendered to Grant in April 1865 at The McLean House, and the Appomattox Court House was where the Civil War officially ended. These structures, along with several others, are within a preserved and well-maintained National Historic Park.
8. The Cape Henry Lighthouses, Virginia Beach
The Cape Henry Lighthouses mark the spot of the First Landing site where the English settlers first stepped ashore. Of the two lighthouses, the earliest was the first federally funded lighthouse, and it was completed in 1792. The construction of the lighthouse was authorized by George Washington and overseen by Alexander Hamilton. It is one of the oldest surviving lighthouses in the country. The second lighthouse was added in the 1870s due to concerns about the safety and efficiency of the original lighthouse. Both lighthouses were designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1970.
7. St. John’s Church, Richmond
One of Richmond’s most significant religious structures is St. John’s Church. Patrick Henry was inside the church when he declared, “Give me liberty or give me death,” as part of his 1775 speech. It was only months later that the American Revolutionary War began after shots were fired in Concord and Lexington. The church is now a National Historic Landmark that is considered a symbol of American patriotism.
6. The John Marshall House, Richmond
John Marshall was the fourth Supreme Court Justice, and ha has been described as the greatest man never to be president. He is known for making landmark decisions in big cases that led to the basis of the judicial review, which allows a court to rule a law unconstitutional. Marshall lived in a mansion in Richmond for 45 years, and it is that estate that has been transformed into a museum devoted to his life and the contributions he made throughout history.
5. Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg
There is a vast array of historical places to visit in Colonial Williamsburg, as the entire city is a historical site. Nearly all the businesses in the city do things to encourage visitors to enjoy a Colonial experience, including dressing in character. To add to the cultural experience, there are tavern folks and marching militia along the streets. Williamsburg is part of the Historic Triangle with Jamestown and Yorktown. Some of the top attractions to visit in Colonial Williamsburg include Governor’s Palace, Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center, Peyton Randolph House, Bassett Hall, Colonial Parkway, Wetherburn’s Tavern, the Capitol Building, and George Wythe House.
4. Jamestown Settlement, VA
Jamestown is part of the Historic Triangle with Williamsburg and Yorktown. It is the earliest settlement in Virginia, and many of the structures, attractions, and exhibits in this town take you back to Colonial America in the 17th-century. The Jamestown Settlement is a museum about the culture at this time, and it boasts recreations of Powhatan villages, a colonial fort, and three English ships. There are also historical re-enactments that give visitors a greater understanding of life in this area in Colonial America.
3. Monticello, Charlottesville
Monticello is the former home of Thomas Jefferson. It is a plantation property just outside Charlottesville. Jefferson designed the house himself, and the architecture used neoclassical principles with Italian Renaissance touches. Apparently, Jefferson believed that furniture uses unnecessary space, so he kept the amount of furniture in each room to a minimum. If you take a tour of the house, you can see evidence of these principles in the innovative placement of furniture. Visitors to the property can also tour the stunning grounds of the former plantation.
2. Montpelier, Orange
Montpelier in Orange is the former home of President James Madison and his wife, Dolly. It is a 2,650-acre estate that is declared a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Places. Now, the estate is owned by The Montpelier Foundation, and it is open to visitors every day of the week. The aim is to show visitors about Madison’s life and also engage people with Madison’s legacy of government by the people.
1. Mount Vernon, Alexandria
According to Best Things VA, the best historical site to visit in Virginia is Mount Vernon in Alexandria. It is the former home of the United States’ first president. Although he lived in this property, Washington was hardly ever at home, as he was out leading the Revolution and fighting in the French and Indian War. His family had owned the mansion and land that sits alongside the Potomac River since 1674. There are daily tours of the impressive property led by experienced tour guides.