Things to Do in Virginia
When traveling America’s Interstates, there are always exciting stops along the way, and with the many places to visit in Virginia, the Old Dominion is no exception. Interstate 64, running east to west across the Commonwealth of Virginia, is full of fascinating ‘must sees’. From Chesapeake, VA to the Alleghany Mountains, Interstate 64 is a virtual expressway from the nearby coastline to the mountains. But with so many extraordinary and historical attractions, you won’t want to ‘express’ your time on Interstate 64. Rather, you’ll want to take pleasure in your journey, by taking in the many wonders along the way.
From East to West, Check Out These Cool Places to Visit in Virginia, Along I-64
The Cities of Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, and Newport News
Interstate 64 reminds me of a large fish hook as it connects the areas of Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, and Norfolk before heading northwest into Hampton and Newport News. And while this Interstate artery won’t take you right to the oceanfront, it links to a road that will. So, when the weather is hot, there’s no better way to spend a day, than at the beach. If shopping, science, or history are your passions, then check out Waterside in Norfolk, Nauticus in Norfolk (a marine science museum), and while there, tour the historical World War II era battleship, the USS Wisconsin.
The USS Wisconsin was launched on the two-year anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, saw battle during World War II and the Korean War, and she fired Tomahawk Missiles during the First Gulf War, in 1991. Now, she’s open to the public, for all to pay tribute. And the USS Wisconsin isn’t the only military presence in the area, as Norfolk, VA is home to Naval Station Norfolk, the largest US Navy base in the world.
The Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel is part of Interstate 64, which links Newport News and Hampton to Norfolk and Virginia Beach. This entire, vast coastal region of Virginia, often called the Hampton Roads area or the Tidewater area, is known for its immense harbor. That makes this area not only an excellent location for military bases, but also for shipping, ship building, passenger cruising, and tourism.
This area is also home to the famous Chesapeake Bay and the convergence point for several rivers. And if that isn’t enough water for water lovers, then Virginia Beach has miles of beautiful sandy beach property. But before visiting this fascinating region, don’t think your bathing suit is all you’ll need. The Hampton Roads area is also full of history, so be sure to bring your camera to capture some unforgettable family moments.
Before those first settlers landed at Jamestown, in 1607, they sailed through the harbor, and recognized the military and trade value of such a location. And if you’re a history buff, whether of the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, and/or World War II, this area is full of memorials and museums commemorating all who have fought for American freedom.
Water Country USA and Busch Gardens
If you haven’t yet had enough water fun, then check out the water park, Water Country USA. Or, if you’re looking for some screaming good times on roller coasters, you’ll want to visit Busch Gardens. And if you find yourself and your family cruising Interstate 64 during non-summer months, Busch Gardens offers seasonal events, such as: “Howl-O-Scream” for Halloween and “Christmas Town” for Christmas.
The Historical Triangle - Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown
If you love Colonial American history and Revolutionary War history, then visiting the Historical Triangle in Virginia is a ‘must do’. The Historical Triangle in Virginia includes Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. In 1607, Jamestown was the site of “… the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.” After Jamestown, Williamsburg became the second Colonial Capital of Virginia. And Yorktown was the location where Lord Cornwallis made his famous surrender to General George Washington, whereby America won their independence in the Revolutionary War. Each of these three sites, which are pivotal to both American and Virginia history, contain structures and artifacts, both original and reproductions, which all work together to tell the saga of life in Colonial Virginia.
Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Old Dominion, and once the capital of the Confederate States of America, is accessible from both Interstate 95 and Interstate 64. Richmond is well-known for its historical significance, but it is also an eclectic city full of museums, parks, local restaurants, and numerous businesses and corporations. History, spanning hundreds of years, is always alive in Richmond, and for a listing of some of my favorite places in Richmond, check out my article, “Top Places to See in Virginia – Just Off Interstate 95.”
If you’re looking for a break from history, then check out some of these unique venues in the Richmond area.
- RIR – Richmond International Raceway – home to NASCAR racing in Richmond.
- Beginning in 2013, the Washington Redskins football team will make Richmond their summer training camp home.
- And if shopping is your sport, then you will find many boutiques, shops, and shopping malls all around town.
Charlottesville is home to the highly ranked and prestigious University of Virginia. Not only is the University area ringed by numerous eateries, art galleries, and boutiques, the campus, itself, is historic. UVA was founded by Thomas Jefferson. In fact, UVA is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When visiting UVA, a trip to the Rotunda and The Lawn are a ‘must see’. Today, students still live in The Lawn rooms, and to live there is considered both an academic and leadership honor.
While in Charlottesville, another UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘must see’ is Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. Also, you can visit Ash-Lawn Highland, President James Monroe’s home. And if you head north, about 30 miles from Interstate 64, you can visit Montpelier, the home of President James Madison. Virginia is often called the “Mother of Presidents,” because eight Presidents were born in Virginia.
My daughter attended Mary Baldwin College, a women’s liberal arts college in Staunton, so I spent many hours in this quaint town. And there’s no other way to describe Staunton, except as a charming, mountain, college town full of B&Bs, wonderful restaurants, antique shops, art galleries, etc.
One of Staunton’s highlights is the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Presidential Library. And on the outskirts of town is the Museum of American Frontier Culture.
From Staunton, Interstate 64 converges with Interstate 81, heading south to Lexington. Like Staunton and Charlottesville, Lexington is also a college town, home to the prestigious Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University. Both campuses are historic in nature, and Civil War history comes alive in this little town.
General Robert E. Lee and his family are buried at Lee Chapel, at W&L, and his famous horse, Traveller, is buried just outside the Chapel. Stonewall Jackson, who taught at VMI, is also buried in Lexington, and his home is open to the public. And the Virginia Military Institute Museum not only honors VMI’s proud history, but it also contains objects that once belonged to Stonewall Jackson.
For those interested in more recent military history, specifically World War II, pay a visit to the George C. Marshall Museum, also on the VMI campus.
Mountain Views and Mountain Battlefields
Throughout the mountains of Virginia, not only are there beautiful mountain vistas, but also Civil War history and battlefields permeate the area.
If you’re looking for awe-inspiring mountain drives, then you'll want to check out the Blue Ridge Parkway and also the Skyline Drive, which runs through Shenandoah National Park.
And as you cruise through the mountains of Virginia, look for signs that read “Shenandoah at War,” to visit battlefields and other points of significance to the Civil War, fought in this part of Virginia.
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
If you’re into nature, and activities like biking and hiking, then you’re going to enjoy your time spent in George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Here, in the Alleghany Mountains, as you drive west on Interstate 64, you’ll travel through these beautiful, preserved National Forests. Regardless of when you travel, Interstate 64 offers innumerable picturesque vistas, and a drive through these National Forests in the fall, to see the glorious explosion of color, is a yearly tradition for many Virginians.
The above attractions are only a sample of the wonders the great state of Virginia has to offer. While traveling in VA, be sure to savor some of our local seafood, visit our farmers’ markets, pick apples in the fall, and if you’re a wine enthusiast, the Commonwealth of Virginia is full of wineries.
Come, take a well-deserved break from Interstate 64, and explore these top places to visit in Virginia.